Around 14,200 people travel across the Bay Bridge per hour during the morning commute, while BART carries 27,000 per hour during the same period. Some elected officials hope a bus-only lane on the bridge could increase its capacity. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Local officials announce support for Bay Bridge bus-only lane

Increased transbay transit could relieve crowding on BART

State Sen. Scott Wiener. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney.

Those state and local officials — and more — are part of a rising chorus of full-throated support for a bus-only lane on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The San Francisco Examiner reported last week that Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) was exploring legislation to create such a lane to speed up bus service for thousands of daily transbay bus riders, which make up a sizable portion of the Bay Bridge’s daily traffic.

After one of Bonta’s Oakland constituents suggested the lane, “I was immediately attracted to this idea for many reasons and I’m working with my staff to research it further,” Bonta told the Examiner in a statement.

“It would promote greater equity and justice through increased access to public transportation. This is critical as for many residents, including members of vulnerable, disadvantaged, and poor communities, public transit is the primary means of travel to reach jobs and other life necessities,” Bonta added.

Since Bonta’s interest was revealed, other elected officials have joined in.

Some were new to the idea, while others said they’ve been pushing for it themselves for months, often behind the scenes.

Wiener told the Examiner “I fully support a bus-only lane on the Bay Bridge. It would ideally be a contra-flow lane in order to minimize rush hour impacts.”

Wicks, the Oakland assemblymember, told bus riders on Twitter, “The name of the game is ‘modal shifting.’ B/c when ppl are on a bus, in a BART tube — or on the water in a ferry — they’re not sitting in cars on I-80 (duh!) … heavy political lift, but I’ll join the fight!”

The list of Bay Area officials supporting the bus-only lane also includes Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan, Emeryville City Council members Ally Medina and John Bauters, BART Board member Rebecca Saltzman, and the eight-member Berkeley City Council.

Berkeley City Council member Rigel Robinson called the bus-only lane a “critical move for the region.”

Haney said it would also help Muni bus commuters from Treasure Island, which he represents on the Board of Supervisors along with the neighborhoods surrounding the Bay Bridge.

“There should be a bus-only lane on the bridge, at least during rush hours,” Haney wrote on Twitter. “It’s very short-sighted that there is not. BART is crowded during rush hour, so we need to get more folks on buses.”

People have already begun shifting to transit for transbay commutes, data shows.

Notably, BART is bursting at the seams, hitting its upper limit of capacity. BART moves 27,000 people per hour under the Bay during the morning commute, whereas only 14,200 people travel across the Bay Bridge per hour during the same period.

Meanwhile, AC Transit’s 23 transbay routes, which ferry passengers from the far reaches of the East Bay to San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center, have grown in ridership by 5.8 percent just this last year.

Initially, some said Bonta’s effort “seems simple” but ultimately is “not,” because a bus-only lane would only work if there were more buses and higher ridership to take advantage of it.

But in point of fact, elected officials have been working on that very problem.

Arreguin, the Berkeley mayor, publicly wrote on Twitter that he and the Alameda County Transportation Commission have asked for more AC Transit transbay service and bus-only Bay Bridge lanes to be included in the $100 billion FASTER mega-measure, which is slated for the November 2020 ballot.

“We need a bus-only lane to increase capacity and transit ridership,” he wrote.

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