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Transportation Nation

Talks Continue Between AC Transit, Union After Governor Brown Stops Strike with Cooling-Off Period

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

KALW

Following a recent one-two strike punch from BART workers, a labor dispute is also roiling AC Transit bus workers. But unlike train employees, the sticking point for bus workers involves healthcare, not wages. Now, bus workers and management have two months to reach a resolution.

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Transportation Nation

BART Negotiations Last All Night, Gov. Halts Bus Strike

Thursday, October 17, 2013

KALW

There’s still no strike --or no deal-- in the six month-long BART contract negotiations. Wednesday, for the third night in a row, federal mediator George Cohen said that BART and its unions were still at the table, that progress was being made, and that the trains would continue to run for one more day.

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Transportation Nation

Bay Area Bus Agency Seeks Cooling-Off Period As Workers Threaten to Strike

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

KALW

With a potential BART strike still looming, union workers from Bay Area bus agency AC Transit are gearing up for possible strike on Thursday. ATU Local 192 gave their 72-hour notice on Monday, while the agency has asked Governor Jerry Brown for a 60-day cooling-off period to prevent a strike from disrupting about 100,000 riders around the East Bay.

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Transportation Nation

With Nicer Buses, Ridership Spiked Enough to Fend Off Fare Hike for AC Transit

Thursday, July 25, 2013

KALW

AC Transit—the large bus agency that serves much of San Francisco's East Bay—experienced a jump in ridership this year. Better on-time reliability and more efficient repairs lured in the passengers, according to the agency. 

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Transportation Nation

BART Strike Enters Second Day, Grows More Hellish

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

KALW

Tuesday’s commute seems to be shaping up to be worse than yesterday's. Freeways backed up sooner, ferry lines were longer, and the free shuttles that BART provided from five East Bay stations filled up quicker.

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Transportation Nation

A Fare Decrease? SF Area Bus Company Cancels Price Hike, Considers Lower Fares

Monday, April 29, 2013

KALW

Typically transit agencies raise prices as time goes by, not lower them. But AC Transit, the bus system that services Alameda and Contra Costa County in the East Bay Area, has canceled its fare increase scheduled for July. And it might even get cheaper to ride the bus. 

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Transportation Nation

Take an Audio Bus Ride on East Oakland's Most Popular (but Infamous) Route

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A storefront in East Oakland. Photo by Julie Caine

(Oakland, Calif -- KALW) One way to get to know a new place is to ride public transportation -- especially the bus. It’s like taking an unguided tour -- one with as much to see on your own side of the glass as beyond it.

The most popular buses in Oakland are the 1 and the 1R. The 1, which is the local route, makes 105 stops in three different East Bay cities. It’s a trip that takes four hours from start to finish.

More than 22,000 people ride these bus routes every single day. Most of them don’t own cars -- this is the only way they get around. The buses travel right through the heart of the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods along International Boulevard, also known as East 14th.

Whatever you call it, it’s a road, and a part of Oakland, with an identity all its own. As part of our reporting project about the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods in Oakland, I got on the 1 to find out what riding the bus says about a community.

When I first arrived in Fruitvale, I asked a young woman outside the BART station where to catch the bus. She looked me up and down, slowly, and then she said, “The 1 over here on this side – that goes to East Oakland. You don’t want to go over there.”

The 1 bus has a reputation, just like the East Oakland neighborhoods it traverses. You never know what might happen. The day can turn from peaceful to deadly without warning. Crime is high, and people are poor.

But today, the streets of Fruitvale and San Antonio are vibrant and full of life. Ice cream vendors’ bells blend with hip hop pulsing from passing cars, and Mexican Banda music seeps out the doors of dark neighborhood cantinas. The people speak many languages: Vietnamese, Spanish, Chinese, and English.

People tend to keep to themselves on the streets, but on the bus, everybody comes together.

At the front of the bus, an elderly lady sits with a tight grip on her purple shopping cart. A woman speaking Spanish to her kids wrangles shopping bags and a stroller toward the middle section, where there are more empty seats. Towards the back, young men slouch low in their seats, listening to music and looking out the windows.

