Letters for June 9 

Readers sound off on Transbay buses, Berkeley warm pools, and teacher tenure.

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I have studied the AC Transit proposal currently being circulated, and I found only one Transbay route that could sustain any more cuts — Route LA. And this is only because WestCAT already operates frequent, inexpensive bus service in the area, so commuters really wouldn't be losing out.

Finally, let's remember that AC Transit is a public transit agency. It is not just transit for poor people. Embracing this backward logic will harm every effort we've made so far to encourage public transit use as a means of improving the environment through fewer vehicles on the road and less pollution in the air.

David Davenport, Berkeley

Understand the Market

At a time when the region should be involved in a serious and objective discussion about the increasing role public transportation must have in meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals, it was truly disappointing to read Robert Gammon's superficial and poorly reasoned attack on AC Transit's Transbay bus service. 

Repeating the truism that different services in the same transportation corridor are necessarily "duplicative," Mr. Gammon omits the step of actually assessing individual travel behavior and markets, concluding that if AC Transit's Transbay service were discontinued, current riders would simply hop back on a BART train. He suggests that the displaced Transbay riders could simply fill the spaces created by those casualties of the economic crisis who are no longer making the trip through BART's Transbay tube during the commute period.

As an operator of Transbay service since 2005, my agency, WestCAT, has studied this issue in depth, and has developed a first-hand knowledge of our riders and their needs. We believe that our Transbay bus service does not compete with BART but instead gives our riders an option beyond driving alone or casual carpooling. Prior to introducing our own Transbay express bus service, we relied on the extensive survey conducted by the UC Institute of Transportation Studies for CalTrans, which demonstrated that there was a large market segment of people who would prefer to use public transit over casual carpooling, but for whom BART was not an option. By offering Transbay service, WestCAT has moved commuters out of private automobiles in the Bay Bridge corridor into buses that now operate at capacity during peak periods. 

Like AC Transit, WestCAT directly serves areas that are distant from BART, and our service is not competitive with BART, but complementary. Just a few years ago, BART was approaching capacity in the Transbay Tube and also in the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations. While the recession has reduced ridership on BART, in the past it has rebounded quickly. When it does rebound, BART would be hard-pressed to carry the 3,000 or 4,000 additional peak-hour passengers that eliminating AC Transit (and WestCAT) Transbay service would send to BART, or onto the Bay Bridge in low-occupancy vehicles. 

In the future, BART will be even more constrained, and we can't simply walk away from the future due to financial issues today. ABAG forecasts that San Francisco will add almost 250,000 jobs by 2035 (about 10,000 per year). About 40 percent of those jobs have historically been filled by East Bay residents. This translates into 4,000 additional Transbay commuters every year, or four full BART trains added each year.   Clearly, we need additional capacity (and Transbay buses) because BART will be leaving passengers on the platforms.

Finally, transit's primary mission is not solely to provide service for the transit dependent. Our mission will increasingly be to connect all kinds of people with jobs, schools, and housing so they don't need a car. We need everyone to drive less and take the bus and train more. If we are serious about meeting the challenges of global warming, Mr. Gammon's characterization of the issue as "the well-to-do" not wanting to "slum it on BART with the masses" adds nothing to the discussion.

Charles Anderson, General Manager, Western Contra Costa Transit Authority

"Judge Rules for Students Over Teachers," Seven Days, 5/19

Tenure Helps Students

The story contradicts itself in its very headline. If the judge's ruling eliminating seniority rights is applied state-wide, tenure could indeed be eliminated. This benefits students? Let's see. Some teachers are "burned out," as the article says, and they MIGHT be the ones laid off. Or not. Layoffs are a blunt instrument. Less senior teachers are somehow better teachers? One hopes they'd be smart enough to see through this. Young teachers become older teachers, and without tenure, they would be subject to arbitrary layoffs. And the same people who took their tenure could also take their health care and retirement, presumably with the approval of Mr. Gammon? If the young teachers are as good as the Express seems to think, they'll be aware of this and perhaps decide to find other careers. And this is a victory of students over teachers?

Tom Price, Berkeley

"The Berkeley Pools Battles," News, 5/26

Trojan Horse Tax

The voters are getting duped into paying for a general fund tax. It's a Trojan Horse measure designed to bring in more money than is needed for the pools. The measure description says that $3.5 million a year can only be allocated for the pools. The city could easily rake in more than that in the parcel, per square foot charges. Where does the rest of the money go? Probably usage could go into the $14 million budget hole the city has to deal with. Pension obligations, high salaries, and costs are killing the books in an era of private sector decline and austerity.


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