Today’s Headlines

  • Muni Audit Finds Flaws in SFMTA Accounting Practices (SF Gate)
  • SFMTA Increases Discounted Fast Pass Fares (Examiner)
  • AC Transit Expects to Declare Another State of Emergency (ABC)
  • State Audit Blasts High Speed Rail Authority (CoCo Times, Examiner)
  • Plans Move Slowly Forward for Novato Transit Center (Marin IJ)
  • Caltrans, Sued Over Bay Bridge S-Curve Trucker Crash, Refuses Comment (CBS)
  • With All These Highway Expansions, Is it Any Wonder We Drive So Much? (Streetsblog LA)
  • CA Traffic Safety Office Puts Distracted Driving in Same Boat with Drunk, Reckless Driving (Merc)
  • Oprah Starts National Anti-Distracted Driving Campaign (ABC)
  • Sacramento Cyclists Gear Up for "Million Mile May" Bike Month (Sac Bee)
  • Russian President Medvedev Impressed by All of Copenhagen’s Bikes (Copenhagenize)
  • Illinois Close to Adopting New Housing and Transportation Affordability Index (CTOD)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Berkeley Council Kills BRT

    After a hearing that was almost equally divided between BRT opponents and supporters, the Berkeley City Council killed BRT by voting not even to study an option with a dedicated lane in the FEIR.

    Mayor Bates and councilmembers Maio, Moore, and Capitelli voted to study a build alternative and councilmembers Wozniak, Worthington, Wengraff and Arreguin voted against. The motion failed 4 to 4. Unfortunately, councilmember Anderson was absent; if he had been present, he probably would have been a fifth vote for the Mayor’s proposed build alternative.

    Then councilmember Maio joined Wozniak, Worthington, Wengraff and Arreguin to adopt the so-called RapidBus Plus alternative with no dedicated bus lanes as the city’s locally preferred alternative. RapidBus Plus has been by a coalition of NIMBY and chronic anti-transit activists.

    This was not a vote on whether to build the project, just on whether to send a build alternative for AC Transit to study in the FEIR. The council voted to reject the project without even completing the environmental study.

  • Charles, that is horrible news. Apparently Berkeley thinks private autos are the wave of the future. Sad.

    Mission Local on the T-Third:
    http://missionlocal.org/2010/04/the-risks-of-riding-muni%E2%80%99s-third-street-line/

  • Also, the MTA audit. It goes like this:

    Citizens see MUNI as crucial.
    Citizens vote for dedicated funding for MUNI.
    Other departments (Police) see more funding going to MUNI.
    Via Newsom, they begin to put their hand in the cookie jar.
    No one at MTA slaps it away (thanks Newsom) so they dig deeper.
    Now MTA just signs the checks and doesn’t even get anything in return.
    MTA has huge budget deficit but goes to cutting service instead of work orders.
    Citizens see MUNI as crucial.
    Citizens ….

  • Nick

    Nobody has talked about it, but increasing the youth Fast Pass to $20 will make more kids crime victims of the tougher youths who try to shake them down for their passes. So kids have to suffer because of MTA mismanagement. Nice.

  • An interesting side note to BRT in Berkeley:

    One of the pro-BRT speakers began by asking everyone who was against BRT to raise their hands, and about two-thirds of the people in the audience raised their hands. Then he asked them to keep their hands up if they voted for Measure G, and almost all of them put their hands down.

    Measure G was a ballot measure to reduce Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions, and it passed with 80% of the vote.

    If BRT opponents did not vote for Measure G, then they do not represent the views of the great majority of people in Berkeley.

    In fact, BRT opponents put a measure on the ballot two years ago that would have required that exclusive transit lanes in Berkeley to be put on the ballot and voted on. That measure, aimed at stopping BRT, was rejected by 77% of the voters – an overwhelming repudiation of this bunch of NIMBYs.

    Yet the same people who put that measure on the ballot managed to convince the city council to kill BRT – which probably will kill the project for the entire East Bay and not just for Berkeley.

