News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for June 9

Readers sound off on Transbay buses, Berkeley warm pools, and teacher tenure.


"AC Transit's Duplication of Service," Full Disclosure, 5/19

Bikes Can't BART

I read with interest your article about AC Transit's Transbay operation duplicating BART — in particular quoting BART's Linton Johnson: "We could easily absorb every one of them without a problem." As usual, BART is ignoring a key constituency.

On Tuesday, as someone who chooses not to own a car, on the way into SF, since both origin and destination were too far from BART for the inadequate connections onto AC Transit and Muni, I rode my ebike to BART. However, since my meetings finished after the 4:11 BART train, the last one that bikes are allowed on, there was no other choice for returning to the East Bay than AC Transit — unless I was prepared to wait more than two hours for BART's 6:34 train.

I had to skip the first bus as there were too many cyclists ahead of me (the buses only take three or four bikes) and the bus I took was almost full, and all the spaces for bikes were full on that bus as well.

So please don't forget bikes when suggesting that AC Transit cut back Transbay services. We do NOT have another choice until and unless BART starts allowing bikes on more trains.

Mitra Ardron, Berkeley

Longer and More Expensive Commutes

While I fully support the anti-Van Hool fight, which is a huge waste of taxpayer money, there is no good argument for slashing even more of AC Transit's Transbay bus service than already planned. The overwhelming majority of routes do not duplicate BART service.

Mr. Gammon notes that 16 percent of Transbay service was cut. That's a huge number — far more than the percentage of local service that was cut. Routes S and SA were merged, and Route BA was added to pick up slack on the NL (which lost half its Transbay service) and local Route 13 (which was completely eliminated). Dozens of trips on other lines were trimmed.

The F is a poor example to use to argue for further cuts. Unlike many Transbay routes, the F serves three different travel markets, not just the traditional Transbay commute market:

1. The first is local travel between Berkeley and Emeryville. There are no other lines that do this; Route 19 was cut in March. And there is no good BART/AC Transit alternative because the 57 (which picks up at MacArthur BART Station) no longer serves Emeryville. Yes, Emery Go Round does pick up at MacArthur, but a quick look at the schedule clearly shows AC Transit has far more service far later into the evening, especially on weekends.

2. The second is the UC Berkeley student market. UC Berkeley students constitute a sizable portion of AC Transit ridership, and the route is the sole direct link between campus and San Francisco. Not only would students not be able to afford the added BART expense, they would be forced to walk or transfer between services late at night, exposing them — and especially young women traveling independently — to unnecessary safety risks.

3. The third is the traditional Transbay commute market between Emeryville and San Francisco. Having a bus cross the Bay Bridge with 19 passengers on board is not particularly high or low, but it is consistent with service operated by Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans to/from the City and does take 18 vehicles off the road.

When you consider these travel markets, how can they all be efficiently served? Mr. Gammon seems to argue that it makes the most sense to abandon the latter two groups and focus on the first, but all three can be served at only a slightly higher cost. In fact, the additional operating expense likely is completely negated by the Transbay fares, which help subsidize the expensive local service that Mr. Gammon feels so strongly about.

So let's take Route B then, since it was brought up as another example. Sure it serves an upscale neighborhood, but it also stops adjacent to the Grand Lake Theater. Can anyone tell me where the nearest BART station is to the Grand Lake neighborhood? Oh, right, it's a mile and a half away! Good luck convincing people to walk 30 minutes after a long day of work.

But Mr. Gammon has the perfect solution: Have AC Transit shuttle passengers to the nearest BART station. Sounds like a feel-good option right? Well, unfortunately, that is not the case. It has been demonstrated time and again that commuters are highly resistant to forced transfers and would likely abandon public transit, or at least the bus portion of the trip, altogether. BART parking lots already meet or exceed capacity during commute periods, and the residents surrounding BART stations rightly demand more community amenities and fewer parking spaces — smart growth, as it is commonly called — not more parking.

Even if these logistics can be worked out, commuters would be faced with longer commute times and higher commute costs. A round-trip to the City using AC Transit local buses and BART would cost about 50 percent more over an existing AC Transit Transbay commute. And instead of a 25-minute commute each way, to use Route B as an example, riders would be faced with the same 25-minute commute on two separate vehicles, which requires additional transfer time. That could turn out to be 30 or 40 minutes when all is said and done. Why would anyone pay 50 percent more for a commute that is 50 percent longer?