AC Transit Proposes Transbay Bus Service Cuts for North Oakland, parts of Emeryville

Published On November 8, 2015 | By Bobby Lee | News & Commentary, Transit

AC Transit is proposing to reroute Emeryville’s only all-day Transbay bus service away from the city’s main residential, employment and retail corridors. The F-line currently takes the city’s residents and visitors from Downtown Berkeley to San Francisco, via Emeryville, every 30 minutes. Some residents are unhappy with the changes and a petition has been created that notes the negative impact on the North Oakland and Emeryville communities.

“[The] F-Line service is a lifeline to people in our community who must commute to and from San Francisco. Reduced public transit offerings for North Oakland, Emeryville, and South Berkeley mean more traffic and congestion and is an unfair burden on lower-income neighborhoods in our community” notes the petition assembled by Santa Fe Community Association & Neighbors (Santa Fe CAN). The opportunity to impact this decision is closing though, as the AC Transit Board will hold a final public hearing regarding this plan this Wednesday, November 11th.

Under the second draft of the ‘Service Expansion Plan’ (SEP), AC Transit F-line will no longer serve Berkeley’s Ashby Avenue, North Oakland’s Market Street, and Emeryville’s 40th and Shellmound Streets, including the East Bay Bridge & Bay Street Shopping areas. Instead, the bus would be rerouted from downtown Berkeley via Shattuck and Alcatraz Avenues, 65th Street, Christie Avenue and Powell Street, with more frequent service every 20 minutes.

New F-Line Reroute

New F-Line reroute, showing routing along Alcatraz Avenue.

Currently, the multifaceted F-line not only functions as a means for Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville residents to get to and from San Francisco and vice-versa, but it also serves as a local bus line connecting these three cities.

The proposal shows that the J-line Transbay bus would replace some of the eliminated F-line service along Market Street in Oakland, but detour around Emeryville during peak morning and evening rush hours.

The proposed changes would mean that mid-day, late night and weekend riders – as well as all Emeryville riders along 40th Street and Shellmound – are out of luck, as there will be no direct replacement for the lost service.

A spokesperson for AC Transit says that less than one percent of the 3,000 average weekday F riders would be affected by the change, according to their ridership data.

But a review of the agency’s 2012 operations analysis report shows that three of the 10 busiest stops on the current F-line route are within Emeryville, serving 600 passengers every weekday at those stops alone. This suggests that up to 20 percent of current riders use the F-line to get to or from Emeryville and could be affected by this change.

Deteriorating Ride Conditions

AC Transit’s proposal does not directly address riders’ concerns about the F-line’s overcrowding or the need to wait for a second or third passing bus in order to get on.

“The buses are crowded both ways … people often get left behind because the bus is packed full. That means every single seat is taken and the aisle is jammed with standing riders,” said Maria Cordell, Emeryville Resident and J-line rider.

The agency maintains that the proposed changes will improve service frequency, provide more direct service to San Francisco and reduce total ride times. It says that Transbay travel time from North Oakland during the peak hours will be reduced by seven minutes, as compared to the current total ride time.

“Given the small impact and the viable alternatives, AC Transit staff believes a more productive use of Line F resources is to serve Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville via the Alcatraz Corridor, which would still provide some North Oakland residents with all-day Transbay access, is much quicker than the existing F Route alignment, and can better serve demand,” said Michele Joseph, Director of Marketing & Communications for AC Transit.

But Cathy Leonard, Oakland resident and co-chair of Oakland’s Santa Fe Community Association & Neighbors (CAN), says the agency’s claim of faster service “misses the point.”

Of the alternatives, “The J line will not run during off-peak hours or on the weekend … The C line would be the closest (at the MacArthur BART Station), but that would necessitate taking two buses to arrive at a destination. The C bus is packed by the time it arrives at MacArthur BART station,” said Leonard.

“By the time [the F] reaches Emeryville it is standing room only. A considerable number of Berkeley, North Oakland and eastern Emeryville residents are using the F line.”

Inconvenient Emeryville Transbay Service Alternatives

What remains unclear is how Emeryville bus riders would reach San Francisco during off-peak hours, nights and weekends under this proposal.

For North Oakland riders, Joseph points to the revised, all-day NL Transbay line as an alternative. Under the proposal, the Transbay NL would be routed along West Grand Avenue every 15-20 minutes, instead of every 30 minutes.

“While this would be a slightly longer trip, service would be twice as frequent as the current F bus,” said Joseph.

