AC Transit Meeting: Redistricting, bus shelters & 51A/51B turnaround

22 Jul

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.)

51A/51B Turnaround

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.

12 Responses to “AC Transit Meeting: Redistricting, bus shelters & 51A/51B turnaround”

  1. Kenya July 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    This.Is. Awesome! The local print and online media doesn’t usually cover any substantive news for the East Bay’s largest bus operator until there is a fare change or service cut proposal. As your post notes, there are lots of substantive issues that AC Transit Directors and staff are dealing with that will affect bus service in the east bay. I hope you will keep this up.

    My understanding is that Oakland’s contract with Clear Channel was designed to provide a better revenue deal and have more local control over shelter placement & management. I would love to see Oakland city staff work with the BPAC and community groups to identify locations for additional shelters (There appears to be a BIG gap of shelters in Central & East Oakland) and coordinate sidewalk improvements where needed. There are some grant funds that could be obtained for this. One example is MTC’s Safe Routes to Transit funding. However, the Call for Projects deadline is August 8th!

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) July 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      Great, glad you like it.

      The discussion at the meeting indicated that many locations in Oakland had been identified (I think the number identified was 150 or something near that). The funding for improvements is the issue. Funny that you bring up Safe Routes to Transit funding – Bruce Williams reported on Oakland’s grant application at last night’s BPAC meeting and I’ll likely be blogging about that next week.

  2. Andy K July 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    I find this interesting – thanks for taking the time to write this up. Many of us don’t find the time to follow these meetings and read up on them.

    Others of interest to me would be the East Bay Regional Parks, EBMUD, and any meeting related to Oakland Parks and Rec.

    BTW, you provide a great service to us. Thanks, and hope you can keep it up!

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) July 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Thanks Andy. I’ve always wanted to go to EBMUD meetings but they’re in the middle of the day. I know that the Oakland League of Women Voters has members go to almost every local meeting of all the various agencies – I would love to see them blog about the meetings.

      Also, if any reader attends a meeting and is inspired to blog about it, I’m always happy to publish guest posts and can help you get started if you’re new to blogging.

  3. Kenya Wheeler July 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    One more thing – Regarding the 51A/51B turnaround, as someone who takes both lines a few days a week to Berkeley (when I am not cycling), I will say that the transfers have gotten better with the most recent bus signup. However, I fear the scheduled transfer will break down once Cal is back in session and traffic increases and service reliability decreases on College Avenue. 51st and Broadway is an interesting option for a turnaround. I think an on-street transfer option would be preferable to an off-street transfer, and having transfers at major transit hubs makes much more sense from a regional transit perspective than at a major shopping center that won’t have housing.

    One interesting piece in the staff memo is the medium-term plan to conduct an Alternatives Analysis to look at how to provide more capital improvements to increase service on what has been AC Transit’s busiest bus line. I think those who are interested in transit should encourage policymakers to fund an AA study for the 51A/B (and the 57/58/NL MacArthur Blvd) corridor. One of the best ways we can keep bus transit sustainable is by providing better infrastructure to ensure reliability for current riders and make taking the bus more attractive to new riders. This is also in keeping with Oakland’s Transit First policy.

  4. Damian Bickett July 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    I also find this informative and I find it informative, so thank you

  5. DD July 23, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Thanks for covering these meetings. A great idea, and well done! I try to listen in to most of the major MTC meetings, though like you, I frequently have to settle for the audo archive.

    As a transportation geek, obviously I love the AC Transit coverage; my second choice would be BART, because they are also an elected Board. Or, for variety, Andy K’s recommendations all sound good. Either way, I’m looking forward to more of your great posts!

  6. Jame Ervin July 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    This was really helpful, keep it up!

    The 51 turnaround issue. Really? Um is it more of a nuisance than the freeway? That is craziness. What is wrong with people. I don’t love the idea of a turnaround at Safeway. IT sounds pretty silly. I think BART is a very logical turnaround since it puts you right at BART, Trader Joes and the drugstore.

  7. Greg Harper July 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Accurate and well-written reporting. You are needed.

  8. kim August 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Just found your blog. These posts are very informative … now i’m going to read back in your blog history to understand why the 51 was ever split in the first place.

  9. Ronnie Spitzer August 22, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Thanks Rebecca for the report.

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