A Long Tradition of Rapid Transit on East Bay Streets

In the early to mid-1900s, East Bay communities were well served by an efficient network of trains and streetcars called the Key System. A growing reliance on automobile travel spelled the end of this widely used system. But the growth of the East Bay – more jobs, more population, even more cars – proved that there can be too much of a good thing.

Through the years, congestion increased, air quality diminished, and public transit priorities shifted, decreasing mobility options, particularly for underserved populations.

Bay Area planners have long been in the forefront of efforts to provide environmentally responsible commuting options. BART is an international success story. Caltrain is a reliable example of heavy rail while San Jose has made creative use of light rail. But each of these systems is expensive to build and operate.

Bus service is flexible and relatively inexpensive, but it often suffers from the same problem that car drivers face — congestion.

There is Another Option

Meet Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the 21st Century answer to congested urban commuting routes.

Imagine light rail without the tracks. BRT uses dedicated lanes, efficient boarding platforms, and signal priority to keep green lights green. Essentially, BRT combines the best features of rail with the flexibility and cost advantages of buses.

BRT has been successfully implemented in Australia, South America and Europe and is now gaining popularity in North America. Across the country (Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Cleveland and across the Bay in San Francisco), people are realizing that providing improved public transit can reduce the number of cars on the road.

From 1999 to 2001, AC Transit gathered community input on how and where to implement transportation improvements in its service area. The Oakland-San Leandro corridor was found to have high ridership and a high potential for ridership increases.

Federal and state officials were quick to embrace the concept and offer funding support. Since the publication of the BRT draft environmental review documents in 2007, AC Transit and city staff have continued to pursue community input on the proposal. The current BRT project has grown out of suggestions and feedback from local businesses, city governments, community groups and other stakeholders.

With approval by the AC Transit Board of Director and the Oakland and San Leandro City Councils, the project officially got underway. Planners worked within the neighborhoods, ironing out final details. Contractors and subcontractors were chosen and workers were hired. Construction activity began in late 2014 and major construction was completed in spring 2020. The first BRT run is planned for summer 2020.

Visit our Resources page for more information on project history.