But such a routing would require existing passengers to take a local bus to West Grand Avenue and transfer to the NL, a more indirect and time-consuming routing for North Oakland riders.

The E’ville Eye analyzed plan documents and found that the most likely new routing under the plan would be for Emeryville riders to take the newly proposed ‘L22 Dwight’ service from Shellmound and 40th Streets to West Grand Avenue via Adeline Street. Such a routing would then require a transfer to the NL Transbay bus to reach San Francisco.

With service every approximately every 20 minutes on both the L22 and the NL, and based on existing timetables and drive times, The E’ville Eye estimates this new proposal could add approximately 35 minutes or more for Emeryville residents to get to and from San Francisco.

BerkeleySEP-PH

Convoluted Routing

The proposed routing of the F line and the idea of funneling existing area Transbay passengers into West Oakland doesn’t make sense, says North Oakland resident Robert Prinz.

“The new F Line route crosses the train tracks at surface level on 65th Street, instead of the existing route which takes the bus over the tracks via 40th Street. This will subject the bus to frequent train delays, especially when freight is coming through, meaning less reliable service overall,” he said.

Prinz also points to the new F-line missing a major transfer point within the AC Transit network as another example of an illogical reroute.

“The new F Line and the new peak-hours-only J Line avoid the 40th Street transit hub in Emeryville at San Pablo, which has historically served as a transfer point between many different buses. Moving the F Line route far away from this location, and the J Line onto the parallel but less busy West MacArthur [Boulevard], means transfers will be more difficult and patrons will be waiting for buses in areas with less lighting, fewer amenities and [greater] risk of crime.”

Plan maps show that the new F-line reroute would also push Transbay buses further away from the forthcoming Emeryville Transit Center across from the Public Market, which is currently in its conception stage. It would also prevent shoppers and UC Berkeley students, in particular, from reaching Emeryville’s dense, mixed-use retail and residential core.

Prinz also found fault in the routing of the proposed J-line replacement bus.

“The new peak-hours-only J Line ‘replacement’ for the F Line through North Oakland will run up Market/Sacramento to the North Berkeley BART station, as opposed to the current F Line which goes past Ashby BART, Downtown Berkeley BART, and around UC Berkeley. This makes the J Line much less useful for many trips,” said Prinz.

Transparency Called Into Question

While AC Transit has publicly promoted the plan as a general expansion of service within the county, area residents are confused as to how the agency came to the decision of curtailing the F.

Public meetings were held, but not within the city of Emeryville. The transit agency sent their new general manager and an agency planner to address these changes in front of Oakland City Council, but did not do the same with Emeryville City Council.

Notices were not posted at the affected bus stop, nor were notices posted within one F-line bus when checked last Tuesday morning.

Attempts by the E’ville Eye to reach the AC Transit planning department were met with dead ends and voicemails.

The proposed plan also changes underlying assumptions about the Transbay service made when the agency participated in the Emeryville-Berkeley-Oakland Transit Study (EBOTS) just this past January. Community input was solicited and guided the development of the study, which made suggestions on how to improve transit connections between and within the three cities.

Vocal Opposition

Emeryville and Oakland residents have been vocal in protesting these changes.

Over 350 residents have already signed Santa Fe CAN’s petition to oppose eliminating the F line from North Oakland and eastern Emeryville. And Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who spoke out publicly against the reroute at a November 3rd City Council meeting, joins their opposition.

Residents say AC Transit failed to take into account how the F-line connects numerous shopping, residential, and business corridors.

“Our communities are made up of a diverse group of people, some of whom are carless, use the F during off-peak hours and on weekends to go grocery shopping at Pak n’ Save, IKEA, the Public Market and Bay Street … U.C. Berkeley students are also upset because they use the F for some of the same reasons to travel to North Oakland and/or Emeryville,” said Leonard.

Prinz, along with residents who posted about their dismay over the proposed changes on the popular neighborhood social network Nextdoor.com, believes AC Transit is making the wrong choice in cutting service to the affected neighborhoods. “Cutting weekend, overnight and non-peak-hour service for North Oakland neighbors, while also rerouting the buses toward surface level train crossings and to avoid the 40th Street transit hub, is not a smart or fair alternative” noted Prinz.


