Monday, November 19, 2007

BRT on Telegraph Ave? First try an experiment

BUS RAPID TRANSIT

Editors, Daily Planet:

I was sad to see that rather than advance the discussion on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Berkeley/Oakland, Charles Siegel chose to attack my intelligence, or lack thereof. Sad yes, but not surprised. This seems to be standard operating procedure these days in the Bay Area; attacking the person rather than just agreeing to disagree.

For those readers who are bit more open-minded, my bona fides are as follows: I have worked 15 years in the transit industry. I’ve been a conductor at Amtrak, and a bus operator at VTA and AC Transit. I’ve been in the trenches working with the public, not behind a computer screen. Does Mr. Siegel have more experience than I? As much? Any?

My observations were based on operating a bus on the routes of the proposed BRT, having seen the traffic when a small portion is blocked by road work or something as simple as a delivery truck. My dislike of transit experts stems from the simple fact that neither I, nor any of my coworkers I’ve spoken with, have ever had any of these experts actually ride the bus with us and ask our opinions. No “study” or computer simulation can match actually being in the bus. Those readers who ride the bus regularly should ask their operators if they’ve ever been consulted as to route changes, traffic patterns etc.

I am a believer in mass transit, and not just because I earn my living in it. But I also believe that the overriding goal of any mass transit project should be to move the greatest number of people at the lowest possible cost, and to not cause such pain to people who must drive (and yes there are people who must drive), business owners , etc. that there is a backlash against future transit projects.

I think that this issue could be put to rest with very little cost. Take some moveable barriers and block off the two center lanes from say Telegraph and Ashby to Telegraph and 40th Street and International and Fruitvale to International and High Street. Then actually observe the traffic in real time before hundreds of millions of dollars are spent.

Dean Lekas

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