Monday, May 10, 2010

Bus Rapid Transit in Berkeley

Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece by Matt Kondolf in the Berkeley Daily Planet The east bay BRT proposal faces some of the same issues that the Geary Blvd. BRT is facing---the EIR on the Geary BRT is still in the works---in particular the "grade separation" problem. What now slows down the #38 Geary Muni line are all the cross streets from 33rd Avenue to Masonic Avenue. If the Geary BRT is going to speed up travel time on Geary, it will have to deal with the many cross streets in the avenues, not to mention the existing grade separations---the underpasses---at Fillmore and Masonic.

I spoke to the [Berkeley City]Council to point out that the proposed BRT[Bus Rapid Transit] for Telegraph Avenue would be unlike the successful systems in Latin American cities like Bogota, Quito, and Curitiba, which have: 1. large populations of poor people who don’t own cars, and who need to travel from population centers to industrial/commercial centers, and 2. "grade separation" from traffic---buses have their own lanes and cross over intersections on overpasses. In the San Francisco Bay region, we have over 800 cars per 1000 households compared to around 100 in Latin American cities, so people here have more options and thus would not automatically ride BRT if available. Moreover, the natural market for BRT is already served by BART and AC express buses. The proposed line in Berkeley and Oakland would follow Telegraph Avenue and International Boulevard down to San Leandro, essentially duplicating (and poaching passengers from) the BART Fremont line. Because the Telegraph Avenue line would not have grade separation at intersections, its travel times will be similar to existing buses, so it’s not obvious why it would attract new riders not already using AC express buses or BART. The proposed Berkeley BRT would involve massive concrete islands down the middle of Telegraph Avenue, eliminating two lanes of traffic. The snarled traffic resulting from choking down a major traffic artery would produce its own greenhouse gas emissions, and BRT would be an enormous construction project, which in itself would produce massive greenhouse gas emissions...

The rest of the piece here.