AC Transit will hold a final public hearing regarding the SEP this Wednesday, November 11, 2:00 p.m. & 5:00 p.m at the AC Transit Board of Directors Room
(1600 Franklin Street, Oakland). The public is invited to attend the hearing or make a comment by telephone, e-mail, or online survey. Comments can be sent by e-mail to planning@actransit.org, phoned in to (510) 891-7201, or submitted electronically via the AC Transit SEP website. Area residents can comment on this F-line Online Survey

Residents can also participate in the Santa Fe CAN’s petition to stop the F-line changes:
SIGN THE PETITION →

About The Author

is a Bay Area native who’s lived in the Christie Core Neighborhood since 2010, Bobby enjoys exploring the far corners of our region, trying the newest restaurants in the area, or relaxing to 80's era television sitcoms and game shows. For the past six years, he's hosted a web video series called 2 Minute Finance teaching basic money management and consumer education.

14 Responses to AC Transit Proposes Transbay Bus Service Cuts for North Oakland, parts of Emeryville

  1. Robert Prinz says:

    Great article, thanks for putting this together!

    With regard to “For North Oakland riders, Joseph points to the revised, all-day NL Transbay line as an alternative.” did Joseph give you any more details about the complete schedule of the proposed NL line? From the link provided it looks like it would only run from 5am to midnight, with no service at all in the early morning hours, which from my perspective is hardly “all-day”.

    Would there also be any weekend service or would that be cut from the NL as well, which unfortunately is not made clear at all by the AC Transit surveys and details online?

    • Bobby Lee says:

      Thanks Robert!

      AC Transit did not provide a complete schedule on the proposed NL line adjustments. The plan documents show a peak headway of 15 minutes and base headway of 20 minutes. Weekend service remains unclear.

      There may be a misunderstanding in the use of “all-day” wording. It was meant to describe throughout the service day, not 24-hour service.

      Hope that clears things up!

      • Dan says:

        AC Transit provides 12a to 5am service with the 800-series OWL network routes. Owl buses provide service to the NL route east of downtown, but not on Grand Ave in West Oakland (although the 800 does serve West Oakland BART). North Oakland has late-night service on San Pablo, Telegraph, and Broadway/College. The OWL network should not be affected by AC Transit’s upcoming service changes.

      • Robert Prinz says:

        Yes Dan, I am familiar with the 800 OWL buses, but the F transbay line on Market has until now conveniently split the difference between the San Pablo and Telegraph routes, so that Santa Fe/Longfellow neighbors didn’t have to walk half a mile late at night in order to reach a stop.

        I might have less of an issue with AC Transit’s cutting their transbay line overnight and weekend service if they were being more up front about it in their public outreach materials, and supplementing the cuts with added service to the OWL lines. As it is, though, the proposal does amount to a reduction of service, especially for N Oakland neighbors in and around the Santa Fe/Longfellow neighborhoods, a fact that AC Transit seems to be actively attempting to obscure or dismiss.

  2. Thanks for notifying the people of Emeryville of the proposed changes in AC Transit service. The AC Transit website provides an excellent overview of the proposed route changes and has a means of providing feedback on each proposed route change.

    http://www.actransit.org/overview-albanyberkeleyemeryville-proposed-improvements/

    Overall, AC Transit is proposing significantly improved service to Emeryville. This includes two routes with efficient connections from Emeryville to the West Oakland BART station. Other reconfigured and expanded routes will provide improved coverage and service to the region, not a net decrease in service.

    The proposed ‘F’ route change is better aligned with Emeryville’s General Plan and will provide better service to Emeryville’s highest density Powell/Christie area. Frequency of buses will increase from 30 minute headways to 20 minute headways. The proposed route will provide much faster service to downtown Berkeley for more Emeryville riders.

    I’ve attended AC Transit community meetings and have witnessed responsiveness to community input. I encourage E’ville Eye readers to engage in the process by providing input on the AC Transit website and/or attending the November 11 meeting.

  3. Thanks Bobby for this article alerting Emeryville of the proposed changes. I should add that Julio Rios of the Longfellow Community Association and Philip Ohst of the Longfellow community (North Oakland) joined with me in preparing the petition. Also, our councilperson Dan Kalb (District,1) supports our position in retaining the F line through North Oakland.

  4. louis says:

    I know from taking both the J and F lines that the J is far more crowded than the F. So increasing the frequency of buses down Christie is good. Whether that’s just increasing frequency of the J or re-routing of the F doesn’t much matter to me.

