I am a current student at the University of California, Berkeley and I have just completed my first year. After living in Berkeley for 10 months, I have made many observations about the town: it is dirty, it is run down, it smells like piss, there so many homeless people around, and the buildings look like there are about to collapse in the next earthquake. However, the one thing that stood out to me the most was the condition of the roads. It is not just the roads near campus. Downtown, Northside, Southside, and up near the Berkeley Hills have roads that are made 16th century wagons to travel on.
Okay, I guess my expectations are high for a city that was established in 1878. I come from one of the cleanest cities in the United States: Irvine, California so I was not used to a flipped over garbage can greeting me as I stepped out of the car on my way to my new dorm room. Irvine was established almost 100 years after Berkeley and I could tell one hundreds years makes a lot of difference to the appearance to a city. Unlike Berkeley, Irvine is planned city by the Irvine Company. By the looks of it Berkeley is not very well planned or maintained.
I find the main complaint I have with the city of Berkeley is the roads. How many 9 inch deep potholes are there on Durant between College and Telegraph? I feel about 50 as I take the 51B line AC Transit bus on my way home from class. This is on a large bus with a suspension that is supposed to absorb the majority of the imperfections of the road. Sometimes, all the passengers in the bus get tossed and turned as the driver is trying to avoid all the cracks in the road. Other times, the bus driver is too fed up with the current road conditions that he or she plummets over the potholes like a monster truck driver throwing the passengers out of their seats into the sides of others around them. We all have to hold on for dear life. It is not just the buses that are suffering from the cracked up roads. When I get in a car or taxi, I question to myself whether I got into a massage chair and cranked up the setting to maximum uncomfortness. My butt would be jiggling the whole ride!
How would I get around the city if I can’t take the bus or drive a car? Would I bike? No, I would hit a massive hole and crush my skull. Would I walk? No, the sidewalks are so lumpy from the overgrown tree roots that I might stumble and sprain my ankle, like I already have done before. Then how am I going to get around town? The only way is to fix the roads and sidewalks.
There is currently a 5 year street repair program that was proposed in late 2012. It is supposed to improve the conditions of the roads, improve traffic, and allow a bike and bus route. The plan sounds good, but the city of Berkeley does not have 5 years to wait around for construction to start. The project needs to start now. It will only get more and more expensive as the years go by and the roads get run down even more.
Berkeley should look at Irvine as a model in world of street repair. Irvine repairs its streets every two years and they are streets that are in mint condition when compared to that of Berkeley. So instead of spending the cities tax money on other things, the priority should be repairing the roads.