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Will residents vote to preserve the Emery Go-Round? Emeryville PBID Ballot Q&A with Mayor Atkin

6 mins read

If you received a mysterious envelope in your mailbox from the City of Emeryville, don’t throw it into the Shredder just yet. Despite vague language calling itself a “Emeryville PBID Ballot” (Property & Business Improvement District), this is a ballot for residents to vote on whether to assess themselves to retain the services of the Emery Go-Round. The current Emery Go-Round PBID expires next year and if a new one isn’t agreed to, this could lead to the end of the free, beloved shuttle that is the envy of the East Bay. For the first time, Emeryville residents will help decide the fate of the Emery Go-Round through a ballot process.

While not everyone is a fan of the schedule, the way the shuttle is run or how much they’ll have to pay, most residents agree that traffic and parking are getting worse in the city and the Emery Go-Round has become a vital commute option. Emeryville has a daytime population estimated to be 4x that of actual residents. That means between 30-40,000 people coming into our city each day. Based on the Emery Go-Round’s 1.7 Million annual riders, this would account for as much as 15% of these trips (approx. 4,657 per day). While some alternatives to the shuttle exist, eliminating it completely could be “E’ville Carmageddon”.

So why would we want to disrupt this? The short version of the story is that the service has grown to the point that some property owners are questioning their contribution and the fairness of this only being supported by business. The leading dissent against the PBID has been Ken Bukowski’s EPOA group who represent small & medium-sized business owners. Bukowski thinks there are funding alternatives that aren’t being explored by the city. “The PBID is not the right funding mechanism for the Emery Go-Round. As a private, non-profit service, we’re leaving millions of dollars in grants from the County on the table every year. The City has been unwilling to even look at these funding options.” It should be noted that accepting these County funds would make the EGR a public transit service and be subjected to the same governance and bureaucracy of agencies like AC Transit.

According to Bukowski, Emeryville is also not getting our fair share of the Measure BB tax revenue because city staff & council are not advocating hard enough for Emeryville. Bukowski has also been critical of the make-up of the board that primarily makes the decisions for the Emery Go-Round and lack of elections. “It’s just not right!” he added.

City Clerk Karen Hemphill’s June 2nd presentation can be viewed above [26:30]:


The E’ville Eye reached to the city for clarification and Mayor Atkin provided answers that hopefully address residents questions and what this means for the future of the Emery Go-Round.

Emeryville PBID Ballot FAQ’s

What’s a PBID?
A PBID is a special tax assessment district. As a special assessment district, the services/programs/projects provided through assessment fees must have special benefit to the properties assessed. In the case of the proposed PBID, the special benefit is access to the Emery Go Round shuttle.

Why not just continue the Emery Go-Round as is?
The current PBID that funds the EGR expires in one year and we are trying to ensure its future.

Was a ballot sent to everyone in Emeryville? How many total?
A ballot was sent to every parcel owner in the City.

Emeryville is only 1.1 square miles. Are there any parcels outside of the .25 mile assessment boundary?
There are a few parcels in the extreme north/east of Emeryville on the Oakland border near Adeline that are not within ¼ mile of an EGR stop. There are also a few parcels near Doyle and 55th Street that are more than 1/4 mile from a stop.

Are there any residents that are exempt from paying the assessment PBID?
Under State law, special assessment districts can not include exemptions as the assessment levy is based upon special benefit derived so any parcel that receives the special benefit has to be included. It might be possible to institute a rebate program for seniors/low-income homeowners out of the City general fund, but not out of the revenue collected from the PBID assessment.

How much is this going to cost me personally?
See below. You have to determine whether your unit is within a 7-day route or a 5-day route to read the chart.

How will individuals pay their assessment?
The assessment levy will be placed on the property tax rolls.

So if I’m paying, does this enable residents to have more control including better routes like to West Oakland BART?
Governance will be representative of the parcel owners being assessed. Here is the language from the by-laws:

The Emeryville Transportation Management Association (TMA), a non-profit organization, whose membership consists of the parcel owners that are assessed under the District , is the “Owner’s Representative” as outlined in the California Streets and Highway Code Section 36614.5.and will administer the District through an agreement with the City of Emeryville.
The TMA will be governed by a Board of Directors whose membership is designed to equitably represent all stakeholders and areas of the City, with specific provisions for representing residential parcel owners as well as commercial and industrial parcel owners. The City of Emeryville will work with stakeholders to develop an equitable TMA Board membership structure, which represents residential parcel owners as well as commercial and industrial property owners of various sizes and land uses. The City of Emeryville will also facilitate the establishment of TMA by-laws, which will enumerate the scope of the TMA Board’s authority; the role of the general TMA membership; and how decisions are made by the TMA. The TMA Board’s composition and TMA by-laws shall be ratified by a general membership meeting of the TMA and incorporated in the City/Owner’s Representative agreement between the City and the TMA. Any amendments to the TMA Board’s membership composition or TMA by-laws will also require both ratification of the TMA membership and inclusion in the City/TMA agreement.

What percentage of the $3.5 MM budget will residents pay and what percentage will business pay?
Approximately 20% of all parcels are residential parcels (including rental housing parcels) while 80% are business parcels. While the assessment is based upon access and not use (as it is a special benefit to the parcel – i.e. access defined by trip generation standards), a recent ridership survey (on City website) indicated that 1/3rd of riders are residents.

What is the role of the Transit Management Association (TMA) and how are boardmembers picked?
See above regarding governance.

