6.16.2013 | The East Bay by bus, in style

Moving to the East Bay from San Francisco, my biggest challenge was finding out where all the little hot spots are. In San Francisco it was possible to get everywhere by Muni; there were clear maps, and frequent service. The street grid was simpler, and so it was easier to figure out where you were. "I don't do bridges," said a friend of mine once, referring to his refusal to cross the Bay Bridge into Oakland. Understandable: it was a strange, far-off place that operated by radically different rules.

Except for the agency's busiest lines (1, 51, 72 … the latter two far from obvious to outsiders), routes can suffer from a lack of sufficient frequency. Transfers aren't free. It's a less wealthy community facing higher transportation costs, so they charge more … a huge disincentive for folks to come from the city. Transbay fares are also high … $3 each way by rail, and there's a $5 toll for cars. Crossing that physical and psychological barrier can be too much for some to bear. And then there's Oakland's unfortunate reputation for crime—if you're not afraid of colored and homeless folks, it's really OK most of the time. Having lived in downtown San Francisco, I consider downtown Oakland cleaner and safer—and North Oakland is a real treasure, more like Berkeley than anything else.

At the risk of possibly raising my rent by telling the world (especially San Franciscans) it's perfectly safe to come here and explore without a car, here are the places I enjoy in the East Bay without using a car, and how to get there.

A guide to East Bay buses for beginners … where to start, what to see
Learning about the history of this place really helped me make sense of the neighborhoods, which were once connected by streetcar. The highway network and even BART, when they came through, destroyed a lot of the true fabric of the area, making it easier to leave than to stay and enjoy what it has to offer. I've left off some BART stations from this map that I think get in the way of that enjoyment, and I encourage folks to get to know the AC Transit routes that connect these fine communities.

This map makes some gaps in transit service painfully apparent: there is no way to easily get between Emeryville, Temescal and Rockridge, three of the area's hottest commercial and recreational centers (once connected, I should mention, by a major transbay train). No matter. Each neighborhood is worth the trip on its own day, so you can come back another time to get more.

In a future post I might write in more detail about what you can find in each of these neighborhoods, but no need to give away the whole store for now. I'm curious to see what people think of the map, without too much of my bias showing through. In doing this map I am hoping to build on the work of others who have attempted to make transit maps clearer and more accessible—but instead of a sole focus on frequency and convenience, I also want to show neighborhoods where a trip might worth the wait.

Any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.

Edit: I'm reading a new proposal (PDF) from AC Transit to replace most of the historic 12 line with a new 13, that will meander through Lakeshore, Piedmont, and Rockridge before turning back along Alcatraz to head to Emeryville. They're aiming to create a new crosstown route through Berkeley, which is laudable, but this long and winding route to Emeryville, while politically palatable, misses the point for downtown Oakland residents like me (I usually drive to Emeryville because of the transfers required). It would also sever a key link between Piedmont and Temescal. On the plus side, the 57 would be extended into Emeryville.


Blogger Omar said...

There's a proposal to reroute the F and rename it the "1T" by sending it down Telegraph and having it turn right on 40th. I'm almost in favor of that change because of the better connection to Temescal, but the current F routing serves lower-income neighborhoods. It's also a less direct transbay route (the current F could get across the bay faster if it turned onto Stanford and continued down Powell).

I should also note that routes 1 and 72 have "rapid" equivalents that skip stops for faster, more frequent service. They are the 1R and 72R, and generally run during weekdays every 10 minutes or so.

2:43 AM  
Blogger Omar said...

Funny that the proposed 13 line will take the Powell-Stanford alignment that would speed up the F transbay service—I love the shops at Alcatraz & San Pablo. I wonder if a local route through there would make sense? I saw a bus stop there with an old cover that said "temporarily discontinued."

11:41 AM  

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