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Pedestrians Banned from Coliseum Vaccination Site

Free BART ride home, to help offset the $75 Uber bill? Image: BART

Daniel Filipkowski of San Francisco finally managed to get an appointment for his vaccine at the Oakland Coliseum. He got his confirmation email Sunday with all his details. He headed down via BART on Monday. But when he got there, he and others who walked across the pedestrian bridge from the BART station were in for a shock--despite all the public announcements encouraging people to take transit to the Coliseum, he was turned away.

"There's no walk-ups," Filipkowski said he was told by an official waiting at the end of the bridge. "I show him my phone, the emails, there's nothing in the email that says no walk-ups. So he says you have to get in your car and go around."

Of course, Filipkowski took BART, so he didn't have a car. Instead, he hailed a Lyft. Half an hour and $100 later, he finally got his jab.

Despite the fact that the Oakland site is one of the few places people can reach relatively easily on public transportation, and despite the fact that the site was promoted as a transit-accessible venue for vaccinations, the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) is turning away anyone who doesn't show up ensconced in a giant hunk of metal and glass. From a BART statement:

April 19, 2021 Update:

CalOES has informed BART that the Pedestrian Village tent at the Oakland Coliseum Vaccination Site will temporarily shut down from April 19, 2021- May 2, 2021. Only drive up appointments will be available. The site plans to resume walk-up appointments on Monday, May 3, 2021. This shut down is for the preparation and transition of the site to Alameda County.

This tweet from Filipkowski's partner Sergio Ruiz, who also happens to be Complete Streets Coordinator at Caltrans District 4, sums it up:

And for people who don't have the money for an Uber? Filipkowski said he wasn't alone in getting turned away. And he doesn't know what happened to the other people or if they could afford a $75 to $100 ride-share bill.

"I would have shown up expecting this to still be available, I'm sure many others will too," wrote Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz. His group is now lobbying to have walk-ups reinstated immediately.

Many government agencies, meanwhile, are still promoting free or subsidized transit as a way to get to the site for one's jab (the lead image was grabbed from BART's Facebook page). And from the Alameda County site, as of Thursday afternoon:

AC Transit and BART are both offering transportation assistance to and from the Coliseum site. You will need to provide proof of your appointment in order to use the free vaccine shuttles.

Filipkowski said he is happy he ultimately got his shot and he hopes the "pedestrian village" will be reinstated by the time he gets jab number two. However, the lack of communication and the principle of the whole thing--and the fact that people who can't afford an Uber or Lyft are just getting turned away--is something he finds deeply unsettling. "I was furious, just furious."

Streetsblog has reached out to CalOES, BART, the City of Oakland, and relevant advocacy groups and will have more on this story as it develops.

Update from Alameda County: "The Pedestrian Village has served an important function, but it remains underutilized and we continue to hear from community members that the mobile units are highly preferred. At this time, Alameda County does not intend to keep the Pedestrian Village open if/when the site transitions to local control," wrote Neetu Balram, Public Information Manager, Alameda County Public Health Department, in an email to Streetsblog

Update from BART Board District 4 Director, Robert Raburn: "For an equitable distribution of vaccines, Alameda County health officials need to rethink their decision to block pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit passengers."

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