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.
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.