Berkeley residents oppose AC Transit bus route expansion

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Karen Chow/Staff

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Community members discussed the proposed expansion of an AC Transit bus route at a neighborhood meeting in North Berkeley on Sunday night.

The AC Transit Route 67 bus runs north toward Tilden Park from Downtown Berkeley. The proposed expansion would adjust the route to serve Euclid Avenue between Hearst Avenue and Eunice Street, overlapping with Route 65 to relieve overcrowding.

AC Transit proposed the route change in response to complaints from Berkeley High School students, residents and bus drivers that the Route 65 bus had to pass by riders due to overcrowding, according to AC Transit’s Director of Marketing and Communications Michele Joseph.

The proposal is part of AC Transit’s Service Expansion Plan, which began in 2014 and was designed to increase the accuracy of the schedules and the frequency at which buses arrive, as well as provide more connections to popular destinations.

Jean-Pierre Protzen and Elsbeth Protzen, Eunice Street residents for 47 years, hosted the meeting in their home. Approximately 19 people attended the meeting, including Councilmember Susan Wengraf and two UC Berkeley graduate students.

Residents at the meeting voiced concerns over the expansion of the bus line, including safety, pollution and noise. Many suggested increasing the frequency of the buses instead of rerouting. In addition, some meeting attendees suggested aligning bus schedules with Berkeley High School bell schedules.

Joseph said due to the proposed overlap of Route 65 and Route 67, buses from each line will go through the overlapping area every 30 minutes, resulting in an overall 15 minute frequency. The proposal would run a bus on Eunice every 30 minutes.

AC Transit is working toward adjusting services to more efficiently serve Berkeley High School, while also considering the schedules for BART service and for buses that serve other routes, according to Joseph.

During the meeting, residents expressed concern over the possible safety hazards and inconveniences of a bus on their streets. Several of the residents pointed out that their homes were built in the early 1900s and do not have driveways or functional garages, requiring them to park on the street.

“I have a garage that was built in 1907 that can fit a Model-T Ford. It does not fit my car,” said Kerstin Fischer, a Spruce Street resident, at the meeting. “When they put a bus stop … I’m going to lose all parking. I only need a couple of spots … I want them — is that selfish?”

Some residents said that the bus route on their streets could be dangerous with buses possibly making sharp turns on street corners and passing by cars parked on what they believe is too narrow of a street.

Meeting attendees were also concerned about a possible increase in noise and pollution.

“I’m going to have the noise of the bus stop and the doors opening and the beep, beep, beep and the audio component of the bus talking about the bus stop – in my dining room,” Fischer said. “I’m pissed about it.”

Joseph hopes that concerned community members will consider the greater good of the proposal.

“While some people may have some doubts, this is a very positive change,” Joseph said. “We have a wonderful opportunity here to expand access, get cars off the road and improve the environment.”

Residents Sarah Galender Meyer and Jenny Wenk will write a petition to AC Transit to submit before the Service Expansion Plan public hearings Nov. 11 in Oakland. The AC Transit Board of Directors is expected to make a decision on the plan Dec. 9.

Contact Amelia Mineiro at [email protected].