What’s worse than driving in Berkeley? Parking in Berkeley.
Berkeley City Council has put forth a plan that would turn Durant Avenue and Bancroft Way into two-way streets. My first thought: THANK THE LORD. The fewer one-way streets, the better.
My second thought: I don’t even own a car. What the hell am I talking about? As one clever friend noted, one-way streets are easier on us lazy pedestrians, who only have to bother turning our necks one direction before crossing.
The logic behind this proposal is that two-way streets allow for better traffic; bus routes running up Bancroft would also increase access to campus. I would regale you with fancy numbers telling you the pros and cons of such a conversion, but traffic analysis has yet to be done on the two streets.
Berkeley Design Advocates, the design group that put forth the recommendation, says that this transformation would also be better for business. Yes, because being able to drive up Bancroft is really going to incentivize me to go to Urban Outfitters.
There are those, however, who aren’t happy with money going toward redirecting traffic flow. Councilmember Kriss Worthington strongly advocates his Telegraph ACTION plan, which was approved at last Tuesday’s meeting. It would improve lighting, visibility of parking, yada yada, to boost the Telegraph Avenue area. Side note: At the meeting on Tuesday, Worthington said the ASUC would be in charge of doing the lighting survey — that way, the city doesn’t have to pay for it. Good going, City Council. Passing off costs where you can.
Speaking of costs, Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, has said that he would rather the city spend money creating parklets. What are parklets, you ask? They are basically small spaces on the sidewalk where you can sit and eat, preen your pet and enjoy green things. San Francisco is apparently known for parklets. I Google-Imaged “parklets” and all I came away with was, “Damn, that is such a bougie San Franciscan thing to do.” Considering how narrow Durant and Bancroft are, I wonder how they’d fit.
It’s not just sidewalks that look narrow; the streets themselves look like they would suffer heavy congestion with traffic moving in two directions. Just imagine that intersection at Bancroft and Bowditch. It’s a nightmare as it is, and with cars going four ways, it can only get worse. Jaywalking would be nigh impossible. But hey, what do I know? I’m no civil engineer.
So, to make up for my lack of scientific knowledge, I called up a few civil engineering students. Granted, these folks haven’t done measurements and tracked the traffic around these streets, but neither has the city. We’re on the same playing field when it comes to our speculation!
Civil engineers differed in opinion depending on whether or not they drove regularly in Berkeley — those who drive thought it would help with traffic but only very slightly; those who didn’t thought it wouldn’t help much at all. I mean, imagine someone trying to parallel park on the very narrow lanes of Bancroft. Think Channing Way during move-in day — but all the time. Can anyone say “bottleneck”?
The general consensus among the civ-E kids I talked to, though, seems to be that this conversion wouldn’t be worth the money. It’s a lot of buck for little bang and much hassle. Take College Avenue, for example — that’s a popular two-way street whose traffic is horrendous.
And that’s not to mention parking, the bane of all our existences (I know you took one look at my picture, and you’re thinking of making that joke. Don’t be that person. I’ll punch you through the Internet). Berkeley City Council hasn’t made parking in this city any easier. Earlier this month, it approved a 30 percent increase in annual parking permit fees to help close a $410,108 projected deficit.
I have no good suggestions for making parking less of a pain, but I will say that if we’re gonna improve something, let’s start with that. The council has yet to approve this plan for two-way streets; discussion over this issue was never reached on Tuesday night because the council took too long on other items, including whether or not the Alameda County district attorney prosecute former president George W. Bush.
So as a lazy, law-breaking pedestrian who only wants to turn my neck in one direction, I will have to selfishly stand in opposition to anything that does not greatly benefit me. That includes this proposal for two-ways. And parklets. Those are just absurd.