I’ve known about the looming AC Transit cuts for more than a month now, but I haven’t had the capacity to come to terms with what they’re going to mean for the system and for me. I took some time over the weekend to think about it so that I could figure out what I’m going to say at the public hearing on Wednesday evening, and no matter what the Board ends up doing, it’s going to be devastating.
The last round of service reductions was done so deliberately, over such a long period of time, and with so much public comment that it makes this round seem all the much more blunt. I’m not going to go into the details of the possible cuts because Eric did an excellent job of summarizing them at Transbay Blog last month. If you’re an AC Transit rider, please read that post.
Any of the cuts will have a huge effect on the system and I know that I’ll personally be affected by these cuts. All of the services being considered for cuts are hugely important. But what is personally troubling me so much is that I might lose the bus service that allowed me to get rid of my car.
Three years ago, AC Transit began rapid service on the 1 line, which made it so I could get to work on many days just as fast as I could when driving. In July of 2007, I wrote this glowing assessment of a trip on the 1R:
Yesterday morning, I was already running late at 9:30 to make it to work by 10:00 a.m. and my boss calls. Her internet is down and she needs me to look up directions for her and tell her where and when all her appointments are for the day. Once I’m done with that, it was 9:45. So I run out my door and catch the bus at Telegraph and 59th at 9:48. We speed down Telegraph, hitting few lights (we have priority!) and stopping at just 4 stops. I get off at 14th and Telegraph, walk a few blocks and up 4 flights of stairs and arrive at my office at 10:03.
If you don’t ride the bus, let me just tell you that this is FAST! Back in the days of the 40 line, that same trip, with waiting and walking, would take me at least a half hour and usually more…
I’m not quite at the point of getting rid of my car completely, but my new bus line is pushing me in that direction…
Just 5 months later, I gave my car away. Though the 1R is still not as reliable as I’d like it to be, it allowed me to almost always be on time without a backup, even when I needed to get to work early and quickly.
Now I’m trying to imagine what my carless life will be like if the Board decides to cut the 1R North of downtown Oakland, which is one of the many possible cuts they’re considering. I would have to leave much earlier for work every morning. If I barely missed a bus, I’d surely be very late. I could no longer meet my fiance in Berkeley every once in a while for lunch. I’d have to cancel my twice a month breakfasts in Berkeley with my colleague. And I’d probably be a lot less spontaneous with after work plans, knowing how long it will take to get home.
Paired with some of the other cuts, like decreased late night service, my transit life will be greatly altered. Though I’m unlikely to go out and buy a car, I’ll probably use taxis more and sign up for City CarShare or Zip Car.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who whose life would be altered, as the double length 1R buses I ride five days a week are nearly always more than halfway full. Students, seniors, mothers with children, business people, and just about every type of person you could imagine depend on this bus line to get them quickly to their destinations. Reverting back to a non-rapid bus would be a shock to all North Oakland and Berkeley 1R riders.
I don’t know what cuts I would make if I had the incredibly difficult task that the Board has in front of them. None of this will be easy, and I can’t expect my bus access to be prioritized over that of anyone else. But the thought of losing the bus that allowed me to go carless is simply devastating, and I’m going to beg the directors not to cut it.
If you’re a bus rider, be sure to attend the public hearing tomorrow to weigh in on the cuts, as I’m sure they’ll be affecting you too. Hearings will be held at 2pm and 6pm in the AC Transit 2nd Floor Board Room, 1600 Franklin Street.