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Open Thread: Reality Check on Bus Service and the Salesforce Transit Center

A typical Oakland bus stop. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The ribbon cuttings and celebrations are over. Today was the first real, workday test of the newly opened Salesforce Transit Center.

So why is the lead photo of this open thread of a bus stop in Oakland?

At last week's press tour, Architect Fred Clarke of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects told journalists he aspired to design the new terminal to stop treating bus riders as second-class citizens. But it's unclear how that is going to work when so many bus stops on the opposite end of the journey don't even have a bench, shelter, or arrival information.

Streetsblog took the bus this morning to check out the new Salesforce Transit Center in operation. It left its last stop in Oakland, where Streetsblog boarded, twenty minutes late. And the bus, as usual, spent time at a near standstill just trying to get onto the bridge. It's amazing that officials give a bus with 25 or 30 or 50 people the same priority as a carpool with three people or, in most places, a private automobile with one person. The bus was articulated, and snapped up and down violently when it got up to speed. It's kind of mind blowing that transit officials think a bus that shakes and bounces such as this is sufficiently comfortable to purchase. I guess it's okay as long as someone else is riding it, right?

Sorry, but bus riders are still treated as second class. All photos Steetsblog/Rudick
Bus riders are still treated as second class citizens when 25 riders get the same priority as individual motorists. All photos Steetsblog/Rudick
Why is a bus full of people forced to wait behind single-occupancy cars? Photo: Steetsblog/Rudick

The Salesforce Transit Center is about treating bus riders as full citizens? Okay, then what would bus riders have preferred: the fancy new transit center, or converting private vehicle lanes on the bridge back into transit-only lanes, as they once were? What if the money had been spent on even minor upgrades to stations throughout the East Bay, such as adding arrival signs, benches, and shelters? What if the money were spent on more buses, more drivers, and better bus fleets with comfortable seats and good suspensions?

Meanwhile, Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz shot video, embedded in the Tweet below, of a bus entering the terminal. Prinz sped it up; the bus trip around the loop is slow and tedious. For some reason, the buses carry riders all the way around the loop before discharging them, passing by empty slot after empty slot. Why can't the bus drop off passengers at the first slot available, especially during off-peak times? Prinz also had thoughts about the cost of the bus trip:

That said, let's hope (naively?) that the impressive Transit Center and its public park is seen not as the completion of a project, but rather a start to dramatically improving bus service throughout the region. Because while the status of bus riders may have improved a bit with the opening of the new terminal, they are still very much second class citizens compared to motorists in private cars.

Let us know what you think about bus service to the terminal (and anything else that comes to mind about the Salesforce Transit Center...including the eventual plan to bring in high-speed rail and Caltrain). Do you think the new building is just a first step towards dramatically improving public transit service in the Bay Area? Comment below.

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