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East Bay Bus Rapid Transit
July 30, 2013: Oakland City Council gives Bus Rapid Transit another green light
The Oakland City Council voted unanimously - again - to enter into agreements with AC Transit to advance Bus Rapid Transit along International Boulevard. There are still some details to be worked out, but we are hopeful that the project will soon be cleared to receive funding awarded through the Federal Transit Administration's Small Starts program. Read our blog post from August 1, 2013 for the details.
It has already been a year since the Oakland City Council adopted BRT for International Blvd. Since then, AC Transit has been addressing concerns that were raised around station spacing, access for people with disabilities, and mitigating impacts of construction and the loss of some public parking for small businesses and services along the boulevard.
AC Transit has taken great steps towards addressing the majority of these issues, and is now coming back to the Oakland City Council as agreed, in hope of entering into a Master Cooperative Agreement with the City of Oakland. AC Transit needs this agreement in place to receive the funding needed for BRT from the Federal Government. If the City of Oakland does not enter into an agreement with AC Transit in July, the funds from the Federal Government (Small Starts Program) will be put into jeopardy, thereby threatening the entire viability of the project, regardless of approval status.
While the issues of station spacing and access for people with disabilities have been or are well on the way to being worked out, the issue of assisting businesses that will be impacted by the project remains unresolved. Part of the challenge is the uncertainty of which businesses will need assistance after BRT is in place. It is also unclear what specific dollar amount will suffice to meet those potential needs. While some businesses will almost certainly need entirely new business models, others will not be impacted at all, or will likely benefit from the investment of new infrastructure along the corridor.
TransForm has been monitoring this process closely, and we have been providing assistance in this dialogue wherever possible. We value the existing businesses and services as key pieces of the social and community fabric that make up the communities along International Blvd. . Thankfully, ACT has demonstrated their willingness to work in partnership with existing businesses and services along the corridor, ensuring BRT has as minimal impact to the parts of the community we would all like to see preserved.
At nearly 11PM on Tuesday night, July 17th, the Oakland City Council joined the City Council of San Leandro in unanimous support of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with dedicated lanes. The route will improve reliability and frequency, and will reduce overall transit time for most of the 1/1R routes by an estimated 30%. BRT will also reduce operations costs, resulting in more service for less funding. The Oakland City Council motion to adopt was made by Councilmember Pat Kernighan and seconded by Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente.
With over 30 organizations in support of the project (see a list below), and dozens of residents showing up to speak, some of the last minute concerns were ensuring that businesses along the corridor would recieve appropriate support during construction and mitigations for loss of parking in certain spots along the corridor, and that the estimated 300 construction jobs would go to as many Oakland residents as possible, given limitations to the application of Oakland's Local Hire policy on Federally funded projects. Some minor ammendments were made by the City Council to the staff recommendation that emphasized AC Transit addressing these issues as the project moves forward.
Some of the most vocal supporters of BRT at the council meeting were the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Oakland Community Organizations, Walk Oakand Bike Oakland, Causa Justa Just Cause, Youth Uprising, the Sierra Club, the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, ACCE / Riders for Transit Justice, The First UU Church of Oakland's Earth Justice Associates, the National Association of Minority Contractors, Urban Habitat, and the League of Women Voters. Supporters outnumbered opponents by more than 3 to 1. The project would not have passed without the residents and organizations that showed up or spoke out in support last night, and the ongoing, demonstrated support of the additional groups listed below.
Reasons for supporting BRT included sorely needed improvements to the frequency and reliability of the transit service along International Blvd. (routes 1 and 1R), the jobs that the construction of BRT would create, bringing over $150M of investment in public infrastructure, and helping to attract TOD to the corridor. Another popular reason for support was because of the increased lighting and security features that will help reduce crime along the corridor, as well as the improved pedestrian and bicycling facilities that will come with BRT, including improved cross-walks, bike lanes and bike parking. A small business owner and leader, Aristeo Zambrano of Bay City Alternators also came out in support and in representation of small businesses in the Elmhurst neighborhood district, emphasizing that the corridor is in sore need of investment.
