When I watch local meetings live, I generally tweet them so those who are interested can follow what’s happening. But besides Council meetings and occasionally Planning Commission meetings, I listen to most meetings after they’ve already happened. I’m often tempted to tweet these meetings, but I think it could be incredibly confusing, so I’ve never done it. Sometimes I’ll write entire blog posts about one of the things that happened at a meeting, but I usually don’t take the time to share most of what I’ve learned on this blog.
So I’ve decided to try out a new format here – a brief roundup of local meetings. I’m going to start out with last week’s AC Transit meeting, which I listened to earlier this week. I’d greatly appreciate feedback with this format. If readers like it, I’ll do these as much as I can, but if you don’t find them useful, I’d like to hear whether you just don’t want to know about meetings unless something really exciting happens or if you have thoughts on a different format that might be more useful.
On to the meeting…
Recruitment Process for General Manager & General Counsel
For those who don’t know, AC Transit’s current general manager, Mary King, is actually an interim general manager so the agency is looking for a new GM. Staff reported on ways they were advertising the position – through trade publications, at transit conferences, etc. One board member recommended that staff recruit not just from transit agencies but also from other municipal government. Staff also briefly talked about the ways they would vet the candidates, who of course would be vetted by the Board as well. Though I guess this is standard now, I found it interesting to hear that they would be doing Facebook and other social media checks on all of the final candidates.
AC Transit Redistricting
While media attention has focused on the state redistricting process, all jurisdictions, including AC Transit, are currently (or will be soon) working on redistricting. The Board agreed to set up a committee on redistricting but also that staff would seek input from all Board members. (The makeup of the committee was not decided.) Staff is starting work on redistricting right away and hopes to have the lines finalized by the end of this year, though Director Chris Peeples said that timeline might be unrealistic. The part of the conversation I found most interesting was the discussion about the areas around AC Transit bus lines being communities of interest that should be considered. None of the directors argued that bus lines should be a primary factor in drawing the lines, but that if there was a decision being made about whether to move a district line one way or another and one way would keep a line within the district, that should be considered. Of course, one director brought up that these new district lines could keep bus lines in tact for now, and then the Board could vote the next year to change the lines entirely. (Read the staff report for more info.)
Report on Bus Shelter Contracts
What might seem like a simple issue of building bus shelters and selling advertising on them is actually a fairly complex issue that involves a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between AC Transit and several cities, and an exclusive contract with Clear Channel. I’m not going to get into the details of that here, but the staff report does. What’s interesting though is that Oakland (and a few other cities) is not part of the JPA, but instead has its own contract with Clear Channel for bus shelters. For both AC Transit and Oakland, Clear Channel pays for the bus shelters to be installed and maintained, and has exclusive rights to advertising on them.
There are 294 bus shelters in the JPA contract and an additional 195 in Oakland. Here’s a map of the current Oakland bus shelters:
As you can see from this map, there are lots of gaps along popular lines, and many more sites have been identified as desirable places for bus shelters. However, due to ADA law and some particular Oakland laws, to build shelters at those sites, the sidewalk would have to be expanded. So unless exemptions are provided or new development expands sidewalks, it seems likely we won’t see many more bus shelters installed in Oakland for quite some time. As for the JPA area outside of Oakland, Clear Channel plans to continue installing more shelters, and AC Transit takes requests for bus shelter locations. (Read the staff report for more info.)
Oh, the 51A/51B. I’m not a huge fan of the 51 split, but for entirely different reasons than those of the residents in Jane Brunner’s district who have freaked out about a bus turning around in their neighborhood. Seriously, they think a bus turning around is more of a nuisance than the loud BART trains and freeway traffic right over their heads?
Though I don’t sympathize with the complaints of neighbors about buses turning around on their streets, I do think the current transfer from the A to the B should be redesigned. It’s horrible to get off the bus, stand at a red light looking at the 51B – not knowing when it will depart – and then running to make it. Sometimes you barely make it, sometimes you barely miss, and at other times you get on and then wait another 10 minutes, annoyed that you just ran for nothing. So considering changing the turnaround is a great idea.
Though several possibilities are presented in the staff report, only two were discussed at the meeting and are being considered. One is to make the turnaround within the BART station property. It would take significant capital funds to accomplish this, so AC Transit is working with BART Director Bob Franklin to see if the necessary driveways for this could be included in BART’s planned Rockridge station redesign.
The other possibility was brought up by Jane Brunner in a meeting with AC Transit staff and Director Greg Harper. She suggested moving the turnaround to Pleasant Valley and Broadway, inside of the Pleasant Valley Safeway project property, which, as I’ve written about before, is undergoing a massive redesign. The only way this could happen is if the developer would include this in the project (likely as a mitigation to environmental impacts), since AC Transit does not have the funding to pay for this. Whether the Safeway turnaround is a good idea or not is arguable, but I would bet Brunner’s primary reason for suggesting this was to stop the complaints of her constituents about the current bus turnaround. At this point, staff is exploring both the BART station and Safeway turnaround options. (Read the staff report for more info.)
Again, I’d love your feedback on whether this type of report is useful or not. If it is, next time I’ll try to write a blog post closer to the time I listen to the meetings so I can include more detailed information on who said what. If you’d like to listen to last week’s AC Transit meeting, you can do so on their website.