AC Transit presents modifications to 51 bus line route proposal

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To address the concerns of Berkeley residents regarding proposed changes to the 51 bus line, AC Transit presented a revised plan during the city’s Transportation Commission meeting Nov. 21.

The improvements to the route include relocating certain bus stops and installing stop signs to make the buses along the 51A and 51B lines more time-efficient and to reduce traffic congestion, according to AC Transit’s project report. The 51 bus lines are the two most used bus routes in the East Bay and serve an estimated 19,000 passengers, which often creates overcrowding and tardiness, according to AC Transit data.

AC Transit spokesperson Clarence Johnson said in an email that the plan will reduce travel time along the routes by at least 15 percent.

During the meeting, some residents asserted that the proposed plan’s unclear signage and decreased parking availability during certain times will negatively impact bicyclists and businesses, respectively.

Michael Katz, who submitted a letter to the Transportation Commission, said he worries AC Transit’s plan to extend sidewalk curbs at certain locations would create a “hazard and obstruction” for cyclists like himself.

Maulin Chokshi, president of University Avenue Association, is concerned that the restriction of parking during the peak hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. would decrease the number of customers and adversely affect businesses and residents along University Avenue and in the city of Berkeley.

In a petition presented to the city’s Transportation Division and AC Transit about their Oct. 17 meeting, more than 300 local merchants and customers supported eliminating this “peak hour” restriction, Chokshi said.

“Parking needs have to be taken care of,” Chokshi said. “Where are handicapped or people with special needs going to park?”

In response to these concerns, AC Transit is continuing to revise the 51 bus route and will present the newest draft at a Transportation Commission meeting in January, Johnson said. AC Transit also plans to add parking spots to compensate for the removal of other spaces.

UC Berkeley senior Roxann Reyes said she expects the changes will make the route more reliable and alleviate traffic.

“I am all in favor of (the changes),” said Reyes, who has relied on the 51B for the past four years. “They are always off by five or 10 minutes, which is a big deal when you have to walk to the bus stop.”

An update on the AC Transit project distributed by City Manager Christine Daniel stated that there is a second phase of changes to come, which consists of more controversial tasks such as eliminating and adding bus stops and may be presented to Berkeley City Council for approval in January.

AC Transit aims to have the project completed by fall 2014, Johnson said.

Contact Michelaina Johnson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MichelainaJohns.