Advocates Rebuff Merchant’s Absurd Argument Against East Bay BRT

Image: AC Transit

In an op-ed in the Oakland Tribune yesterday, local business owner Randy Reed laid down a whopping piece of misinformation: For businesses, he wrote, enhancing East Bay transportation options with Bus Rapid Transit will be no different than when construction removes all of the car parking on a street.

Reed, who led the charge in killing the Telegraph Avenue leg of the East Bay BRT route, got the piece published just as the project faces two critical hearings next week (see below for the schedule). Based on this new op-ed, Reed isn’t content to just squash transit improvements in his backyard — he also doesn’t want to let residents on the rest of the Downtown Oakland – San Leandro route reap the benefits.

Here’s what Reed calls the BRT “test run” that forms the backbone of his screed:

We have tested the effect of removing all street parking in our area, and it was devastating to our business. A test was run with city staff several years ago to see what happens with lane closures and parking removal on Telegraph from 43rd to 45th streets.

The problems were tracked: When the street was repaved; when ramps were installed on the corners; and when sidewalk repairs were performed.

Staff concluded that it would be disastrous.

Two local advocates offered up some fantastic rebuttals in the comments section. I’ll hand the mic over to Streetsblog’s own Oakland-based intern Robert Prinz, who is also the education coordinator for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition:

Maybe you would have a point if removing all street parking was actually part of the plan. Removing a few spots, sure, but the bulk of curbside parking spots will remain. The BRT planners I have talked to bent over backwards to keep as much parking as possible, to the detriment of other parts of the plan.

What is really going to happen is the reduced scope San Leandro-Oakland BRT is going to be built, it will be a huge boon for the communities along that corridor, and then the Telegraph merchants with a collective case of selective memory loss will start lining up to ask for an expensive extension into their business districts.

The reality is that there is no amount of curbside parking that will satisfy the future demand for potential shoppers along Telegraph, so if a merchant really wants to maximize their exposure to potential shoppers they should be fighting FOR better transit and bike/ped facilities, not against them. To argue otherwise is very short sighted.

Reed encouraged readers to push for a “curbside” BRT alternative, which can hardly be called true BRT, since it would actually stick buses between the parking lane and car traffic lanes, subjecting transit service to frequent blockages from motorists.

TransForm Community Planner Joél Ramos (who is also a member of the SFMTA Board of Directors) elaborates:

“Curbside” BRT is not an option, as it would increase operating costs to deliver service along the corridor. Also, construction of BRT won’t be too much more complicated than repaving the streets, which has recently been done along some portions of the corridor with no detrimental impacts to businesses, and is sorely needed along other parts of the corridor, but for which there is no funding. BRT will include repaving the street, curb to curb.

Finally, there is no way any “test” could have ever worked because transit would not have been improved enough to get people out of their cars. No real alternatives existed during any “test” that would replicate the trade-off for a reduction of travel lanes. Besides, If BRT really doesn’t work, we can always restore the lanes with minimum costs. My guess is that it will work, though, as it has in every other place where it has been implemented, and is why both San Jose and San Francisco are planning their own BRT projects for the Van Ness, Geary, El Camino Real, and Alum Rock corridors.

An agreement on the center-running alternative passed the Oakland Public Works Committee with broad support this morning, and TransForm is calling on supporters to speak up at two final meetings next week to ensure a fast, reliable transit corridor comes to the East Bay:
  • Monday, July 16th @ 7pm – San Leandro City Council, Civic Center, City Council Chambers, 835 East 14th Street.
  • Tuesday, July 17th @ 5:30pm – Full Oakland City Council, Council Chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall


Bay Area’s First BRT System Coming to the East Bay By 2016

Transit riders in the East Bay will get a boost in 2016 with the arrival of the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit corridor, connecting San Leandro and Oakland. The project recently reached a major milestone with the release of its final environmental impact report (EIR). AC Transit will begin fielding public feedback on the EIR […]

BART Will Study Second Transbay Tube, West Side Extension

Updated 11:06 p.m. with comments from BART Board-elect Nick Josefowitz. BART says it will formally study the decades-old ideas of building a second Transbay tube and extending service to SF’s western neighborhoods. Ellen Smith, BART’s acting manager for strategic and policy planning, recently told a SF County Transportation Authority Board committee (comprised of SF supervisors) […]

Hampered by Tunnels, Center BRT Lanes on Geary Limited to the Richmond

Correction 12/17: The next community meeting on Geary BRT is tonight, Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Main Public Library. The latest iteration of the plan for bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard includes center-running bus lanes only on the Richmond District segment between Arguello Boulevard and 27th Avenue — about a quarter of the street’s […]

Oakland City Council Gives Final Approval to East Bay BRT

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the 9.5-mile East Bay Bus Rapid Transit line that will run from downtown Oakland to San Leandro. The vote in Oakland follows a similar approval by San Leandro’s City Council on Monday. The dual approvals mark a huge victory for advocacy groups and AC Transit, which first […]

Geary BRT Plan Watered Down to Appease Parking-Obsessed Merchants

Update: This plan may not be “watered down” after all. See our follow-up report here. Planners are touting a new proposed configuration for Geary Bus Rapid Transit that would forgo bus passing lanes in order to preserve car parking to appease merchants. Separated, center-median bus lanes would be retained, and project backers hope the changes […]

Is the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project in Jeopardy?

Photo: plug1 If the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project doesn’t get some love from advocates and the general public, the project could be in trouble, according to several people closely following the process. "I look to the left, I look to the right, all I see is opposition and criticism," says Joel Ramos, a […]