Blink and you will miss it. It’s fast and furious, but not necessarily when you want it to be. And if you aren’t fast enough, it’s sure to leave you standing behind in the dust.
Call it AC Transit, MUNI or BART, public transport in the Bay Area is a necessary evil.
Minutes and sometimes an entire hour could pass before an AC Transit bus shows up in Berkeley, but the fact is that its abundant lines and cost-saving options make it a student’s favorite way of getting around the city.
The problems start when drivers simply refuse to stop because of overcrowding, making you wait twice the time you really should. Sometimes, they ignore the frantic pounding on the glass doors and act like they haven’t seen you at all.
But then you realize that the powers-that-be are not all that bad.
If you are under 18, you can purchase a 31-day youth pass for only $15 at places such as Andronico’s or Long’s Drugs.
UC Berkeley students have access to a discounted Bear Pass from the university. The regular prices are 85 cents for students under 18, and $1.75 for adults over 18. A transfer pass costs $.25.
The bus lines typically run every 10 or 15 minutes for the popular lines, such as the 51 (that runs from the end of University Avenue, down to Shattuck, and up to College Avenue), 18 (that runs down Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley to the top of Solano Avenue), 72 (that runs down San Pablo Avenue) and the 1 (that runs from Shattuck to Telegraph), while the other buses, like the 15 and 79 (that run down Martin Luther King Jr. Way), 9 (a complicated line that runs in many places), or 7 (that runs from Shattuck Avenue up through Claremont Avenue) sometimes run every twenty minutes or thirty minutes.
Caveat: You should always expect buses to run slower on the weekends. Also, it’s not unusual to see two same-route buses whiz by one after the other while you are stranded without a bus for a good half-an-hour.
AC Transit revamped its bus system this summer: routes have lengthened, frequencies have increased. However, not all bus drivers are route savvy yet.
“Where does the 1R go?” We asked one of the drivers two weeks back.
“I dunno,” he replied smiling.
“Does it take you near the UC Berkeley campus?”
“I dunno, these things are new. You gotta check with the bus driver.”
We checked with the 1R driver and learned that the only bus which drops you off right at the campus from downtown Berkeley was the 51.
However, there are a number of buses to choose from if you want to get downtown from the campus: the 51, 52, 1R, 7 and the Perimeter among others.
We pray for the day when more buses will take us right up to the campus.
One more thing, be sure to signal to the AC Transit bus driver that you want him to stop or you may risk waiting for the next bus.
If you are really confused as to how to get around Berkeley, www.511.org will plan out your trip and will tell you exactly what the fastest, cheapest or simplest way to get your destination is.
The next best way to get around the city is by biking.
Berkeley is an environmental, bicycle-friendly city, complete with bicycle avenues, such as Milvia and Oxford Streets. You can purchase quality bikes (as well as fix them) at Missing Link Bicycle Shop at University and Shattuck.
Don’t forget to check out Street Level Cycles, a community owned bike shop, near Aquatic Park (read more about it in the Aug. 7 issue online).
If you want to go between Bay Area cities, you really don’t want to use AC Transit.
Get on the BART (www.bart.gov). It’s almost always on time, unless there’s an earthquake, fire or mumble-mumble-we-don’t-know-what-the-problem-is situation.
The Air BART—which shuttles you from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland International Airport—can take a while and costs $3.
If none of the options mentioned for Berkeley works, just walk. Walking brings out the best of Berkeley—wonderful parks, movie theaters, eclectic cuisines, scenic hills and Telegraph Avenue.
And er, if you do make it across the bay to San Francisco and feel the need to ride the MUNI, we have just one thing to say: good luck.