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Expanded Downtown Berkeley BART Bike Station Moving Forward

Bike.Expansion.Supporters.jpgBike station expansion supporters celebrate in the Berkeley City Hall lobby last December following the City Council's decision to prioritize the bike station expansion. Photo: EBBC

Berkeley and East Bay bicycle commuters will have many more bicycle parking options with the opening of a new storefront bicycle station near Downtown Berkeley BART later this year. East Bay Bike Coalition Executive Director Robert Raburn and a spokesperson for BART confirmed that a lease was signed last week at the site of the former Shoe Pavilion store on Shattuck Avenue, just steps from the Allston Way entrance to the BART station. The new bike station will be operated by Alameda Bicycle, which runs the current station.

"BART and the City of Berkeley look forward to opening a world-class bike station by the end of the year," BART Public Information Officer Luna Salaver wrote in an email to Streetsblog San Francisco. "The new Berkeley Bike Station is a triple win for BART and Berkeley. It will support cycling to BART, help protect the environment, and increase access to jobs, to other transit systems, and to shopping, arts, and education. The new Bike Station will include over 200 secure bicycle spaces and commuter support services such as bicycle repair and retail, bicycle rentals, showers and lockers, and community bike education classes."

The new bike station is at least partially the result of successful
lobbying from the East Bay bicycle community, including the EBBC and Bicycle Friendly Berkeley, which saved the proposal after it neared the brink of losing funding late last year.

The new station will be paid for by a mixture of a Safe Routes to Transit (SR2T) grant, a program funded by Regional Measure 2, and contributions from BART ($53,000 per year) and the city of Berkeley ($60,000 per year). BART is also paying the utilities, estimated at $24,000 per year.

The SR2T grant, which is managed by TransForm and EBBC, was in serious danger of being forfeited last December, when its three-year term was set to expire if Berkeley didn't contribute its portion of the funding. Advocates showed up in force to the December 8 meeting of the Berkeley City Council, concerned that the Council would not provide the funding, or would support a stripped-down proposal for a less visible station located in an existing auto parking garage. District 3 BART Director Bob Franklin also strongly urged the council to take action at the meeting.

These efforts paid off, as the Council unanimously approved providing $60,000 annually in funding for the expanded station, and TransForm consequently extended the grant's term.

"This is exactly the kind of project that SR2T conceptualized: a transit station that has no car parking and a desperate need for safe, convenient bicycle parking to attract riders," said TransForm Executive Director Stuart Cohen. "The existing bike station was both overcrowded and difficult to get to, as it was subterranean. This will put bike access to transit where it should be, at ground level in a visible space."

Berkeley.Bike.Station.jpgThe existing bike station in the Downtown Berkeley BART station. Flickr photo: emptyhighway

Streetsfilms documented the existing Downtown Berkeley Bike Station
in 2007, which the EBBC's Raburn calls "just a cage," since it lacks
even a counter for customers with bikes to sign in and receive a claim
check, and provides no additional services to commuters. Though it was
a major advancement for biker commuters when it opened in 1999, it has
since outgrown its 77-bike capacity, and regularly holds 100 bikes,
some of which overflow into racks outside the cage.

"A bike station should offer full service," said Raburn. "We want a product mix that's very commuter-oriented." Its storefront location will also give it extra visibility to passersby downtown who may have missed the existing subterranean station.

When the new bike station opens, it will represent a strong political victory for East Bay bicycle advocates, as well as an encouraging case of multiple jurisdictions coordinating to build a deserving project. Raburn explained that SR2T "ideally rewards multi-jurisdictional projects, to get past finger pointing between different jurisdictions, and 'incentivize' multi-jurisdictional projects."

With the Embarcadero BART bike station holding 97 cycles, less than half what the new Berkeley facility will hold, and with San Francisco's bike injunction nearing its end, cyclists in San Francisco may be looking to best practice examples of facility design and advocacy just across the bay.

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