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, 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.
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.
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 email@example.com, 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: