Berkeley’s Transportation Commission joined the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) on Wednesday to talk about transportation conditions in downtown Berkeley and explore options for transportation improvements.
Transportation consultants for the Downtown Area Plan, the IBI Group, highlighted the challenges and some of the information pertinent to the downtown plan.
Matt Taecker, secretary to DAPAC, along with the IBI Group, explained the role of transportation modeling and how it would be used to understand the impacts of lower- and higher-intensity land use options. Alternative configurations of roadways and transit facilities were also examined.
DAPAC members and transportation commissioners gave their opinions on the options that should be modeled and voted against a plan to run Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Oxford Street.
AC Transit’s proposed BRT project, promising to make Berkeley a “green” city on “the cutting edge of new transportation technologies,” has yet to finalize the routing and design of BRT.
The rapid buses would serve passengers traveling between Bayfair, Downtown Oakland, and Downtown Berkeley along East 14th/International Blvd., and Telegraph Avenue.
“BRT should be an effort to make transit better for people, so that more people use it. It should not be a attempt to keep people out of downtown, like some people want to do to the homeless,” said Transportation Commissioner Rob Wrenn.
DAPAC member Juliet Lamont said that incorporating the use of greenery downtown into the transportation plans was extremely important.
Len Conly, co-chair of Friends of BRT—an organization that was formed in 2005 in order to support AC Transit’s BRT project—spoke in favor of BRT.
“A BRT system, such as that proposed for Telegraph Avenue, uses dedicated lanes, multiple door loading, and off-board payment of fares to make bus travel much faster and more convenient, especially for the disabled. BRT will help reduce congestion, oil consumption, pollution and carbon dioxide emissions,” Conly said.
The boards also voted to approve the option of two-way traffic on the west side of Shattuck Avenue and consider options for the east side of Shattuck.
Taecker told the board members that transportation modeling helped illustrate “how downtown Berkeley’s transportation system functions today, and how it might function in the future.”
He added that staff would present results of the transportation modeling to both boards in April so that DAPAC could have an informed deliberation on “preferred” options in May.
The transportation modeling would be responsible for measuring:
• Quantity and distribution of trips (origins and destinations)
• Mode split of trips (autos, transit, walking and bikes)
• Traffic performance (intersection volume & capacity)
• Other performance issues, including those related to parking.
Taecker told board members that parking-related conditions would be discussed in a future joint meeting. A representative from AC Transit told board members that AC Transit would be releasing its draft EIR for the BRTproject very soon.
Some of the highlights in the study presented by the IBI Group illustrated that downtown Berkeley attracted nearly 10,000 work-related trips daily with downtown residents generating approximately 1,000 work-based daily trips
UC Berkeley generated approximately 30,000 daily trips, of which roughly half were work related. The study also showed that BART accounted for 22,000 of the 40,000 daily transit trips (work and non-work) to and from downtown.
City Interest in UC Properties
Dorothy Walker, chair of the DAPAC Subcommittee named City Interest in UC Properties (CIUPS), presented a report to the board on the function and design of Oxford Street.
CIUPS was formed in December to look at UC properties in downtown Berkeley and its possible development. The committee is responsible for:
• Identifying UC owned properties that might be appropriate for non-UC uses. Identify city or private properties that might be appropriate for UC uses.
• Identifying the appropriate development potential of sites.
• Identifying how any mutually advantageous land exchanges could be achieved and how to assure equity between the city and the university.
• Identifying other areas for city/university collaboration that might be included in the plan.
Currently, the committee includes three ex-officio UC members of DAPAC who were selected by the university as well as ten other DAPAC members selected by DAPAC Chair Will Travis.
According to CIUPS, the only large downtown site which requires no assembly of land is already in public ownership, does not involve any buildings of historic interest and has a history of large scale development is the Department of Health Services. The building is situated near the University Avenue gateway to downtown and at the southern end of the North Shattuck area.
CIUPS is brainstorming ideas for a new retail center at this location that would help attract foot traffic to the downtown area. Walker also told board members that a “number of exciting ideas had emerged for the development of Oxford Street.”
Although CIUPS has not come to any conclusions yet, some of the proposed ideas for Oxford Street involved a public plaza on the West Crescent, a more prominent downtown presence for the Berkeley Art Museum and the Film Archive as well as Warren Hall (which houses UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health).
DAPAC member Lisa Stephens asked the subcommittee to get more information from the University about the conversion of Bowles Hall from a student residence to a executive hotel building and the construction of the student gymnasium at the Oak Grove.