I've been thinking about AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal and can't help but question its necessity. There are several factors at play that undermine the plausibility for this venture and are worth considering before moving forward.
AC Transit proposes numerous benefits to be had from this new service, including increased patronage, reduced global warming by getting people out of their cars, and speedier trip times.
All well and good, but what of the current system in place?
The streets being considered for BRT are the stretches of International Blvd and East 14th Street between Oakland and San Leandro. This is one of the busiest corridors in the Bay Area and is already being heavily serviced by AC Transit.
Along with the numerous buses that use various portions of this stretch of roads, there are two dedicated bus lines in the 1 and 1R. The R line, in particular, is touted on the AC Transit website for its use of "leading-edge technology and unique on-street improvements to reduce travel time."
Scheduling for the R claims to be approximately every 10 minutes, while the 1 claims to be every 15 minutes or so. Combined with the other lines sharing International and E.14th, and suddenly you're looking at a very well-serviced street.
Indeed, going a step further, if the tech on the R line is "leading-edge", what exactly more will BRT bring to the table, bleeding-edge technology? And if that's the case, why can't the new tech simply be added onto the currently existing buses to make their trips through intersections equally as fast?
One particularly key piece of information not included on the AC Transit website is that the buses follow their respective schedules inconsistently at best. It's very common to see the 1R show up in pairs of twos (and sometimes threes), followed by an incomprehensible lapse in service for 30-35 minutes, and beyond.
Calls to 511 to inquire about these odd delays and conga-lines of buses result in denials of knowledge of any inconsistencies and "technical issues". These are the same people coming to us with their hands out and promising faster trips.
Considering the number of BART stations running parallel to this proposed route between SL and Oakland, BRT becomes even more senseless. A dedicated line in the middle of the street might seem like a speedier way to get around, but nothing beats BART, especially when it doesn't have to ever stop for traffic lights. As long as you plan your departure from BART to sync with an AC Transit departure, you can already get to your destination in an efficient time frame.
Also, though less detrimental to San Leandro, the businesses running up and down International stand to lose quite a few customers by having parking in front of their storefronts removed. As recently documented by CBS 5, many business owners are fearful that forcing customers to find parking around the corner and walking all the way back to their stores will turn away a significent amount of shoppers. What's the point of marginally improving commute times and shuttering businesses?
Ultimately, BRT is an expensive proposition that doesn't significently reduce travel time and will add to street congestion by removing a lane for each direction of traffic. If AC Transit can't competently run the buses it already has, how can they be expected to make BRT work any better?
I'd much rather see money diverted to reinstating bus service that's been cut and altogether removed throughout the AC Transit system. This alone would help people in out of the way locations get to where they need to go a lot better than making a minute improvement to service of a line that is already flooded with buses as is.
If AC Transit adhered to their own schedule the 1 and 1R would be more than enough to make their currently existing buses an economical and convenient alternative to driving down E.14th Street and International.