The news for Berkeley bus riders has been relentlessly bad in recent years, as AC Transit has steadily cut routes and services in order to trim its deficit. A systemwide 7% reduction in services goes into effect on October 31. North Berkeley resident Kris Lawson has decided to do something about it.
“I’ve been riding AC Transit buses for 30 years,” Lawson said. “They’re canceling lines, downgrading services, making buses less frequent. The last time they canceled services, everyone said we should have our own buses in Berkeley. I hope to light the fire so that can happen.”
Lawson has established a website to promote The B-Line and on Monday, October 25 at 6 p.m., he’s holding a community forum at the Berkeley Public Library to try to gather support for his idea.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get 250 people or seven people,” Lawson said. Lawson said he has no interest in running a bus system. “I just want it to exist.”
Lawson cites the Emery Go-Round, a private shuttle service operated in Emeryville and funded by commercial property owners, as partial inspiration for what he’d like to see in Berkeley.
Although Monday’s meeting is planned as the major kick-off for The B-Line, Lawson has started to contact Berkeley politicians and business groups, such as the Downtown Berkeley Association. He hopes to get Mayor Tom Bates’ support, since Bates is a vocal supporter of public transit and also on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“The mayor has been consistently concerned about increasing access,” said Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Bates. “There’s a serious gap in public transit and public investment in transit. But it’s not an easy task.” Sinai said the mayor and his office had not yet had time to study the B-Line proposal. She also noted that AC Transit has a government-granted monopoly on its routes.
Lawson, an author who lives in the North Berkeley hills, is very much driven by personal need in his campaign.
“I don’t drive as a matter of principle,” he said. “When I moved here there were two bus lines [that served the neighborhood]. Then they canceled the number 8. Now they’ve seriously downgraded the 65. On weekends, they’re once an hour.”