The city of Berkeley Office of Transportation (OOT) is threatening to do to The Alameda between Hopkins and Solano what in September 2005 it did to Marin below The Alameda: turn a road with four through-lanes of auto traffic into a road with two through-lanes of auto traffic, intermittent center-turn lanes, and two bike lanes.
A public meeting about the proposed change will take place on Wed., Jan. 20, at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, from 7 to 8:30 pm.
To my knowledge the city has issued no official notice of this proposal. Nor can I find anything about it on the websites of either the OOT or the Transportation Commission. Repeated calls to the staffer who is apparently overseeing the restriping, known to me only as Matt, have gone unanswered.
I learned about the proposed reconfiguration in a January 8 e-mail I received from Councilmember Capitelli that I assume went out to everyone on his e-mail list. Surely there are thousands of people who are not on that list whose lives would be affected by this change.
The councilmember’s e-mail says “the goal of the project is to:
• Reduce traffic speeds
• Provide for safer left turns
• Improve safety for exiting parked cars
• Eliminate south bound merge lane below Hopkins.”
We heard similar arguments in support of reconfiguring Marin. The first and most important of these turned out to be bogus, according Public Works Director Clau-dette Ford’s Oct. 24, 2006, “Marin Avenue Reconfiguration—Before and After Traffic Study Report (C F-04-05)” to the council. “For the most part,” Ford wrote, “the speed variances in the overall before and after study are negligible.” On Marin Avenue, speeds decreased only 2 MPH for 85 percent of all vehicles traveling. “On the other [side] streets studied, traffic speeds were generally one or two miles-per-hour faster after the reconfiguration.”
Nevertheless, Ford said, “staff considers the Marin Avenue Reconfiguration Project an improvement over the previous four lane cross section for the following reasons:
• Speed differentials and passing on neighboring traffic lanes have been eliminated;
• Pedestrians can cross Marin Avenue more safely as they are better able to gauge traffic approaching in one lane rather than two; and
• Cyclists now have a safer lane profile.”
The second of the above rationales—increased pedestrian safety—is the most critical. It is now also the least defensible. In 2007, in separate incidents, two pedestrians crossing reconfigured Marin were hit by cars and killed. While those deaths don’t prove that the restriping made the street more dangerous, they certainly indicate that the striping did not make Marin safer.
Like the former Marin Avenue, The Alameda between Solano and Hopkins is a perfectly serviceable roadway whose safety and efficiency would be impaired by this so-called “road diet.” The message that both the OOT and Councilmember Capitelli—who voted for the Marin restriping and who continues to defend it—need to hear is: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Zelda Bronstein is a North Berkeley resident, former chair of the Planning Commission, and former candidate for mayor.