Bus-Only Lane Coming to Berkeley after East Bay Advocates Urge Quick-Build Action

Red Bus Lane on Broadway in Oakland

Oakland’s new bus lanes (above) will soon be joined by bus-only lanes on Durant Avenue in Berkeley (photo from
Streetsblog).

AC Transit, in partnership with the Cities of Berkeley and Oakland, will soon implement quick-build “tactical transit” bus lanes on Durant Avenue in Berkeley and boarding islands on MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland. In May, the Board voted unanimously to request and authorize funds, and implement the quick-build transit lanes, which will help bus lines such as the 51B (and which other lines).

The project is part of a wave of pandemic-prompted quick-build transit lanes called for by advocates and transit agencies across the region. While Alameda County continues with quick-build projects and other longer term corridor studies, VTA in Santa Clara County and the City of San Jose are also moving forward with their short term and longer term bus speedup projects. If you would like to get involved with advocacy for these projects, sign this petition. See this blog post for more information.

According to the May 12th agenda item staff report, AC Transit staff report, the Durant and MacArthur quick-build projects are “part of an AC Transit-wide effort to reduce travel time and increase schedule reliability to complement the numerous corridor improvement projects being undertaken as part of the Major Corridors Study (2016) and the Quick-build Framework (2020).”

The aforementioned Quick-build framework was adopted by the AC Transit Board in September in order to protect buses from once again being stuck in rebounding traffic. With traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels in much of the bay area, this certainly was a timely project. The cost of the quick-builds is estimated to be $1.7 million.

The bus-only lanes come at a time when AC Transit is struggling with restoring service due to covid-related funding constraints. Bus lanes are a low-cost solution for agencies like AC Transit to run speedier, more reliable, and quantitatively more bus service given constrained resources. Rapidly implementing these lanes will allow the transit agency’s operators to complete runs more quickly and start on the next route sooner, meaning more service can be scheduled with the same number of buses and operators.

Besides quick-build bus lanes, other major bus-only lane projects have been completed during the pandemic. Last year, Oakland implemented bus lanes on Broadway. Broadway sees the most buses on a single street in the entire city, and the bus routes passing through Broadway connect to all parts of the city and regional destinations.

According to an Oakland city release, the lanes were added between 11th and 20th street in downtown Oakland and would result in up to 30% travel time savings and 20% travel time reliability improvements for bus transit.

According to a Streetsblog Post, the lanes were implemented last year, along with better bus shelter improvements as part of the AC Transit Tempo BRT project.

The Tempo project is the first large-scale BRT project in the East Bay, and connects multiple communities between downtown Oakland and San Leandro BART on a 9.5 mile corridor with BRT amenities such as high frequency headways (every minutes at least), bus-only lanes, center-boarding bus-level platforms.

AC Transit is moving forward with other project studies with the Alameda County Transportation Commission, including studying bus rapid transit implementation of bus-only lanes and/or protected bike lanes along San Pablo Avenue, as well as bus-only lanes on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Transit advocates are pushing for some improvements on these corridors, such as bus boarding islands on Telegraph Avenue, and queue jumps at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph.