Resuscitating the Transbay Bus Service

According to the San Francisco Examiner, a bus-only lane on the Bay Bridge would save bus users up to 6 minutes a ride. As transit advocates, BATWG would certainly support efforts to convert a peak-direction traffic lane in each direction to a bus-only lane. But anticipating objections to such a change, some uninformed officials are promoting off-peak contra-flow bus lanes on the Bridge. Under this arrangement buses would travel westbound on the eastbound lower level during morning peak hours and eastbound on the westbound upper level during afternoon peak hours.

The proposal is frankly hokey, and here are three reasons why:

First, since the hours of peak traffic tend to vary there are certain to be times when contra-flow lanes would further compound already bad traffic backups.

Second, adding and subtracting contra-flow bus lanes two or more times a day would be a source of confusion to all concerned, which could easily lead to safety problems.

(resume reading here)

Third, to provide safe access and egress to and from Yerba Buena Island, and safe bus access to and from the Salesforce Transit Center it would be necessary to construct at least five elaborate and therefore expensive new grade-separation structures….structures that would be required regardless of how the contra-flow lanes were arranged on the Bridge.

High cost, high-risk contra-flow lanes to save 6 minutes just isn’t worth it. Luckily there are much better and more practical ways of improving transbay bus service.

But first one must ask: “why is AC Transit’s transbay ridership so dismally low, especially during off-peak hours? This problem has much more to do with what happens on the way to the bridge than on the Bridge.

Here are three steps that could be taken that would be much more effective than contra-flow lanes on the Bridge:

  • Lengthen the hours that buses and HOV’s (or just buses) could bypass the westbound metering light backup. This could be done quickly and at minimal cost.
  • Extend the bus bypass lanes further into the East Bay: As was recommended in the “Core Capacity Study”.  Extending the bus bypass lanes farther east would significantly speed up and improve bus travel. Ideally buses would begin operating in their own lanes….perhaps shared with car and van-pools….before the traffic approaching the Bridge began to back up.
  • Upgrading the rest of the transbay bus service in the East Bay: Much more can and should be done to render all bus service throughout the East Bay as comfortable, reliable and expeditious as possible. As BATWG has said on many previous occasions there are a variety of ways of accomplishing this. Click here to see BATWG’s Proposals.

Despite the rosy predictions, getting a second transbay rail service up and running between Oakland and San Francisco is still many decades away. With BART and the Bay Bridge both already running out of carrying-capacity something must be done in the meantime. The best outcome for all transbay and other travelers would be to eliminate the impediments throughout the East Bay to fast, convenient and reliable bus service.


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