Some encouraging news from late last month if you hadn't heard:
"On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council approved a consultant contract for a study into the viability of an extended “Free B” Shuttle route and electric streetcar system. The goal is to facilitate connections between transit hubs and commercial centers along Broadway, from the Jack London District’s Amtrak station to MacArthur BART, said Zach Seal, economic development specialist for the city.“
Until 1958, Oakland had a system of streetcars that shuttled passengers from across the city to its Western edge, where they could catch ferries or commuter rail to San Francisco. Half a century later, streetcars may be coming back to Oakland.
Daydreaming while waiting for further developments: Here's how a future streetcar network could connect Oakland. bit.ly/16ezM3H
The brown line is the one under active consideration by City Hall. Future phases would follow in ROYGBIV sequence. Red & Orange are routes being discussed in the EBOTS planning process (with a few alignment liberties of my own near and in Emeryville). Yellow would complete the open loop, but could be skipped if Berkeley balked. Green would provide connectivity between Brooklyn Basin & Grand. Blue would provide a central loop of vibrant corridors. Indigo would connect the loop to the initial lines. Violet would extend transit reach into the auto-heavy hills.
Mayor Libby has been making very encouraging noises so far on transpo and urban fabric; perhaps this will translate to strong streetcar backing by the city.
"On the proposals for streetcars on Broadway and San Pablo Avenue, and the contrast with bus rapid transit improvements, she said “that’s going to be a big hot debate — one (bus transit) is more of a transportation solution, and the other is more of an economic development solution.”
"The streetcar proposal will be presented to the Oakland City Council early next year for a final determination. If approved, Seal said it would take about five years to secure private and public funding for the project. The construction period would take about two years."
It was clear to me in the meeting that this project would be more about neighborhood/economic development along Broadway, and less about people-moving. Which means they're set on this specific route, and probably not open to suggestions of alternative routes which may provide connectivity for higher numbers of people.
And maybe that's not a bad thing; if this is successful in spurring the intended improvements, future expansions could theoretically capture underserved neighborhoods. If this were to grow into a larger network, Broadway *is* a sensible starting point.
There was recently an open house meeting about the future of Broadway Transit, envisioned as an expansion on the Broadway B shuttle. The issue was largely presented as a choice between enhanced bus vs. streetcar.
The anticipated route is from Jack London to 40th, then west to Macarthur BART, which could in theory connect to a different system under a parallel planning process.
Encouraging to hear that planners were well aware of Emeryville/Berkeley/Oakland's joint effort to plan for a transit system.
There's supposed to be a community meeting with updates on this project in the next month or two. It's been delayed several times, and is now scheduled for April, according to Zach Seal, Oakland's Broadway Shuttle Project Manager/Business Attraction Specialist.
I am a big fan of this idea in general, but the specific route has been nagging at me. Why would we spend this money to replicate the connection that BART already provides? The idea of connecting nodes of commerce, culture, and services is great - but could we possibly do so while also expanding transit connectivity to areas that don't have it?
What about a loop instead that connects Grand Lake Theatre, Merritt Bakery, Laney College, Jack London Sq & Uptown? The route would follow Lakeshore, 2nd Ave, 10th St, Oak, 2nd St, Broadway, Telegraph, 27th St, and Grand.
At 5.3 miles, this would double the route proposed above, but about triple the number of potential riders within 1/4 mile. This would connect the entire Eastlake area to the BART system, while still connecting many of the nodes mentioned above. This alignment would offer many directions for expansion: on West Grand to San Pablo & 40th, up Broadway, up Telegraph, up Grand to connect to Broadway & Telegraph, up College, up Park...
Maybe this isn't the right route - but I hate running an additional line above the existing BART line.
Vis-a-vis the permanence effect of rails: Aren't some of the most vibrant parts of the East Bay the result of siting along former Key System routes? I don't think you can say there's not a significant benefit to siting near rails.
There's a real psychological difference: 1) For the business owner taking a risk on a location, and 2) for the rider who knows *exactly* where that vehicle is going (guaranteed no recent route changes!).
Still, I'm open to the BRT winning me over when it launches...
What an amazing addition this would make. Certain already-bustling pedestrian-oriented districts are so filled with walkers that autos are constantly backed up: Piedmont/College/Grand/18th for example. It's clear that more people want to be on these streets than auto traffic will allow. By linking these destination parts of town via vibrant corridors like Telegraph/Broadway, people will be able to access them without need for cars.
The routes can't just be for destination shopping, though. If they're going to succeed they need to be designed around a complete lifestyle, connecting grocery stores, hospitals, transit hubs, parks, job centers, museums/theaters, bars, residential density. Ideally, they'd also connect the best parts of Oakland, making them a must-do destination in themselves for visitors.
The best streetcar system I've seen (Portland) also provides connectivity superior to that of the street grid, using cut-throughs where possible (eg, cuts across Portland State).