Bus corridor plan would pull traffic lanes from Telegraph

on October 14, 2008

By HENRY JONES

As AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit plan grinds through the bureaucracies of Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro, North Oakland residents and merchants are trying to grasp just what their civic leaders are getting them all into. Take an already bustling avenue like Telegraph, devote the two middle lanes to public buses, and run it all the way from Berkeley to San Leandro, and you have yourself either a transportational triumph or an unmitigated disaster. No one’s quite sure which yet.

Projected to be ready by 2014, the BRT is being sold as not only a prudent, environmentally-friendly civic project, but as one that appeals to working class people who would benefit from a faster and more efficient public transportation system.

But unresolved questions about parking availability and driving times have given pause to Telegraph corridor business owners. The board members of the Temescal Telegraph Business District (TTBD), has voted to endorse the project, if cautiously. “We like it, but we have our reservations on its impact on parking,” said TTBD president Rick Raffanti, who used to own Temescal Cafe. “That’s always a big issue for merchants. But our understanding is that AC Transit will mitigate [these losses].” 

The corridor would run through Telegraph and Webster

The corridor would run through Telegraph and Webster

The specifics of these mitigations are still unknown. Telegraph Merchants Association president Carlo Busby, co-owner of the religious gift store Sagrada, is concerned. “The sense I have [among the other shopowners] is that while most people favor transit improvements that would reduce environmental impacts,” he said, “a lot of questions still remain unanswered as to what extent BRT will provide this and how BRT will mitigate the parking reduction it will require.”

There are exactly 442 parking spaces in the Temescal neighborhood either directly on Telegraph or halfway up side streets, according to AC Transit’s research for its Environmental Impact Report, and it estimates that  66 of those would be lost to make room for the BRT. But it’s not yet clear if AC Transit would find replacements for all 66 of those spaces–the EIR estimates that between “25 and 31” new spots would be sufficient, though this is just a preliminary evaluation. (It does go on to suggest that those extra parking spaces could come in the form of meters placed up side streets on what are now two-hour residential parking zones.)

Additionally, the BRT would have a significant impact on driving times, as traffic would be confined to just one lane in either direction (bicycle lanes, however, would remain basically as they are). AC Transit anticipates that this would typically only be a problem at certain major intersections during rush hour, and according to the EIR, the intersection at Telegraph and Alcatraz would be most dramatically affected. The average wait time now for cars at that intersection, during peak afternoon hours, is 51 seconds; with BRT, the report predicts, that weight would more than double, to 135 seconds.

The effects at the 45th and 40th Street intersections would be less dramatic, AC Transit officials have said, because they have ideas for how to make things easier there. The current wait at Telegraph and 45th is 15 seconds, and with BRT, that increases to 56 seconds. But by adding a northbound through-lane on Telegraph, the EIR suggests, that wait time can be brought back down to 19.

Similarly, creating a southbound right-turn-only lane at Telegraph and 40th would cut the post-BRT wait time from 117 seconds to 46 seconds.

These suggestions are only rough ideas, as BRT supporters are quick to point out. “Too many people have drawn conclusions from the EIR,” said Allen Toby, a member of the Friends of BRT, and co-chair of the “No on KK” campaign in Berkeley, an effort to defeat a ballot measure that could impede the future of BRT in that city if it passes. “I don’t blame people for having concerns. If there would be traffic gridlock, that’s worth looking at. If we have net loss of parking, that’s worth looking at. But we need to recognize we haven’t looked at mitigations yet. AC transit says they’re solvable–though you may not trust AC Transit.”

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1 Comment

  1. temescal resident on December 4, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Telegraph Ave. and Webster Street run more or less parallel to each. They don’t intersect. So what does the graphic attached to this story mean?

    Also, this story would be greatly improved by having a link to a full description of AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit plan.



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