Berkeley City Council is set to vote on plans to radically transform part of Telegraph Avenue in an effort to improve transit conditions.
The conceptual design for the transformation, named the Southside Complete Streets project, is set to be finalized Feb. 22 when the city decides which specific plan to follow, according to City Councilmember Rigel Robinson. The project will include developments on Telegraph Avenue, Bancroft Way and Fulton and Dana streets, according to a city presentation on the project.
At an open house meeting Jan. 27, city leaders showcased a variety of alternative designs for the project, recommending a plan dubbed “Option 4” be implemented on a stretch of Telegraph Avenue from the intersection of Dwight to Bancroft ways. The Option 4 design plan for Telegraph Avenue includes leveling the road and sidewalk with one another, dedicating one out of two lanes to buses and adding pedestrian-scale lighting and loading zones for businesses, according to the presentation.
“This project is an opportunity for the city of Berkeley to learn from the mistakes of the past by improving bus service on this critical corridor,” Robinson said. “This is how we better connect the region for students commuting along Telegraph Avenue and for workers who depend on public transit to get to their jobs across city lines. ”
Robinson says the project is part of an effort to prioritize people over cars on Telegraph Avenue. Telegraph for People, a student-based advocacy group for a car-free Telegraph, agrees with Robinson’s efforts and even advocates to take these plans a step further.
Telegraph for People co-founder and UC Berkeley senior Sam Greenberg believes Telegraph Avenue should go completely car-free. He cites college towns across the country such as Boulder, Colorado and Burlington, Vermont as places where streets have gone completely pedestrian-only as models for what he believes Telegraph Avenue should become.
“The main goal beyond having a pedestrian space and getting transit riders through quicker is to massively improve the public realm of Telegraph to become a space where any member of the public can interact on a transaction-free basis,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg cites the chess tables on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street as an example of the public space that the rest of Telegraph could be.
According to Robinson, Telegraph for People submitted its plans for a car-free Telegraph to the city, and in turn, Robinson expressed his support for the idea in the future after the current plan is put into place.
“It’s been absolutely remarkable,” Robinson said. “There are decals on the streets of Southside; posters on windows and small businesses; flyers in the mail of residents; and I have been absolutely blown away by the level of support from the community for these changes.”