Last Thursday night the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved the “Reduced Impact Alternative” BRT that is similar to “Rapid Bus Plus” as the “Locally Preferred Alternative.” It rejected the “Build Alternative” which would have removed traffic lanes and placed boarding stations in the middle of the street even though AC Transit sent a letter saying, more or less, that it was obliged to choose that alternative. This meeting with Bus Rapid Transit the only agenda item ended after 11:00 pm. Sixty-six members of the public were against the “Build Alternative,” twenty-three in favor and five asked all alternatives to be studied. Here are the alternatives.
Since the draft EIR/EIS only studied the No-Build and the Full-Build, there was discussion between the AC Transit representative, Cory LaVigne, and the city’s attorney about whether a different alternative could now be studied. LaVigne said since it was not in the draft, it could not be studied in the final. It would have to be a special study, perhaps a supplemental EIR. So after the deed is done, AC Transit comes to the cities to ask them for their preferred alternative. But as the attorney assured the city council, the city itself, not AC Transit, determines changes to their streets.
The council’s decision does not affect AC Transit’s ability to receive federal Small-Start funds because dedicated lanes are not one of the required criteria for BRT. But AC Transit’s fiscal condition may make them ineligible. See BRT Small Starts Fact Sheet.
Councilmembers discussed the “environmental justice” of removing local service because it would impact the elderly and disabled. But retaining local service did not seem to be included in the “Reduced Impact Alternative.” It was part of the “Rapid Bus Plus” alternative. Also included in that alternative was splitting the line in downtown Oakland to avoid the bunching that occurs on very long lines like the #51.
Some council members wanted to extend the BRT down University Ave. to Amtrak, which would mean it would connect to the San Pablo Rapid Bus, but AC Transit claimed it could not be studied now.
Mayor Bates asked how Berkeley would connect to Oakland if they have dedicated lanes. The short answer was “awkwardly.” But Temescal residents are not likely to accept dedicated lanes:See this week’s article in the East Bay Express.
Joyce Roy is a semi-retired architect and long-time Oakland transit activist. Partisan Position writers are not guaranteed to be impartial, although they are knowledgeable and hope to provide accurate factual information.