Measure KK

Oct. 26th, 2008 11:20 pm
darcydodo: (polar express)
[personal profile] darcydodo
[ profile] wageslave asked me a few days ago why I care so much about Measure KK, a local Berkeley measure that requires a vote before implementing the dedication of lanes on Telegraph (or elsewhere, potentially) to buses.

Since I just wrote a long e-mail to the Daily Cal about this, I figure I'll post it here, unlocked, in case anyone wants to read it.


I disagree with Rebecca Saltzman's take on Measure KK (10/24). She's swallowing the inaccuracies of the No On KK backers, who are calling KK anti-transit and anti-environment.

All that KK does is require a VOTE on any proposed lane-changes on Telegraph. It does not reject the BRT plans out-of-hand. And the reason that it got put on the ballot in the first place is because the currently proposed plans have the potential to be anti-cyclist, anti-local-business, and pro-congestion (which in turn makes THEM anti-environment).

I am a cyclist, a driver, a pedestrian, a Berkeley student, and a very occasional bus-rider. As a cyclist, I am aware of the danger buses already pose to cyclists, when there are two lanes of traffic and a lane of parking with a broad margin for a cycle lane. If the parking is removed to make way for a dedicated bus lane, the risk of getting crushed between a proverbial rock and a hard place (by which I mean a bus and the sidewalk) will increase immensely. I've lived and cycled before in a city that had no parking lane between the bus and the kerb -- believe me, the approach and passing of every bus is terrifying.

As a driver, I have seen the heavy congestion that Telegraph suffers from during rush hour. I have also participated in the crazy game to find parking in the blocks surrounding campus at most times of day. The removal of a lane of traffic would not convince drivers to take the bus instead of driving -- one drives because it is convenient, or because one needs to have one's car for some reason, *even* in the light of the difficulty of finding parking near campus. And so the congestion will increase further, while buses continue to travel along mostly empty, and that will harm the environment, as cars creep along more slowly and pollute further.

As a pedestrian, I have often found that walking to campus (I live a mile south along Telegraph) is STILL faster than waiting for a bus. And before someone says, "Aha, but the BRT will fix that!" let me point out that I know from riding the bus that the delay problems with the buses are not due to traffic. It's actually thanks to things like their unwieldiness in pulling over and the unexpected delays from having to wait for the ramp-unfolding-and-refolding when a wheelchair is boarding the bus or disembarking. Or stopping while pedestrians cross the street (which they will still have to do even with a dedicated bus-lane).

Rebecca Saltzman talks about how important buses are for students. Strange as it is to think, the students she's talking about are primarily people who live somewhere less than a mile or two within the reach of campus, for approximately two-thirds of every year. The proposed lane removal extends to as far away as San Leandro. That's showing an awfully cavalier attitude to the permanent residents of Berkeley and Oakland. And there's a reason why nearly every storefront along Telegraph sports a green sign saying "Yes on Measure KK."

And the website for No On KK says things like, "Measure KK requires that every time the Berkeley City Council wants to make a street lane change to improve transit and cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Council will have to put it on the ballot." That's pure falsehood. Measure KK specifically requires that if the Council wants to PERMANENTLY DEDICATE A CURRENTLY EXISTING LANE TO BUS-ONLY OR HOV TRAFFIC then this must be approved by a vote. It also points to added costs, "including the cost of an additional required planning study." Perhaps "planning" and "study" are the key terms there. Research and learning are what UC Berkeley is all about. Let's support the application of some of that to things outside the university.

Here is an article from the Daily Planet that well expresses some of the problems with the proposed lane-removal.

A friend [by whom I mean [ profile] wageslave, naturally] recently asked me why I care so much about Measure KK when there are more important things on the ballot to worry about, like getting Prop 8 defeated. My reply was that all of my friends and family already know that Proposition 8 (and similar things like Prop 4) is bad and wrong. If I donate money to something, or spend time phonebanking, it'll be in aid of getting Prop 8 defeated, or Obama elected. But this is an important local issue, a non-partisan issue, and it's one of those things that on the day of the election many people are only vaguely going to remember seeing YES and NO signs around Berkeley, and then they'll vote for what seems to maintain the status quo -- "if in doubt, vote no" is the received wisdom, but in this case a no vote is what will change Berkeley. A yes vote allows us to have a subsequent say in *whether* Berkeley is changed, and *how* it is changed.

Date: 2008-10-27 03:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
BRT systems have been remarkable successful in attracting ridership (in dozens of cities, even in Los Angeles, where there's certainly more attachment to driving) so it's not clear if your hypotheses depending on it being underutilized are valid. Part of the plans have included platforms in the street (I'm not up-to-the-minute), which among other things would drastically speed wheelchair/elderly boarding (they'd be at door level). Even without them, and even without the dedicated lane, the 1R really slashes the time it takes to go up Telegraph/International. (Of course,
if your walk is 10 minutes, then no bus is going to be useful to you. But it's certainly the most efficient way for you to get to Downtown Oakland.)

With regard to bike safety, I don't understand your arguments: first, having fewer vehicles riding next to you (if you had a dedicated bus lane), and if the system succeeds, fewer vehicles total. Second, I find the row of parked cars with their visible-only-too-late occupants dooring folks left and right (well, just right) much much much more dangerous than buses. I also don't see how having a sidewalk to one's left is any less safe than having a row of cars, even if they were to keep their doors closed. I suppose an empty parking lane is a nice buffer when someone draws near, but it can't be relied upon, and when the lanes are not empty but just sparsely filled, it's certainly not safe to be darting in and out of the parking lane in heavy traffic (and I rarely do; merging is much more dangerous than taking the lane).

Date: 2008-10-27 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think the concern is that the bicycle lane would be placed between the bus lane and the car lane, not between the bus lane and the sidewalk.

Date: 2008-10-27 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
ah, that makes more sense (since I couldn't understand Darcy's irrational fear of sidewalks); i still think it's better than a line of car doors; cars already cut you off to turn left as it is, , and i suspect it won't be that much worse.

Date: 2008-10-27 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Right, but parked cars don't move. It can be unnerving to have (big) vehicles moving past you on both sides as you're biking in the middle.

Date: 2008-10-28 08:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They're more predictable. You still have to pay attention, for sure, but once you get used to it, I think it's safer. Parked cars give a false sense of security. (I'm usually in a situation where I bike between vehicles without having a separate bike lane--or any lane for that matter--and I worry much less since the driver a moving vehicle is generally noting its surroundings more carefully than the person swinging his door wide after stopping.)

Date: 2008-10-28 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Fair enough. I can see that false sense of security.

Date: 2008-10-27 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
1. i meant that to be me, not anonymous.
2. i mean right. i'd better watch it when i get back to the us.

high pressure researchers

Date: 2008-10-27 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Irrespective of the rest, we're in agreement that a lot of AC Transit drivers are scary drivers.

The most successful BRTs have their own lanes--it really makes a huge difference; there has been a lot of success even taking lanes on existing streets (rather than building separate corridors).

LA's bigger than the Bay Area, but the Bay Area is certainly large enough to make BRT worthwhile, e.g. the San Leandro-Berkeley corridor. The density of Oakland, e.g., is comprable to the LA/OC area, and Berkeley and SF are denser. I don't know the density of the whole East Bay; I did a cursory google search and wasn't patient enough to learn much more than that "The San Francisco Bay area contains the largest density of high-pressure researchers in the world."

Date: 2008-10-27 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well thought out and informative article! The thing that stood out at me, of course, was your usage of "kerb" over the more common "curb". Is it a British thing?


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