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AC Transit to cut service–what do riders think?

on September 11, 2009

It’s about five miles from the beginning of AC Transit’s line 15 at the 12th Street BART station to downtown Berkeley, where it loops back southward. And it can be a lonely ride.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the 15 carried no more than a half dozen commuters at a time. But for some, this bus line—slated for closure as part of AC Transit’s massive service reduction proposal—is a lifeline.

Yet the lifeline will be shut off if AC Transit’s proposed service reductions go through. AC Transit predicts a $57M shortfall in the coming year, and plans to shorten and close many of its bus routes, including several running through North Oakland.

On Saturday morning, the agency will host a community workshop in Oakland at its downtown office to discuss its plan to cut at least 15 percent of its bus service.

On a Saturday, AC Transit's 15 line is nearly empty.

On a Saturday, AC Transit’s 15 line is nearly empty. The line will be closed if AC Transit’s proposed service reductions go through. AC Transit predicts a $57M shortfall in the coming year.

From artists and musicians to students, teachers, and the disabled, a wide variety of Oakland residents depend on the 15 to get them from place to place on a daily basis.

“I use this bus line for almost everything,” said Beme, an artist and Berkeley City College student who lives near downtown Oakland but works, studies, or runs errands daily in Berkeley.



On Saturday Beme got on the 15 near 34th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way on route to buy cheap clothes at a Berkeley thrift store. “Pretty much my whole life is somewhat connected to this bus line,” he said.

Click here for a short video of Beme talking about what the loss of route 15 would mean to him.

Beme is just one of thousands of East Bay residents who will be affected by the proposed changes to AC Transit’s service. A reduction in the number of bus routes will mean less frequent service, more transfers, and more inconvenience for many riders.

Glen Jones

Glen Jones

Glen Jones, who travels between his apartment on University Avenue and Summit Medical Center, near MacArthur BART, at least one a day, is another. Jones is one of many disabled East Bay residents who rely on AC Transit as a means of transportation. Fixed-income communities, including the disabled and the elderly, will feel the effect of the route changes acutely—less frequent service and shortened routes mean more fees for transfers. “This is going to cut into my budget majorly,” Jones said.

Click here for a short video of Jones speaking about why he relies on the bus.

Teen-agers across the East Bay depend on AC Transit to get to and from school everyday. Those who cannot drive—either because they are not old enough, or do not have the means to buy a car—are especially reliant on efficient bus service.

Destiny Gaines

Destiny Gaines

Destiny Gaines, 14, takes the 15 to Berkeley High School most mornings, leaving from her West Oakland home. For Gaines and her classmates, many of whom live in East Oakland, changes to service will raise the cost of getting to and from school. A youth bus ticket is $1. But without a transfer, taking two buses home will double that rate. “They should keep one of the buses,” Gaines said, “either the 15 or the 18. It’d be harder for me to get to school everyday [if the changes go into effect] and I’d probably be later than usual.”

Click here for a short video of Gaines speaking on the proposed closure of the 15.

Saturday’s community workshop will present the transit agency’s proposals for changes to service throughout Alameda and Contra Costa County and invite public comment. Gaines plans to attend to voice her concerns.

While the prospect of service cuts has been widely criticized by regular riders, AC Transit believes it is a financial imperative.

AC Transit’s finances have suffered after a dip in state funding and sales tax revenue. Despite raising bus fares—the price of a local trip recently went from $1.75 to $2—the district predicts a $57M deficit over the next year. That shortfall is in large part due to the loss of state-generated funds during the recession. California currently faces a $21 billion deficit.

This AC Transit-drafted map show the changes in service to the 18, and the new 10 line, which will replace some of the 18's old service in North Oakland.

This AC Transit-drafted map shows the changes in service to the 18 (the green line), and the new 10 line (purple), which will replace some of the 18’s North Oakland route. Click the map to view a larger version.

The proposed changes would affect the 15, the 18, the 51, and the 12—all lines that run through North Oakland—and would go into effect in January, 2010. Click here to be redirected to AC Transit’s Web site, and to see maps of the proposed changes to these bus lines, as well as the introduction of the new 10 line, which is meant to streamline the service currently provided by the 15 and the 18 in the North Oakland area.

The 15 is slated to close, and the new route would have the 18, which currently goes from Montclair, through downtown Oakland, and up to Berkeley BART, instead stop service in downtown Oakland. Making the two lines one is intended to result in fewer, and less frequent, stops along the way

These plans are based on data collected by AC Transit and community input from workshops held in May. The district’s board of directors will make a final decision regarding the proposals in October.

Joel Bryant

Joel Bryant

Some longtime bus riders, accustomed to regular changes in service, are unfazed by the proposed changes, and are prepared to adapt. Joel Bryant, who lives near the Ashby BART station and commutes by bus to his teaching job at Berkeley City College, is confident his daily routine will be mostly undisturbed by changes in service.

Click here for a short video interview with Joel Bryant.

Others, like Greg Adams, a lifelong Oakland resident who rarely rides the bus, believe AC Transit’s new service will meet the needs of commuters adequately. With his car in the shop, Adams took the 15 into Berkeley recently. “They’ll have to replace it with something,” Adams said of the proposed closure of the 15.

Greg Adams

Greg Adams

Click here for a short video interview with Greg Adams.

Saturday’s community workshop will be one of eight planned this month. It will be held at AC Transit’s General Offices, located at 1600 Franklin St., in the 2nd Floor Board Room, from 10:30 a.m.-noon.

Upcoming workshops are also scheduled in Alameda (Sept. 12), Fremont (Sept. 15), the Fruitvale district (Sept. 16), San Leandro (Sept. 17), and Hayward (Sept. 17).

Members of the community who are unable to attend the workshops and comment on the proposed changes are invited to submit written comments to AC Transit before Sept. 30. The district will accept comments by mail, voicemail, fax, email, or through a dedicated online comment form.


  1. Alice on September 11, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Very helpful! I, too, take the 15 occasionally, so I’m sad to hear it’ll be re-routed. Beautiful job capturing the character of AC transit.

  2. Sarah Terry-Cobo on September 13, 2009 at 11:32 am

    so sad to these proposed changes! When I lived in N. Oakland @ 61st & MLK, I took the 15 line twice a day 5 or 6 days a week to get to school, run errands and shop at the farmer’s market. Now I live in Downtown Oakland and often take the 51 to get to and from here and Berkeley.

    The 15 was always packed during the morning rush hour, filled with high school students, women and men traveling to work and college students. The service was good and drivers were often friendly and responsive to their passengers. They usually made an effort to stop with the backdoors opening to sidewalks, instead of trees or trash cans (which so frequently happens on other lines).

    Great article and camera work, Mr. Parks! This is truly a service to East Bay residents. I hope those at AC transit have a chance to see this article and video clips.

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