Editor's note: AC Transit wants to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line -- a trolley on wheels. Originally conceived as running from downtown Berkeley through Oakland and San Leandro to Bay Fair BART, it has been scaled down.
For a look at the project as currently conceived, including route maps, .
Last month, San Leandro resident Peggy Combs in advance of a March 1st town hall meeting on the project. Today she follows up with a critique. This is a lightly-edited version of what she published on the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association email list.
Have a contrary view in support of the BRT? We'd love to provide a forum.
By Peggy Combs
The recent AC Transit BRT presentation focused entirely on the merits of BRT systems in general, and on its potential positive impacts on Oakland. But it failed to identify any positive impacts for San Leandro or its residents and businesses at the north end.
Not only has AC Transit cut back on what few street and landscaping improvements might have occurred, they also failed to identify any mitigations to neighborhood concerns that have been expressed over the last 2-3 years: increased traffic on side streets; lack of parking for businesses and their customers; lack of parking for oversize trucks with supplies for restaurants and stores; and, concerns about diminished services for current riders of AC Transit’s bus lines on E. 14th Street, (the 1 and 1R).
Since the meeting was not set up for any group Q & A or other interactive group discussion, most of the residents at the meeting were there to view the maps and to try to figure out what the impacts on the north end were, to balance the purported benefits of the San Leandro "leg" of this BRT project against what it would do to the current ridership and the quality of life for residents and businesses in the north area.
I met a whole lot of new people at the meeting, many of whom have real-life issues with losing the 1 and 1R buslines, with the bus stops moving so far from their current locations, and with the foreseeable problems with traffic and parking issues on the side streets.
In the end, all the residents I talked to before, during and after the meeting agree on three things:
- the general, global concept of BRTs for major urban areas is probably a good idea (Go Cincinnati! Go Brazil!);
- the application of the BRT through the length of Oakland is probably also a good idea, for Oakland at least;
- and, the proposed 4 block extension into San Leandro is worthless in the grand scheme of BRT goals and clearly has negative impacts on the residents and businesses in the area.
By and large, residents of the north area are still unconvinced that the sacrifices and safety issues that arise with this proposed model outweigh any abstract benefits to be had if San Leandro “embraces the future” by accepting 4 blocks of BRT dedicated lanes into town.
Just to review some of the primary concerns of residents and businesses:
- Loss of current service (fewer stops, bus doesn’t go straight down E. 14th, no place for large truck deliveries, loss of parking)
- More traffic diverted to side streets(cars and trucks) because of changes to parking, turn lanes, etc., adding pollution, loss of safety for pedestrians, children and pets
- Loss of up to 30% of parking slots on E. 14th means more customers and employees parking on already impacted side streets, less access for customers, and potential loss of business (and AC Transit does not proposed any extra pocket parking lots to mitigate these concerns, as they have in Oakland)
- Loss of northbound E. 14th Street access to businesses’ parking lots on west side of E. 14th (two at Los Pericos, for example) which won’t be accessible to northbound cars. [The other afternoon at around 4pm I watched Los Pericos from across the street on Sunnyside, and in under 4 minutes I saw at least 5 cars coming from the south turn left into both parking lots. That means dozens of cars will no longer be able to access Los Pericos parking lots without either doing U-turns further up on E. 14th Street, or on the side streets. The AC Transit folks think that people will know to drive past Los Pericos until they can make a U-turn and come back; it just seems like a stretch to believe that such a significant impact isn’t going to hurt business or impact the side streets. There are other businesses on the west side of E. 14th Street similarly impacted.
Furthermore, San Leandrans need to know that the benefits that will be reaped in Oakland (potentially) will not be seen here under the current plan. Due to decreasing funds, AC Transit has cut back on its original plans, so there will be no street or median landscaping in San Leandro beyond the statue, after the final “center raised platform station” slated for Durant and E. 14th Street. The “dedicated lanes” from Broadmoor to Georgia Way will be painted on the street. No medians with level boarding or aesthetic improvements. No landscaping. No street improvements. No fewer cars on E. 14th Street. In short, no inspiration for new investments in this stretch of E. 14th and not a long enough stretch of dedicated lanes to solve global warming or get people out of their cars. Put simply, none of the “pluses” predicted for Oakland will occur here.
What makes sense
The most popular concept raised by residents in opposition to the dedicated lanes was to ask AC Transit to stop the dedicated lanes at the point of their final center raised platform station, just south of Durant and before the statue at Broadmoor. This makes economic sense as well as good common sense for the needs of San Leandro residents and businesses on the south side of the statue.
So what can be done now, since the Council already voted several years ago for the current proposed BRT short extension into San Leandro?
The present makeup of the Council is different than the Council that passed the other plan, so it is always possible to have an impact if people speak up and let the Mayor and the Council know that their concerns are real and that the purported benefits do not outweigh the problems.
Right now the Engineering department at City Hall is reporting that they think the “impacts are minimal” and that public reaction is evenly split.
That is not what I saw and heard at the meeting, not what I hear from dozens of people who have spoken to me after my last posting and opinion blog in the San Leandro Patch, nor is what I hear on the BNA list serve.
We need to raise the noise level and counter this view with more voices, more comments, and a more active response to the lack of merits for this proposal.
My suggestion (for those of us who share these views) is that we as individuals ask the Mayor and the Council to reverse the earlier “preferred alternative” (the current proposal) given to AC Transit, and indicate that they want the dedicated lane and BRT service to end at the statue.
It also is important that the Council understand that we want to support the current AC Transit service that transects San Leandro. We support the existing 1 and the 1R bus lines and we oppose having these routes altered for the proposed BRT.
We don’t want the BRT dedicated lanes beyond the statue, and we DO want the current AC Transit bus lines going north and south on E. 14th Street to be retained – without a detour down Davis Street to BART.
We feel these positions will do more for the current ridership, the community and the neighborhoods that border E. 14th Street than any 4-block stretch of BRT ever could.
Whatever your own insights and perspectives are, your comments are urgently needed this week to our Council representative for District 5, Pauline Cutter (firstname.lastname@example.org) and to Mayor Stephen Cassidy (email@example.com), and your messages will be forwarded to the other Council members.
For those of us who beg to differ, now's the time! Carpe diem and all that.
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