SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL//TRANSPORTATION | The long and winding path to the destination that is the AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit line has now arrived, as it pertains to San Leandro’s southern leg of the $150 million transportation plan. The San Leandro City Council unanimously approved Monday night a scaled down version of BRT linking Downtown Oakland to San Leandro
AC Transit says the bus line featuring dedicated lanes, restricted left hand turns and some bus stops placed on median would shave nearly 15 minutes of time for a trip from end to the other. Five of the 32 bus stops in the 9.5 miles line will reside in San Leandro, according to AC Transit, and will allow riders north to south transportation without the need to transfer between buses.
Early iterations of the nearly 20-year discussion over a dedicated bus lane linking Berkeley to Oakland through International Boulevard to San Leandro have been transformed and augmented in the years since. A previous proposal, for instance, had the line ending farther south near Bayfair Mall past Fairmont Avenue in San Leandro. The northern portion of the line in Berkeley was dropped from the plan after residents and merchants soured on the bus line's benefits.
Previous councils in San Leandro had also raised doubts over the plans efficacy and concerns over the dramatic, in some areas of the line in San Leandro, transformation of the streetscape and loss of parking for local businesses. Many of those concerns led the city to offer “Locally Preferred Alternatives” that limited, initially, the length of BRT to Broadmoor Boulevard with a detour towards the San Leandro BART station and the city’s rebuilt downtown areas.
“Im really happy this time has finally come,” said Councilman Jim Prola, who called Monday’s vote a “compromise.” The city's approval of BRT includes a commitment from AC Transit to study the feasibility of one day extending the line to its original concept. “I hope they get where we should have been,” added Prola.
There was additional lament from some former AC Transit officials and transportation activists over the exclusion of the line to Bayfair. “You could be moving further into the 21 st century, but your’re not there yet,” said Rocky Fernandez, a former AC Transit board member, who now works in Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski's office.” So fortunately, there are many more years left in the 21st century.”
In the meantime, David Armijo, the general manager of AC Transit, told the council his agency will continue to explore a resumption of the bus line extending from the end of the BRT line at Broadmoor to Bayfair Mall. Armijo pledged to have a proposal in the next few months. “We’re making that commitment to you,” he said.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy welcomed the arrival of BRT to San Leandro and said he hopes its benefits not only extend to San Leandro but to its struggling neighbors to the north. “I believe part of San Leandro’s destiny lies with our neighbors in East Oakland.
The Oakland City Council is set to approve its portion of the BRT line during Tuesday night’s meeting. “It’s a great transit project,” echoed Dave Campbell of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. “It make San Leandro better. It makes Oakland better.”