Public Comment

A Response to False Claims About Measure KK

By Gale Garcia
Thursday September 18, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

The “Friends of BRT,” whose membership soars into the single digits, are adroit at pulling the wool over their own eyes. Charles Siegel, one of the most ardent of the “Friends,” in his Sept. 11 commentary, makes a laundry list of false statements to attack the ballot argument for Measure KK. 

Berkeley Measure KK would simply require voter approval before traffic lanes could be removed from general use for the exclusive use of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). 

The ballot argument for Measure KK accurately addresses AC Transit’s “current proposal” for Telegraph Avenue. Of course, AC Transit can change its proposal. That is one of the reasons why we need “voter approval” for transit plans involving dedicated bus lanes. We cannot trust an irresponsible agency like AC Transit to dictate Berkeley’s future.  

AC Transit’s BRT proposal seems tailored to fit the funding rather than to provide good bus service. Funds from a variety of government sources are available for BRT with dedicated lanes, which has been the favored transit scheme of the Bush administration for several years. AC Transit is desperate for the money—the estimated $250 million it could acquire—if the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro go along with its plan to take over parts of our streets. 

Mr. Siegel complains that the ballot argument for Measure KK is based upon the draft environmental impact report (EIR), stating that it’s only a “draft.” But the draft EIR is the only study that has been performed to date on the proposal. Everything else is merely conjecture. Siegel looks forward to AC Transit calculating time savings for BRT, but such “calculations” would be nothing more than speculation from the very agency that stands to acquire the millions. 

Transit projections are notoriously inaccurate. They tend to overestimate ridership and time savings, and underestimate costs. 

An August 2007 study by the Federal Transit Administration entitled “Contractor Performance Assessment Report” compared average weekday boardings for completed projects with the predictions made during the EIR process. Of 19 New Starts projects (mostly light rail), 16 had boardings below the forecasts, with some as low as 20-30 percent of forecast figures. 

Ridership forecasts for busways performed even more poorly, according to the report, where “none of the available busway forecasts proved to be accurate. It appears from the limited sample that forecasts of ridership on busway projects . . . will not exceed 41 percent of the forecasts.” 

I would not trust any predictions offered by AC Transit on ridership, time savings or costs. 

Once before in Berkeley’s history we were threatened with a flawed plan for massive construction by a regional transit agency. In 1964, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District was planning aerial rails through Berkeley for BART, effectively dividing the town. Berkeleyans wanted a better plan—underground tracks—and put it to the vote in 1966. That’s why Berkeley alone has BART underground, while the rest of the East Bay has noisy, unsightly BART rails screeching through town. 

Of course, we wouldn’t have to worry about AC Transit’s ill-conceived plans if we had a City Council that cared about the citizenry—currently the decision of whether to give up the lanes is theirs. But Mayor Bates thinks BRT is a great idea, because it would encourage increased development along the route (in part because of state legislation authored by himself), and he always seems able to muster four council votes to go along with him. BRT alone should be reason enough to vote Bates out of office. 

The extent of Bates’ enthusiasm for BRT was revealed at the City Council meeting where the extremely misleading ballot question for Measure KK was chosen (sadly, City Council gets to chose the ballot question, and they don’t have to be strictly truthful). Bates revealed that he’s planning BRT for University and Solano Avenues in addition to Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues. 

Supporters of Measure KK are very much pro-transit. We want improved bus service and cleaner buses. We’re simply against really bad transit and against wasting vast sums of money on unneeded infrastructure. 

Vote yes on Measure KK. 

Gale Garcia is working on the Yes on Measure KK