Bus Rapid Transit Advisory Committee Recommends Consolidating Stops

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Monday June 29, 2009 - 02:38:00 PM

AC Transit’s Policy Steering Committee has approved in principle the bus district’s plan to consolidate station stops along the route of its prosped Bus Rapid Transit route, but made it plain that any decisions on setting aside dedicated bus lanes must go to the governing bodies of the affected cities. 

Under the proposal, most local bus stops on Telegraph Avenue and International Boulevard would be eliminated, with AC Transit adding 14 additional stops to the 35 1R rapid stops currently operating in the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line. 

BRT is a hybrid system between traditional bus service and light rail, combining the use of buses with light-rail-type boarding stations. AC Transit is proposing to run the rapid bus line along the route currently run by the 1R and 1 bus lines. While some BRT systems operate without lanes dedicated exclusively to buses, AC Transit is proposing using bus-only lanes for much of the project. 

The Policy Steering Committee, which met June 19, is made up of representatives of the AC Transit board, the three cities to be affected by the proposed rapid bus line (Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro), and several other area transit officials, including the Metropolitan Transit Commission. While the committee has no decision-making power, its membership has considerable influence in the various local governing bodies which must give approval for some aspects of the BRT system. 

AC Transit is currently negotiating with city council and city planning representatives in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro over those cities’ proposals for the final configuration of the system before the completion of the environmental impact review process and the AC Transit Board votes on the completed BRT package. 

Those negotiations have already resulted in significant changes in San Leandro, where city officials have vetoed the set-aside of bus-only lanes in the city’s downtown corridor. 

The two Berkeley representatives split on the recommendation to consolidate the 1R and eliminate most of the 1 line stops, with Mayor Tom Bates making the motion to approve the proposal and City Councilmember Kriss Worthington the lone vote against it. The vote on the motion was 6-1. 

Worthington has been a solid advocate of some form of BRT. He told told the Daly Planet that he objected to voting on only one piece of the total BRT package. 

“If the only question is taking away local bus stops being used by senior citizens and disabled bus riders, then I’ve got to say no,” Worthington said, adding that the proper procedure would be to have the Policy Steering Committee “be presented with a vote on the entire, completed package where we’re able to weigh all of the benefits of the system against the minuses.”  

Worthington said he was concerned that disabled and senior citizen bus patrons would be “turned off” and “potentially be turned into opponents” of BRT if all they know of the system is the elimination of local stops. 

Bus stops along the 1R line are currently about half a mile apart (approximately six city blocks) while stops for the 1, a local line, average 900 feet apart (approximately two city blocks). 

Under the AC Transit proposal, the new configuration of BRT stations would average one third of a mile apart (approximately four city blocks). 

In Berkeley, for example, AC Transit’s BRT proposal would eliminate the current 1 local stops at Prince, Webster, Russell, Stuart, Parker, and Durant while placing station stops at Alcatraz, Ashby, Derby, Dwight and Haste, and Sather Gate. 

An AC Transit staff analysis released at the Policy Steering Committee meeting estimated that 13 percent of Berkeley passengers and 16 percent of Oakland passengers would have to walk to a different bus stop than they currently use if the proposed BRT configuration is put into place. The staff reported that “many” of those passengers would not have to walk further to their stop, but simply “walk the same distance, but in the opposite direction."