Skip to content

Posts from the "BART" Category

88 Comments

Costly New Parking Garages Still Gobbling Up Land at BART Stations

Oakland and BART officials cut the ribbon Monday on a new parking garage for a “transit village” being built at MacArthur Station. Photo: BRIDGE Housing/Twitter

BART continues to encourage the construction of multi-story parking garages at its stations, despite the exorbitant costs and lost potential for valuable land that could be put to better use.

On Monday, Oakland and BART officials held a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony to tout the opening of a 481-space parking structure at MacArthur BART station. The structure was built at a cost of $15,371,000, or about $32,000 per space (based on a 2012 figure), and is part of a “transit village” housing and retail development. But like most park-and-ride fortresses, it will mostly sit empty when commuters aren’t using it to store cars, which is most of the time.

The only media coverage of the MacArthur press conference was a San Jose Mercury News photo slideshow showing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, two BART board members, an Oakland council member, and a developer rep cutting the ribbon, before heading up to the empty rooftop to take in the views.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich, who sits on the BART board, said he’s “appalled that we wasted tens of millions of dollars building a commuter garage at an urban station like MacArthur.”

“Ridership kept growing at that station despite the reduction in parking during construction, which demonstrates that we could have done perfectly well without it,” he said. “Many of our highest-ridership stations — Balboa Park, Berkeley, 19th, 16th, 24th, Glen Park — have little or no commuter parking. At stations like MacArthur, Ashby, West Oakland, and Lake Merritt, we should be phasing out parking as we build transit villages, and enhance walking, cycling, and local transit access instead of building structured parking.”

Only 10 percent of people using MacArthur station drive there, the Mercury News reported in 2011, and five shuttles operate in the station area.

Read more…

28 Comments

Avalos Ready to Champion Freeway Ramp Closures at Balboa Park Station

This post supported by

The 280 freeway on-ramp at Geneva Avenue next to Balboa Park Station would be removed under the recommendations of an SFCTA study. Photo: SFCTA

Balboa Park Station could become a safer transit hub by 2020 if the city moves forward with proposals to close one freeway ramp and re-align another, as recommended in a study recently completed by the SF County Transportation Authority. Although the proposal hasn’t received much public attention, it’s sure to face a tough political fight when it’s eventually implemented, said D11 Supervisor John Avalos, who chairs the SFCTA. Avalos said the project is worth implementing, and he’s eager to champion the plans as soon as they can move forward.

Supervisor John Avalos. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

“It’s a political problem how to implement these changes around the station. People want things to be different, but they don’t want any change,” said Avalos. “The trade-offs, they see as really harmful to the neighborhoods.”

The SFCTA study proposes altering freeway ramps, changing traffic signals, and a new frontage road for loading — changes that were vetted by the Balboa Park Community Advisory Committee. The study notes, “With strong support, consensus, and high priority from the community, agencies, and elected officials, the initial pilot projects could begin in 2016, with full implementation by 2020.”

Avalos’s term in office will end in late 2016, but he said he hopes to help move the freeway ramp changes forward before he leaves. ”I have two-and-a-half years of office left, and I want to be part of actually getting some implementation on these changes,” he said.

The goal of the SFCTA study was to find ways to make the streets safer around Balboa Park Station, which is surrounded by car traffic moving to and from six nearby freeway ramps. Even though 24,000 people use the station daily to ride Muni and BART — it’s BART’s busiest station outside of downtown SF — it seems to be designed as an afterthought to the 280 freeway. Many commuters exiting the station walk or bike to City College’s main campus.

“The neighborhood has long suffered from its cluster of poorly-designed freeway on- and off-ramps,” said Livable City Director Tom Radulovich, a member of the BART Board of Directors. ”We finally have a definite and buildable proposal for the freeway ramps that will reduce the burden that they impose.”

Through the study, planners and CAC members explored several options for re-configuring the freeway ramps. The favored option would remove one of the two northbound on-ramps, at Geneva Avenue. A curved southbound off-ramp that slings cars onto westbound Ocean Avenue would also be removed and replaced by a new ramp that approaches the street at a head-on 90-degree angle. That new intersection would be signalized.

This proposal originally called for closing the second off-ramp that touches down at Geneva, but that idea was dropped.

Read more…

2 Comments

Berkeley Bike Station Contract Extended — For Now

Downtown Berkeley Bike Station in the Shattuck Hotel Building

Downtown Berkeley Bike Station on Shattuck Street

Buried in Tuesday evening’s Berkeley City Council agenda was a resolution to extend the contract on the Downtown Berkeley Bike Station for one more year, at its current terms.

