This post will lay out a guide for future bus rapid transit expansion in the East Bay; it is the companion to a San Francisco BRT post from a couple months ago. The map at right (click through for a full-sized map, hosted on Flickr) is a visual depiction of what a future rapid bus network might look like. Just for reference, rail corridors are marked in red. As on the San Francisco map, the BRT corridors here are categorized into yellow and green. Yellow represents the most important corridors, streets that should receive full BRT treatment, including dedicated right of way, signal preemption, station platforms, ticket machines, and NextBus screens. Green represents secondary corridors that are lower priority than yellow corridors, and would receive a subset of full BRT treatment. The green label is slightly misleading in that not all green corridors are equivalent. There are several reasons why a corridor may have been labeled green — in most cases because the street is too narrow to create bus-only lanes, ridership is not terribly high, or serious enhancement is unnecessary. College Avenue, for example, currently served by the 51 bus, is marked in green, while Broadway, also served by the 51, is marked in yellow. Despite the narrow street width, service on College could be improved by removing a few lightly used stops and giving buses priority at traffic signals. Other enhanced green-colored corridors include crosstown lines on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley and Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland; Solano Avenue in Berkeley and Albany; Shattuck Avenue between Telegraph and Adeline; and routes that connect Emeryville to MacArthur BART station, West Oakland, and downtown Oakland. Enhancements have been added along the Alameda portion of the 51, and this route has been extended slightly to terminate at Fruitvale BART. Additional service could operate only within Alameda, connecting to ferries and development at Alameda Point.
The bona fide BRT corridors, marked in yellow, are AC Transit’s highest ridership trunk routes; some of these would also be natural candidates for future upgrade to light rail. They are placed on Broadway, Telegraph Avenue, San Pablo Avenue, East 14th/International, University Avenue (extending all the way to the Marina to meet ferries), and the downtown Berkeley/Gourmet Ghetto section of Shattuck Avenue. The improvements for Telegraph and East 14th marked on the map represent the BRT project that is currently underway, and the rest of the network is projected around this initial line.
The Grand/MacArthur corridor seems like another candidate for full BRT treatment. Unfortunately, mere wisps of one-way streets on either side of Interstate 580 make it difficult to introduce bona fide BRT on the whole corridor, though it is easier to do so west of Piedmont Avenue and east of Fruitvale Avenue. In any case, I marked MacArthur — and its extension past Eastmont along 73rd Avenue to Oakland International Airport, per the 805 line — in green rather than yellow, but the more spacious sections of the street offer the opportunity to build a fuller complement of BRT-like features, including transit-only lanes.
Another question is what sort of enhancement should be added to downtown Oakland. Here is a portion of the above map, zoomed in on downtown:
Downtown Oakland is served by a lot of buses, but those buses basically just pass through, with many lines using a Z-shaped route traced out by 20th Street, Broadway, and 11th/12th Streets. As a result, these buses are an excellent way to travel between downtown and an outside neighborhood, but they do not provide a convenient way to move within the downtown area itself. Currently, if one wants to go, for example, from the Gold Coast neighborhood to Old Oakland without driving, the best option is pretty much just to walk, even though the trip is over a mile long. There ought to be a better option, especially as downtown fills up with new residents. AC Transit is aware of the issue; most recently, in the 2007 performance report (PDF found here), right after a brief mention of Small Starts funding for MacArthur BRT, there is a note:
Downtown Oakland Plan – Staff has incrementally clustered service on the 11th/12th and 20th Street corridors, and plans to work toward an overall formal transit priority streets plan that would increase service, access and reliability throughout the downtown area.
A long-term goal, and still quite general, but it’s a start. Steve from SF Cityscape has drawn up a very nice prototype of a downtown loop with a clean, intuitive route. In the above map, I drew in a different line that would serve a similar purpose — the route is less intuitive, but it circles around service-laden Broadway instead of running directly on it. This downtown service could connect to the enhanced bus corridor on Grand Avenue, as well as to the 19th Street and Lake Merritt BART stations; it would skirt the west side of City Center. New service has also been added to serve an eventual development at Oak to Ninth. Depending on demand, Oak to Ninth service could consist of fairly minimal connections to major transfer points (e.g. Amtrak and 12th Street BART), or it could be a component of a larger route connecting the Jack London Square, Eastlake, and Grand Lake neighborhoods.