Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oakland Living Blog Supports BRT

There is an excellent post supporting BRT in the Oakland Living blog:

"the more I read these blogs in support of BRT and the print media’s opposition to BRT, I realized this was too important of an issue not to write about. I’m not going to debunk every myth about BRT ..., but I do want to offer my perspective, as a driver, bus rider, avid walker, and as someone who’s lived on both the Oakland and Berkeley sides of the 1 AC Transit line."

See the complete post at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Chronicle Article About AC Transit's BRT Plan

An article in today's San Francisco Chronicle says that, despite the great environmental benefits of BRT, and despite Berkeley's big talk about reducing greenhouse gases, Berkeley may stop this BRT project serving the entire East Bay, because our local NIMBYs are so vocal.

Mary Oram, the one opponent of BRT quoted in the article, is so automobile-dependent and so hostile to transit in general, that she has written in a letter to the Berkeley Daily Planet "what sits under Union Square is a large, relatively low priced parking garage. As a result of this, Union Square is the one part of San Francisco where I am willing to shop."

Here is the Chronicle article.

Bus rapid transit project could hit roadblock in Berkeley
by Carolyn Jones
Sunday, October 14, 2007

Imagine a bus route that's so fast and reliable that it's like light rail without tracks. And 10 times cheaper.

That's what AC Transit is proposing for its busiest route in the East Bay, the 15-mile-long stretch from Bay Fair BART Station in San Leandro to downtown Berkeley.
The $400 million bus rapid transit project would look a lot like light rail, with elevated stops in the middle of the street and dedicated lanes free of cars. Buses would run every 10 minutes and sail through intersections.

But the project may hit a roadblock in Berkeley, where some neighbors and merchants are lobbying furiously against it, saying it would worsen traffic and be the death knell for the beleaguered Telegraph Avenue shopping district.

And if Berkeley rejects the plan, the entire project is imperiled - which leaves some people in town wondering how one of the region's most green-thinking cities could say no to public transit.

"The City of Berkeley would have to be out of its mind to turn down a multi-million-dollar investment in public transit," said Robert Wrenn, a city transportation commissioner and proponent of the rapid bus plan.

"We'd be the complete laughing stock. It would be a great embarrassment to the city."

Residents and city officials in Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro are considering the plan, which AC Transit hopes to start building in 2009 and finish in 2011. After the agency receives feedback on the plan in the coming months, it will make revisions that reflect local needs.

The route, called Intel because the bulk of it runs along International Boulevard and Telegraph Avenue, would run along East 14th Street in San Leandro, cross Oakland and zip through Berkeley along Telegraph.

Buses would run in center lanes, stopping at elevated platforms in the middle of the street. Each stop would be about a half-mile apart so that buses could go faster and bus drivers would have the ability to turn stoplights green using GPS technology. Each stop would have an electronic sign informing riders when the next bus is scheduled to arrive.

Scaled-down versions of bus rapid transit already exist, although without dedicated lanes they're more like glorified express buses that are subject to the same sluggish traffic patterns as cars.

While there are supporters of bus rapid transit in Berkeley, which is striving to meet its voter-approved goals to reduce greenhouse gases, dozens of neighbors and merchants along Telegraph think the transit plan would spell disaster.

They fear it would bring more traffic congestion when a lane of Telegraph is closed to cars, and would result in more high-density housing along the route.

"It's a gigantic waste of money," said Mary Oram, a longtime Berkeley resident who lives south of the UC campus.

"To me, it looks like they're preparing for light rail. Light rail is wonderful if you're in the middle of nowhere, but we already have BART just a few blocks away. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Oram and other opponents said AC Transit buses aren't brimming with passengers through Berkeley, while merchants worry that customers will shop elsewhere, deterred by the traffic or lack of parking if the city decides to eliminate parking along Telegraph to create an additional lane for cars.

Clarence Johnson, an AC Transit spokesman, said the agency is eager to get people out of their cars and into public transit as a way to reduce pollution.

"If we put this dedicated lane in and people continue to drive, then the opponents are probably right," Johnson said. "It will lead to more pollution."

But that has not been the outcome in other nations, he said. Cities in Europe, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere in the United States that have built bus rapid transit systems have reported great success, he said. Business has not been hurt, and it has led to more transit riders and less automobile traffic.

Johnson added that 95 percent of motorists opposed dedicated bike lanes when they were first unveiled, and now the lanes are accepted as part of the streetscape.

Wrenn, a former chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission, said residents will have to make sacrifices for the city to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Taking the bus occasionally should be one of them, he said.