The station moved to its current street-level storefront location in the historic Shattuck Hotel building in 2010 after extensive renovations to the former retail space, and this month is coming up on the end of the five-year initial lease agreement between BART, the City of Berkeley, and the building owners.

According to the city, the contract extension is necessary because “the property manager and BART have not been successful in negotiating a renewal of the lease at or near the current lease rate,” which is considerably lower than the current market rate for retail spaces in downtown.

The current Bike Station was designed and constructed with funding from BART and the city of Berkeley, and the two entities continue to split the costs of operating the service. BART contributes around $130,000 per year for operations, staffing, utilities, and some rent, and the city of Berkeley pays $60,000 a year for rent.

BART has already signed the contract extension with the property owners at the original terms, and the city council approved the contract as part of its consent calendar Tuesday evening.

Also approved at the meeting was a request to apply for funding to expand the Bay Area Bike Share into the East Bay.

Read more…

2 Comments

San Jose Approves Diridon Plan, With Creek Restoration and Reduced Traffic

The Diridon Station Area Plan proposes a complete network of linear parks featuring the Los Gatos Creek and Guadalupe River. Image: City of San Jose

On Tuesday evening, the San Jose City Council finally approved the Diridon Station Area Plan. The final plan retains a creek trail restoration project that had been on the chopping block, while strengthening requirements for SAP Center to help reduce demand for driving to the arena and Diridon Caltrain Station.

After transportation and housing advocates complained that the San Jose City Council wasn’t planning to allow public comment during their final review of the plan, Mayor Chuck Reed agreed to hear from the public one last time, before finalizing and approving the 30-year land use and development plan for everything within walking distance of the City’s downtown rail station.

At the City Council’s preliminary review of the plan on May 20, several residents spoke in favor of the recommendation by the Diridon Plan to “daylight” the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and extend the trail along the creek to connect with the Guadalupe River Trail, just north of Santa Clara Street. The creek currently flows through an enclosed culvert underneath Montgomery Street and Park Boulevard.

Despite this public feedback, and support for the project within the draft Diridon Station Area Plan, city officials instead proposed on June 6 to eliminate the restoration of the creek from the plan’s recommendations, saying that “acquiring the land would be extremely costly… and the bridge structures [of the streets above the creek] would still shadow much of the creek”.

Read more…

55 Comments

Clipper Card Upgrade Could Bring Seamless Regional Travel, Or Not

Transit riders can transfer between BART, Caltrain, and SamTrans bus services at the Millbrae Transit Center, but riders must pay each transit agency’s full fare. Photo: BART

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will soon renew its contract for Clipper, the Bay Area’s “all-in-one transit card.” Transit advocates are urging MTC to use the opportunity to create a more seamless fare system, and remove barriers that could allow Clipper payments on both the region’s transit agencies and “first-and-last-mile” trip services.

Transit riders can currently use the Clipper card to pay fares on the Bay Area’s seven largest transit agencies (Muni, BART, AC Transit, VTA, Caltrain, SamTrans, Golden Gate) and the San Francisco Bay Ferry, and it’s set to include several other smaller transit agencies by 2016. While using a single card is certainly more convenient for customers whose trips take them across seemingly arbitrary transit agency service boundaries, it hasn’t made those trips faster or more affordable.

“Take the trip from U.C. Berkeley to Stanford: important destinations that are both inherently walkable places with daytime populations in the tens of thousands,” SPUR Transportation Policy Director Ratna Amin wrote in a blog post last week. “It’s logical to think they’d be linked by high-quality transit connections. But even during the morning rush hour, this trip takes nearly two hours.” It also costs $10.10, or about $400/month for a weekday commuter.

Clipper transit card reader

Clipper transit card reader. Photo: Dan Honda/San Jose Mercury News

“In other regions where transit works better, you don’t have to think about what brand of transit you’re taking or who operates it,” said Adina Levin, co-founder of Friends of Caltrain. “And you don’t pay a lot extra to take different brands.”

Even many shorter trips are either cost-prohibitive or time-prohibitive on transit. A one-way trip during rush hour between Daly City and Menlo Park, located 25 miles apart in San Mateo County, takes under an hour via BART and Caltrain, but costs $8.80. SamTrans’ ECR route is available for just $2, but takes about 2.5 hours. By car it takes just 45 minutes during rush hour, and for less than half the BART + Caltrain fare in gas money. Residents who can’t afford $17.60/day in transit fare and also can’t afford five hours of travel time drive instead for such trips, adding significantly to traffic congestion on the Bay Area’s highways.

