Alfred Twu (left) is challenging Joel Young for his at-large seat on the AC Transit Board of Directors. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight; courtesy: Joel Young

Updated, Nov. 10, 5:30 p.m. Joel Young, seeking a fourth term on the AC Transit board, has pulled far ahead of challenger Alfred Twu as more ballots were counted Thursday afternoon.

Young, an Oakland attorney who grew up in Berkeley and attended UC Berkeley for both undergrad and law school, was appointed in 2009 to the at-large seat overseeing the state’s third-largest public bus agency. 

Twu, a Berkeley planning commissioner, told Berkeleyside Wednesday night he was "more or less" conceding the race and indicated on Twitter that he anticipates his future will be outside of elected office.

As of Thursday, Joel Young could not be reached for comment.

The nonpartisan, seven-member board oversees AC Transit, which takes 91,000 passengers each weekday across western Alameda and Contra Costa counties aboard a fleet of 635 buses. The agency is facing an uncertain future: The emergency federal COVID-19 funding that’s been keeping its budgets afloat is drying up, and a looming recession threatens to eat into the sales and property taxes that make up the bulk of the agency’s income. A worst-case economic forecast projects a $314 million deficit over the next seven years.

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Young campaigned as a steady leader who’s up for the task of navigating AC Transit through a challenging post-pandemic era. He’s said he wants to see through AC Transit’s network redesign, keep fares as “low and stable” as possible, “reimagine” transbay service to San Francisco amid low ridership and help the agency transition to a zero-emission bus fleet by 2040.

Young was endorsed by the bus drivers and electrical workers union and by AC Transit directors H. E. Christian Peeples, Elsa Ortiz and Murphy McCalley. Most of the $78,000 he raised came from a loan he made to his campaign, with much of the rest coming from workers' unions, according to the most recent campaign finance filing.  

Twu, an artist, architect and Democratic activist, ran a campaign centered on improving AC Transit’s reliability and coordinating service with other Bay Area transit agencies. Twu has said he wants AC Transit to charge less for bus transfers, move more quickly toward integrated fares and more actively lobby the state for funding. He’s criticized AC Transit’s decision to discontinue Line 80 in Berkeley near the start of the pandemic and to remove the mask mandate when not everyone has received the latest COVID-19 booster. 

Twu was endorsed by Seamless Bay Area, Alameda County Democrats, the East Bay Transit Riders Union, AC Transit directors Jovanka Beckles and Jean Walsh, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Berkeley councilmembers Lori Droste, Sophie Hahn, Kate Harrison, Rashi Kesarwani, Rigel Robinson and Terry Taplin. He raised $51,000, mostly in small individual contributions.

Twu said Wednesday night that he is looking forward to running again to be a delegate to the California Democratic Party representing Assembly District 14, where he hopes to continue advocating for more funding for and regional coordination between transit agencies. Twu last held the position from 2019 to 2021.

This is a developing story, first published at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 8. Check back for updates.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.

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Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...