Partially in response to numerous comments on the original post (and perhaps my own post on the topic), a few days ago V Smoothe reiterated that AC Transit's BRT proposal does not mimic the BART Richmond-Fremont line. The most compelling argument being that while the proposed BRT route mirrors the BART line, the service does not. It is an important distinction, and also correct as far as it goes. The problem is, it doesn't go very far.
In that post, V Smoothe laid out arguments for why the first BRT line should go in the BART Richmond-Fremont corridor, mostly having to do with the huge percentage of Oaklanders who live within a half mile of the corridor and the fact that existing bus routes through the corridor make up a large percentage (though smaller, hmm...?) of AC Transit ridership. Additionally, V Smoothe points out that the East Bay's largest employment centers also lie in this corridor. All of which are great arguments for locating the first BRT route as AC Transit has, if the BART Richmond-Fremont line did not exist.
V Smoothe uses an example to make the point, but one I think equally illustrates the potential of less costly means for achieving similar service. The example is one of traveling from downtown Oakland to 46th and Foothill on a weekday afternoon. On BART, the trip to Fruitvale takes 7 minutes. From Fruitvale station there are 3 existing bus routes (1, 14, 47) within 2 blocks of 46th and Foothill. Currently on a weekday afternoon, routes 1 & 14 have 15 minute headways and route 47 has a 30 minute headway. Given that, you'd expect to wait about 10 minutes for a bus at Fruitvale station, and the trip itself would likely take no more than 10 minutes. Which makes me wonder why V Smoothe would not take BART on this trip.
Looking more closley, the AC Transit online schedule tells us both routes 14 & 47 leave Fruitvale station (their origin) at 3:06, the exact time a BART train arrives from downtown Oakland. Perhaps someone interested in defending the decision making of AC Transit can explain why they don't leave at 3:10, as the BART headways for the line at this time are exactly 15 minutes as well. To me, this is inexplicable. The closest timepoint for AC Transit's 1 route puts it at 23rd and International (umm...why isn't the timepoint at 34th and International, essentially Fruitvale station?) at 3:02, which would put it at Frutivale station about 3:06 as well. And so now we understand why V Smoothe did not take BART for this trip. It is because AC Transit does not even bother to coordinate their schedules with BART.
And yet we are supposed to trust an organization that exhibits this kind of decision making (elaborated on in my previous post) with a capital-intensive improvement program that will reshape numerous neighborhoods along its route. Frankly, it hard for me to understand where the support for this BRT proposal is coming from, as AC Transit has been making such poor decisions of late.
Imagine if we could convince people in Washington D.C. (from where the BRT money is coming) that we know better how to spend this money. And so instead of spending it on the massive capital improvements this BRT proposal requires, we added buses, increased and expanded service feeding BART stations, and better coordinated transfers between AC Transit and BART. My guess is we could easily achieve the same level of service in the corridor, if not improve it with more and better routes perpendicular to it, and have enough money left over to better serve other routes and areas as well.
V Smoothe makes another point in support of this BRT proposal, mentioned briefly above, which I think can also be used to argue against it, the fact that this corridor contains the East Bay's largest employment centers. All are well served by BART stations. Which suggests the alternate proposal outlined above could work, because as V Smoothe rightly points out, most riders on the proposed BRT are going to/from work. And so these riders would only be required to make one transfer (at most), from a bus route near their home to/from a BART station. Now obviously it is better to have no transfers, but devising such a system is prohibitively costly. And it is the difference between one transfer and two where a transport system really begins to exhibit gross inefficiencies.
The example provided here is one of someone who now drives to MacArthur station to take BART to downtown Oakland, but might switch to BRT. But this hypothetical person only switches to BRT if they live along the BRT route and near another proposed BRT station. If instead s/he lives at 46th and Adeline, the proposed BRT doesn't much help. What would help is a feeder service that ran down Market and fed into MacArthur station or more frequent service down San Pablo on route 72 (which goes directly downtown Oakland), both of which would likely be possible if we didn't spend all this money on the capital improvements required by BRT. This is what I mean when I discuss the opportunity costs of BRT.
At the end of the day, I agree with supporters of BRT that transit service in this corridor should be vastly improved. In fact I believe transport funding in our country should be massively shifted in favor of transit (and the repair of existing streets and sidewalks) and away from the expansion and creation of new roads, where much of our spending now goes. What I disagree with is the most effective way to improve service in this corridor. Or rather, I am unsure what the most effective way of doing this is. And it is the responsibility of its supporters to explain why they think BRT is the most effective way of improving service in this corridor. As yet, I haven't seen that argument; I am still waiting.