    I think the problem is that Berkeley has lots of people who were idealistic political activists during the 1960s. Many have remained just as politically active even though they have lost their idealism and become selfish NIMBYs whose greatest political goal is to make it easier for themselves to find a parking space. They are so active that they can make it very difficult or impossible to promote clean transportation in Berkeley.

  • Simon Dorf

    It’s important to understand that the anti-BRT vote reflected the successful lobbying of a small group, not the will of Berkeley residents. Chuck noted what happened with the greenhouse gas and anti-BRT ballot measures.

    It’s also important to understand that attitudes towards the BRT are very generational. One doesn’t know speakers’ ages, of course, but it seemed that everyone under 35 spoke for the BRT. By contrast, most, but not all, of the speakers who appeared to be over 55, spoke against it. I’m sure there is a lot of support for BRT in Berkeley even among the middle-aged, but that’s also where the organized opposition came from.

    This tells us how hard our task is going to be. A small group of people, several of whom (not all) were known to be personally unstable, can derail, as it were, this long-planned project with misinformation and fear-mongering. The pro-car lobby is strong, even in ostensibly green Berkeley. Of course the fact that Berkeley Councilmembers are elected in districts of 13,000 people makes them extremely vulnerable to a handful of well-organized activists who could easily make trouble for them.

    Finally, ironically, it may be that transit agencies planning projects should go ahead and spend 2-3 times as much per mile and build light rail instead of BRT. Light rail projects, which don’t carry as much stigma as bus projects, get opposition but not as much. Light rail projects, of course, disrupt streets far more than BRT, they are far less flexible.

    I hope that a really terrific BRT is built in Oakland, where the Council has supported it, and that the next generation of Berkeley leaders beg to be added to the line.

  • It’s amazing how green people are until you “disrupt” their status quo. If they took a month, or week, or even a day to live outside their own box, they would see how nice a car-light world would be. You don’t need to carry 100 lbs of fertilizer every day. Grandma doesn’t NEED a ride every day. The kids will survive a bus trip a couple times a week. Groceries don’t need the mini van. And the exercise actually makes you feel pretty good.

    Some day people will come around. Sadly, I think it’ll happen because they are forced to due to high gas prices, but it’ll happen sooner then later.

  • Berkeley’s batshit-insane Nimbys were mere sideshow. It was the merchants who successfully lobbied to kill the project.

    Like any other US City, Berkeley Council take orders from big business, even for a project that had a whopping 80% approval rating.

  • david vartanoff

    Not every person opposed to “full BRT” is auto centric. As a transit dependent person I WANT good service. The BRT plan, sadly, will NOT give us that. Time and again, I have pointed out that after PM rush the local Telegraph bus is FASTER than the so-called Rapid midday. Why is that? Because evenings, there is not enough auto traffic to delay the locals, and ridership (sadly) is thin enough that they make fewer stops than daytime Rapids between downtown Oakland and the terminal in Berkeley. Given those FACTS, why should we spend megamillions to build separate lanes when diamond striping with serious enforcement can give buses exclusive right of way during the hours they need it for a pittance.
    POP, genuine signal priority, and serious line management can improve the current 1R to achieve most of the service goals of the BRT project NOW.
    All should read AC’s own study of the 1R.
    http://www.actransit.org/planning_focus/details.wu?item_id=52&PHPSESSID=b65254b484691095f5cbe067a5345967

  • @David: The after-PM hours you mention is when the worst 35+ mph speeding happens on Telegraph. The BRT is not just about improving transit — it is a “complete streets” implementation that serves to calm traffic and make things safer for bikes and peds. Telegraph ranks as perhaps the most dangerous corridor for cyclists in the East Bay.

    Your proposal for mixed-flow operation / HOV-lanes has come up many times at the BRT meetings, and there are a number of problems with that approach (i.e.: bunching, reduced frequency, enforcement, and vehicle conflicts). The Final EIR would have been the place to analyze tradeoffs of HOV vs. bus-lane — but sadly that isn’t going to happen now.

