AC TRANSIT'S BRT PLAN RETREATS TO CITY'S EARLIER DEMANDBy STEVEN TAVARES
BRT IN SAN LEANDRO AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit line (BRT) is half the man it use to be. After a setback from the Berkeley City Council earlier this month and a small victory in Oakland, BRT is headed to San Leandro for consideration.
The 17-mile bus line from Berkeley through Oakland to San Leandro looks vastly different than the plan kicked around for the past decade or two. The first incarnation of the $234 million project envisioned a fast moving bus line featuring a single dedicated lane running through the heart of the East Bay. AC Transit says an end-to-end trip on BRT from U.C. Berkeley to San Leandro's Bayfair mall would shave nearly 15 minutes over the present route. Detractors in all three communities have voiced significant disapproval, but not enough to stop some sort of version of BRT from possible construction in the future. Local businesses and groups with an eye to keeping their local aesthetic intact have changed AC Transit's ideal plan all along the way.
In San Leandro, which will vote tonight on approving AC Transit's "locally preferred alternative" for San Leandro, looks similar to the city's only official stance on the project over five years ago. Under former Mayor Shelia Young, the city objected to ending BRT at Bayfair as designed by AC Transit and offered instead to end the line at the city's burgeoning downtown area near the San Leandro BART station. To the consternation of some city officials, AC Transit continued advocating their original plan in numerous public events in the past year.
In previous city council meetings, city officials have voiced concern over the impact to BRT similar to the comments made in Berkeley. San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos along with other local businesses located on East 14th Street have issue with slower traffic along with onerous procedures delivery trucks may encounter with a narrow road way and the reduction of parking stalls in some sections of the line.
Despite setbacks in Berkeley and compromises with the plan within the Oakland sections of the line, the fate of BRT is far from decided. Berkeley's city council did not vote against BRT but sent the proposal back to the drawing board, while Oakland's approval of their preferred alternative only allowed the plan to proceed to the an environment impact review. It is still conceivable any or all of the three communities could reject BRT in the future.
The reworked proposal from AC Transit to the San Leandro City Council is likely to be more palatable than the previous plans that ended at Bayfair. In the past, there has been a majority of councilmembers against the dedicated bus lane aspect. Of the six councilmembers and mayor, only Jim Prola and Michael Gregory have stood firm with BRT.
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