BART on track to modernize Downtown Berkeley station

Sam Engel/Staff

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At an open house in the station Wednesday and Thursday, BART staff and project consultants gathered input from riders about modernizing the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

Comments will also be accepted through an online survey in which participants score the importance of station environment, access and amenity changes. The survey, which has so far garnered roughly 450 responses, is available through Oct. 15 and will inform the Downtown Berkeley station modernization conceptual design plan, which wraps up late 2015 or early 2016 before the project moves into design phase.

BART will work with the Alameda County Transportation Commission to implement the plan’s estimated $10 million improvements, in part, with Measure BB funding. BART has the discretion to prioritize its allotted state Proposition 1B funds on this or other projects.

Similar to other original stations, Downtown Berkeley has received only minor renovations since its construction in 1970. The current effort in Berkeley is part of a larger BART station modernization process that incorporates changes to the concourse, platform and station.

Hannah Lindelof, a BART senior planner, said they are looking for ideas and inspiration to improve the station’s sustainability, circulation of passengers and overall aesthetics.

Lindelof stated that the Berkeley station does not have the congestion of other BART stations but that they want the station to run more sustainably. This involves increasing the use of underused areas and more efficient lighting.

Berkeley resident Clarence Bennett has used the Downtown Berkeley BART station since it opened and said his chief concern was to open the restrooms.

BART closed its underground restrooms at the request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after Sept. 11, and they have remained closed since. DHS viewed public areas where people concentrate to be vulnerable to attack.

BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents District 3, where most of Berkeley’s residents live, said she thought the restrooms could be reopened and is “really pushing for Downtown Berkeley to be one of the first pilots.”

Community members voiced interest in including more amenities in the station. UC Berkeley senior Tomo Ueda said he would want more shops inside the station, such as coffee shops or boba tea shops.

Frank Bowden, who manages Scooter’s Coffee and Yogurt, one of the two operating businesses in the Downtown Berkeley station, said a potential move for BART would be to install solar power by using the rotunda.

John Allen, who has worked as a news vendor in the station for the last 13 years, pointed to a need for directional signs.

“So many people come down here (and) don’t know where the elevators are,” Allen said.

Allen said that he has written letters to BART over the course of his career but that BART has yet to act on his suggestions.

But Tim Chan, BART planning manager and former Daily Californian staff member, said that certain developments necessarily take some time but that there will be a wayfinding and signage program at the platform, concourse and street level in the future.

Contact Pamela Larson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @PamReporting.