March 17, 2016
By Pamela Drake
It is one of the features of life today in Oakland that bus stops the community needs disappear without explanation, and residents find themselves having to join forces and complain for months for anyone to hear them. Ignored by the mayor and city staff, it seems their concerns may have finally found a champion in Councilmember at Large Rebecca Kaplan. At the Oakland City Council Rules and Legislation Committee on March 10, community activists asked to schedule a report on the restoration of the 30th Street and Broadway bus stop, which was removed last July at the request of the city administration.
The bus stop originally was removed due to construction of the now-opened Sprouts Farmers Market Grocery Store. AC Transit had expected the removal would only be temporary and a new stop would be placed in front of Summit Bank’s small Oakland office. The bus stop is regularly used by riders to get to nearby medical appointments and is an important connection for them, many of whom are seniors or disabled.
When the bank demanded that the city remove the stop, which they claimed made their customers feel unsafe, the city complied against the wishes of AC Transit, which runs the 51A line on Broadway to downtown Oakland and Alameda. Since that time, Riders for Transit Justice, a member group of the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), has been pleading with the bank to relent and requesting that the mayor’s office intervene to restore the stop.
The activists have organized demonstrations including Christmas cards and caroling at the bank in December and Valentine cards in February with the theme: “We Luv Our Bus Stop. These mostly elderly peaceful protesters have been met with police vans, but there have been no arrests or citations. The activists include members of the Block by Block Organizing Network, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the Sierra Club and AC Transit Board President Christian Peeples, himself a disabled rider. The transit justice group has attended meetings of the Planning Commission and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. They sent letters to Mayor Libby Schaaf outlining the problem. However, they received no response until they spoke at Open Forum of a City Council meeting.
According to the group’s leader, community volunteer Kit Vaq, the removal of this stop has created a real hardship for seniors, disabled and others who depend on the bus to get to their doctors’ appointments or shop at the new grocery store. “The removal of our bus stop is another example of gentrification in the Uptown Oakland neighborhood,” she said.
The Riders for Transit Justice never received a response from the mayor’s office, but the City Council expressed shock after speakers talked at Open Forum, pointing out that there had been no public process when this stop was abruptly removed. Council Member at Large Rebecca Kaplan, a former AC Transit director, promised to see the bus stop returned. She is working with AC Transit, and says the city’s Public Works Committee, which she chairs, will discuss the issue on April 12. ”Broadway and the Broadway/Valdez District Specific District Plan are designated as transit corridors,” said Kaplan. “We are supposed to be adding transit there, not removing it.”
Footnote: Kaplan asked at the Public Works Committee April 12 to have the stop restored, and it is now back!