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AC Transit Manager Proposes Using BRT Funds to Hold Off Service Cuts

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:19:00 AM

In an effort to hold off impending service reductions, the AC Transit Board of Directors has called an emergency meeting for Friday evening to consider a proposal by district General Manager Rick Fernandez to pull start-up money from the district’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit line to buttress AC Transit’s operating budget. 

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the AC Transit headquarters at 1600 Franklin St. in Oakland. 

In a memo sent this week to AC Transit Board members, Fernandez proposes moving $80.6 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality and Regional Measure 2 funds from the BRT project. 

BRT is AC Transit’s plan, now under consideration, to operate high-speed bus service—using light-rail-type stations and dedicated bus-only lanes in most of the route--between downtown Berkeley, downtown Oakland, and downtown San Leandro along the Telegraph Avenue/International Boulevard/E. 14th Street routes currently operated by the 1 and 1R lines. 

Moving the Measure 2 BRT funds to AC Transit's operating budget would require approval from the Metropolitan Transit Commission, while moving the congestion mitigation funds would require approval of both the MTC and the Federal Transportation Authority. 

In a September 17 letter to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger explaining the proposal, Fernandez called it a "somewhat unconventional measure to address projected budget shortfalls over the next few years" and said that it would result in a "scaled-down version of the existing [BRT] project." 

Fernandez provided no final details on how the BRT proposal might be scaled down, but in his memo to board members said that if AC Transit pulled the $80 million start-up money from BRT, the project would not be able to hold to its current planned construction schedule, and AC Transit would also run the risk of losing other anticipated federal money needed to complete BRT.