Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 28, 2016

Bus balance

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Tuesday’s City Council meeting has an agenda item that I’ve been meaning to write about but have completely dropped the ball on and, unfortunately, comes at the last minute when the City Council is asked to make recommendation and take a vote.

So yeah, I’m one of those people who show up at the nth hour and say “wait a minute this is what I think!”  Except I’m not showing up anywhere, I’m just typing it out here.

Anyway, the nutshell is that AC Transit has some money but only enough to restore or add one bus route to Alameda.  Which is really sad that we can’t encourage alternatives to driving because there’s just not enough money to spread around to public transit.  It’s hard to say that any of the three alternatives are bad or more superior than the others, it’s simply a matter of trade offs and which staff believes will be most successful.

In this particular case though, the decision of the City Council will comes down to public and written comments and their own previous opinions on the role of public transportation and what areas should be served next.

So here are the three options:

Fruitvale BART along Shoreline to Main Street Ferry

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.40.45 PM

Fruitvale BART along Encinal to Main Street Ferry

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.41.01 PM

Revived line 19 Fruitvale BART along Buena Vista to 12th Street BART

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.41.12 PM

Here’s the comparisons of the three alternatives:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.49.05 PM

From a West End parents’ perspective I’m highly supportive of the Shoreline alternative.  Knowing that Wood Middle school is the only public school option (non magnet, non charter) for a significant portion of the West End middle school population, having a bus line that services those students is very appealing.  Add to that the service to the Ferry building — if the headways can be coordinated with the Ferry schedule — then this makes the line very appealing.

Similarly the Encinal alternative gives options to both Alameda high schools, particularly for a segment of the population who is just learning to drive and has that option.  Also Ferry building terminus.

The argument against these two lines is that if the Central Avenue protected bikeway is approved then there is the option for these students to use the protected bikeway as an alternate mode of transportation.  Unfortunately nothing can change the realities of the tube and the hostile environment for anything not completely enclosed in metal which is why the revived 19 is appealing as well to help provide yet another alternative for folks attempting to cross the estuary in something other than a single occupant vehicle.

Essentially there are two priorities at battle here: one is the reduction of car trips across the estuary and the other is providing alternatives to car trips on Island.  I think both are laudable goals and it’s a shame that it comes down to pitting one priority against the other.



  1. You’re right that in the future development (and even new housing coming on line now) will require more than one new bus line. The transbay line I ride is standing room only during peak times (6:45-8:00am) and is sometimes standing room only earlier than that. Apart from the choice between the local lines at issue here, I think the Council needs to be lobbying for more transbay bus capacity (which is cheaper than ferry or bus plus ferry).

    As between the three alternatives in you post, I’d want to know more about existing transit for students. I tend to doubt that having bus service to the ferry will reduce pressure on the tube that much. I think there is available parking at the ferry in the mornings (does anyone know?), so the lack of a bus line is probably not a deal breaker for someone deciding between driving to the City or taking the ferry. That may change as more development occurs, but bus lines can be rearranged easily. As more development comes on, AC Transit and CIty may also want to consider running the O and W transbay lines against Alameda traffic (in the mornings, enter through the tube and exit over a bridge, etc.).

    Comment by MP — January 28, 2016 @ 7:55 am

  2. Ferry parking is pretty miserable at the Main Street Ferry and added to that the overflow parking along Main street near Ploughshares blocks off non motorized transportation options to the ferry building itself. This tweet captures some of the problems for bicyclists and walkers.

    As to the transit for students there is a line that runs to Encinal but it is not timed very well to take into account the late start at Encinal on Wednesdays and accounting for students needing additional time after school.

    In general though, you’re right, the City and the City Council needs to do a much better job at lobbying for increased bus service particularly transbay buses. I’m not sure if bigger buses would help or an increase in the number of runs would be the only solution.

