Public Comment

Commentary: Ode to Bus Rapid Transit

By Doug Buckwald
Friday July 13, 2007

It comes with a $400 million dollar bill 

And empty seats they’ll never fill. 

It’ll give us the cut-through traffic blues 

And much less parking to use. 

Merchants are even starting to frown 

In fear of business leaving town. 

Diesel smoke will be dispersed 

That’s bound to make your asthma worse. 

You like big trees? They might meet their doom 

‘Cause private bus lanes need lots of room. 

What’s this impending calamity? 

A transit boondoggle named BRT. 


If you haven’t heard of it, it’s no surprise— 

It’s hardly been publicized, 

‘Cause it’s better to finish all your plans 

Before the public makes its demands. 

One needn’t ever be too endearing 

When practicing social engineering. 


Is this the best way to move people fast? 

It’s the fossil-fuel technology of the past! 

A diesel dinosaur roaring to and fro, 

AC Transit’s braggadocio. 


BRT actually won’t make people drive cars any less— 

There are too many needs it doesn’t address 

And too many places it doesn’t go, 

So new ridership will barely grow. 

And it may even foul up your bus commute 

Because they’ll put fewer stops along the route. 

You see, stops just slow up the buses’ speed— 

Passengers are a big nuisance, indeed. 

And after all this, BART will still be quicker, 

Plus everyone knows their seat cushions are thicker. 


AC Transit could get more folks on the bus 

By making transfers less onerous. 

Proof-of-payment would sure save time, 

And we’d all prefer a bit less grime. 


And if they really want to make riders cheer 

Those Van Hool buses should disappear! 

The ride is so rough and the seats so high, 

Tough luck if you’re no longer young and spry. 

You’ll be bounced and jounced and thrown around 

As you lunge for a handhold that’s nowhere to be found, 

And no matter how many folks get cracks in their spine 

Those are the buses they’ll use for the BRT line. 

Don’t bother complaining—they just don’t care! 

And I hope you know BRT won’t help clear the air. 

Oh, you’ve heard it’ll reduce greenhouses gases? 

Nope—the EIR here shows failures, not passes. 

Their big diesel buses will spew out plenty of soot, 

Most of all near the spots where the stations are put. 


So who’s behind this dim-witted plan? 

Regional agencies who claim they can 

Issue commands by royal decree 

To massively increase our density. 

That’s what’s really going on here, 

But they don’t want that to reach your ear. 


Top-down backroom planning is IN 

And we citizens take it on the chin 

As developers take out huge new loans 

For “Transit-Oriented Development zones,” 

Where zoning laws can be ignored 

And condos that are multiple-floored 

Rise ten, fifteen, twenty stories tall 

‘Til our quality of life shrinks to nothing at all. 

And what of the neighbors who’ll suffer these ills? 

Why, let them all move to the Berkeley hills! 


BRT suits UC, there is no doubt 

So they can build even bigger and further out, 

Until they take over the entire East Bay 

And drive every last family away. 

Smart Growth groupies, too, have begun to drool 

Hoping BRT will cement their rule. 

And they’ll all march together with fierce intent 

On the road to redevelopment. 


What about us—do we have any rights? 

Are we nothing but opportunity sites? 

Will we let these arrogant zealots steal 

Our future in a backroom deal? 


For far too long, we’ve been left in the cold 

While our democracy is bought and sold— 

It’s our human rights we must redeem 

So let’s tell this unelected regime 

Of ABAG and ACCMA and MTC 

And our self-serving University:  

Your plans to grow forevermore 

Frighten us to our very core. 

Nature always trumps human pride— 

Unending growth is suicide. 

And when Mother Nature issues her decrees, 

They really bring you to your knees! 


We must keep Berkeley truly livable; 

Failure would just be unforgivable. 

If we don’t want our neighborhoods destroyed 

All our voices must be employed— 

So hands off our homes and shops 

This is where the mad bus stops. 

We’re not gonna take this BRT guff; 

This time we’ve really had ENOUGH. 


(ABAG is the Association of Bay Area Governments. ACCMA is the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency. MTC is the Metropolitan Transit Commission.) 


Doug Buckwald is a longtime Berkeley resident who regularly rides AC Transit, BART, and SF Muni.