Page One

What to do about traffic

Frank Gebauer
Friday October 18, 2002

To the Editor: 


College Avenue is a great place to take an autumn walk. The restaurants are bustling, yellow leaves collect on the ground, and pumpkins peek out from storefronts. Midst all of this, drivers idle their cars in traffic while people old and young sit helplessly on benches, waiting for mythical AC Transit buses to appear. 

I believe there are several factors contributing to the traffic mess on College Avenue. First, AC Transit bus service is abysmal. The socially-conscious bus rider is rewarded by buses that arrive 15 or 20 minutes late. The line 51 buses are usually crowded and are very often so full that they cannot accept any more riders. Plus, buses get stuck in the same traffic as cars. Is it any wonder that so many people are saying no to public transit and choosing to drive in cars that are always ready to go and never crowded? 

Another factor contributing to congestion is driver-be-damned traffic engineering. Many good alternate routes around the College Avenue mess have been blocked by the city of Berkeley, so these streets sit empty while College chokes with pollution from idling engines. The city should recognize that cars are, unfortunately, a necessity for most Berkeley residents. Blocking off side streets creates some quiet for a few lucky and politically-active residents at the expense of everyone's ability to breathe cleaner air, travel more quickly, and use public streets paid for with public taxes. 

The city should also install turn lanes on College Avenue at Ashby Avenue. Traffic backs up there for blocks while frustrated motorists dodge and weave around cars trying to turn left. The installation of turn lanes would greatly reduce this problem. 

Some people argue that the solution to traffic problems in Berkeley is to curtail development. This is a hollow “not in my backyard” position that ignores the reality of outrageous rents caused by a severe market shortage of apartments and homes. The only winners in the no-development game are landlords and those lucky enough to already own a home. Everyone else loses. 

We do not have to take traffic congestion, pollution and astronomical rents for granted. The solution to these problems, on College Avenue and elsewhere, is to improve public transit and traffic management while aggressively promoting development of transit-oriented housing. 


Frank Gebauer 

Student, Boalt Hall School of Law 

UC Berkeley