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Bus 51, where are you?

Submitted by on 1, March 11, 2009 – 7:30 amOne Comment

4Riders of AC Transit’s 51 bus line, which runs through Alameda, Oakland and Berkeley, will have the chance to offer their input on options that are being considered to improve service on the line – options that include cutting bus stops and splitting the line.

The bus service is hosting a series of open houses on the options this week, including one from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at Haight School, 2025 Santa Clara Avenue. (If you miss that one, they’ve got another coming up from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 14 at AC Transit’s general offices, which are at 1600 Franklin Street in Oakland.)

The bus service started studying ways to improve service and reliability on its 51 line, the most used public bus route in the East Bay, in 2006, in the wake of increasing customer complaints and growing staff concerns about bus bunching (like when you get no bus for a half hour and then three at once), and late and crowded buses.

AC Transit got 332 complaints about the 51 line between June 2006 and June 2007, 150 of them centered around overcrowded and late buses. Backups in Alameda centered around the Tubes, between Oak and Park streets and from Park Street to Broadway.

AC Transit is considering cutting 22 stops and moving others in an effort to make service faster among its list of options, including northbound and southbound stops at Santa Clara at 9th Street and northbound and southbound stops at Broadway and Lincoln Avenue. They’re also thinking about relocating the stops at Broadway and Tilden to Broadway and Buena Vista Avenue and about putting a “queue jump” lane for buses on Webster Street, into the Tube.

It is also thinking about splitting the bus line into smaller lines (expensive, per the AC Transit folks who penned this report – and AC Transit is facing a $52 million budget deficit), running two bus lines on the route that would each stop at every other stop (tough for riders) and running express buses with fewer stops (possibly feasible).

The bus agency’s governing board is slated to discuss the report’s recommendations and feedback from folks like you this spring.

The 12.7-mile line, a descendant of the old Key Line which has been in service since the Posey Tube opened in 1928, runs from the Berkeley Amtrak station through Oakland to Blanding Avenue at Broadway in Alameda.

One Comment »

  • Jill says:

    I can solve many of the problems with the 51 for very little additional $$.

    1) Eliminate and consolidate stops as suggested.

    2) Set a realistic schedule. Allow for the impact of traffic, wheelchair riders (significant impact on this line) and rider volume at different times of day.

    3) Stick a cheap but accurate clock on each bus where the drivers can see it.

    4) Make drivers keep to the schedule. If they are ahead of schedule, they should pull over and wait until they are supposed to be wherever they are. In my hundreds of trips on the 51, I have never had a driver do this.

    5) AC Transit already has the technology to track where busses are. Now they need to use that information to hold drivers accountable for sticking to their schedules.

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