Robert Hawkins is behind the wheel.

“It's like a switch turns on in your head,” Hawkins tells me about his job. “Because you know that you're getting ready to deal with a bunch of mess. Or the potential for a bunch of mess out here.”

Hawkins has been driving the 1 bus for five years. Drivers with more seniority tend to avoid this route.

“You know, I actually used to live in the Fruitvale,” he tells me as he drives. “Basically I was raised by the street. I recognize things that an ordinary person on the bus is not going to recognize driving through those neighborhoods. So when I’m driving, I just try to focus on what I’m doing and nothing else. Answer people’s questions if they have them. And just try to make it through the day as peacefully as possible.”

Rosa Lopez is sitting in the middle of the bus with her two daughters––backpacks and shopping bags at their feet. Lopez takes the 1 every day.

“I take it to my appointments, to school, to my immigration in San Francisco,” says Lopez. “It gets packed, but it takes you where you have to go, and it’s cheap.”

Like Hawkins, Lopez also grew up in the neighborhood, and says it doesn’t really deserve its reputation.

“Oakland’s always known as bad, you know,” she says. “But it’s good, actually. If you get along with everybody, everybody gets along with you. Everybody out here, you know, is friendly. If you’re friendly to them, they’re going to be friendly to you.”

One of her daughters reaches up and pushes the button for their stop. And Lopez gathers their things and shepherds the little girls out the back door.

Out the windows of the bus, the signs are in Vietnamese, Lao, Spanish and English. We pass by all kinds of mom and pop businesses — restaurants, flower shops, Western wear stores, beauty parlors. A storefront church with a hand lettered-sign butts up against a deli advertising burritos and Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches.

I get off the bus for a few minutes at 29th and International. A Vietnamese man is at the bus stop, sitting in the sun. He lives in the San Antonio, in a neighborhood called ‘Little Vietnam,” and he’s on his way home.

I ask him if he likes living here. No, he tells me. It’s not safe, he says, but the housing is cheap. So it’s just poor people living in the neighborhood.

Behind him, in the shade of an awning, a woman named Laurie Greenway is crocheting a bright pink baby sweater. She’s not waiting for bus. She lives on a fixed income and sits here most days, hoping someone will stop to buy something that she’s made.

She says she feels a sense of community in the neighborhood.

“They've gotten used to seeing my smiling face,” she says. “So a lot of the ice cream vendors, fruit vendors, even just people that I see on a regular basis, if I’m not where they're used to seeing me for a couple of days, they'll ask my girlfriend who they see and they know both of us. Or when I do feel well enough to be back out, it's like what happened? Are you okay?”

That tension – the worry if someone is okay – is in the air in the neighborhood. It always feels like something might happen. In the same way, the 1 has a reputation for being a wild ride. I get back on, still expecting something crazy to happen. Towards the back of the bus is Addy Ortiz. She rides the 1 to and from school every day. I ask her if she has any crazy stories about riding the bus.

“I remember this one time we were riding the bus, and this little girl was sitting right by the door. And her mom came with three other babies. And she was just standing there. And the little girl got off. She got off when the door opened and the mom was right there not paying attention to her … And then she's like, ‘Where's my baby?!’”

In the end, everything turned out okay. The woman got off the bus in time to rescue her daughter. But the experience stuck with Ortiz.

“It was funny, but crazy,” Ortiz tells me. “It was scary.”

In the very back, a couple rows behind Ortiz, a man sits, gazing out the windows. His name is Julius Conley, and he’s on his way to work.

When I ask him to tell me what it’s like to ride the 1, he laughs and then tells me a story.

“I got on here one time, and it was late at night, and this guy got on with a duffel bag and started tripping, and trying to make people get up out of their seats and trying to punk ‘em and stuff. He was just like, 'Do you know what I got in this bag?' ‘Do you know!? You don't know. Get up! You don't know what I got. You don't know what's in this bag.’ I was just sitting there like damn! Like, you don't know! ‘I got a chopper.’ So, that's what it's like. Yeah, you don't know what's in the bag. Ride that 1. You’ll find out. Ride that 1, you’ll find out what’s in the bag.”

