Reconnecting America: Transit Space Race 2011


image: Wikimedia Commons

Reconnecting America has just released its 2011 report on transit projects in the United States.

The report, titled “Transit Space Race 2011: A Catalog and Analysis of Planned and Proposed Transit Projects in the US“, is a compendium of transit planning across the country. Due to the fluid and changeable nature of transit planning, the report comprises  a “snapshot in time” during a survey period of late 2010.

The result is a window into transit demand in communities nationwide, and most notably the huge gap between the volume of competitors and the number of available transit infrastructure dollars from the federal New Starts program.

Download the report here

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AC Transit Cuts Take Effect Today


Significant adjustments to nearly 70 transit lines took effect today. According to the AC Transit website:

Significant changes include:

  • Reducing frequency on 28 lines
  • Starting service later in the morning and/or ending earlier in the evening  on 18 lines
  • Eliminating or operating shorter routes on weekends on four lines
  • Reconfiguring service in some areas, including West Oakland/Emeryville, Lakeshore Ave./Grand Ave. in Oakland, Bay Farm Island in Alameda, and San Leandro
  • Discontinuing service to Orinda BART and along Broadway Terrace in Oakland
  • Adding extensions to two lines to replace limited service in Piedmont, and service between Alameda and the Oakland Airport

All changes are listed in detail on the AC Transit website here.

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Full List of AC Transit Cuts

The full list of night and weekend buses with service being cut has now been posted on the AC Transit website here.

Weekend lines that will continue to operate include: Lines 1, 1R, 18, 20, 22, 26, 40, 45, 51A, 51B, 57, 60, 72, 72M, 73, 76, 88, 97, 99, 210 and 217.

Lines that will be cut include: Lines 7, 11, 12, 14, 21, 25, 31, 32, 49, 52, 54, 62, 65, 67, 68, 70, 71, 74, 85, 86, 89, 93, 95, 98, 242, 251, 275, 332, 345, 350, 376, 386, F, NL and O.

The discontinued All-Nighter service includes Lines 802, 805, 840 and 851. Lines 800 and 801 will not be affected.

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Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)


This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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If you have read articles about urban transit in recent years, chances are you have run across the phrase “BRT” or “bus rapid transit”. BRT refers to a mode of bus travel that is characterized by streamlined operations on heavily traveled routes to reduce travel and wait times and/or increase average daily trips. Elements of BRT may be any combination of dedicated bus lanes, limited stop “express” buses, increased coordination for “signal priority” at stop lights, quick-boarding platform placement and configuration , curb cuts and turn-abouts for faster maneuvering of buses and pre-board fare collection.

The argument for BRT is generally that there is an increasing need for fast and efficient public transit in cities spurred by factors such as population growth and greenhouse gas reduction goals. However, rail systems are extremely costly to build and maintain, and many of America’s cities lack even basic public rail infrastructure. BRT can bridge this gap and provide the efficiency and effectiveness of a rail system while utilizing the already existing roadways.
Visit AC Transit’s BRT page here, and visit the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute here.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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AC Transit Cuts, part three


This post is part of our coverage on water, waste, energy and transportation issues of interest to the local Bay Area community.

Here is a check-in on the ongoing budget crisis within AC Transit, the East Bay’s bus system:

Despite months of negotiations and meetings, AC Transit and the union representing most of its workers,  the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 192 have so far been unable to reach a mutually acceptable strategy to close the $56 million deficit facing the agency by the close of 2011.

June 30th represented a milestone in the negotiations- that was the day that the ATU’s previous contract terms expired. The process has nonetheless stagnated. AC Transit Director Greg Harper is quoted in the AC Transit News as commenting, “I think we are definitely at an impasse because the union has so far offered less than 50 percent of what is needed to close the budget deficit.”

The Agency is looking to recoup 8 to 9 percent of employment costs in the new contract. The grim financial scenario has already resulted in fee hikes for riders, service cuts, layoffs, and 5% salary cuts for the board of directors. With a 75% share of the operating budget being allocated to employee costs, the Board of Directors is maintaining that shortfalls cannot be met without some concessions from the union.

