Sunday, January 10, 2010

Planning Commission Action on BRT

Thanks to Len Conly for writing this report.

Berkeley Planning Commission Passes Resolution Recommending Continued Study of Full-Build BRT Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA)

At its December 9, 2009 meeting the Berkeley Planning Commission (PC) adopted the recommendations of the Transportation Commission (TC) with some additions and modifications and directed the staff to return to the TC and PC early in 2010 for their consideration of the revised plan so that input can be provided on whatever revised LPA comes from the staff as a result of commission and public comments before it is finalized. The finalized LPA recommended by the PC for study by AC Transit will be submitted to the City Council in April. Victoria Eisen of the Planning Commission took the lead in crafting the PC recommendations. The BRT route selected by the city for study by AC Transit in their Final EIR is known as the BRT LPA.

At its November 19, 2009 meeting on the BRT LPA the TC had asked city staff to include a variation of the staff-proposed LPA that would run BRT in both directions on Bancroft Way between Telegraph and Shattuck Avenue, and for mixed flow traffic in the southbound BRT lane on Telegraph.

The staff proposal calls for a Durant – Bancroft Way couplet between Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues that would run BRT in a dedicated lane on Durant Avenue from Shattuck to Telegraph and on Bancroft Way in a dedicated lane in the opposite direction to downtown Berkeley. In the staff LPA the southbound BRT would stop on Telegraph at Durant before turning right onto Telegraph. Only emergency and delivery vehicles would be allowed in the southbound running BRT lane on Telegraph; the northbound lane would run BRT with mixed flow traffic.

The TC had requested that a two way Bancroft variation be studied because the system would have greater “legibility” and convenience for bus riders. (Putting the north and southbound buses on separate streets can be confusing to passengers; a BRT stop at Telegraph and Durant would require bus passengers to walk an extra block from campus to board the southbound BRT bus).

The TC had also requested that the staff BRT proposal include a two-way Durant option. The Southside Plan, which the TC has previously recommended to the City Council, urges the conversion of Durant from one-way to two-way to improve traffic circulation in the Southside. The Planning Commission also included in their resolution a recommendation that a two-way Durant be studied for the LPA.

The Transportation Commission also recommended that auto traffic be allowed in the southbound BRT lane on Telegraph, i.e. the buses would run in “mixed flow” traffic. The Planning Commission agreed.

In response to concerns expressed by merchants on Telegraph, the PC also asked staff to look into a variation of the LPA that would include a Dana – Telegraph couplet for BRT in conjunction with a two-way Bancroft between Shattuck and Dana option that would have a BRT stop at Dana and Bancroft and would run the southbound BRT in a dedicated lane on Dana between Bancroft and Dwight Way. The northbound BRT would run in a dedicated lane from Dwight Way to Bancroft in a dedicated lane in this option. According to staff this option would require removing about 30 parking spaces on Dana.

The PC resolution also adopted the TC recommendation that a study of additional pedestrian/sidewalk space at Telegraph and Bancroft be included in the LPA, as well as a left turn capability to allow northbound Telegraph traffic to turn onto Channing Way to reach the parking garage on Channing.

The PC also adopted TC recommendation that a “full-build” alternative with center-running dedicated BRT lanes along Shattuck be included for study by AC Transit in the LPA. The staff proposal had recommended no changes to the existing bus operations in the downtown along Shattuck. One commissioner pointed out that “If you don’t study it, you can’t build it.”

The Commission also recommended that a discussion of an extension of the BRT line to the north of University on Shattuck and/or west on University from Shattuck to the Amtrak stop at the foot of University be included explicitly in the LPA.

The PC also adopted a TC recommendation that called for the staff to create a matrix defining a single list of criteria which spelled out the costs and benefits for each of the above variations of the LPA. For instance, how will the different variations impact the convenience of students in particular, bus riders in general, and what are the social equity implications of each of the variations.

In response to a public comment from a representative of the UC Graduate Union, the PC recommended that a BRT stop at Ellsworth and Bancroft be studied.

Due to the concern about AC Transit’s financial situation expressed during the public comment period the PC recommended that the operational cost analysis in the staff LPA be expanded to include a detailed discussion of operational funding that AC Transit expects to have available to operate at the service levels discussed in the plan. The PC also recommended that the plan discuss what effect, if any, use of BRT funding will have on operation of other AC Transit routes, and asked to be informed about any guarantees that can be made by AC Transit to the city of Berkeley about minimum service levels.

The PC called for an analysis to be included in the LPA plan for holiday season when Telegraph is closed for six days out of the year for street fairs.

In response to concerns expressed by CIL transportation Education & Outreach Coordinator Chris Mullin about the impacts of the Combined service on disabled riders, the PC also recommended that the staff analyze further the impacts that the Combined BRT service will have on disabled passengers. According to Bonnie Nelson of transportation consultants Nelson/Nygaard, total travel times for all riders will be shorter for the Combined service; 85% of riders will still use their same bus stops; and the others may have to walk another block or two to reach the new stops.

A request was included in the PC recommendation that staff update the Rapid Bus Plus proposal of neighborhood groups to include discussions of a December 9 meeting with staff. A member of the PC pointed out that the Rapid Bus Plus option being proposed – which will require the bus to run in mixed flow traffic - loses the reliability factor that BRT offers.

A complete podcast of this meeting is available at Thanks to Scott Mace for providing this podcast.


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