BUS RAPID TRANSIT
ONLY MAKES SENSE
WHEN SEEN THROUGH
Editors, Daily Planet:
I attended the AC Transit public hearing on Thursday, June 14, on their plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Telegraph, and made comments during the meeting. I am writing to share those comments with your readers, and to expand upon them a bit. My primary concern is the traffic analysis and projections in the recent draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). They seem to have been written while wearing rose-colored lenses.
For example, the DEIS reports that College Avenue at Ashby experiences traffic-related delays of 33.8 seconds currently (as of 2003) during the afternoon peak times. They grade this as a LOS (Level Of Service) C. However, as anyone familiar with College Avenue would know, it is fairly common for southbound traffic to be backed up over two blocks in the evening commute. I timed it once at six minutes 48 seconds. I would call this LOS F.
Of course, the bus line is planned for Telegraph, not College, so why is this relevant?
It is relevant because AC Transit’s plans for the bus line would take away two traffic lanes for essentially the entire length of Telegraph Avenue, reducing its traffic capacity to that of College. Yet, by my own traffic measurements, Telegraph carries 990 vehicles per hour southbound during the evening commute, but College carries only 480. This is over twice the traffic.
No doubt AC Transit’s answer to this is that traffic on Telegraph will decrease, and their Table 3.2-3a projects that there will be 871 fewer vehicles (total for both directions) during the hour of highest afternoon traffic. If you combine their figures with mine (which may be a bit dicey), Telegraph would still be carrying 16 percent more traffic than College carries now. In addition, they anticipate that some traffic will shift over to College (and Shattuck, Adeline, etc.), leading to a 17 percent increase for traffic on College (again combining their figures with mine). It’s hard to imagine a 16-1 percent increase of the traffic on College. The problem with decreasing the capacity of Telegraph and expecting other parallel arteries to make up for it is that there are no such arteries to the east of Telegraph that are not already overburdened. So people like myself who live near College Avenue, and take Telegraph to avoid the tie-ups on College, will have to go even further, to Adeline, to avoid the mess.
An earlier speaker said, “Telegraph will still work.” I disagree. If BRT comes to pass, Telegraph Avenue will become like the Warring-Derby-Belrose corridor. And so will College.
Editors, Daily Planet:
I walked up Parker Street and then turned left to the amazing little Chilton Way where a woman and her husband were working in their garden, and I stopped to ask her about it. “How did it happen that you “It’s like a botanical garden.” “Yes,” she said, “It is beautiful, isn’t it?” “Did you all get together and plan it?” I said. “Not really,” she said, “but much of it is the work of the gardener who lives in that house over there with the big cactus. He was also the one who planted all these plants by the curb.” “I’ve been walking up to Telegraph for many years now,” I said, “and I always make a special point of passing through this little paradise on my way to Moe’s. It used to be to Cody’s too, but now there’s only Moe’s. I’m afraid Moe’s will be gone too one of these days.” "Why?” she said, and I told her about Mrs. Moskowitz’s letter to the Planet and the proposed traffic ban.” “If Moe’s goes,” I said, “that’s it for Telegraph, at least for people like me.” “For everyone,” she said. “Moe’s is Telegraph,” she said. “Without Moe’s there would be no Telegraph.” “Yes,” I said. “It would be the final blow.”
A FEW COMMENTS AND
Editors, Daily Planet:
In reply to the advocates of BRT featured in the June 15 edition, I’ve got some comments and questions.
I live on Telegraph near Alcatraz Avenue, and work at UC. I walk to work every day, rain or shine. It’s good exercise, it’s free, and I avoid having to haul myself up into the seats of the new buses, smell irritating scented products, and frequently listen to loud monologues by disturbed people and/or those on cell phones.
I do, however, own a car. It’s old, and I only use it for heavy-carrying errands and distances. Parking in my neighborhood is already difficult. If BRT takes away a lane, and, as has been suggested, metered parking is added on the side streets, I will have nowhere to park. Sure, I could join one of the car share companies—but that’s an expensive proposition (you pay a fee even if you don’t use a car very much), and I’d have to walk to Ashby BART to get a car. Also, despite what proponents of BRT say, traffic will be congested if Telegraph is reduced to one lane each way. It’s naive and utopian to imagine that people will immediately see the light and jump on the bus. Rush hour is already quite an experience if you live on Telegraph—reducing the street to one lane plus a loud fast bus would make it much worse. People who rent do live on Telegraph—we’re a neighborhood too.
Another issue is ridership on the new rapid buses. Have any studies been done of point of origin for the many drivers who now use Telegraph? The bus line along Telegraph through to San Leandro goes down major commercial corridors. To get to the bus, people who live at a tangent to the line have to take another (non-rapid) bus. I’d guess that they take BART instead, because they can park. Has anyone surveyed UC Berkeley employees who drive into Berkeley, since they are seen as a major source of traffic?
Where do they live? Will it be convenient for them to get to the rapid bus? It would be pretty depressing to have an expensive, disruptive new rapid bus and still have the same old ridership, with very few new riders. If this does get built, I hope I’m wrong, and that everyone gets on the bus and that it’s worth it. I also hope I’ve moved away from Telegraph before it all happens.
APPLES AND ORANGES
Editors, Daily Planet:
Comparing the Orange bus line in the San Fernando Valley and the proposed BRT line is the East Bay is like comparing apples and oranges. Other than buses they don’t have much in common.
Please remember that the Orange line was constructed along an old unused train right-of-way and that no automobile lanes or public parking was taken away by the constuction. The orange bus runs on it’s own private transitway.
The proposed BRT will reduce by 50 percent the automobile capacity of Telegraph Ave and eliminate hundreds of public parking spaces.
That makes for one hell of a diffeerence between the two projects.
Frank K. Greenspan