Human Impact Partners did a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the proposed BRT project, and reported that the project would result in an improvement to public health along the corridor for a number of reasons, including improved access, more safety from crime and traffic. The report can be seen on their website.
Oakland's vote came on the heels of the San Leandro City Council adopting the BRT project running in center lanes for buses only along a small portion of the route and "curbside BRT" for a majority of the route along E.14th St. (from the Oakland border) to the San Leandro BART station.
The project is unique in the Bay Area as being the first BRT system to be implemented in a dense, relatively narrow corridor. It will be a game-changer for International Blvd., and will serve as a model to the counry on how to "do more with less".
East Bay BRT is officially / formally supported by over 30 community groups and organizations:
Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Riders for Transit Justice
Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 192
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)
Causa Justa / Just Cause
Communities for a Better Environment
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
East Bay Bicycle Coalition
East Bay Housing Organizations
East Bay Young Democrats
Ella Baker Center
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Oakland's Earth Justice Associates
Genesis (a Gamaliel affiliate)
The League of Women Voters
National Association of Minority Contractors
Oakland Community Organizations
RAMP (Regional Asthma Management and Prevention)
Sierra Club (Northern Alameda County Chapter)
Street Level Health Project
The Rose Foundation / New Voices Are Rising
Walk Oakland / Bike Oakland (WOBO)
Since the release of the DEIR, the project has changed in the following ways, including THE ADDITION OF TWO NEW STATIONS and the shifting of three proposed station locations to better meet the needs of transit riders and stakeholders along the route:
1. Reduced scope of the project to stop at 20th St. @ Broadway (parallel bus service can continue to connect North Oakland with 14th St. and maybe even Jack London Square)
2. Reduced parking impacts with dual-side boarding buses allowing for combined inbound / outbound BRT Stations
3. Maintaining on-board fare payment for those who have safety concerns over handling money at ticket machines while waiting on platforms
4. Improving traffic routing on International Blvd. from Fruitvale Ave. with new and improved traffic signals on Fruitvale Ave. and E. 10th St. and at Derby St. nd E. 12th Sts., which will reduce the amount of traffic on International Blvd. through the Fruitvale District
5. Adding a NEW station in the vicinity of 63rd Ave. to reduce distance in station spacing
6. Shifting the proposed BRT station from 65th Ave. to be directly in front of Lockwood-Havenscourt Campus at 67th Ave., improving access and safety with a new pedestrian / traffic signal for students of those schools, and removing the dedicated lane from right there in front of the school to minimize traffic
7. Shifting the proposed BRT station even closer to Allen Temple Arms (at 82nd Avd.) from where the inbound 1/1R station is located now
8. Creating a new parking lot at 85th Ave. to reduce impacts to parking at Allen Temple Baptist Church on Sundays during church services
9. Adding a NEW station at 90th Ave. to reduce distance in station spacing.
10. Shifting the proposed BRT station from 104th Ave. to 103rd Ave. to be closer to Allen Temple Gardens (btwn 101st and 102nd)
11. A commitment to maintain and integrate the existing landscaped median
12. A commitment to repave the entire street, curb to curb
East Bay BRT Passes Through Oakland Public Works Committee!
With 21 ferverent supporters, 4 opponents and one neutral speaker, BRT has just passed through the Oakland Public Works Committee with Councilmembers Nadel, Schaaf and Kaplan in support. Councilmember Larry Reid abstained from the vote.
Most of the speakers were transit riders who reflected on how sorely needed and long over-due this project is. Two opponents expressed concerns about the impacts of construction on small businesses, and two other opponents (who were also transit riders) were just not confident in the proposed improvements.
