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San Leandro Should Try To Amend The BRT

Councilwoman Pauline Cutter recommends some fixes to the bus rapid transit plan, which has its biggest impact on her north end district.

 

By City Councilwoman Pauline Cutter

AC Transit’s East Bay Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan has been in the works for over eight years. Last week the AC Transit Board certified the environmental impact study (EIS) and will be from Oakland along International Blvd. to San Leandro BART via East 14th and Davis Streets.

They confirmed that most of the 9.6-mile route would be dedicated ”bus only” lanes from Downtown Oakland to Georgia Way in San Leandro and then converts to shared lanes for the rest of the route. 

While I am a long-time supporter of mass transit and would like to support the BRT project, I have concerns and questions about ridership, disruption of current service levels, ease of travel and environmental benefits.

I believe the City Council should vote to remove the dedicated lanes (past the city monument) from the plan. San Leandro should also encourage AC Transit to create more cross-town routes. Only then will AC Transit get close to realizing their hope of thousands more people riding the bus along East 14th each day.

BRT background

Since the plan was first introduced, the San Leandro leg has changed dramatically.  The original plan called for the BRT to travel all the way to Bayfair Center with 95% dedicated ”bus only” lanes running down the middle of East 14th and a single lane of vehicular traffic along the side going each way.  The Halcyon Neighborhood Association and other groups persuaded the City Council to change the “locally preferred” plan to end at San Leandro BART and sent that recommendation to AC Transit officials.  

While I am in favor of more mass transit for San Leandro, I would like to have that transit work for the community that will use it and by the neighborhoods and business districts that will be impacted. 

I don’t feel that the dedicated lanes in the transit plan adopted by AC Transit accomplish that and I am working with AC Transit and fellow neighbors to make changes to the plan so it can benefit all of us.

What needs to change

Most of the problems and concerns come from the restrictions that the dedicated bus-only lanes will have on the traffic and North Area businesses. 

The nature of the dedicated lane is that cars are not allowed to use them. So in areas where there is a dedicated lane, there are no left turns in or out of streets or parking lots. 

In addition, to make room for these lanes, there will be loss of parking along the route. The North Area section of East 14th Street has already been reduced to one lane in each direction, which has slowed traffic way down and created traffic jams at certain times of the days.

 One of my major concerns is the loss of street parking in front of and across the street from Los Pericos Taqueria, a successful restaurant and food market, which depends on through traffic on East 14th for not only parking but deliveries.  People coming from the heart of San Leandro will no longer be able to turn left into their parking lot but will have to go up to Broadmoor to make a U-turn. 

Another problem is that students who live in the Farrelly Pond area will now funnel down side streets to get to Washington School, creating more traffic in the residential areas surrounding the elementary school. 

Our 'dedicated lanes' only save 20 seconds

These impacts are the result of the plan to install three blocks of dedicated lanes beyond the San Leandro city limit. This short dedicated lane extension into San Leandro is estimated to save at most 20 seconds off the bus route.

Moreover, San Leandro’s dedicated lanes are not the same as Oakland’s.

The dedicated lanes in Oakland will see many improvements, including center platform boarding of passengers and landscaping along the way. The three block dedicated lane portion the San Leandro monument will just be lines painted on the street with no other aesthetic or streetscape improvements.

I respectfully submit that the dedicated lane portion in San Leandro bring on more adverse impacts than benefits. 

Existing bus service will decrease

Another big issue people have with the current plan for the BRT is that, as presently designed, it will decrease the service level for current riders, especially seniors, who use the current AC Transit buses in San Leandro.

The BRT would replace the current north/south bus route on E. 14th Street. Riders who were able to travel on E. 14th Street past Davis Street will now have to disembark and transfer to another bus line to continue their trip.

Additionally, since the bus stops for a BRT system are much further apart than current stops, San Leandro residents who use the bus line will now have to walk additional blocks to access it.

Given the investment San Leandro has recently made in the Senior Community Center, and its proximity to most San Leandro doctors and the hospital, it seems imprudent  to support a transit change that will effectively dissuade residents   north of Davis Street from using public transit to get to the Center and medical facilities in that area. 

In February, I was appointed to be one of two representatives of San Leandro for the BRT, and I believe we have made some progress.  AC Transit officials have come and spent time in the North Area to see for themselves the concerns many of you have raised.  They have made some changes and done their best to mitigate the negative impacts of this plan to San Leandro, but it is not enough.

The San Leandro City Council needs to go on record asking for removal of the dedicated lanes in San Leandro and the creation of more cross-town routes in our city.

pcutter@sanleandro.org

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Tom Abate May 04, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Was it San Leandro that lost AC Transit the money? Did Berkeley's decision have anything to do with it? And since it was the south end of town that opted out, it wasn't so much the fault of San Leandro as much as part of San Leandro. None of which should detract from the Pauline's two observations: that the faux dedicated line segment in San Leandro causes headaches for north-enders in exchange for a 20-second improvement in the entire BRT schedule; and existing cross-town bus riders get thrown under the bus. Of course this may just be my inner Broadmoor speaking :)
Chris Crow May 04, 2012 at 10:07 PM
BRT made sense when it went from Berkeley to BayFair Mall (that sales tax hub on the south side of town). It doesn't make any sense to run from Oakland to San Leandro BART and when Berkeley dropped out, and we decdied we didn't want it down to BayFair we should have dropped out all together. If they are removing one line and adding another, BRT or not, that is not expanding mass transit, so this plan, as is, is not expanding anything in San Leandro. When San Leandro decided not to take the line all the way down E. 14th it lost the benefits that outweighed the north area impacts and the current plan does not seem to present a net positive result. I have a feeling that AC Transit is willing to wait it out and suspects their BRT line will be complete at some point in the future. IMHO
David May 05, 2012 at 12:30 AM
It's nice that a bad idea has been around for more than a decade. It's still a bad idea. It's nice that the Feds will borrow money from china to fund a wholly local project ( why this shouldn't b e a federal matter is a topic for another day), it's still a waste of money that ultimately comes from us taxpayers. A lot of money wasted on a bad idea. Period.
Pauline Cutter May 05, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Actually I have been involved with the BRT since 2001. I have been to the many meetings and made my concerns known. I spoke with Garry about this and also had several conversations with Bill Stephens about this too. I have never heard about a $250 million loss of funding because of past San Leandro actions but will ask about it at our next AC Transit meeting in June. In terms of current funding I have asked the question 4 different times to 4 different AC Transit officials and was told there is no known loss of funding if San Leandro does not have dedicated lanes. They did say that the loss of the dedicated lanes may cause funding agencies to view the BRT less favorably as a regional project which could jeopardize future funding. Regarding the "North Area" comments, either the plan makes sense for the whole city or not, since the north area is part of the city too.
Thomas Clarke May 05, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Folks, the BRT has not made sense since the scope of work was limited when Berkeley opted out. San Leandro should have done the same. Leave it to Oakland to do. This is a good idea from another time that just does not make sense.

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