Public Comment

Commentary: AC Transit Will Not Replace Parking Loss

By Sharon Hudson
Friday December 28, 2007

Regarding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), it’s time for Charles Siegel to put up or shut up.  

For months Mr. Siegel has asserted without evidence that AC Transit intends to replace parking removed by BRT. I challenge Mr. Siegel to produce a single citation from the draft EIR or other AC Transit material, or a written statement from AC Transit spokesperson Jim Cunradi, to support his claim.  

When it comes to parking in Berkeley, here’s what the DEIR really says: “Build Alternatives 1 and 2 would remove approximately 146 spaces, or 75 percent of curb parking, along [north] Telegraph Avenue. The displacements amount to 25 percent of total estimated supply within the Berkeley/North Telegraph survey area, which includes accessible parking on cross streets. Alternatives 3 and 4 would remove approximately 142 spaces (equivalent to 73 percent and 25 percent of, respectively, [north] Telegraph Avenue and survey area supply)” (p. 3-112). “Parking loss is possibly the most evident long-term impact” of BRT (p. 8-22).  

Here’s what the DEIR says about “replacement” parking in Berkeley: Commercial parking loss would be mitigated by taking parking from residential neighborhoods (p. 3-127). “The number of spaces proposed for mitigation would range from approximately 16 to 29 percent of total spaces displaced” (p. S-16).  

Some may quibble that “replacing” lost commercial parking with existing neighborhood parking is an unusual definition of the word “replace,” but in any case, Mr. Siegel’s assertion that all or even most of the commercial parking would be “replaced” by any definition is obviously false. 

The DEIR does not even address the residential impacts of this parking loss, but it acknowledges (with lip service, not facts, studies, mitigations, or solutions) that parking loss will be “detrimental to certain types of business activity” (p. 4-25): “the greater the extent of adverse effects on auto access, the more likely that customers would be deterred and encouraged to seek businesses in other locations where parking and traffic are less problematic” (p. 4-63). Duh! Most businesses on Telegraph survive only through a mixture of walk-in and drive-in customers. A less obvious concern for the route near the university, supported by at least one study in another city, is the likelihood that neighborhood-serving retail use would be replaced by institutional use. 

Instead of addressing these legitimate concerns of both neighbors and businesses, Mr. Siegel spreads lies and takes cowardly, unsubstantiated, personal, and just plain silly potshots at Mr. Buckwald.  

It’s time for one of the few BRT supporters in Berkeley to accept Mr. Buckwald’s courageous invitation to debate. The debate should take place before the City Council, which is in dire need of facts on this important project, and it should be advertised and televised. In this debate, I will place my money on the one who will bring brains, integrity, courage—and guess what? actual facts!—to the dais, namely, Mr. Buckwald.  

But in the end, BRT opponents cannot depend on rational argumentation to sway our current Council, which seems strangely immune to facts and reason. Mr. Siegel may not debate because he is afraid and factless, but more savvy “Friends of BRT” don’t debate because they expect insider networks, special interest influence, and simplistic adherence to ideology—all of which have a massive head-start on the facts—to carry the day. Unfortunately, this might be the one aspect of BRT on which they are factually correct.