Special thanks goes to Oakland's First Unitarian Universalist Church, The Alameda County Building Trades Council, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), the East Bay Young Democrats, New Voices Are Rising, and the National Association for Minority Contractors for turning folks out!
AC Transit Board of Directors Certify East Bay BRT FEIR, Moving the Downtown Oakland to San Leandro (DSOL) Option Forward Toward City Council Approvals!
Transit in Oakland and San Leandro took a huge step towards a much better future on April 25th, thanks to the efforts of its visionary leadership on the AC Transit Board of Directors. With 6 of the 7 Directors present, they unanimously certified the FEIR and adopted the Downtown Oakland to San Leandro alternative for BRT!
Over three dozen speakers came out in support of the plan, and emboldened the AC Transit Board of Directors to vote the way they did. They were also able to see a video advocating for BRT proudly produced by Youth Uprising (which can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKUHj9hapaU
This would not have happened without the broad support from youth, labor, environmental, social justice, and environmental justice groups as well as "just regular residents" who were represented by 45 supporters at the AC Transit Board of Directors meeting on April 25th, 2012..
Many thanks to the 22 groups that have signed on to the coalition letter (see below) and all the support that has been demonstrated leading up to this point. Their engagement has been paramount to moving such a progressive project forward.
The East Bay BRT project has the HIGHEST rating for a transit project in the nation, according to the FTA. It promises to deliver the most efficiency for the least amount of money spent on transit improvements. Once implemented, Oakland and San Leandro will truly have a world-class transit system. Despite the affordability, it will create hundreds of local construction jobs, improve air quality, allow for the purchase of better designed, cleaner vehicles, make streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, while at the same time creating a truly reliable transit system that people can truly depend on to come frequently and reliably.
Bringing Bus Rapid Transit to Life
For the past six years, TransForm has worked in Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro to build community awareness of AC Transit's proposed East Bay Bus Rapid Transit project with the goal of supporting the cities and AC Transit in ensuring that the East Bay gets a model BRT system that delivers world-class transit service and meets the community's needs.
Traveling along Telegraph Avenue, International Boulevard, and East 14th Street, BRT is proposed to reduce current trip times along this corridor by 30%, and will attract over 9,000 new daily passengers. AC Transit's BRT service will also reduce operating costs while increasing ridership, enabling the transit agency to better support the rest of the system.
Some of the reasons why residents who we have spoken to support BRT are as follows:
- Level boarding eliminates need for lifts or ramps for wheelchairs and or for people with disabilities or traveling with strollers or carts. Boarding will be exactly like boarding BART. This makes boarding for people in wheelchairs much faster and safer.
- Dedicated lanes keep buses out of traffic, running on time, and prevents bus bunching, which helps to reduce operations cost, allowing for more service and less cuts
- BRT buses will come every 5 minutes all day long (not just during peak hours!)
- Traffic Signal Priority systems will hold green lights longer for approaching BRT vehicles, minimizing the amount of time that BRT stops for anything other than passengers
- All-Door Boarding will legally allow passengers to board through any door tagging their Clipper Cards to scanners located at each door. This eliminates crowding at the front of the vehicle, and speeds up boarding.
- BRT Stations will all have seating, lighting, shelter, state-of-the art Information systems, and public art. BRT stations will be placed no more than 1/3 of a mile apart, at key destinations and where transfers happen along the route.
- Center boarding stations allow passengers to wait together (safety in numbers) regardless of the direction they are heading. Center-running, platform stations also make it easier for passengers to navigate, and change direction if needed.
Safety from Crime:
- Increased lighting at stations makes waiting for transit much safer;
- Emergency phones at stations provide direct links to police or sheriff;
- Cameras at stations will act as crime deterrents;
- Fare inspection officers also increase presence of authority, and can act as "eyes and ears" of police or sheriff;
- Higher concentrations of passengers at stations (rather than scattered along at stops) increase overall "eyes on the street" and decrease isolation of potential victims waiting for a bus alone on the side of the road, in the dark;
- Higher frequency of bus arrival times (every 5 minutes during the day -all day-), and improved reliability significantly decrease time spent waiting for the bus, and exposing one's self as a potential target for crime.
