I presented this in front of the Port Authority Board of Directors at their 31 March 2017 meeting.
I am glad to see that PAAC, the City, and others have finally published a formal
proposal for some sort of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. That BRT is on the table
at all is because the PAAC Board killed the last light rail extension to Oakland
proposal in 1996, and that itself was over a decade since the previous failed
attempt to build it. Half a human lifetime is a long time to wait for a transit improvement.
Unfortunately I hold little hope for the plan as written. There is so much
infrastructure to construct, and so many political and engineering hoops to jump
through, it may well be another decade before a single rider can board. We can do
better and we can do it soon.
In short, instead of dithering over lane configurations, propulsion modes, station
designs, forced transfers, and a thousand other details, you could have a
functioning plan in place in a matter of months. Implement at least part of the
Connect '09 plan to run "R" routes in conjunction with the existing 61- and 71-series
routes. Use existing equipment, routing, and stops. Do not eliminate any existing
routes, though modifying headways would be necessary.
For example, for the 71A, which runs 15-minute service much of the day, run the
R-equivalent trip alternating with the regular 71A trip. The routing would be
identical for both, but inbound after Centre and Negley, the R would stop limited
times until the edge of downtown -- Aiken, Craig, Bellefield, Atwood, Robinson,
Kirkpatrick, and Stevenson, then every stop after Diamond Street. Outbound, after
turning onto Forbes, stop only at Stevenson, Kirkpatrick, Robinson, Atwood,
Bellefield, Craig/Centre, and Aiken, before resuming local service at Negley.
Timing, run a regular 71A at :00 and :30, run an R at :15 and :45.
Everyone will still have a one-seat ride to downtown. Everyone who still needs the
every-stop service will still have it. The riding public gets the rapid service
they've waited decades for, and they have it within a year. While I'm sure there
will be a learning curve, it should be minimal. Just like the fine folks of
Bridgeville and McCandless can distinguish between 31/G31 and 12/O12, respectively,
I'm sure the residents along the chosen R corridors will learn quickly enough.
Meanwhile, plans can still continue for installing traffic signal hold-green
technology, modifying travel lanes, constructing pre-pay stations, special rolling
stock, etc. None of that is on the critical path to a fast bus, and none of what I am proposing needs the approval of anyone outside this room.
Implement this for one 61 and one 71 route in 2017, and commit to running them for
one full year. I think you'll find it will work well, and if it doesn't, you can
call it quits without having built or rearranged a thing.