  • david vartanoff

    @ Drunk Engineer, I never said anything about HOV lanes, nor do I support that for Telegraph. As to speed in the evenings, right, and if the buses do 35 (which I experience when I ride) then how much faster would they be on the exclusive lanes? As to bunching, if the buses are NOT delayed by autos in the evenings, why will they bunch? Not my experience of 39 years in the same two blocks just off Telegraph.
    AC’s study of the 1R admits the signal priority isn’t working, they don’t have a specific person monitoring the line, and the obsolete fare collection causes major delays.
    All door boarding/POP at Berkeley BART where the majority of riders have UC passes and getting a better turn light @ Durant will fix the delays at the beginning of the SB run.

    The interesting question is why does AC want to kill the 1R on Telegraph in the new service cuts?

  • “Berkeley’s batshit-insane Nimbys were mere sideshow. It was the merchants who successfully lobbied to kill the project.”

    A couple of the NIMBYs spent a lot of time spreading misinformation among the merchants. There was one point at the Planning Commission hearing where the leading NIMBY organizer interrupted the speaker representing the Transportation Commission by saying that everyone should display their NO TO BRT signs. He gave the merchants the signs, and they all responded on cue when he said to display the signs. I have also seen him on Telegraph giving out the signs that merchants displayed in their windows.

    Nevertheless, I think we would have had a chance of beating the NIMBYs is the merchants hadn’t joined them. Before the council meeting, Bates came up with an alternative that made no changes on Telegraph between Dwight and Bancroft, but by then it was too late.

    In retrospect, I think that BRT could have passed only if the council had said at the very beginning of the process that the commissions should develop a build alternative that makes no changes in Telegraph between Dwight and Bancroft. The merchants all know each other, and they are not very well informed, so they act with a sort of group mind that is easily swayed by rumors and misinformation and that is against any change. They come out in such numbers that they can prevent any change on that short strip of Telegraph.

    The city should also get a court order forbidding the most psychologically unstable of the NIMBYs from disrupting city meetings.

  • patrick

    @David, you seem to be forgetting that transit systems need to be designed for the peak, not off peak. Who cares which bus is faster when nobody is riding them?

  • david vartanoff

    @Patrick, No, I pointed out that PAINTING the bus only lanes for the hours when they are needed was CHEAPER. As “nobody rides them” if Oakland is EVER to become a functional city, the downtown needs life adter 6 PM. For me, that also means transit, so I DO care how often and how fast bus service is coming home from a discretionary trip, not just 9 to 5 .

    The real joke here is that AC’s planning people are still dreaming of Fed $$ to build what an AC Board member described as a marquee project the East Bay deserved, while concurrently planning the death spiral of service cuts.

  • Simon Dorf

    Most of the pro-BRT testimony at the Thursday night hearing centered on reliability, not speed. Yes, Berkeley is too short for a dedicated lane to build up that much of an average speed advantage. But the lanes are essential in maintaining reliability. There are lots of reasons that buses bunch, but traffic congestion is a huge one. It’s an unpredictable factor along many East Bay corridors, including Telegraph.

    A lot of people, understandably, don’t want to build 10 or 15 extra minutes into their schedule to make sure they’re not late. That’s why dedicated lanes are needed.

    Mot to mention that center stations, like many light rail lines have would be an infinitely better waiting environment.

    The fantasy is to think that BRT money could be magically redirected to bus operating costs in the East Bay. At most, a small fraction, if that, can be converted. If no BRT were built at all, the money wouldn’t stay in Oakland, it would go to a city like Chicago or Los Angeles or wherever that actually wanted to improve their bus service. And since the BRT could have shorter schedules than regular service, the operating cost on Telegraph without dedicated lanes will be higher and the money consumed faster.

    I’m sure there was a tiny handful of people speaking Thursday night who genuinely supported what they believe is a better transit alternative. But not the overwhelming bulk of them. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to be working their hearts out for “Rapid Bus Plus” or any other transit plan, except “get the bus out of my way.”

  • Simon is right. I myself said at the hearing that reliability is more important than speed. BRT might save a given rider 2 minutes of riding time but might also save 10 minutes of time waiting at the bus stop for a bus that cannot keep on schedule.

    He is also right that there were lots of people there who claimed to want a better transit alternative but who never supported transit before in their lives and who only invented that “better alternative” when they needed an excuse to oppose BRT.