Most everyone on the bus has some kind of story of how just when they thought they’d seen it all, something new and unbelievable happened. But on the day I rode the 1, what I saw was something much more ordinary — regular people traveling through the neighborhood, getting to work, to school, to the doctor, or just getting out of the house.  In that way, the 1 is kind of like East Oakland itself – a place with a wild reputation that a lot of people call home.

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Transportation Nation

Getting Around the Bay in 2012 Just Got Harder and More Expensive

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Last year, commuters of all kinds came to terms with one fact: getting somewhere, anywhere, is harder than it used to be. Here in the Bay Area, drivers faced higher gas prices and bridge tolls.

In the East Bay, AC Transit riders dealt with fewer bus lines and increased fares. San Francisco MUNI riders faced changing routes as well. All in all, 2011 meant more cost, and oftentimes more waiting for drivers and riders. And it might not get better this year. Here's a transcript of a Q&A we're airing today about 2012 transportation funding issues in the Bay Area.

You can listen to the interview here

HOST: Julie, what’s changed for people who ride public transit in the Bay Area?

JULIE: The biggest change people here will notice are cuts to the commuter benefit--that’s  a stimulus-funded public transportation benefit that recently expired. Basically, this was a program that reimbursed workers for transportation costs, tax-free, and that includes both parking and public transit. Last year, the government subsidized both equally--$230 a year.  This year, the benefit for parking is going up, but the public transit one has dropped by almost half, down to $125.

HOST: How will that impact workers in the Bay Area?

JULIE: Well, I met BART commuter Julio Alfaro on his way to work, and asked him how the cut in the public transit benefit would affect him.

ALFARO: It would hurt a lot. Cutting the subsidy in half with the fact that they're raising rates as well, just you know, takes more money out of your pocket. And where does that money come from? You take it from your entertainment portion, or your food portion, or your housing portion. It's got to come from somewhere.

HOST: Julie, he’s talking about how to make up the extra money. Is this a problem for other people?

JULIE:  Alfaro’s right that the money does have to come from somewhere. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most people already spend more on transportation costs than on anything else except for housing.

HOST: And what about the difference between subsidies for parking and transit? What are the implications for that?

JULIE: When you subsidize parking, it means more people drive and public transit use goes down. Right now in the Bay Area, those numbers are pretty even--about a third of commuters get to work by car, and another third use public transit. But the changes to the commuter benefit might really affect that balance. Think about it: If you get more money from your employer to park and less money to take the bus, then you might be tempted to drive more. And that could mean more congestion on the roads, and more emissions in the air. The commuter I spoke with, Julio Alfaro, had something to say about that, too.

ALFARO: If they're trying to get people to commute more on public transportation, and less pollution and everything, it's ridiculous that they would encourage people by upping the parking and lowering the public transportation subsidies. It makes no sense. but we are talking about the Federal government, and they don't always make a whole lot of sense.

HOST: Now Julie, you mentioned BART, but I’d imagine this affects other local transit systems as well.

JULIE: Absolutely, especially agencies like MUNI and AC Transit. MUNI’S looking at an almost $80 million dollar budget gap in the next two years. And in general, San Francisco’s trying hard to get people to take transit. So this could make it more difficult.

HOST: So that’s a national issue. What about state cuts?

JULIE:Last month, Governor Jerry Brown announced a new round of  state budget cuts, called “trigger” cuts because they were triggered by a lack of revenue. Those  are also now in effect. The biggie for transportation was that school bus funding was completely  gutted -- close to $250 million in cuts. School advocates  say that will affect close to a million low-income and special needs students statewide. They’ll have a much harder time getting to school. In the Bay Area, Oakland Unified School District is losing $5 million dollars in state transportation funding. They’re going to use their reserve fund to keep from cutting services.  San Francisco’s already been hit hard by state budget cuts; they’re losing about a quarter of their school bus service.

