How AC Transit Stepped Up During the June 14 Fire and BART Outage

The AC Transit District quickly stepped into the breach on Thursday, June 14,  to fill the void left when BART’s transbay service was shut down due to the arson-caused  fire in West Oakland. (KGO-TV’s story that night runs 9:21. Or read this from the Pleasanton Weekly.)

BART crews work to repair fire-damaged tracks and wiring June 14 in West Oakland. Photo courtesy of KGO-TV.

“We first got word…at around 3 o’clock in the morning. AC Transit responded almost immediately…we eventually placed 108 extra buses into transbay service and made 150 additional transbay trips during the course of the day,” according to AC Transit Media Affairs Manager Clarence Johnson.

AC Transit carried 23,410 transbay passengers on June 14—despite heavy traffic congestion on the Bay Bridge. (Compare this to their normal weekday transbay ridership of 10,750  passengers on 500 trips. Not bad for a fire drill.)

“We were constantly changing our response to the crisis throughout the day. Planners were redeploying buses on the fly, constantly changing our responses based on where the headaches were occurring,” Johnson told me recently. “AC Transit was gratified that we were able to respond the way we did.” 

AC Transit had help from other agencies during the BART outage, too. “For the first time in my memory, we were able to pull in extra buses from…VTA, Solano Transit, Tri-Delta, and one other transit agency,”  AC Transit Director-At-Large H. E. Christian “Chris” Peeples told me. “The problem is that there’s no way you can replace (BART’s transbay capacity) with just bus service…AC Transit doesn’t have (2,000) extra buses just sitting around…Overall, I’m quite pleased with how quickly we reacted, getting at least some additional service out there,” Peeples added.

AC Transit spokesperson Johnson called it “a very good training exercise for a number of our systems…we were continually updating what was going on with 511 and NextBus, but any of those systems will experience a time lag.”

Could AC Transit have done more during the one-day transportation crisis?

According to Director Chris Peeples,With our own dedicated lane on the bridge we could have doubled our throughput (of 150 round-trips), but to do that we’d have to get help from Caltrans and the CHP.”

Information about transit options was hard to come by during BART’s outage, denying web users access to up-to-date information on transit alternatives and bus redeployments. When I headed for downtown Oakland that Thursday morning—to the BART Board meetingNextBus information about the 51A was off by almost 10 minutes and local buses were packed. The 511.org system was also slowed by the sudden crush of users.

AC Transit is already working to improve its ability to provide timely information during a transit crisis, according to an email I received Sunday from Elsa Ortiz, President of the AC Transit District Board of Directors:

”AC Transit’s website…operated much slower than expected due to the heavy traffic. When the CPU utilization nears 100 percent (as it did for much of that Thursday morning) it is as good as downthe number of calls overburdened the system, preventing many riders from connecting to our website.

”We are working on improving the website…we need to accelerate our efforts to review log files and configurations. We will be replacing maps and schedules and buying parts for the website which have the oldest and most troublesome code.

”Rest assured that fixing our response system is a priority and we’ll keep on top of it until the results are what our riders expect.”

How was your transbay commute June 14? Take our poll or share your stories in the comments. 

If you have news, questions, gripes, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, we’re all ears. Contact us.

Read Jon Spangler’s bio here.

Broadway-Jackson, Shoreline Drive Heat Up Transportation Commission June 27

Several proposed projects–the Broadway-Jackson Interchange, Webster Street Smart Corridor signal project, and bike lanes along Shoreline Drive–plus Bicycle Facility Design Guidelines for the city are on tap at Wednesday’s special Transportation Commission (TC) meeting at Alameda’s City Hall. The agenda, staff reports, and presentations for the 7:00 PM meeting are here.

Please attend the meeting and speak your mind.

The Broadway-Jackson Interchange (BJI, Item 4F) is last on the agenda but it is the biggest and most controversial project before the TC Wednesday. Alameda’s Public Works Department staff have pushed for major changes in Oaklandespecially Chinatown—in order to relieve congestion in and around the Webster and Posey Tubes but Chinatown residents don’t want traffic clogging and isolating their neighborhood.

I am no fan of the current routes to I-880 in Oakland but I am not yet convinced the latest proposal is any better.) The proposed BJI is in the Transportation Expenditure Plan and it would be partially funded if the “new Measure B” Alameda County transportation sales tax measure passes in November.

  • Do you like Alameda County’s  Transportation Expenditure Plan?
  • What do you think of the latest Broadway-Jackson Interchange proposal?
  • How would you reduce the congestion in Chinatown, Oakland, and the tubes? Tell us in the comments.

The Webster Street SMART Corridor project (Item 4E) would synchronize the signals along Webster Street during commute hours, add a new signal at Pacific and Webster, restore the long-missing Central Avenue crosswalk, and improve emergency response times and traffic diversion after collisions in the tubes.

Buses will receive priority at all signals and syncing the signals will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as 15 per cent by decreasing congestion and idling at lights, according to the staff report. Local residents gave it mixed reviews at a Community Meeting May 22 at the College of Alameda:  some worry that drivers will be less likely to stop at local businesses. (Speed limits will stay the same, according to Supervising Civil Engineer Obaid Khan of Public Works.)

The proposed Shoreline Drive/Westline Drive Bike Lanes Project is TC Item 4C Wednesday night. At a community meeting May 10, about 100 residents were evenly divided for and against it. Local residents (including cyclists, joggers, beach and park users, and commuters) disagreed over bike lanes, car parking on the beach side of Shoreline, and other points. Bike lanes on Shoreline were among cyclists’ top 10 projects in the original 1999 version of the  2010 Bicycle Master Plan Update.

A second community meeting on the options for Shoreline Drive will be held at 7 PM this Thursday, June 28, at  Lum Elementary School ,1801 Sandcreek Way, at Otis Drive.

Revised Bicycle Facility Design Guidelines (Item 4D) will come back before the TC for approval and referral to the City Council for adoption. (These guidelines detail the specifications for future bike facilities.)

Contact Obaid Khan, Supervising Civil Engineer (510-747-7938 or okhan@ci.alameda.ca.us) if you have comments or questions about these projects. You can also mail him comments:

Obaid Khan, Supervising Civil Engineer

Public Works Department

950 West Mall Square, Room 110

Alameda, CA, 94501-7575

All written or emailed comments received before the meeting will become part of the official public record.

AC Transit Wants You!

AC Transit is seeking volunteers to represent the transit agency on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), which makes recommendations to the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). The CAC serves as a liaison between the ACTC and local communities and businesses in Alameda County. There is currently one vacancy on the CAC.

Applicants must regularly use AC Transit bus service and reside within Alameda County . For more info about the CAC and ACTCvisit their website or see  AC Transit’s info on the vacancy. .

Submit your completed application form by this Friday, June 29. to Linda Nemeroff, AC Transit District Secretary, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612 or by email to lnemeroff@actransit.org. This appointment is subject to approval by the ACTC.