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Island Talkback: Jan Greene’s farewell to the 50 bus

Submitted by on 1, April 9, 2010 – 4:50 am12 Comments

Alamedans who travel frequently, as I do, are fortunate to live near Oakland International Airport. (Of course, that assumes you don’t live under the flight path of those buzzy little private planes.)

Because it’s so conveniently located, I always try to use Oakland’s airport instead of SFO, which requires a lengthy BART ride under the Bay, through the city and down the Peninsula.

Even better, did you know there was a quick, easy way to get to the Oakland airport for less than $2? For years AC Transit has been running its No. 50 line through Alameda’s main island, swinging through Bay Farm and dropping off right in front of the terminal. Convenient, affordable, environmentally correct and even scenic, it was.

Unfortunately, the operative word is “was.” The No. 50 bus is no more. Apparently just a handful of people used it each day, so on March 28 the line was eliminated in AC Transit’s rather gigantic round of recent budget cuts.

This is a bummer, particularly because I didn’t know the bus had gone away when I arrived at Oakland airport on April 5 with enough time in my schedule to wait for public transit. I went out to the AC Transit curb, looked at the No. 50 schedule posted on a pole and gazed eagerly at the horizon, waiting for my ride.

Being a skeptic at heart, I thought I should double check, since you can’t believe everything you read on an airport pole. I smart-phoned my way to the 511 transit planner and up popped four different options for getting home, each more bizarre and circuitous than the next. Take the AirBART bus to Coliseum BART to Fruitvale and get on another bus into Alameda? An hour and a half to get about five miles? A call to AC Transit confirmed that despite what the pole said, there was no No. 50 bus, and no simple way to get to Alameda.

Hey, AC Transit? Can you get someone out to the airport to remove that No. 50 schedule from the pole? Thanks.

Chagrined and defeated in my vain attempt to get home using public transit, I went over to the taxi line and grabbed a cab home. I was avoiding this because four out of the last five cabs I’ve taken from the airport to Alameda’s East End resulted in an angry diatribe from the driver about how long he had to wait in line for a fare, and then I’m only going a relatively short distance. But that’s another rant for another day. (And, I should add, none of these grumps were Alameda-based cab drivers, who have always been very pleasant.)

It’s not that the taxis from Alameda are that expensive, and I’m happy to support Alameda’s small cab and limo services. But I thought we were supposed to get out of cars, and I thought public transit was supposed to serve major transportation centers, like airports. I understand the budget cuts, but it seems to me they’re really cutting at the essentials at this point. And I’m just trying to get to the airport … I can’t imagine what a pain this is for people who depend on the bus to get to work or school. At some point cutting essential services is making our society and its goals for economic and environmental vibrancy go backwards, not forward to some taxpayer nirvana.

Oh well. Goodbye, No. 50 bus.


  • Allan Mann says:

    Jan: I, too, was dismayed to find that I could no longer take the #50 to Oakland In’tl for my monthly trips to LA. Even worse, the #19 — which I was able to grab a block from my home for my rendez-vous with #50 — has also gone to the Great Busyard in the Sky. Alas, I’ll have to go back to plan B: #51, er #51A to 12th St. BART, off at Coliseum to the AirBart. Still takes an hour, but requires two transfers and costs three times as much. So much for convenient public transportation!

  • Tony Godkin says:

    I work for the airport. I’m sorry this sign remained up so long after the schedule/route change. I’m going to make sure it is fixed. If it is not, I will get it done.

    Tony Godkin

  • longhorn says:

    The demise of the 50 is definitely a pain for many. I work in the Harbor Bay business park, which is no longer served by any buses, so I get to walk a mile after the line ends at the ferry terminal. There are others I used to see riding the 50 who have an even longer walk than I do, probably about 2 miles each way.

    Harbor Bay business park has a shuttle that goes around the business park, then to the Coliseum BART station, but it only runs a few times during commute hours and doesn’t even go near the rest of Alameda. So for now those of us who work in the area are SOL.

    On the plus side I have been riding my bike more, but that won’t be much fun during the rainy season. I might just break down and buy a car.

  • ssl says:

    I have noticed that some of the signage they initially put up about AC Transit changes has disappeared. I don’t know if it’s due to vandalism or bad weather or what, but it’s annoying.

    I also have gotten some strange routes recommended by 511.org recently. For a trip from the East End of Alameda to Marina Village, they suggested a bus to Fruitvale BART, BART to 12th Street, and bus back to Alameda.

  • DLW says:

    As a frequent flyer who lives near Southshore, this change was very aggravating. My $1.75 fare is now a $20 cab or shuttle, unless I want to take that extra hour+ you mentioned for the bus/BART/shuttle silliness. The 50 was also the quickest route to the Bay Farm ferry; not sure if either of the new routes go there at all.

  • Jill says:

    Can’t you ask your neighbors to give you a lift? We can almost always find one of our fabulous neighbors to give us a ride to the airport – and of course we return the favor. It’s a 10- or 15-minute drive to the airport, so it’s not even much of an inconvenience. This community spirit is just one of the great things I love about Alameda!

  • DK says:

    I’m another fairly frequent business flyer who used to rely on the 50 bus for a quick ride to and from the airport. Seems like Alameda really got stiffed in the latest route changes.

  • DLW, the new 20 line runs out to the ferry from Towne Centre every 30 minutes.

  • womdy says:

    “just a handful of people used it each day” Yeah, I can already think of way more than a handful of individuals just on the top of my head. And add to the many people I see waiting on the 50 stops everyday when I drive by. At least my grandparents and their elder friends will get more exercise having to stand and walk around more to transfer buses.

  • AD says:

    The elimination of the 50 has resulted in a spike in “Can you drive me to Bayfarm to so-and-so’s house?” requests. Not as bad as the plight of the airport travelers but still. My kids are very bus-dependent; changes like that are immediately felt in this house. The rain hasn’t helped get them on their bikes either.

  • ssl says:

    John, maybe you mean the 21. I took the 20 today from Webster & Atlantic — it goes from Towne Centre to Oakland via Park Street. I do think that the rain has helped AC Transit keep customers during the transition. I have had a lot of friendly chats related to the confusion, and I appreciate the many opportunities to practice my Chinese, but once it’s dry (tomorrow?) I’ll be on my bike.

  • Jan says:

    Jill, when I flew occasionally I used to ask friends for rides, but now it’s at least a monthly thing, and I’m not prepared to be that much of a burden.
    John, I’m surprised you didn’t take me to task for failing to make my concerns known back when AC Transit was accepting comments on these changes. I have to admit my citizenship was behind the curve on this one. Maybe commenters here will forward their concerns to AC Transit for their future planning.

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