Letters for the Week of May 23, 2012 

Readers sound off on Bus Rapid Transit, Matt Stewart, and Occupy.

"BRT Is not a Done Deal," News, 5/9

What Happened to Curbside BRT?

There is only one Bus Rapid Transit system in the US that takes away the center two traffic lanes out of a four-lane corridor and uses them for buses only. The most common form of BRT, particularly when there are only four lanes, is curbside BRT, which uses the right-side lane for buses. The rapid buses stop at bulb-outs and local service is retained with stops at existing curbs. This gives faster, more reliable service without displacing parking and without forcing riders to wait for buses in the middle of traffic. In fact, the bulb-outs are a twofer; they are not only bus stops, they are mini-parks at no construction costs or maintenance for the city. Curbside BRT is superior for bus riders (particularly those with mobility problems), for businesses, for pedestrians, for bicyclists, and even for cars. So it seems like what Joe Mufasa is looking for. For more info check out my blog: ACTransitWatch.Wordpress.com

Joyce Roy, Oakland

Environmentalism Isn't Always Easy

I was very encouraged when I first read about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal that was to whisk commuters from downtown Berkeley to downtown San Leandro along corridors on which BART does not go. It is now very discouraging and infuriating that even supposedly environmentally progressive places like Oakland and Berkeley are either rejecting or greatly reducing a public transit program that would get many people out of cars. Berkeley started this by selfishly rejecting BRT because some parking spaces along Telegraph Avenue would be lost. Now people in Oakland are complaining that the East Oakland section would increase the speed of bus traffic and might cause traffic delays in front of a temple. I'm especially outraged by the selfish attitude of the people in Berkeley who are responsible for eliminating that portion of the route. This is certainly not the Berkeley in which I lived from 1983 to 1988, and makes me apprehensive about the Berkeley to which I'll soon be returning.

If we are ever going to stop destroying the Earth by, among other things, using fossil fuels, we cannot let what in comparison are petty complaints stop things like BRT. Modern humans can come up with all sorts of excuses why we don't want to give up our destructive unnatural lifestyles. But there are only two choices: live more simply and naturally — which in this case means eventually getting private motor vehicles out of urban areas, for starters — or continue to have Gulf of Mexico- and Exxon Valdez-type oil spills and burn up the planet with human-caused climate change.

Because everyone in this society was born into a world of cars, they seem as natural as the sky. But the facts are that cars didn't even exist a little over 100 years ago, and fewer than 10 percent of the people on this planet drive. We need to consider the health of the earth in everything we do in modern life. Driving is the one thing that almost everyone in this society does that is very harmful to our planet and could easily be eliminated. If we have to make some relatively small sacrifices in order to get people out of cars, they would be well worth it. The only other choice is to continue the massive harm that we are doing by driving. Real environmentalism is about priorities. If you don't prioritize the environment, how can you call yourself an environmentalist?

Jeff Hoffman, Oakland

Listen to the Community

I strongly feel that AC Transit should modify the BRT proposal to accommodate the needs of each community addressed in this article. AC Transit is a wonderful public transportation system in the East Bay; however, I would encourage the agency to be more culturally sensitive to the populations that rely on its services. The planning should continue until the officials find a great way to improve the welfare of all communities that will be impacted. Convenience, equity, health impact, efficiency, and attractiveness are important factors to consider.

Joe Lee, Oakland

It's About Cars, Not Convenience

BRT not a done deal? Sure, that's true. It's a big project and affects many groups of people. It requires careful planning and getting groups together to deal with the difficulties.

I get very weary of people who claim that AC Transit is ignoring objections and mindlessly pushing a pet project without much regard for the public interest. I was especially annoyed by the minister who blustered about complaining to the feds if his issues were not dealt with.

If anything, AC Transit has spent too much time stroking each and every interest group. I'm afraid that BRT will be studied and compromised until it becomes unworkable.

If BRT service is not faster and more reliable than current bus service, it will not attract enough new riders to justify its cost. BRT is not a gift to people like me, who will ride buses anyway. BRT is not a gift to the disabled, who can use Paratransit if riding buses is too onerous.

BRT is a gift to people who clog our streets with their cars.

The prime purpose of BRT is to get a substantial number of cars off the roads by motivating the drivers of those cars to become transit riders. If this does not happen, there's simply no point to building BRT. There's no need for it because the present buses, especially the rapid lines, are the best that can be done.


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