Oakland/San Francisco Bus Service; Looking at the Entire Problem

AB455 seeks to improve bus connections across the Bay Bridge between the East Bay and the Salesforce Transit Center.

BATWG has followed AB455 ever since the bill came to our attention last January and on June 21, 2022 sent Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks and Senator Scott Wiener a letter on the subject. From the outset we have been supportive of its general objective but felt and still feel that the entire East Bay bus service needs work, not just the Bridge. Here are highlights:

Read more here:

  1. AB 455’s focus on “the number of people rather than vehicles crossing the bridge….” is on target. Getting commuters and others rapidly and reliably into San Francisco by express or limited bus service from all parts of the East Bay would, for starters, be much easier and faster than building another rail tunnel under the Bay which, given the long term effects of COVID, might or might not even be necessary.
  2. AB455 should be focused on implementation rather than on duplicating past and other ongoing research projects.  Needed, preferably by June 20, 2023, are an independent alternative analysis and detailed implementation schedule showing realistic start-construction and project completion dates.
  3. If the westbound bus flow problem can be solved by metering light adjustments, a upgraded westbound arrangement should be up and running no later than June 30, 2023.
  4. Eastbound bus flow is reportedly hampered by a bottleneck at the point where the buses from the Salesforce Transit Center enter the Bridge traffic lanes. It appears that this could be eliminated without too much difficulty, in part by adding on-ramp automobile metering lights as required. If so the eastbound correction should be completed by June 30, 2024.
  5. If it were deemed necessary to set aside peak direction bridge lanes for buses they should be enforced express lanes to prevent interlopers from illegally using difficult-to-enforce HOV lanes.
  6. Altering only the bridge itself and the two to three mile approach lanes leading to the toll plaza would do little to materially improve transbay bus ridership. AB455 should therefore emphasize the need for early-action improvements to all parts of the Eastbay bus lines leading to the Bay Bridge. This means gradually activating “transit-first” measures wherever and whenever needed.
  7. Getting the necessarily changes underway in a timely manner would require aggressive and coordinated action on the part of MTC, BATA, Caltrans, AC Transit and the affected local jurisdictions. This reality should be clearly stated in AB455.
  8. Pre COVID, twenty-seven separate AC Transit bus lines, some operating only during peak periods accessed the SF Salesforce Transit Center.  According to AC Transit, pre-COVID its transbay service was attracting only an absurdly low 18,000 riders a day. (Today’s transbay bus ridership is only 1/3rd that many).  With the right set of  changes  AC Transit could be carrying 60,000 and 100,000 riders across the Bay Bridge every day.
  9. Studies and reports written and duly submitted tend to be regarded as major accomplishments. They’re not. The hardest part is making the needed changes on the ground in a timely manner. The Bay Area has been prolific in its production of studies, but weak and tortuously slow on follow through. By defining the objectives correctly based upon the work already accomplished, AB455 could help change that. Fulfilling AB455’s worthy goal of increasing Bridge peak period people flow instead of peak automotive flow would require both commitment and persistence.

    BATWG supports AB455, with the proviso that the scope of the study be expanded or that a follow-up bill helps the Region pick up the pace of today’s glacially slow implementation process.

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