    Comment by Lauren Do — January 28, 2016 @ 8:09 am

  3. About 2 years ago, AC Transit started putting larger buses on some of the W runs. There are even more people riding now and probably enough to justify additional runs. As the west end gets built out, there will be demand for an additional line given that existing transbay line go no farther west than Webster.

    sounds like parking is maxed out at Main ferry. We’d probably get sued if the overflow lot — if it’s not already slated for some other use — required a resident sticker (like non-residents are charged more to play golf on Bay Farm).

    Comment by MP — January 28, 2016 @ 8:37 am

  4. Better service for high schoolers makes more sense than for Wood School. Not many parents would let younger kids take the bus alone and few have the time to accompany them.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 28, 2016 @ 8:58 am

  5. Denise, I see middle school kids all the time on the 51, heading from east-end neighborhoods to Academy of Alameda. They get off at the Webster/Lincoln stop and walk the remaining two blocks to school. They are not accompanied by parents and they seem to do just fine.

    Comment by Kristen — January 28, 2016 @ 9:27 am

  6. Wouldn’t it be more effective to have a shuttle at ferry times only between the ferry terminal and Webster. The existing 20 and 51A would then be more useful – as it is the 20 is often empty.

    Comment by Adrian Blakey — January 28, 2016 @ 9:56 am

  7. If we can only pick one, the Buena Vista Line makes sense. With all the development happening on the Northern Waterfront, those projects can augment the funding and get this new line down to some more reasonable 10-15 minute headways. With NextBus capability and the fact that it only goes to DTO instead of all the way to Rockridge like the 51A, it should be a very reliable route.
    Plus, it sounds like staff wants to let the Estuary Crossing Shuttle die its lonely death, and this could help replace that, especially if it turns up Sherman and takes Atlantic.

    Comment by BMac — January 28, 2016 @ 10:22 am

  8. A cheap solution to the Main Ferry parking problem would be to move the dog park. There is space (albeit a bit less) immediately West of the current park, and of course there is a lot of space on the base. Doing so would cost only a new fence and some gravel in the expanded area.

    Comment by dave — January 28, 2016 @ 10:30 am

  9. the city has mentioned opening up the DeWitt parking area, it is already paved and parking is laid out. This would be quick, and should already be done. My question is why it has not been done.??

    Comment by John P. — January 28, 2016 @ 10:57 am

  10. I agree, it really is a balancing act since we are only being offered one new bus line.

    The Issues I have with restoring the Buena Vista service are:

    1) The line was discontinued because it was underutilized. The new people who would theoretically take that service do not exist today.

    2) The new development (paid for by future residents) will be required to provide shuttle service to Lake Merritt BART pursuant to its entitlements similar to the Alameda Landing shuttle. It does not make any sense to install our one new service on BV in addition to that shuttle.

    In terms of the other 2 options, I feel that the new Encinal line would be a better choice because:

    1) The #20 already serves Otis / Shoreline from Webster, and that is an all-day service, not a supplementary school bus service that only runs a couple of times a day like the 631 on Encinal / Central. And the 631 serves students going to AHS, EHS and the West End middle schools.

    2) In terms of access to the ferry (which many many residents have requested), it seems like a bus line on Encinal is much more accessible by foot to many more Alamedans than Shoreline / Otis. But that is my eyeball guess.

    Comment by Dya — January 28, 2016 @ 11:07 am

  11. I should clarify my point #1 above regarding the new Encinal line.

    The 631 offers a nominal (and unreliable) service to all of the students from the different schools that take it. The new Encinal line would provide some back up service if the 631 is either too full (and leaves students stranded with no later bus coming, which often happens) or doesn’t show up at all (which is not unusual) or doesn’t serve the needs of students who have after school activities. I guess my counter to the point that Lauren makes about serving Wood students who need to get there from the West End (which is a good one) — don’t they already have bus service, the #20 bus?