HOST: So how will those students get to school?

JULIE: Well, Federal law says that school districts have to provide transportation for special needs students, so many districts will be dipping into their reserves to do that. But for general ed students, they’re going to have to get to school however they can. In a press conference, Governor Brown said these choices are hard, but necessary.

JERRY BROWN: You can't provide money you don't have. You either cut or you tax--there is no third way. There's no alternative. As governor of California, I'm sensitive to what these cuts do to real people, but I'm also aware that over time, California does have to balance its budget, and exercise fiscal discipline.

HOST:  Julie, before we let you go, give us an update on high speed rail.

JULIE: Yes, that’s the other big news. A peer review panel  appointed by the state just issued a very critical report, basically recommending that the Legislature not borrow the money it needs to start building this year. They said that the biggest problem with the plan is that the Rail Authority hasn’t been able to secure any additional money for the project, aside from what’s already been approved.

HOST: How much is that?

JULIE: There’s the $9 billion voter-approved bond, and then $3.3 billion in federal grants. The project’s supposed to cost $100 billion. Given that there’s no other money, the panel said that the plan to build the train isn’t financially feasible. Needless to say, the Rail Authority disagrees.

HOST: So what happens now?

JULIE:  Republican state legislators are considering pushing legislation to block spending the bond. Governor Brown says he still says he still supports the project, so we’ll see what happens with the Republican bill. The Legislature reconvenes today.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: LAPD Experiments with Electric Bikes, Ray LaHood Wants to Broker Dulles Metrorail Agreement, and Poll Shows Support Stable for NYC Bike Lanes

Friday, May 13, 2011

The LAPD is experimenting with electric bicycles. (Los Angeles Times)

Ray LaHood wants to help resolve differences in the Dulles Airport Metrorail project. (Washington Post)

DC's Metro has given Google Transit access to its data. (Washington Post)

New York City's bike lanes: a new poll says that support for them is stable, even if people think the lanes are unused. (Wall Street Journal)

NJ Senator Robert Menendez talked about oil company tax breaks -- and the senate finance committee hearing on the issue -- on the Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC/IAFC)

AC Transit will be raising fares, and service cuts may also be coming within a year. (Contra Costa Times)

More on the osprey nest that's foiling DDOT construction from Marketplace.

The New York Post profiles the man who spent his life savings on the Doomsday ads now running in the subway. Bonus fact: he's a former MTA employee.

Who wants to see Estonians simulate bicycle riding on an airport people mover? You do! (video below:)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- light rail could be pushing west in NJ (link)

-- speed in NYC, and you might see skeletons (link)

-- the world's most dangerous roads (link)

-- a new Brookings report came out, ranking access to transit (link)

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Transportation Nation

East Bay Bus Costs May Go Up Again

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

(San Francisco -- Casey Miner, KALW News)  In Alameda County, AC Transit bus riders are waiting to find out whether the agency will raise fares for the second time in two years. Like many transit operators, AC Transit has suffered from a severe drop in state funding, and it’s facing a $21 million deficit for next year. Raising fares is one way for them to try and fill that gap. But there’s a tradeoff: many AC Transit riders live on low or fixed incomes. They don’t have cars, and AC Transit is the only way for them to get around the East Bay.

Listen to what's at stake over at KALW News.

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Transportation Nation

In SF Bay Area: Transit's Most Dangerous Mile

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) AC Transit’s line 376 runs through a dangerous stretch of North Richmond – an unincorporated part of Contra Costa County. So far this year, it has experienced six violent incidents, including shot-out windows and assaulted passengers. Things got so bad that in late February, county sheriff’s deputies started shadowing the bus, escorting it once it enters North Richmond until it leaves that neighborhood. It’s only about a mile stretch. For a while the deputies were following the bus every day; now, it’s only when they can spare an officer. So most of the time, drivers are on their own.

