Public Comment

False Claims in Anti-Transit Initiative Ballot Argument

By Charles Siegel
Thursday September 11, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM

The city clerk has published the ballot arguments for Measure KK, the anti-transit initiative, and anyone who is familiar with the issues can see that the measure’s backers have filled their ballot argument with false claims. 

Measure KK backers claim that AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit project would eliminate local bus stops. 

In fact, AC Transit is considering two alternatives plans and has not decided which to implement. Separate service, with local buses running in the mixed traffic lanes, would certainly not eliminate any local bus stops. Combined service, with local buses running in the dedicated BRT lanes, could conceivably eliminate some local bus stops, but the final decision on location of bus stops in would depend on input from the Berkeley Planning Commission and City Council. We will not know how BRT affects local bus stops until we see the final environmental impact report (EIR). 

Measure KK backers claim that most parking would be removed along the route. 

In fact, AC Transit has promised to replace parking removed in all locations where there is a shortage of parking. A shortage is defined as a vacancy rate of less than 15 percent for off-street parking; planners agree that, when the vacancy rate is higher than this, it is easy to find on-street parking. We will not know how AC Transit plans to replace parking until we see the c. 

Measure KK backers claim that travel time saved by BRT will be insignificant. 

In fact, the average bus trip in the corridor will be 15 percent to 30 percent faster than it is now. AC Transit is currently calculating the total net time savings for all transportation in the corridor, and it is expected to be large. This figure will also be in the final EIR. 

Measure KK backers claim that energy savings will be insignificant and that BRT is not “green.” 

In fact, BRT will save enough energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over six million pounds per year. The draft EIR was written at a time when the law did not yet require EIRs to study greenhouse gas reductions. Because the law has changed, the final EIR will contain these figures. 

All of the backers’ ballot arguments are based on the draft EIR. They apparently do not realize that a draft EIR is a first draft, as its name implies. Projects are changed based on public comments on the draft EIR, and we will not know what the actual BRT project is until we see the final EIR. Berkeley’s Planning Commission has not even developed the city’s input on the draft EIR yet, and we do not know what routes they will support or what mitigations they will want. 

Measure KK backers are telling us to make the decision about BRT before we have all the facts. 

Most absurd, Measure KK backers claim that their initiative will not be costly, as the city attorney’s analysis says. They say: “leave our streets alone—and this measure will cost zero.” 

In other words, they say that we should do nothing to build environmentally sound transportation—never implement light rail in Berkeley, and never implement BRT in Berkeley, even though these are the most cost-effective ways of improving public transportation. 

Their arguments focus narrow mindedly on AC Transit’s current proposal for BRT. They do not seem to realize that, if their initiative passed, it would be in effect for the indefinite future. It would apply to light rail as well as to BRT. It would apply to every street in Berkeley. 

It would mean long delays and large added costs for any light rail or BRT project proposed in Berkeley, which could kill these projects. This would be a major obstacle to Berkeley’s attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the key environmental issue in the 21st century. 

Measure KK backers are very good at shooting from the hip. 

They are shooting from the hip by basing all their arguments on the draft EIR for AC Transit’s current BRT project, saying that we should reject the project before we even see the final EIR and know what its final design is. 

They are shooting from the hip by thinking only of the current project and not realizing that their initiative would be an obstacle to all future light-rail or BRT projects in Berkeley. 

I think they will learn that, when you shoot from the hip, you are likely to end up shooting yourself in the foot. 


Charles Siegel is a Berkeley resident.