Public Comment

Response to Prof. Kondolf on BRT

By Roy Nakadegawa
Thursday May 13, 2010 - 11:03:00 PM

Matt Kondolf, a professor who teaches environmental sciences, wrote an opinion piece in a recent Daily Planet which shows that, though he may be an expert on hydrology and river restoration, he obviously does not have transportation expertise. Prof. Kondolf makes numerous distorted claims and facts. 

He states that the successful BRT systems of South America are grade separated from traffic. 

This is not true. I have visited Curitiba and several other BRTs in Brazil, examined their system and spoken with their staff, and I can assure you that they are not grade separated. Curitiba’s renown BRT and integrated land development have increased transit use and helped promote overall prosperity. Along with increase in income, automobile ownership has increased in Curitiba to about the highest per capita in Brazil, but transit ridership has also increased. 

Kondolf also claims that BART already serves the natural market for BRT. This is also not true. BART is primarily for longer distance travel, and BRT would be for more local travel. Can you conveniently get from Berkeley to the various hospitals i.e. "Pill Hill" or Kaiser using BART, or to many local businesses, schools and parks? BART serves a very limited portion of these local destinations. The proposed BRT route serves the greatest number of these destinations within a half mile of any transit line in the East Bay. That is why the BRT is estimated to carry over 40,000 trips per day. 

Kondolf claims that the DEIR concluded that the proposed BRT might increase net transit ridership by only about 1.5%. This percentage is probably comparing the increase in transit ridership of BRT to AC’s entire system. His saying we should not build BRT because it would increase AC entire transit ridership only 1.5% is like saying we should not insulate houses in Berkeley because it would reduce energy used in heating in the entire East Bay by only 1.5%. The relevant comparison regarding the BRT is not to the entire AC’s ridership, but a comparison of the no-build alternative to the BRT Alternatives. The purported figures Kondolf used referred to Table (p3-28) of the DEIR, actually shows a considerable increase of 50-76%, whereas, there is no mention of the numbers Kondolf stated. 

The current 1R express bus provides poor service because it is often delayed by traffic. Though it should operate at 12 minute intervals, you often see two 1R buses entering downtown Berkeley in tandem or a few minutes apart, so riders often need wait over 20 minutes to use the 1R. 

Though the 1R has signal priority, the bus is often unable to clear the intersection in the short time signal time the priority provides before the light changes because it is in among a queued line of vehicles. As traffic increases, this problem will worsen. 

Regards to greenhouse gas emissions, the DEIR Kondolf cites (P4-152) only shows the fuel and BTU consumption which translating to emissions per bus mile. It did not consider the additional passengers the various alternatives will carry or the overall future land use pattern that is promoted by BRT. APTA's recent climate change recommendations, the FTA's Climate Change Report of April, 2010, and the ICFI's report "Reducing GHG Emissions with Transit" all consider these land use effects and all conclude BRT reduces GHG emissions. 

Most people do not know that heavily used commuter bus lines, like Greyhound intercity buses have very low GHG emissions per passenger mile, as low as heavy rail like BART or LRT according to the “Transportation Energy Book” published by US Dept. of Energy. Because the BRT would attract and increase in riders per bus, the BRT will also lower emissions per passenger mile over current operation. Also with higher ridership and speed, the cost per passenger mile would also decrease, allowing AC Transit to provide more transit service with the limited funds it has for operation. 


Roy Nakadegawa P.E. 


Lived in Berkeley over 60 years, served as a publicly elected AC Transit and BART Director 32 years, a life member of Institute of Transportation Engineers, served 20 years on Committees of TRB (A branch of Academy of Sciences), served on an oversight committees overseeing 4 Transit Cooperative Research Publication and have traveled extensively examining various modes of transit including Curitiba, Brazil’s renowned BRT as well as several other BRTs from 5 trips to Japan, 6 trips to Europe.