Safety from Traffic:
- Dedicated lanes calm car traffic to safer speeds
- Bike lanes calm car traffic to safer speeds, and get bikes off of sidewalks;
- New traffic signals make it safer to cross the street;
- Improved crosswalks and bulb-outs increase visibility of pedestrians;
- Increased street lighting increases visibility of pedestrians;
- BRT Stations also act as pedestrian refuges, even for those who simply wan to cross the street.
- Improved ambulance and fire response times by giving emergency vehicles access to a traffic-free dedicated bus lane while maintaining access to senior facilities from the street;
- Creates bike lanes, which encourage biking which has been proven to improve health;
- By offering greener choices for transportation, BRT reduces asthma and other respiratory problems by reducing air pollution;
- Reduces obesity and health problems by creating safe, accessible and walkable communities. BRT would create pleasant transit stops and safer streets and sidewalks;
- Provides more frequent, reliable transit to health and medical centers along the corridor.
- Turns a 45 minute bus ride into a 30 minute bus ride, saving time and money for riders;
- By offering people a competitive, reliable alternative to a private vehicle, household transportation costs can be reduced, thereby freeing up more resources for other necessities such as housing and healthcare;
- BRT creates hundreds of local jobs (construction and support jobs);
- Invests $180M into Oakland and San Leandro from Regional, State and Federal sources;
- Acts as a catalyst for the implementation of the International Blvd. TOD Plan, which has allowed already brought Oakland over $1M in planning efforts (see page 3 of this PDF: http://www.sgc.ca.gov/meetings/20120510/PlanningGrantsRound2-corrected.pdf
- Attracts private investment (BRT in Cleveland attracted some $4.3B of investment into it's struggling economy);
- Reduces the cost of transit operations to allow for more frequent service (5 minute headways all day).
- Reduces GHG's by 1,900 tons per year by attracting more riders and with new, state-of-the-art hybrid buses that reduce travel times by 30%
- Cleaner, greener buses (made in the USA) means improved air quality and reducing air pollution that causes asthma and other respiratory illnesses;
- Saves 210,000 gallons of gas from being burned per year in Alameda Co.
AC Transit Releases the Final Environmental Impact Report for their East Bay Bus Rapid Transit Project!
In compliance with CEQA guidelines, AC Transit has worked with community stakeholders to address comments made to them about the East Bay BRT project as defined in the DRAFT Environmental Impact Report, released around this time last year.
The Final Environmental Impact Report (or FEIR) includes a project that runs from Oakland to San Leandro BART, bringing bike lanes, new stations with lower impacts to parking, more landscaped median and other changes that we feel are for the better for local stakeholders, and which reduces the total cost of the project to reflect the funding that is currently available.
AC Transit recently held seven community meetings along the route and will now take the project to the AC Transit Board of Directors and the City Councils of Oakland and San Leandro over the next several weeks, seeking their approval to continue on with the final engineering of the project.
Response to Frequently Asked Questions (BRT FAQ's)
Distance between stops: BRT stations combine local service and Rapid service, and will be spaced 1/3rd of a mile apart, on average;
BRT Stations will be closer together than "1R" stops but spaced further apart than then "1" stops today. The BRT stations will be located where transfers to other lines happen, and where 90% of current passengers take transit from now. However, about 10% of passengers may need to walk to a different place where a new BRT station will be located nearby. On average BRT stations will be less than 1/3 of a mile apart. If right between two BRT stations, one may need to walk about 1/6th of a mile, equivalant to 880 feet, which is the distance one must walk now to get to City Hall from the currently existing 1/1R bus stop on Broadway between 13th and 14th Streets (see the Google map here: http://g.co/maps/kj4ur)
Curbside BRT: Some people are calling for "Curbside BRT", which would have BRT lanes running down the side of the street, with BRT stopping at "bulbout stations". This idea was not supported by AC Transit because it has several fatal flaws;
1. Curbside BRT still gets stuck behind double parked-cars, cars making right-hand turns or parallel parking, as the Silver line does in Boston and as BRT gets stuck behind traffic in Santiago Chile, losing much of the time-saving benefits gained by level, all-door boarding. The SFMTA recently decided against this model of BRT on Van Ness for this very reason.
