Who will decide if buses get their own lanes on Telegraph Avenue? If Bruce Kaplan and Dean Metzger get their way, the people will. On May 28, Kaplan and Metzger submitted a petition to the City Clerk with 3,240 signatures of Berkeley voters in order to place on the Nov. 4 ballot an initiative “to require voter approval before dedicating Berkeley streets or lanes for transit-only or HOV/Bus-only use.”
They need 2,337 valid signatures.
Metzger, president of the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association, and Kaplan, who owns Looking Glass Photo and Camera on Telegraph Avenue, drafted the ballot measure in response to AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which would mandate 18 miles of dedicated lanes from San Leandro through Oakland to the heart of Berkeley. BRT would dedicate bus lanes—and remove two automobile traffic lanes—on Telegraph and parts of Shattuck Avenue.
While supporters of the bus plan say it would be a plus for the environment by taking cars off the road, opponents say reducing automobile traffic lanes would force traffic off Telegraph and into the neighborhoods. Telegraph Avenue merchants say it would be bad for business. Opponents further argue that BART already services the proposed route. Metz-ger says the decision should be up to the people.
“We want to make sure that this isn’t railroaded through the commissions and the council,” he told the Planet.
“The purpose of this measure is to enable the people of the city of Berkeley, by majority vote, to decide whether city streets or portions thereof shall be converted to transit-only or HOV/bus-only lanes ... If the change is significant or potentially harmful, the citizens should have the opportunity to decide their own future directly through the ballot,” says an explanation accompanying the ballot proposal.
Metzger said the act of collecting signatures served an educational purpose. He collected 200 signatures himself: “Ninety-five percent of the people I talked to had not heard about it,” he said.
Berkeley’s Planning and Transportation commissions will be looking at the BRT proposal on Wednesday, June 18, at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.