  5. Luxurylatte says:

    The rerouted lines are clearly for the benefit of the newer housing development in lower Emeryville as well as the Christie area. While I agree they definitely need services there, it should not come at the expense of residents along Market and Ashby. Not all of the residents in this area work simple 9 to 5 jobs. It also isn’t convenient for a lot of us to travel to BART to simply get to downtown SF, or travel using 2-3 bus lines simply to travel to Bay Street or 40th St shopping Plaza for groceries. What they should be doing instead is improving and editing the J line that’s already in place. It seems to me it would be much easier and make more sense.

  6. Dan says:

    I’m a little upset that AC Transit is proposing to move the F from my neighborhood (Longfellow) to 65th and Alcatraz, but it is actually a good plan that provides faster and more frequent service to more people.

    Few people actually board the F on Market St and 40th St, and the current alignment adds a lot of extra travel time for the F line’s two primary service markets: BerkeleyEmeryville and BerkeleySF. The AC Transit proposal for the F moves it to a new alignment that will provide faster service between Downtown Berkeley and Emeryville/SF. The new alignment will still connect to Bay Street with a stop at Shellmound/Christie and it will add all day SF service to the densely developed 65th St and northern Christie/Shellmound area. Not only does the Christie/65th St corridor serve more riders on the limited hours J line than the F’s current Market St corridor, it is also scheduled for significant new development in and around the Public Market Area.

    For those of us near the Market Street and 40th St legs of the F line we will lose all-day F-line service, but we will have alternatives.

    First, for travel during peak periods we will have the C on 40th and the J on Market. Rush hour commuters on the J will find the new route is actually faster than the F because it will not need to detour through central Emeryville between Longfellow/Santa Fe and SF.

    Second, AC Transit is extending the 57 line from San Pablo and 40th to the Emeryville Public Market Area. With 57 and the Emery-Go-Round service, 40th St corridor riders will have frequent service connecting to both MacArthur BART and the more-frequent F line at Christie and Shellmound.

    Meanwhile, anyone living north of 57th St will still be able to walk less than 10 minutes to the new alignment of the F along Alcatraz.

    People that live in the high 40s and low 50s and who travel outside of peak periods will suffer the greatest impact, but very few people in these areas actually use the F. In exchange for the loss of the F, these areas will have more frequent service on the 88 (every 15 minutes during peak hours) and a more direct routing on the 18 (stays on MLK north of 55th St). Northern Longfellow and southern Santa Fe residents will still be able to take the 18 or 88 north to Alcatraz for the F or south to MacArthur BART (18) or Downtown Oakland (88).

    Overall, AC Transit’s proposals increase service to high ridership areas while minimizing impacts elsewhere. It is a reasonable plan and is worth our support despite some personal inconvenience.

    • Robert Prinz says:

      I would be in support of the new plan if the J Line was 24/7, not just during commute hours only, and if it ran up Market/Sacramento to N Berkeley BART, then over to Downtown Berkeley BART before heading back down to Oakland. This would mean the new F Line would be able to serve the Alcatraz corridor without actually reducing service to existing routes.

  7. gem spear says:

    “For North Oakland riders, Joseph points to the revised, all-day NL Transbay line as an alternative. Under the proposal, the Transbay NL would be routed along West Grand Avenue every 15-20 minutes, instead of every 30 minutes.

    “While this would be a slightly longer trip, service would be twice as frequent as the current F bus,” said Joseph.”

    Yeah, this makes it clear that board members don’t ride their own buses. Ever spent thirty minutes waiting for the 88 at Market and West Grand? Because I have, and that is not just “a slightly longer trip”. It’s half an hour spent at one of the sketchier AC Transit stops. Plus a ten minute ride to my current stop, more than doubling the amount of time for a Transbay trip from 25 minutes to 60. It’s ridiculous for AC Transit to cheer about 7 minutes saved by rerouting the F away from Market when all Market street riders are pointed to the NL + 88 as an alternative.

  8. Rob says:

    Apparently they postponed the decision on the F-line until next meeting at today’s hearing.

  9. Kristin Cato says:

    Any way you cut it, service will be greatly reduced for those of us in the Park Ave/40th Street district who travel off-peak hours to both San Francisco and Berkeley. Safety will be greatly reduced as we will be forced to wait for transfer buses at night in unsafe areas. Our fares will double, and travel time will most certainly double as well, due to transfers. Some of us have established car-free lifestyles primarily due to the convenience of the F bus. Transportation systems should encourage and support that choice, not undermine it and take away services. Car dependency is a plague to society and I am loathe to return to it.

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