2. Curbside BRT is less safe for passengers and pedestrians. whereas one would be required to cross the full width (at least two lanes of mixed flow traffic) of the street twice to get to any destination and back. Center running BRT, with platforms in the middle of the street require passengers to cross only one lane of mixed flow traffic at a time (at signalized crosswalks, of course) to get to the platforms or pedestrian refuges. It also becomes safter to change direction mid-route, eliminating the need to cross any streets if simply going the other direction (if one misses their stop or decides to reverse direction).
3. Curbside BRT removes the potential for platforms to serve as pedestrian refuges, as tney would in Center-Running BRT, where pedestrians, particularily people who need more time to cross the street, can pause at the BRT platform in the middle of the street and safely wait for the next signal phase before they cross the rest of the street (see graphic attached below)
4. Curbside BRT stations are proposed by some to be 1/2 mile apart (w/ less local service between stations), and would require higher operating costs along the corridor to provide service.
5. Curbside BRT stations would be more narrow in width, making it more difficult for wheelchairs to pass each other on the platforms. Even though the stations would be built parallel to the sidewalk, to be level with the floor of the buses, they would need to be elevated from the sidewalk itself or at a sloped angle that may be difficult to negotiate for people with limited mobility.
Why not use BRT Funding for improvements throughout the system instead?
The funding that has been earmarked for BRT is available for captial projects only. By law, it cannot be used for operations. The funding that was possibly availble for operations (CMAQ funds) has already been shifted away from the project to reduce service cuts two years ago. If AC Transit does not use this money for BRT, it will lose the great majority of it. Some of it (previous Regional Measure 2 funds) would still be available for operations and maintenance of Rapid Bus lines (like the 1R and the 72R).
- Regional Measure 2 (RM-2) – $43.4 million for Construction. RM-2 includes $3 million annually to operate the system.
- Alameda County Measure B, – $5.5 million for construction.
- Federal Small Starts – $75 Million (Anticipated).
- State Transportation Improvement Program – $40.0 Million
- Federal Section 5309 Bus - $3.1 million for construction
- AC Transit bus procurement program funds - $4.9 million for vehicles
East Bay BRT Status: City by City
In May 2010, San Leandro and Oakland supported the study of creating dedicated BRT lanes. This gave the green light for AC Transit to move forward in looking at the impacts and benefits of a full BRT system with dedicated lanes, stations, proof-of-payment system, and other amenities that will greatly improve service along the heavily used 1/1R line.
TransForm applauds Oakland and San Leandro's City Councils for their efforts to help find a way to improve the comfort, safety, frequency, reliability, and affordability of bus service.
Check out the details on the 2010 decisions made in each city:
Ongoing Community Planning
TransForm is currently reaching out to community groups, residents, businesses and other stakeholders in an effort to ensure that their concerns about BRT are being addressed by AC Transit by time the final proposal. So far, our efforts have resulted in better parking mitigations, station location, and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.
Additionally, BRT will be the catalyst in the International Blvd. Transit-Oriented Development Plan, which creates more walkable communities along International Blvd.
Learn more about the project during this three-minute AC Transit video and at AC Transit's BRT website.
Questions about TransForm's work to shape and win Bus Rapid Transit in the East Bay? Want to get involved? Contact Joel Ramos.
You can make TransForm an even stronger advocate in 2013 by donating now.
East Bay BRT illustrations courtesy of FMG Architects and Cambridge Systematics.
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