Candidates run for AC Transit, BART boards of directors

Michelle Kim/File
Michelle Kim/File

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This election season, in addition to voting on mayoral and City Council positions, Berkeley residents have the opportunity to vote on candidates running for seats on the governing boards of BART and AC Transit.

BART and AC Transit are two of the few transit systems in the nation that have board members elected by constituencies rather than appointed by officials. The BART board consists of nine district representatives, while the AC Transit board consists of five board members representing specific wards along with two members at large.

Candidates for BART 

Four candidates are running for BART’s District 3 director, including the incumbent, Rebecca Saltzman, along with Ken Chew, Varun Paul and Worth Freeman.

Saltzman has been on the board for four years and plans to build on her previous work and reinvest in infrastructure — which she said in some areas is 44 years old — as well as promote equity of BART access.

During her term, Saltzman also restarted a committee between BART and AC Transit, which has done work to improve collaboration between the agencies and started a pilot project to increase the discount given to users of both.

Chew has served on City Council in Moraga, California. As a seasoned transportation engineer, he hopes to improve BART through strategic investment within budgetary constraints as well as make services more equitable. In light of past union strikes from BART workers, Chew said he would try to ensure BART collaborates with government and labor unions.

Additionally, Chew said he wants to improve BART riders’ customer experience by addressing issues such as customer service and station accessibility for those with disabilities.

Paul also wants to bring financial discipline and efficiency to BART. He emphasized the need to change the culture within the organization in the interest of greater transparency to the public on large projects.

“(There is) no reason why only Fortune 500 companies should benefit from this kind of thinking,” said Paul, who founded Analytix Consulting.

Freeman could not be reached for comment by press time. A web programmer, he hopes to bring innovation and transparency to BART if elected, according to his website.

Candidates for AC Transit

AC Transit representation in Berkeley falls under Wards 1 and 2, but residents may also vote in the election for the director at large.

In Ward 1, current Director Joe Wallace is running for reelection unopposed. In his 16 years of service, he created the first “welfare-to-work” bus line in the U.S. He said he plans on reopening some service to Richmond and increasing service reliability.

Ward 2 incumbent Greg Harper, who has been been a director for 16 years, is running for reelection on a platform of improving transbay service to San Francisco as well as AC Transit’s efficiency and environmental impact.

Harper also wants to address difficulties with recruiting new drivers by relying more on part-time drivers and changing their contracts so they receive better pay.

His opponent Russ Tilleman, a local resident and green transportation designer who has closely followed previous AC Transit projects, said he wants to ensure buses run on time.

“If you ride the 6 or the 51B (bus) or if you just watch them drive by, you often see them in pairs,” Tilleman said. “It disrupts service and is very wasteful of energy, money and all those things.”

Tilleman hopes to implement headway-based scheduling to fix this problem, which schedules the buses by time between them.

Candidates for director at large are incumbent H.E. Christian Peeples, who also currently serves as president of the board of directors, and former bus driver Dollene Jones.

Peeples has served on the board for 18 years and wants to focus on fundraising to maintain current service levels. He also supports clean transportation efforts and consistent communication with city officials.

Jones, on the other hand, wants to overcome AC Transit’s financial challenges by looking into the discrepancies between money received and spent and also focus on restoring services to areas that had previously been cut.

Recalling her experience as a driver on the Bay Bridge during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Jones advocated in favor of a better radio communication system for drivers, which she said is currently insufficient.

The elections will take place Nov. 8.

Alex Fang covers city government. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @alexfang_DC.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ken Chew is a transportation energy engineer. In fact, he is a transportation engineer.