Listen over at KALW News to find out what it's like to drive this line.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NYC Council Votes To Improve Bike, Pedestrian Crash Data, Toronto Wants Private $ For Subway, and What's HSR's Future Looking Like?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now that Florida's governor has 'pulled a Christie,' what does that mean for the future of the country's high speed rail program? (The Takeaway)

Good time for an ominous Ray LaHood tweet: "We have choices to make—not between left and right, but between forward and backward."

New York's City Council unanimously passed a suite of bills that will require police to provide monthly reports of traffic accidents and summonses -- as well as require the city's Department of Transportation begin annual reporting on the number of bike and pedestrian crashes broken down by police precincts. (WNYC)

Toronto's mayor is seeking private money to extend that city's subway. (Toronto Star)

The head of the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce threw his support Wednesday behind Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposal to speed the building of local transportation projects. (Los Angeles Times)

The Bay Area's transportation funding agency doesn't discriminate against minorities by steering state and federal dollars to trains instead of buses, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in dismissing a suit by AC Transit riders. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Should we focus on mass transit ...or mass transit AND road improvements? Maryland's Montgomery County Council can't decide. (The Gazette)

A NYC bus driver quizzes his passengers -- then leads the bus in song. The M86 has never been this much fun. (via NYC The Blog)

NY's MTA Board's committees will meet throughout the day today, starting at 8:30 a.m. Watch the meetings live: http://bit.ly/mtawebcast

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: High speed rail will not come to Disneyworld.  Or will it? And: New Jersey lawmakers present a united front in opposition to repaying feds for cancelled ARC tunnel, while Houston METRO gets a refund from a Spanish rail car supplier.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NYC Snow Recovery Continues, Moscow Misspent $8 Billion in Transpo Money, and $5 a Gallon Gas - Coming in 2012?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Bolt Bus boards on West 33rd Street, NY (Alex Goldmark)

New York City's transit system still hasn't fully recovered from the storm, with many bus routes not operating at all (New York Daily News). Things are slightly better across the Hudson, where NJ Transit is closer to normal (AP via Newsday), and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is responding to people's tweets for help--sometimes by personally excavating cars from snowbanks. (WNYC).

Area airports are open today, but the ripple effect caused by trying to move many stranded travelers will take days to resolve. (Wall Street Journal)

The Boston Globe praises MBTA for letting private app developers have real-time data on the movements of its vehicles. "Just by putting more information in (passengers') hands, the T has removed one of the major barriers to transit ridership — unpredictability."

Moscow misspent almost $8 billion that was earmarked for the development of the city's transportation infrastructure. (Bloomberg News)

Apparently, when the economy goes down, it's a good time to embark upon a new career as a truck driver. (Marketplace)

The former president of Shell Oil predicts that gas will hit $5 a gallon by 2012 (NPR).

Paper tickets reach the end of the line on Friday, when the Bay Area's AC Transit stops accepting them in favor of electronic Clipper cards. (Contra Costa Times)

The City Fix takes a look at their favorite new additions to transit systems in 2010. Lima's BRT system, South Africa's Gautrain, Dubai's Metro, the Capital Bikeshare--all in there!

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Transportation Nation

Ask a board member: AC Transit riders take their worries to the top

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Protestors mourn the "death" of AC Transit. Photo by Casey Miner.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) A little more than a week ago, beleaguered East Bay bus company AC Transit cut more than seven percent of its service. The cuts came on Halloween: boo. And they came on top of the 7.5 percent the agency already cut back in March. Boo, again. There is some good news: more cuts had been planned for December, but officials announced late yesterday that they wouldn’t have to make them, thanks to a new agreement with their drivers union. But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet – even more cuts might be on the way next year.

A situation this bad makes room for animosity ­– riders feel like they’re being ignored, while officials say they have no choice but to make these cuts. KALW’S Casey Miner tries to bridge the communication gap in this report.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: What To Do With $47 Million of ARC Property, DC Metro Has A Record Weekend, And Remembering Pontiac

Monday, November 01, 2010

NJ Transit officials are wondering what to do with $47 million of North Bergen property, purchased for the ARC tunnel entrance. (Jersey Journal)

The Detroit Free Press cheers that state's recent high speed rail grant, but says they should have gotten more money. "The failure of Michigan politicians to address transportation funding needs certainly did not help."

