AC Transit – please, get rid of my bus stop

2 Mar

I’m sure AC Transit board members and staff get all sorts of requests. Riders ask for lower fares, longer hours, more frequent service, and better buses. Some people who aren’t as fond of buses ask AC Transit to stop running buses in their neighborhoods (yes, a North Berkeley group does this). People ask for bus stops to be moved to be more convenient. But my guess is that AC Transit receives few requests like mine, as I want AC Transit to get rid of my bus stop on the 51A line.

Yes, I would like to walk further from the bus to get to my home.

Why? Well, a couple years back AC Transit did a thorough study on the 51 line. They found that the 51 was so slow because it spends only 50% of its time actually moving, while 20% is spent in dwell time (stopped at a bus stop) and 30% is spent in delays (i.e. stuck in traffic). As I wrote back in 2009, one of the major causes of delay is bus stop spacing:

If you’ve ridden the 51, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the bus stops are incredibly close together. It seems that every time I take it down Broadway, we stop at every block, which of course takes forever and makes me crazy. According to ACT, the ideal amount of space between bus stops is 800-1300 feet, yet on the 51 line, 87 bus stops (more than half of the stops) are less than 800 feet from the next stop. This slows the whole route down because pulling over, picking up passengers, and getting back into traffic at all of these stops takes a long time.

This report was awesome, and the planning process done afterward was inclusive and well thought out. Ultimately, AC Transit decided it would be best to split the line, which is what has been done. (Splitting the line has helped somewhat, particularly for Alameda riders, but I ride the 51A several times a week and still see major reliability problems.) They also wanted to move forward with other recommendations in the report, like getting rid of some bus stops.

It’s possible these recommendations didn’t get implemented due to lack of funding or because of coordination issues with cities. From my second post on this issue in 2009:

Stop removals and re-spacing: As explained in the previous post, the stops on the 51 are too close together in most places. To fix this, AC Transit proposes to remove 22 bus stops (15% of the total stops) along the line. The estimated time savings would be more than four minutes in each direction. This estimate sounds conservative to me, but, regardless, I think this plan makes a lot of sense. The only problem? “AC Transit does not own or maintain bus stops, and so the local jurisdiction controls the final placement of the stops and works with AC Transit to determine the best location.” So ACT needs to go through the planning processes in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda to get these stops removed. And at the Berkeley open house, Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin raised concerns about removing the stop at Milvia on University. I’m concerned that community members will rally around saving several specific stops, and without removing a significant number of stops, there will be no significant time savings.

Which brings me to my bus stop. My stop, on Broadway at 30th traveling North is a quick three short block walk from my house. It’s super convenient. But you know what? I don’t use it because it seems rude to when there’s another heavily used stop in front of Grocery Outlet that’s a quick three and a half block walk from my house. And just past that, one more block down, is another stop!

So AC Transit, please get rid of my useless bus stop that just slows down the bus when people do use it. And when you’re done with that, look at removing other closely spaced stops along the line. You might run into problems in Berkeley, but at least in Oakland, I’ll back you up because most riders want buses to be more reliable, even if that means having to walk a few extra steps.

26 Responses to “AC Transit – please, get rid of my bus stop”

  1. John Knox White March 2, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Alameda’s Transportation Commission also backed AC’s recommendation to remove a number of stops in Alameda. This was going to be done in the last round of re-organization, but for some reason wasn’t.

    True, there are still reliability issues on the 51a/b, but the line has gone from being AC Transit’s least reliable line, to their most reliable (51A is on time 72% of the time now) as a result of the split.

    Splitting the line was never meant to be the be all/end all of reliability, just an easy one to implement. While not perfect, as a daily rider from City Center, its nice to know that typically, I won’t have to fear waiting 30 minutes for three buses to show up at the same time, a frequent occurrence back before the split.

    • Becks March 2, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      I’ve seen the reliability reports, but these are averaged out over the day. In the middle of the day, the 51A tends to be very reliable. But at rush hour, it’s often very far off from the schedule. If I miss a bus in the morning, I sometimes wait 5 minutes and other times more than 20 minutes. I’d be very interested in seeing data on rush hour reliability.

  2. Naomi Schiff March 2, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    The split keeps a lot of people from taking that busline from Oak. locations to Berkeley, though.