“The Bay Area needs a regional transit fare policy… that doesn’t penalize customers who transfer between systems,” wrote Egon Terplan, SPUR’s regional planning director, as part of the urban think tank’s “Six Ideas for Saving Bay Area Transit.”

One proposal by MTC that would at least reduce the transfer penalty is a standard 50-cent fare discount that transit riders would receive when transferring between transit agencies. Although such a small discount won’t boost transit ridership, it would at least remove one barrier to regional fare integration by making discounts the default type of fare agreement between transit agencies in the Bay Area. Another MTC proposal is to enable future Clipper cards to charge passengers daily and/or monthly fare maximums. This would be similar to existing daily and monthly passes, except that riders wouldn’t have to “commit” to any minimum number of trips, or even sign up to receive a discount for heavy transit use. This concept could be expanded to apply to trips between transit agencies, thus creating creating daily and monthly regional transit passes.

Read more…

34 Comments

Warriors Arena Moving to Mission Bay: A Win for Transit Accessibility?

Third and 16th Street, the new proposed site for the Warriors arena. Image: CBS-KPIX

The Warriors announced this week that the site for the basketball team’s proposed arena would be moved from Piers 30-32 on the Embarcadero to Mission Bay, quelling opposition from waterfront development foes. Whether or not the new site will work out for better or worse in terms of accessibility to regional transit, however, is still up for debate.

The Mission Bay site at 16th Street and Third Street is nearly two miles from the nearest BART Station, out of normal walking distance for most visitors. Instead, fans taking BART will be expected to transfer on Muni lines such as the T-Third on the Central Subway corridor, which will stop right out front, and possibly the 22-Fillmore, if extension plans for that line are constructed in time. The distance from BART may be a loss in the eyes of some transit advocates, but it does have its upsides, argues Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and a BART Board member.

Ultimately, Radulovich thinks the Warriors are best off staying at the existing Oakland Coliseum, which is close to BART and the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, making it a more transit-accessible location than either of the proposed San Francisco sites. But the Mission Bay site does leave open more opportunities for nearby transit access than the Embarcadero piers, given all the transportation plans in the works for Mission Bay.

At the proposed Pier 30-32 site, the 0.7-mile walk from Embarcadero BART “was far enough from BART to dissuade many folks from walking,” said Radulovich. He pointed out that once the Central Subway opens in 2019, riders reaching BART via rail would rely on the N-Judah (which Giants Ballpark visitors already cram on to) and the future E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line, as the T-Third will no longer run on the Embarcadero. “Historic streetcars are expensive to operate, low capacity, and have accessibility challenges,” said Radulovich. Additionally, he said, “It would have added to the capacity problems at Embarcadero Station, which is currently the most crowded BART station.”

Furthermore, arena parking would be especially problematic by the Embarcadero. “The auto traffic that would have been generated by the hundreds of planned arena parking spaces would crowd streets like The Embarcadero and Second,” said Radulovich, “where we’d like to see the city reduce the roadway width to improve sidewalks and create protected cycle paths.”

Read more…

26 Comments

Eyes on the Street: BART Lets Station Agents Park Inside MacArthur Station

Think the inside of a transit station is a completely inappropriate place to store automobiles? BART begs to differ.

BART is officially allowing its station agents to store their personal cars inside MacArthur Station in Oakland. You can’t make this stuff up.

Daniel Diiullio tweeted two photos of cars parked right next to the agent booth and inside the bike parking area yesterday morning. When asked about these oddly-placed autos, BART spokesperson Luna Salaver said the agency is totally fine with it because some employee parking spaces have been removed by an adjacent housing construction project:

For this reason Station Agent parking is and will be a real problem there because of the ongoing work. As long as their designated parking spaces are obstructed and cannot be used, Station Agents will be allowed to park on the plaza (when they can safely do so). Their personal safety is the primary reason for this temporary parking situation. Because they are responsible for opening and closing the station in the wee hours of the morning, we want them to have safe access to their cars. We appreciate our customers’ understanding in this situation!

So there you have it — when reserved parking spots aren’t available, the only option is to put cars in the space for people and bikes. Problem solved.

21 Comments

BART Lifts Bike Bans Permanently

This post supported by

BART has finally dropped its outdated policy of banning bicycles aboard trains during rush hours. After an uneventful four-month trial, the BART Board of Directors voted unanimously this morning to lift the bans permanently.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition tweeted that Robert Raburn, its former executive director and a current BART board member, was “pinching himself of course.”

