Editor's note: Since at least 2001 AC Transit has been planning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line -- a trolley on wheels. It was originally conceived as running from downtown Berkeley through Oakland and continuing on East 14th Street through San Leandro to Bay Fair BART.
In 2010 Berkeley largely bowed out of the plan and San Leandro decided to end the BRT at the downtown San Leandro BART station rather than Bay Fair.
AC Transit recently published its final environmental impact statement and scheduled public hearings, including one from 6-8 pm on Thursday, March 1st at San Leandro City Hall. A meeting notice published on Patch drew more than five dozen comments.
The Broadmoor Neighborhood Association (BNA) e-mail list has been buzzing on the issue. The central controversy has been an article that was recently published in the Association's printed newsletter and distributed door-to-door. The article suggested that the monument on East 14th Street could be removed by the BRT.
The Association subsequently issued a printed clarification -- delivered door-to-door just like the newsletter -- saying "some of the information and implications in that article may be incorrect" (see attached images from AC Transit plans showing the Monument remaining in its current BRT plan).
A Bay Area Newspaper Group article recently summarized the BRT's advantages, problems and costs: a slight uptick in AC Transit ridership, a loss of parking spaces and a possible $33 million hole in the project budget.
Broadmoor resident Peggy Combs, who has been following the issue for three years, analyzed the issue for the neighborhood mail list. A slightly edited version of her analysis appears below.
In brief: Combs questions the wisdom of bringing a "dedicated" bus lane just a few blocks into San Leandro, and thinks the BRT should instead proceed as a "shared" lane into the city. Even so, she fears some current bus riders will be disadvantaged in a shared lane scenario. Please read on to learn the difference.
By Peggy Combs
The March 1st meeting at City Hall (6 pm) is intended for AC Transit to present and get feedback on its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is before the City Council.
It’s a great time to ask questions so residents can understand better the impacts on our neighborhoods along northern E. 14th Street. But I wouldn't want residents to think this is a forum where AC Transit is going to modify any of their plans based on citizen feedback..
At this point, only the San Leandro Mayor and City Council can have any impact on AC Transit’s plans, because the Council already “approved” the current plan years ago.
What is the current status of the BRT Project?
The current AC Transit proposal for BRT involving San Leandro would allow the “dedicated BRT lane” to continue from Oakland into San Leandro, from Durant (the Oakland-San Leandro border) to Sunnyside/Georgia Way, and then continue with a “shared lane” on E. 14th Street to Davis, and on to the BART station.
A dedicated lane has concrete medians preventing any use or entry by other vehicles and, even without concrete medians, no other traffic is allowed in dedicated lanes except emergency vehicles. The shared lane has no concrete dividers. It is still meant for bus use but cars can make turns through it and use it to merge into traffic.
The BRT project is many years in the making by now; the original AC Transit plan called for running a dedicated bus lane from north Berkeley all the way to San Leandro Bay Fair.
Berkeley opted out about a year and a half ago due to citizen pressure and concerns about impacts on traffic, parking and neighborhoods.
And San Leandro didn't allow the dedicated lane below Davis Street on E. 14th street as a result of considerable pressure from the Halcyon Neighborhood Association and the Business Association of South San Leandro (BASSL), who were concerned about negative impacts on their neighborhoods, businesses and residents.
The City Council told AC Transit that their “preferred alternative” would be to run a dedicated lane about 4-6 blocks into San Leandro, then convert to a shared lane that would go only as far as Davis Street, where it turns to go to BART.
What are some of the issues or questions?
Now that the original vision of a 3-city dedicated lane no longer exists, the BRT has become primarily an Oakland project. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, AC Transit still wants to bring the dedicated lane a few blocks into San Leandro before it converts to the shared lane.
Since much of the concern from residents and businesses surrounds the use of the dedicated lane in San Leandro (NOT the shared lane concept), many people are wondering why those few blocks are needed at all. In particular why they are needed beyond the statue, which seems like a logical stopping point for the dedicated lane?
Other concerns about the dedicated lane proposal.
Businesses concerns include:
- Impacts on truck deliveries that use the center lane;
- The estimated loss of 33 percent of parking spaces used by customers and employees (and it turn out that the parking studies were done before neighborhood restaurants open -- when all spaces are routinely taken).
- Customers of several stores on E. 14th Street would no longer be able to turn left into store parking lots.
Residents are concerned about:
- Increased traffic on side streets by cars and trucks;
- The loss of residential parking due to loss of parking on E. 14th street (customers and employees would park on the side streets);
- Possible problems with being able to turn on or off certain streets to or from E. 14th Street (for example, residents traveling south on E. 14th from Oakland wouldn’t be able to turn left onto Broadmoor and residents traveling north wouldn’t be able to turn left onto Farrelly Drive.
Seniors and other north end bus riders affected.
We should also be concerned about seniors and other residents who use the bus line at the north end of East 14th, because of the loss of bus stops due to the BRT policy of only three stops per mile on the BRT.
Under the current plan, the closest bus stop for seniors living in the complex at Broadmoor and E. 14th Street will be Durant Square – they now have a stop in front of their residence -- another decrease in service for current users with few options.
A shared lane would be better than a dedicated lane in San Leandro
Many of us don’t believe that putting a dedicated lane into San Leandro for just 4 blocks will improve bus traffic times, increase ridership, or protect the environment.
It makes more sense for the BRT dedicated lane to stop at the statue, and avoid the costly expense of having to go around that monument. Instead it can continue as a shared lane.
Even a shared lane will put some current riders at a disadvantage
Under either scenario -- dedicated lane or shared lane -- current bus patrons won't be able to ride straight down E. 14th Street or back up from destinations south of Davis Street -- because the BRT lane to BART would replace the current 1R route along East 14th.
In other words, instead of being able to ride the bus straight through the center of town as the present service provides, riders will have to get off at Davis Street and wait for another bus to take them further south/north.
Or they will have to stay on the 1R while it diverts to the BART station and then ride it back up to E. 14th Street to continue their route. (I have confirmed in a recent conversation with AC Transit project manager Jim Cunradi. )
It’s hard to understand how supporters of mass transit (like myself) are supposed to buy into a plan that ignores the needs of the current ridership.
Come to the hearing and form your own opinion
I have attended most of the AC Transit public meetings for the past 2-3 years and have engaged in public and private conversations with AC Transit officials about my understanding of the issues, so I am comfortable that these questions, concerns and comments are fairly accurate.
Nonetheless, these comments are of course my own perspective.
I encourage everyone to think about the issues, come to the March 1st meeting at City Hall, and then let your entire City Council and the Mayor know what you are thinking.
Your neighbor, Peggy Combs
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