A group of Berkeley residents who oppose AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal will present city planning commissioners with their own counterproposal on Wednesday night.
Some Telegraph Avenue merchants and residents of nearby south of campus neighborhoods have charged that the bus agency’s proposals would flood residential streets with drivers upset by avenue congestion and cause business revenues to dip.
Commissioners gave Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options (BBTOP) time on the agenda for a special presentation after members asked for a chance to counter AC Transit’s April 10 presentation to the panel.
BRT would stretch along a 17-mile corridor from Berkeley to San Leandro, providing service along dedicated bus-only lanes that would reduce Telegraph in Berkeley to one lane of car traffic in either direction.
In the five-page proposal the group has sent to the commission, BBTOP says that the “City of Berkeley declares a Rapid Bus package” as its preferred alternative providing enhanced service along the avenue and into downtown Berkeley, with “no dedicated lanes, and incremental enhancements extended across AC Transit’s broader service network.”
Their whole proposal is available online at BBTOP’s website [http://bbtop.org/]and in the Reader Commentary section of this website.
BBTOP has been more effective than its rival organization, Friends of BRT [http://www.friendsofbrt.org/] at turning out supporters at public hearings, and whatever decision the commission makes might not reflect the typical five-four division that marks most vote.
For instance, Helen Burke, a commissioner who is a Sierra Club activist, has spoken in favor of BRT, while some of her colleagues in the usually development-skeptical minority of four have raised concerns about the AC Transit plan.
In the end, the final recommendation will come from the City Council, which will have considerable say over BRT development. In San Leandro, council opposition killed dedicated bus lanes for that city, which occupies the southern terminus of the proposed BRT line.
The proposed service line roughly parallels, albeit on a more inland route, the path of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system between the terminal cities, and the line ends at BART stations in each city, with the downtown BART station marking the Berkeley end.
While critics say that the BRT plan would have minimal impact on car miles driven, supporters hail any measure designed to get people out of cars.
The two action items on the commission’s agenda are both process decisions. Commissioners will discuss and possibly adopt a work plan for the coming year, deciding what discretionary subjects to tackle and when. They’ll also hold a discussion and possible vote on scheduling special meetings to work on their own proposed changes to the Downtown Area Plan.
The downtown plan was created over a two-year process by a City Council-appointed citizen panel,which came up with its own draft plan, and now Planning Commissioners are weighing in
The final decision on the controversial plan, launched under the court settlement of a city lawsuit challenging the university’s plans to build 800,000 square feet of new off-campus buildings in the city center, will be made by the council, with an adoption date set by the settlement of May 25, 2009.
If the city fails to adopt a plan approved by UC Berkeley by that date, the university may cut off funds pledged to the city in the settlement agreement.
The commission’s agenda is available online at [http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=13072]
Information on the plan is available here: [http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=832].
Wednesday night’s meeting will be held in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way, starting at 7 p.m.