“By making full access for bikes on BART a permanent policy change, East Bay residents will have a new healthy and convenient commute option,” said EBBC Executive Director Renee Rivera in a statement. “This particularly benefits those who commute within the East Bay on BART lines where there is ample room for bikes, but who are restricted from bringing bikes on board by the current rules.”

The policy change was long overdue, but the BART Board was apparently convinced after three different trial periods spanning more than a year resulted in no noticeable problems, as bike-toting commuters avoided cramming on to crowded train cars. By now, 79 percent of commuters surveyed by BART approve of lifting bike blackouts, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. ”With each bike pilot, the level of bike acceptance grew,” he said.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum called the vote “a momentous occasion.”

“For years, people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during critical times,” she said.

Bike advocates from both sides of the Bay celebrate their victory. Photo: EBBC/Twitter

5 Comments

Civic Center Bike Station Delayed Another Year, Riders Left Crossing Fingers

This post supported by

Photo: Bryan Goebel

The bike station that was supposed to be installed at Civic Center Station in June won’t come for at least another year, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. No word yet on what’s caused the delay, but Beroldo said the station hasn’t even been fully designed yet (it’s at “95 percent”). BART does have full funding to build the station, however.

The delay is sure to be a big disappointment for BART and Muni Metro riders looking for a bit more peace of mind when leaving their bikes at the station. Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, Bryan Goebel, would’ve been one of the latest victims of theft this week, had BART police not saved the day.

Goebel had parked at Civic Center to take BART to Oakland to report on the agency’s labor hearings. When he returned, he found that BART officers caught a thief stealing parts off his bike and others parked at the racks, which are accessible to anyone inside the fare gates.

In the thief’s bag, Goebel said police found his rear bike light along with ”items which lead them to believe he’s been picking parts off other bikes.” The thief was arrested and will reportedly be charged with burglary.

Goebel noted that it’s “frustrating” that the only options for getting to the East Bay by bike and BART are to take his bike on the train or bike to Embarcadero — the farthest station on the east side of Market, and SF’s only BART stop with a bike station — to find secure parking. Bike stations, like those at the Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART stations, are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed.

“Having [a bike station] at Civic Center will be so convenient when I need to go the East Bay,” Goebel said.

Until then, BART might want to consider trying to scare off thieves with a cardboard cutout of one of its officers. Seriously.

19 Comments

SPUR on What the BART Strike Means for the Regional Transit Agenda

Cross-posted from the SPUR blog. Gabriel Metcalf and Ratna Amin are SPUR’s executive director and transportation policy director, respectively.

For a group like SPUR — one that works to promote transit, walking and biking as primary forms of mobility — there’s no question that a transit strike is a major setback. It instills in people the sense, consciously or unconsciously, that they cannot count on transit being there when they need it. People who don’t have the flexibility in their jobs to work from home, or who need to get their kids to school, are getting the message that they can’t rely on transit for daily trips.

All of this is deeply unfortunate.

What does it mean for our broader transportation agenda when something like this happens?

The Numbers

Fully 63.5 percent of the 400,000 daily trips on BART are to or from the San Francisco downtown area, and 50.1 percent of all BART trips go through the Transbay Tube, according to data from BART’s monthly ridership reports. On weekday mornings it carries about 21,000 people per hour to the west side of the bay. By comparison, the Bay Bridge carries about 24,000 people per hour in the same direction. Both systems are currently very congested for much of the morning and afternoon peak hours (though not all the cars on the bridge are full), according to a Bay Bridge congestion study.

Although only about 5 percent of the region’s workers use BART during the morning peak, taking that 5 percent off the road brings tremendous benefits to our roadways and other travelers. With BART’s closure, we see how moving that small number of people off transit and onto roads causes “chaos” through much of the region. Many of the highway corridors that BART serves are operating near capacity at peak hours already — which is part of why BART keeps breaking ridership records. When highways are operating near capacity, it takes very few added cars for congestion to become gridlock.

Our region is projected to grow from 7.2 million people today to 9.3 million people in 2040 — that’s 2.1 million new people who will need to get around the bay. Auto demand on highway links like the Bay Bridge already exceeds capacity. Assuming we are not going to add more road capacity on these corridors, we actually need transit to carry significantly more people each year than it did the year before.

The BART strike focuses us on the need for a reliable public transit system. And it contains some important lessons for our broader transit agenda.

Lesson No. 1: The Need for Redundancy

Losing BART to a strike is somewhat like losing BART to an earthquake. And it just so happens that SPUR has conducted an in-depth study on how to provide resilience in our transportation system in the event that we lose segments of our network to an earthquake.

Read more…