"If we're going to be serious about global warming, people are going to have to drive less and ride transit more, simple as that," he said. "Traffic's going to get worse anyhow. We'd be crazy not to do this."


Thursday, October 11, 2007


A new database is available on BRT and other
innovative bus projects around the world.

"Welcome to our database on innovative bus projects
around the world. This database is available for
your use free of charge. It was made possible by a
generous grant from the Blue Moon Fund.

We have included projects of various types in the
database. Most are not full-featured BRT, but rather
employ certain components of BRT or are planning to
upgrade to full-BRT in the future. For a more
detailed description of full-featured BRT,
please click here."



Tuesday, October 09, 2007

BRT May Spell Relief

This editorial supporting Bus Rapid Transit in San Francisco was in the Examiner.

Bus rapid transit may spell relief
The San Francisco Examiner, 2007-10-08

According to city transportation planners, it takes Muni buses approximately 22 minutes to travel the 2-mile length of Van Ness Avenue, one of the most congested thoroughfares in San Francisco. Exasperation would prompt anyone with a pulse to ask whether there's a better way to get up and down Van Ness. Fortunately, by 2011 there should be a better way, and it will be called bus rapid transit.

Although the San Francisco County Transportation Authority hasn't chosen a final proposal for how the new $90 million transportation system would be configured - some proposals include dedicated bus lanes in the center of the Van Ness corridor while others place them on the sides - BRT on Van Ness is bound to help speed up public transit on a street that doubles for U.S. Highway 101 in The City.

There is a sense of urgency for finding ways to speed up public transit in the wake of figures showing on-time performance deteriorating on many of Muni?s most popular lines. While the 49-Van Ness was among the few major lines with significant improvement in on-time performance between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2007 ? 62.9 percent to 73 percent, respectively ? further progress must be realized before the voters? 1999 Proposition E mandate of 85 percent on-time performance for Muni is realized.

In addition to Van Ness, BRT systems have been proposed for Geary Boulevard, Potrero Avenue and 19th Avenue, and the three latter BRT corridors should prove to be valuable links to an overall system.

The BRT slated for Geary Boulevard has sparked some neighborhood opposition from business owners concerned that parking will be eliminated. The SFCTA has addressed some of those concerns at public meetings, but the agency may have to do a better job of selling its Geary Boulevard plan than it already has. One thing is certain, though: Traffic on Geary Boulevard, whose 38-Geary Muni line boasts the system?s third highest ridership and saw a 71.4 percent on-time performance in fiscal year 2006, is not about to get better any time soon.

The Potrero Avenue BRT, pointed to along with 19th Avenue as likely candidates for BRT systems in Muni?s Short-Range Transit Plan for 2008-2027, would be a welcome leg of a BRT network in The City that could rush through traffic along Potrero Avenue in the eastern Mission and connect to Van Ness Avenue. Muni has projected BRT on Potrero Avenue will cost about $42 million.

As it would over a Potrero Avenue route, BRT proposed for 19th Avenue would permit buses to avoid transit-frustrating commingling with vehicle traffic. In addition to providing relief for the heavily congested 19th Avenue - a corridor linking San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties as part of U.S. Highway 1 - BRT might very well save lives on that notoriously deadly thoroughfare by calming traffic with its dedicated lanes and priority signals. And though Muni expects BRT on 19th Avenue to cost $239 million, the bonus to pedestrians would be welcome, indeed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Time Magazine Backs BRT To Control Global Warming

Time Magazine has a special issue out on Global Warming. It lists various things people can do to deal with Global Warming. One of them is to ride the bus and it specifically mentions Bus Rapid Transit. If Time Magazine, hardly a radical publication, understands that BRT can help, maybe Berkeley will also understand this.

Here is an excerpt from Time:

The Global Warming Survival Guide
14. Ride the Bus

With transport accounting for more than 30% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, one of the best ways to reduce them is by riding something many of us haven't tried since the ninth grade: a bus. Public transit saves an estimated 1.4 billion gal. of gas annually, which translates into about 14 million tons of CO2, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Unfortunately, 88% of all trips in the U.S. are by car. Partly, that's because public transportation is more readily available in big urban areas. One promising alternative is bus rapid transit (BRT), which features extra-long carriers running in dedicated lanes. Buses emit more carbon than trains, but that can be minimized by using hybrid or compressed-natural-gas engines. A study last year by the Breakthrough Technologies Institute found that a BRT system in a medium-size U.S. city could cut emissions by as much as 654,000 tons over 20 years.

Thanks to high gas prices, miles driven per motorist dropped in 2005 for the first time since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center. The U.S. is ready to change. We're just waiting for the bus.

see the complete article.