Last week I shared the exciting news that BRT could be saved in Berkeley and North Oakland. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin had agreed to bring the BRT LPA up for another vote next week, but at the last minute, with no advance notice to advocates, he pulled the item. Through this action, Arreguin killed BRT in Berkeley for at least several years and BRT in North Oakland is in severe danger. (So you can take the June 22nd Berkeley City Council meeting off your calendar).
I’m deeply disappointed by Councilmember Arreguin’s actions. I can respect (but not fully understand) that he disagrees on BRT, but his actions were incredibly disrespectful to the many environmental and transit advocates who were counting on him. I guess NIMBYs are a more important constituency to him.
My friend Reuben has an excellent and thorough piece up on his blog explaining what happened and why Jesse’s wrong:
Somewhere along the line, you would think that the constant barrage of facts and studies would prove some point. Whether you are for or against something, the general train of thought is that the “correct” argument is the argument that has the most support (data, literature, etc) behind it. Bus Rapid Transit is a positive thing for the neighborhoods and cities it serves. There are numerous examples of BRT all around the country and the world. BRT is nothing new and has been around for decades. So you would think when Berkeley was asked to consider studying the construction of a fully tricked out BRT system they would take to heart all these examples and past literature and data to make an informed decision. But Berkeley has its own rules and so does Berkeley City Counciman Jesse Arreguin.
Not since John Kerry’s infamous flip-flop during the 2004 presidential campaign against George W. Bush have we seen an example of moving back and forth on the same issue as we see with Councilman Arreguin on BRT in Berkeley. Except in this case, Councilman Arreguin first didnt vote for anything, then indicated he would vote for it before finally voting against it.
To be completely fair, Councilman Arreguin and I have more often than not been on opposite sides of the development and planning spectrum. I tend to be rather moderate in my politics and favor development projects, especially dense development near transit, such as in Downtown Berkeley. But you would think that me and Councilman Arreguin would actually be on a role reversal on the subject of BRT. You would think that better public transit would actually be the priority of the once endorsed candidate of the Sierra Club vs. myself, a self described pro-development, never-going-to-completely-give-up-my-car guy. But oddly enough, we are where we are.
Please click through and read his full post for the whole story and an explanation of what this means for Berkeley and North Oakland.