    Comment by Dya — January 28, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

  12. We have enough busses and parking spaces, etc. We just have too many people. City government must develop a city platform that simply reduces the amount of people who can live here, requires off street parking, reduces multi-family homes in certain areas of town, and requires bike riders to register their bikes each year and requires them to have bike insurance in case they cause an accident or run in to someone. Yes, this would be completely unpopular for Alameda, but more buses and more bike lanes will not solve our problem. We are over populated folks and we must reduce the numbers.

    Comment by Bill2 — January 28, 2016 @ 1:36 pm

  13. I guess I’ll plan not to be at home when they come around knocking doors

    Comment by MP — January 28, 2016 @ 3:17 pm

  14. “From a West End parents’ perspective I’m highly supportive of the Shoreline alternative. Knowing that Wood Middle school is the only public school option (non magnet, non charter) for a significant portion of the West End middle school population, having a bus line that services those students is very appealing.”

    Thank you! So very much this! Wood does have a population of students on the west end that need better oprions for getting across the island to school in a more timely fashion. The school did a survey and has talked to individual students that have chronic truancy/lateness issues and many of them are from the west end and have very few transportation options. Walking takes too long, families may not have a car or a parent available to drive regularly, biking can be dangerous along certain routes or the kid doesn’t have a bike, etc. The SSC had looked in to options with AC Transit recently and made very little headway. #4 is incorrect that only high school students would have need of better bus service. There are plenty of middle school students that are responsible for getting to school on their own for many different reasons.

    Comment by Maria T. — January 28, 2016 @ 8:06 pm

  15. #12. “We have enough busses and parking spaces, etc. We just have too many people.” Can you give an example of a city that has capped the number of people allowed to live there? I did a quick Google search but only found results for Sim City and bird populations. TIA.

    Comment by Gaylon — January 28, 2016 @ 10:04 pm

  16. 5 and 15: I did not say there were no middle schoolers riding buses, I just think there are many more high schoolers who would use the service. It’s a matter of where it’s going to do the most good overall for the greatest number of people since only one new route is available.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 29, 2016 @ 6:21 am

  17. 12. “reduces the amount of people who can live here”. I’m sorry, but that is such a disappointing sentiment. The world has been changing in ways we can’t even keep up with, let alone have the foresight to predict. We humans as a species are probably doomed but that is no reason not to give it our best shot in the meantime. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that effort includes density and transit corridors and even though Alameda doesn’t lend itself easily to those corridors, if we keep building we will reach a critical mass and hopefully it will work.

    The recent unvailing of the plan for the Alameda Marina is something I didn’t see coming at all. I read the web site ( ). The way it is presented seems to be deceptive since in the initial maps there is a plan for just the street front to get the big rehab , but if you read it all, you can see that almost every square inch of the current commercial uses have “alternate” plans. It is a big bummer. When I heard about it I immediately drove to the marina office to speak with Brock the harbor master, which I did. He explained how Sven’s got right of first refusal from the guy selling and the only way they could make the deal was to sign on a developer. It is ironic because the end result may mean that Sven’s also has to go. While I was there the UPS delivery guy showed up and he chimed in with lots of garbled info. He grew up here, but seemed to have Boat Works cross pollinated with Alameda Landing. I let him go on about it all. Interestingly this guy was African American but seemed to think that the % of affordable housing required for the development was somehow extreme requirement. Too much info in too short a time span for me to try to interject. Bottom line was that he asked Brock for his opinion and Brock said it was his priority to see that the marine functions remain. I know that includes the chandlery and dry uses, but also know that he is pragmatic and knows the score. He had explained, before the UPS guy showed up, that the docks and infrastructure are crumbling and in decay and that the cost to upgrade is in the millions.