The declared impasse and revised terms of employment, effective July 18, have been laid out by the Board of Directors. It remains uncertain if a strike will be avoided.

Current Events – AC Transit Cuts, part 2


Here is an update on the ongoing cuts to AC Transit service that I first reported on last week:

AC Transit is in trouble. Dire financial straits have forced the agency to consider enacting additional service cuts and the possible declaration of a fiscal emergency. Already adjusting to the 7 percent service cuts that went into effect at the end of March of this year, August is likely to bring an additional 8 percent less service, with more cuts in the pipeline if new funding sources are not found.

On May 26th, AC Transit held two public hearings, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to solicit comments on three possible scenarios that could be rolled out in August.

Proposal one is to operate only trunk and major corridor services on the weekends;

Proposal two is to modify All Nighter and late-night services;

Proposal three is to distribute the reductions across all weekday, late-night and weekend services.

However, it is unlikely that any one scenario will be enacted in full, but rather some sort of amalgamation of the proposed cuts.

I attended the 6 p.m. public hearing and tensions were running high among those who came to speak out against the cuts. Time and again, concerned residents spoke of their fears about losing accessible transit. Many stated that they could not afford cars, or were seniors or disabled and could not walk or bike as an alternative. Some had moved to their residences specifically because they were accessible to bus routes- routes that are threatened under the new scenarios, either by reduction of service resulting in unreasonable wait times, or loss of service areas altogether.

While some expressed frustration with the board of directors, in truth these are deep and painful cuts that nobody wants to make and that will result in the continued erosion of the ridership base, further driving down revenues.

What can we, as informed and concerned citizens, do to try to recover the essential functions of the public service on which so many depend? we need to speak up if we want to keep our transit systems intact (or expanded). Transit is often at the bottom of the list because public outcry is greater on other issues; perhaps transit is seen as so fundamental that we take it as a given. What AC Transit is showing us, is that publicly funded transit is far from a given.

Contact your State Senator.

Editorial – AC Transit Service Cuts


*AC Transit is considering options for another 8% of service cuts (effective in August) to meet its budget. Public hearings and comment sessions on the new cuts will be held this Wednesday, May 26, 2p.m. and 6p.m. at 1600 Franklin Street in Oakland. We will be reporting on the new cuts next week.


Regular riders aware by now that several AC Transit lines underwent tweaks to schedules and routes at the end of March, most notably the split of the 51 line to “51A” and “51B” lines that terminate at the RockRidge BART station. Regular riders are also aware that public transit in the Bay Area has seen fare increases across the board in the past year. However, what many riders may not know is that most transit agencies only receive a fraction of their operating costs from cash fares. AC Transit for example, recoups less than 20 percent of its budget from cash fares. So, while it is true that fare rates have seen increases while services have declined, they do not even begin to touch the transit giant’s bottom line.

AC Transit’s pared down route system that went into effect at the end of March this year is just one manifestation of structural changes and deep cuts within the system. The statewide budget crisis has resulted in the loss of significant funding, mainly from State Transit Assistance (STA) grants. AC Transit’s baseline budget for FY 08/09 clocked in at $327 million and was on course to increase; Due to restructuring the FY 09/10 budget will be stripped back to $313.9 million and FY 10/11 is budgeted for $308.9 million.

In any very large organization there must be fat to be cut, and efficiency gains to be had. But why the withdrawal of millions of dollars of funding for public transit at a time when many are forced to scale back economically and possibly even give up their cars? AC Transit- and public transportation in the Bay Area in general- are not alone; major spending cuts for transit can be seen all across the country.

While giving up a car may be great for the planet, it can be a major liability for folks trying to stay mobile in areas of poor transit connectivity. Further, with extended wait times, curtailed hours and pared down routes, public transit may not win many converts-even among those who would like an alternative to driving. It was reported in the San Jose Mercury News that Bay Area public transit lost an estimated seven percent of its ridership within the past year, and the nation is not far behind with a six percent overall drop in public transit usage. This is the classic chicken and egg scenario: if ridership is down as the economy stagnates, funding will be down; If funding is down, service will be down; If service is down, ridership will be down, and so on. How we will restructure this ailing system remains to be seen.