    • Becks March 2, 2011 at 10:27 am #

      Yeah, I was never a big fan of the split for that reason. It’s super helpful for Alameda riders, but inconveniences many other riders. I just don’t take the 51 to Berkeley anymore. I go out of my way take the 1. And if I need to get to Rockridge, North of the split, I get off an walk, which I know isn’t an option for everyone.

      The July report on the 51A/B split showed that a couple thousand riders are doing the same thing I am.

    • Robert March 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm #


      The number of stops in front of Groc Out does nothing when those in the neighborhood are forced to walk to Telegraph to go anywhere else than Rockridge.

  3. david vartanoff March 2, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    You are correct, Beck, that this stop could go with little rider inconvenience. That said, as the 51 and 1R studies made clear, the 30 seconds estimated savings from a single stop elimination (their figure) is minor compared to the delays from slow boarding and auto congestion.
    Slow boarding/fare checking is the one issue AC can control without having to beg cooperation from the cities. Instituting POP would greatly speed boarding at major stops.

    • Becks March 2, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      Oh yeah, I completely agree. I have some other super easy and cheap solutions for speeding up the 51 and other trunk lines that I’ll be sharing here soon.

      Getting more people to use Clipper would be a great start though, since setting up POP would be an expensive investment.

      • Chuck March 2, 2011 at 11:31 am #

        AC Transit also seems to be amenable to adding signage / announcements to get people to stop exiting the bus through the front damn door. It bothers me probably quite a bit more than it ought to, but yeah, there are some cheap and easy ideas floating around that would help move things along.

        • Becks March 2, 2011 at 11:50 am #

          You gave away my next post on how to make buses more reliable! 🙂 And don’t worry, you’re not the only one who’s more annoyed than they should be about this issue.

      • newoaktown March 2, 2011 at 11:57 am #

        I don’t know what POP is but yes everyone should use Clipper who rides a bus regularly. and there should be clipper vending machines at major stops along the route.

  4. Nick March 2, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I knew we lived close to each other, but we’re closer than I thought.

    I switch between the stop at 30th and the one at 29th depending on if my knees are willing to handle the stairs (from Fairmount/Garland down to 30th) or not. Because of my bad knees, I tend towards the stop at 29th because it has a bench.

    I’ve ridden the full 51 route several dozen times by now. I go through periods where I decide I want to ride the bus all day so I’ll pick a line and ride it from end to end, and then swap to another and another, etc… In my various rides on the 51, I have thought since the beginning that there are several places where the stops are far too close together, and the Auto Row segment is a prime example. Does there need to be a stop every freakin’ block? No. I understand that some of the stops are convenient for the nearby senior housing, but every block?

  5. artemis March 2, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Yeah, that’s always irked me too. There is a reason for the stops, though—the 28th Street stop is there because of the massive senior housing development that’s tucked away on 28th Street (look up and you’ll see it!) and I believe the 30th Street stop is there because of Summit. (Idea being that those are two groups that do have great difficulty walking the extra block to the 29th Street stop, which is there because the grocery store is a big destination.) Personally I think the 30th Street stop could just be dropped given that the 1/1R provides much better service to Summit anyway—if you have to hike up that hill, you can probably handle the extra block!—but I think that’s the rationale.

    I’m another of those riders who’s stopped riding the 51 all together, though. For work, if I’m taking transit I either walk to 20th and take the 72R or BART, or—my new favorite!—walk to MacArthur and take the Emery-Go-Round and walk from its new terminus at Berkeley Bowl West to get to West Berkeley. For downtown Berkeley, I almost always walk to Telegraph for the 1R (but I did that before the 51 split, too). All of this is sort of ironic because the 51 is about as close as it gets to door-to-door service from my house to my office…but I just haven’t found that it saves that much time over the old route. Less time on the buses, but more time trying to coordinate timing. Oh, well.

  6. Richard March 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Please take away mine, too! On the 18, my stop at 42nd & MLK is about 500′ from stops in either direction. And what about the two 1 Southbound stops on Telegraph at 44th and 45th, a measley 300′ apart?

    One major benefit to removing stops that you didn’t mention is operational cost savings. Sure, it might cost money upfront to move stops around, hold meetings, etc., but if too-close stops were eliminated systemwide, the travel time savings would really add up. Before we go looking at more service cuts, we should really focus on everything we can do to save money while actually improving service.

    • Becks March 2, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

      Thanks for bringing this up – I’m not sure how I left it out of the post as I was thinking about it while I wrote. Anything that saves travel time saves money, and these small fixes add up.