Who opposes the PBID?
Some have expressed concerns around governance and some want to see a senior exemption, which is not legal directly.

Who is in favor of the PBID?
The City convened the Emery Go Round Task Force, consisting of various stakeholders, including the current TMA Board President, an EPOA representative, members of the City’s Economic Development Committee, Commission on Aging, and other residents and business reps in the first quarter of 2014. Supported by the Task Force findings and staff analysis, the City Council proceeded with initiating ballot proceedings for the PBID.

When are the Ballots Due?
By mail no later than August 4 (no postmarks) or hand delivered during/before the completion of the PBID public hearing scheduled to start on August 4 at 7:15.

How are votes tallied?
TrueBallot an independent election services will tally the ballot at the end of the August 4 PBID public hearing (ballot count is open to the public). Ballots include the proposed assessment levy to be paid per parcel and ballots are tallied according to assessment to be paid.

If voters reject the PBID, does this mean the end of the Emery Go-Round?
The current PBID has funds to operate the EGR through 2016 (if the proposed PBID fails, there is one more year that can be assessed under the current PBID). All of the bus lease agreements, operator and other service contracts end December 31, 2016. What happens if the proposed PBID doesn’t pass is a good question. A few developers have conditions of approval to provide shuttle funding as a mitigation measure for the traffic their project creates. in the event that the PBID goes away but conditions of approval are meant to be mitigation based (i.e. in terms of a shuttle system, to compensate for the traffic generated from the approved development project – and for example The Towers only has COA for the 4th Tower not the original 3) However, the form of mitigation is not clearly defined (having “Google” type shuttles for their own employees might fulfill the COA obligations) it’s hard to see how a shuttle system that carries 1.68 million (6,000 per week) riders per day would be financially supportable unless another publicly funded revenue source is identified. Some people are looking to the county-wide sales tax measure for transportation to solve all the funding insecurities. However, guidelines for submitting applications to ACTC probably won’t be ready until September. We are thinking it makes sense to apply for operational funding of the EGR for that portion of the service that is a general benefit, not a special benefit. For example, there is a Berkeley Bowl stop that is outside the assessment district. The cost of the that stop would be an example of a general benefit of the service.

Parking & Traffic are already big problems in our City. Can you project how eliminating the EGR would impact this?
Eliminating the shuttle service would have a negative effect on parking and traffic. The EGR currently carries almost 1.7 million riders per year (6,000 per week) with several new major economic or housing developments either about to be completed, coming under construction, or are approved/have vested rights. Emeryville does not have a sufficient road network to accommodate this increase without some type of mitigation. Do we want to go back to a few private shuttles that operate to/from the largest employers like we had before? Whose interest is served in trying to cut off the life blood of the EGR?

[poll id=”37″]

NOTE: An unauthorized draft of the proposed PBID FAQ’s was originally posted here but has been removed at the request of the city until these have been finalized.

More information:

City of Emeryville Website →
Read the Engineer’s report →
June 2nd Council Presentation →

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. So the tax-base for the RAMPANT ill-considered (for the residents) developer driven deterioration of Emeryville is insufficient to sustain
    the one thing Emeryville residents agree as a GOOD THING?

  2. Since single family and condo residential properties have only one vote each, and commercial properties have votes determined by square footage, the emeryville residential voters, in total, have only 20% of the vote.

  3. What the heck is up with its 5% annual increase?! That DOUBLES in 14 years. Inflation hasn’t been anywhere close to 5%. Five percent annual increase. VOTE NO just because if that.

  4. The ballot states the measure would include a 5% annual increase in the assessment (tax) on property owners. This means the assessment (tax) will DOUBLE in 14 years. It seems like it was written by podunk City of Bell-type politicians.

    The shuttle’s great BUT it sure as heck doesn’t warrant 5% annual increase. I want the name(s) of the measure’s author(s).

    The 5% annual increase on residents annually reduces the need for businesses to contribute. Year by year the burden will tilt 5%/yr to resident owners and away from businesses.

    Again, I want names of the author(s). Was that Dr. Strangelove mayor one of the authors?

  5. I agree with the last comment. Why are these costs coming onto homeowners? The City of Emeryville is flush with money from big business and that should support the Emery Go Round. The assessment to homeowners is ridiculously high and the 5% increase per year is pure robbery. How about Ikea or Target or some of the other huge businesses paying an actual fair share around here?

  6. You know what? If all the big business employers of Emeryville don’t care about shutting down transportation for their workers who need to get back and forth every day, then let the EmeryvilleGoRound be shut down! We’l see how long the shut-down lasts when workers start quitting their jobs in Emeryville because their transportation becomes too much of a hassle. I’ve read articles about both employees and businesses in Emeryville, where people being interviewed said that the GoRound played a large part in their decision to come to Emeryville- otherwise the transportation issue would have kept them from locating here since there’s no BART here. So I say LET EGR shut down and it will put pressure on Big Business to shell out the dollars. It’s more in Big Business’s interest than anyone else’s, to keep good employees wanting to come work for them. And we, the small individual residents of Emeryville, are supposed to pay for that?

  7. It seems that the 5% per year increase is only part of the problem-
    There were plans to find a new bus park and maintenance location since the
    current location is on a short term lease.

    The idea was to buy a place from CAlTrans and build a new center in Oakland.
    This would have cost an estimated $8,000,000 to $12,000,000.
    The problem is still with the GoRound but is not being talked about, at least until
    this measure gets passed.

    I support the bus service but think that the costs that WILL BE COMING need to be
    explained, not swept under the rug.

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