    The funny thing is that years ago when Marina Cove was proposed, the harbor master at Fortman, Mark Ruckman came and spoke in favor. ( he was later my son’s Little League coach, but that is a digression). Anyhow, I had attempted to get the Green party to back a moratorium on development as proposed by Douglas Holmes, the organizer of a neighborhood group fighting truck traffic vibration on Buena Vista called BVAN ( Buena Vista Ave. Neighbors). I failed. Incidently, I got a call from a guy living on a boat at Fortman who I had known from across the estuary at 5th Avenue, who saw me speak. He started by making a sort of left handed compliment about how I should run for mayor of Alameda but devolved into yelling insults about me being a “fucking tree hugger”. Some people’s political views are not well organized. I reminded him he had called me and told him to go fuck himself and never call me again and slammed the phone receiver in his ear. Now I am very anxious to go back and talk to both of them about what they think of all the development happening, because I have a hunch they may not be so sanguine. The quality being built on Chipman Storage seems like an improvement over the awful quality and design of Kaufman & Broad at Marina Cove, but over all I wonder if these folks haven’t had pause to reflect on the amount of construction along the entire North Shore. I am virtually certain neither of them had any clue there would be this much.

    I am conflicted and must struggle with contradictory feelings. I will fight to retain as many of the businesses at the Alameda Marina compound as possible, but already realize that the Aikido studio and Hogen Sail loft may have to be sacrificed just because of their locations. This is a tough one, but to say we need to REDUCE the population is close to Luddite.

    Comment by MI — January 29, 2016 @ 9:31 am

  18. 18. Nice post. Times change and only a robot would not be conflicted. Hopefully, ultimate decisions will be not made solely based on today’s headlines or the Bay Area’s call for more housing. Alameda should, can, and is, doing its part to add housing. But – short of turning the Point into apartment towers (compare Google Earth of Seoul, S.K.) — Alameda is incapable making a significant dent in the entire Bay Area’s problem; not everything that marches under that banner is a good idea for Alameda. I hope that whatever is in the works, every effort be made to maintain reasonable open spaces as parks and access to the Bay. Once certain things are gone, they are gone.

    Comment by MP — January 29, 2016 @ 11:19 am

  19. 16. & 18. If either of you need help removing the Bill2’s fish hooks from your cheek, let me know. 12. read to me as satire. Good bait, but satire.

    Comment by BMac — January 29, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

  20. 20. oh duh. Yeah it didn’t flow with what I thought I had remembered from other posts by Bill2, but I can be real literal sometimes. Thanks for pointing that out.

    19. I don’t know that the bottom line should be that construction needs to solve the problem. How does that go again? If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem? Apartment towers might not solve the problem either and they might well make the Point unlivable. There is always middle ground.

    Comment by MI — January 29, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

  21. RE 18. I read in the Sun today, oh boy. Brock has been let go. I called the marina and the guy who answered declined to tell me if Brock had been terminated or if he had quit. By the sound of his voice I’m virtually certain the guy on the phone is long time employee who does billing but his discomfort at my question caused me to bail on the phone call. His response to my query about whether Brock was terminated was, “Uh…. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to discuss that.”

    The letter in the Sun while impassioned, seemed to ignore some of the facts about the infrastructure as they were presented to me by Brock. The letter writer seemed ignorant that it is the partial owner who had right of first refusal to purchase who cut the deal with the developer and therefore sort of hand selected them. But I see it as a deal with the devil.

    My impression was that Brock was taking the long view and being pragmatist so I am shocked that he has left his position, since on the face of things it would be hard to imagine his replacement being less antagonistic. But then when you really think about it the possibilities for the reality on that are endless. “Employment Opportunity: Harbor Master/shill for developer”, etc.. His departure sure seems like ten foot tall graffiti on the wall, don’t it?

    Comment by MI — February 4, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

  22. 22. “Employment Opportunity: Harbor Master/shill for developer” — ooh, as a sailor and housing advocate, that is perfect for me! Where do I apply?

    Comment by BMac — February 4, 2016 @ 12:59 pm

  23. If you put a bunch of places that serve alcohol out on the point, you might want to put in public transportation.

    Comment by dj — February 23, 2016 @ 6:56 am

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