  7. Anthony Sanchez March 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    I remember a few years back on College Ave near the dorms the bus would stop every single block leading up to campus.

    That would be a good example of inefficiency due to unnecessary frequent stops. However, there are certain routes where riders are predominantly senior citizen and disabled. In those cases, the inconvenienced caused by removing a bus stop is not the same as most of us walking an extra block or two.

    Clipper cards are an easy and quick fix to some of the efficiency in question.

    • Nick March 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

      As someone who has some mobility difficulty (stupid knees!), I am not in favor of taking out stops without study. Obviously, some stops have very good reasons for staying (being located near a senior facility or some other such location being one). Those stops should stay. But maybe we don’t need the one a block later.

      As long as actual thought is placed into stop removal, with input from the community of course, I think it makes sense.

      • Anthony Sanchez March 3, 2011 at 11:18 am #


  8. Eric Panzer March 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    I nominate Fulton and Durant as the worst stop on the 51B line (the 1 line too). After getting stuck at the left turn on to Durant, the 51B makes a stop outside of Pegasus, then it screeches to a halt at the Fulton and Durant signal, then it begrudgingly stops on the far side of the intersection next to the gas station, it tootles up less than a block, plops down again just before Ellsworth, and then usually has to wait out the Ellsworth light. The Fulton Stop is 475 feet from the Shattuck stop and 525 ft from the next stop. Hilariously, the Google Streetview of this intersection shows a double length bus stopped at the Fulton light.

    I think we can all agree that this is a stop that does not primarily serve an elderly, disabled, or otherwise vulnerable population. Rather, it mainly serves students too lazy to walk the ever-so-grueling 1/3 mile up the hill to Telegraph.

    • Becks March 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

      I concur – that is the worst stop on both of those lines! Whenever I ride back from downtown Berkeley, that stretch drives me crazy. It’s clearly time for AC Transit to consider removing some stops and to shave a few minutes off trips.

    • artemis March 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      I’m also always astounded by how many students wait for the bus to come, stand in a long line to get on, ride with standing room only, and then get off two blocks later. I’m a big supporter of u-pass programs since, well-implemented, I think they’re good for transit agencies, but seriously kids—you would get there sooner if you walked!

      It’s really fun to take the 51B during Cal’s spring break, though…

  9. jaded March 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    I was a proponent of the split of the 51. But why is it 90% of the time on the weekend, I notice the dreaded stacking 3 buses over a 5 minute period. And the bus drivers do not wait for the timed transfer and for riders on the A to cross over to the B. It is ridiculous.

  10. david vartanoff March 3, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    @Eric, Fulton is on the hit list in the 51 study.
    about Cal kids, yeah they could use more walking, but remember many of them are from the burbs where they got chauffeured to/from school by parents, they don’t have walking as a default behavior. Having them jam the 51 for 5 blocks may be silly, but training them to use transit, and getting their regular checks for AC are both worth the minor annoyance.

  11. Kenya Wheeler March 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Becks, I am curious to find out what happened to the “get rid of my bus stop” project. As you noted above, local jurisdictions have the final authority on bus stops. What is the planning process in Oakland to get this stop removed? Given the number of comments above with other souls willing to sacrifice their stop for the greater good, it would be great to see a post (or a continuing series) about the process to remove a bus stop in your neighborhood. Perhaps this could spearhead cleaning up stop spacing for the 51A across Oakland, a change that would be good for all.

  12. Cory LaVigne March 8, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Thanks for your use of the service, and your continued interest in how things get done. Keep asking the questions and requesting feedback.

    Related to the stop removals on the 51, the AC Transit board just recently adopted the Line 51 Operations and Reliability Plan and sanctioned staff to begin implementing items that are of little to no cost (which includes moving/removal of bus stops). We will begin feathering these into upcoming service changes, which are conducted quarterly. As a general rule (and depending on the change), we need more than 6 months of lead time to make changes to routes/stops happen because of the various processes that it has to go through to be successfully done.

    I’d start looking for the low-cost recommendations to be implemented effective with the August service change.

    • Becks March 8, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Thanks for the update Cory – that’s great news!

  13. John March 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    I’m angry everyday when I’m wishing the bus stops were across broadway from each other for ease of use. There is always someone asking me (on the West side of the street) where the bus stop is, because it naturally seems like it should be at 30th and not groce out

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