SAN LEANDRO -- San Leandro will have Bus Rapid Transit bus-only lanes on East 14th Street for only about two blocks, far less than an original proposal that would have extended the lanes from the city's northern border to Bayfair Center mall.
At a work session Monday, a majority of City Council members indicated a preference that the bus-only lanes run from the Oakland border to just south of Broadmoor Boulevard, or a little more than two blocks. The buses would then continue to the San Leandro BART station in regular traffic lanes.
Bus Rapid Transit is a plan by AC Transit to provide speedier service through Oakland and San Leandro with lanes dedicated to buses that would run more frequently. The transit board OK'd the $153 million project in April, but it also needs the approval of Oakland and San Leandro. The San Leandro council is scheduled to formally vote on the project next Monday.
Oakland is currently reviewing a proposal. Berkeley was dropped from the project because of complaints by neighbors and merchants about losing on-street parking spaces.
The San Leandro City Council opted in 2010 to shorten the route from the original Bayfair proposal, instead ending Bus Rapid Transit at the San Leandro BART station. Extending the route to Bayfair would have meant losing a lane of traffic.
On Monday, council members looked at two shorter options: extending the bus-only lanes from the city's northern border down to Georgia Way or ending the lanes sooner, near Broadmoor.
Several council members said they were concerned that extending bus-only lanes from the city's northern border down to Georgia would cut down on where drivers could make left turns off East 14th Street.
Resident Peggy Combs told the council she was worried that the Bus Rapid Transit plan would increase traffic on side streets. "Let's figure out what we can do for the current riders," Combs added.
Mike Pretto of the Estudillo Estates Neighborhood Association also expressed concern about the impact on neighborhoods near East 14th.
"BRT is different for us because we're a car-based community," said Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak.
While the shorter bus-only lanes plan allows for more left turns, they still would be prohibited at Broadmoor, one of the city's thoroughfares.
"Why can't drivers turn onto Broadmoor?" asked Mayor Stephen Cassidy.
"We don't want people making a left turn in front of a bus lane," replied city engineer Keith Cooke.
Council members asked that transit officials and city staff to look at ways to permit left turns at that intersection.
Currently, bus riders heading north from Bayfair can ride up East 14th on a single bus. The plan presented to the council would require those riders to transfer onto a rapid transit bus at the San Leandro BART station.
"We want riders to be able to get from one place to another without a transfer. We don't want service to be any worse than it is today," said Uche Udemezue, city director of engineering and transportation.
The staff recommended that the city add a condition that there be service from Bayfair all the way up East 14th.
"I don't see bike lanes" in the proposal, Cassidy said. "Why can't we have bike lanes all the way to the Oakland border?"
Cooke said the staff would look at whether traffic lanes could be narrowed to allow bike lanes.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2016.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.