Oakland seeks feedback on Bus Rapid Transit line
on January 27, 2010
This week, the City of Oakland started a series of public meetings on a proposed Bus Rapid Transit line that would run through Berkeley, San Leandro and Oakland. Tuesday’s meeting in the Temescal underscored the difficulties of making a 17-mile transit system that can strike a balance among the needs of transit users, bicyclers and drivers.
This week’s meetings are designed to ask for public comments to identify what effects the transit system might have on local neighborhoods, especially those effects that are not addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report submitted by the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District in 2007.
According to the proposal, transit users will benefit from faster and more reliable bus services with its dedicated lines. For example, the BRT would run every five minutes; currently the 1R line runs every 12 minutes. The proposed project intends to reduce the waiting time at bus stations with its wheel chair-friendly design and pre-payment ticket machines. It would also add bike lanes.
But as Robert Rees, a principal at Fehr & Peers, a transportation consulting company for the BRT project, reminded the crowd, “The BRT is not a done deal. The final decision whether or not to build BRT will not be made for another two years.”
The biggest concern voiced by Temescal neighbors at Tuesday’s meeting was the possible negative impact on parking spaces. More than 370 parking spaces will be lost to build bike lanes. “It would destroy my business,” said Randy Reed, the owner of the Reed Brothers Security at 4432 Telegraph Ave. Reed says he would lose all nine of his parking spaces to bike lanes. “My business went down by 90 percent when they repaved Telegraph Avenue because my customer couldn’t park their cars,” he said.
The project has been touted as a way to reduce travel time within Oakland by 29 percent for riders who use its dedicated lanes, but some say this projection ignores the reality of busy Telegraph Avenue. According to the City of Oakland, approximately 30,000 cars use Telegraph Avenue daily, while there are about 23,000 transit users and 1,900 bicyclers. If current two car lanes were to be reduced to only one, there could be significant traffic congestion. “This proposal hurts the vibrant nature of the Temescal,” said 81-year-old property owner Carl Martin to audience applause.
Another concern for the community is elimination of local lines. BRT will replace all of the local and rapid services on Telegraph and International Boulevard, removing 25 bus stops. According to the city, this would increase distances between bus stops by approximately 600 to 800 feet. “Mobility issues for disabled people should definitely be addressed in further study,” said Wladimir Wlassowsky, manager of the Transportation Services Division at the City of Oakland.
City officials encouraged the participants to submit comments for the projects so that council members can review them and approve further issues to study. However, no council members were present to hear the comments at the meeting.
Other meetings will be held on Thursday at the Oakland City Hall and at St. Louse Bertrand Church on Friday.
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