AC Transit service cuts began yesterday, hitting Bay Area with a 7% reduction in service. (Silicon Valley Mercury-News)

General Motors officially retired the Pontiac brand, and the New York Times wrote an obituary.

This weekend's "Rally to Restore Sanity" set DC Metro ridership records. (WAMU)

"Underbelly Project:" an art exhibit (illegally) mounted in an abandoned New York City subway station. (New York Times)

Election tweet of the day, from Matt Laslo:  "Totally just saw a Fimian for Congress truck smack and bend a parking meter."

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Transportation Nation

Ouch: AC Transit to cut all but essential weekend service

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) They've been threatening to do it for months, and now it looks as though it will actually happen: last night, the board of East Bay bus service AC Transit voted to cut four of six overnight lines and all but its most essential weekend lines by the end of the year. The agency has been unable to extract itself from its ongoing financial problems–right now it faces a $40 million deficit–and has long said that it would take drastic measures if the mechanics' and drivers' unions did not make concessions. For riders, this means things will go from bad to worse–-this is the third service cut this year. We'll have more on this in the coming weeks.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NYC Taxi Drivers Accused Of Overcharge Scheme, and Virginia's DOT has millions in unspent funds

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dozens of New York City taxi drivers have been arrested on charges that they defrauded customers by doubling fares. (WNYC)

More than a year after Virginia implemented a statewide ban on texting while driving, local police officers say they're unlikely to write a ticket for a violation. (WAMU)

Another round of strikes hobbles transportation in France.  (NPR)

The results of an audit of Virginia's Department of Transportation are expected to reveal that the department has almost $500 million in unspent funds. (Washington Post)

The Bay Area's AC Transit voted to slash weekend and overnight service (San Francisco Chronicle). Meanwhile, BART is considering selling naming rights to stations to raise revenue (Sacramento Bee).

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Transportation Nation

Surprise! San Francisco gets its buses back

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

(San Francisco - Casey Miner, KALW) Most public transportation news isn't good news these days—shrinking budgets have led to service cuts and fare increases all over the country, and the San Francisco Bay Area is no exception. We reported last week on how AC Transit, the East Bay's bus service, has been particularly hard-hit. But across the bay in San Francisco it's a totally different story. Last month, Muni officials said that they'd managed to cobble together enough money from city and regional transportation bodies to restore about half of the service cuts they'd made in May. Yesterday, they announced that they have a plan to roll back nearly two-thirds of the cuts.

Muni is in a somewhat unique position because a significant chunk of its budget comes from San Francisco County, and officials have a great deal of discretion to move money around. But Muni has also fought for cash—the agency approached the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for a special allocation to help cover operating costs, a request which ultimately was granted.

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Transportation Nation

This bus is not in service: The shrinking routes of East Bay buses

Thursday, July 29, 2010

(Casey Miner, KALW)  It's been a rough few months for public transit in the San Francisco Bay Area -- it seems like every few weeks there's news about fares going up or service going down. AC Transit, the bus service that is the East Bay counterpart to San Francisco's Muni, has been particularly hard-hit. Though the bus service only has about 236,000 weekday riders, compared to close to 700,000 on Muni, it serves an area that is much more geographically spread out. If you don't drive in the East Bay, AC Transit is a vital service.

The problems that arise when the bus service goes awry have been particularly visible this week. More than 200 drivers have called in sick every day, in protest of a new contract the bus agency imposed on their union. The result has been hour-plus waits for many buses, even on the busiest lines. Earlier this week, twelve transbay runs (from San Francisco to the East Bay) were canceled altogether, leaving evening commuters scrambling for a way to get home.

So this last week has been bad, but things have been getting worse for AC Transit passengers for months. In March, the agency cut about eight percent of its service – shortening hours, switching and combining some lines, and cutting some routes altogether. They’re doing it to save money, but the budget situation hasn’t gotten any better, so they’re making another round of cuts next month.

So just what happens when a bus line disappears? (more)

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