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Oakland’s version of the B-Line successful, gaining in popularity

December 24, 2010

An article at the San Francisco Chronicle documents how the new free shuttle bus in downtown Oakland, officially called “The Broadway Shuttle” but informally referred to as the “Free B,” is a rousing success with riders and businesses, and will expand operations:

Oakland looks to expand popular ‘Free B’ shuttle

Five months after Oakland started running its free Broadway shuttle, city officials say ridership is higher than expected and passengers have asked to expand the program.

The “Free B” shuttle runs from Jack London Square to Lake Merritt along Broadway from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Its purpose is to encourage people to visit downtown Oakland and support local businesses.

Daily ridership in August started around 1,300; by October, the shuttle had an average of 1,919 daily passengers, according to the most recent data. The goal was to average at least 1,500 riders three months into the program, said Zach Seal, the project manager for Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency.

By August 2011, 2,500 riders could be taking it every day, he said.

“Passengers are making this shuttle a part of their routine,” Seal said. “As with most popular things, the biggest complaint is that people want more of it.”

Barbara Richard, 60, became a regular rider in September.

“It took me a while to catch on to it,” she said, adding that many workers in her office now take it to different lunch spots. “We’re just hoping it continues.”

The $740,000-a-year project is paid for with a competitive $1 million grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, as well as local sources.

This is likely a good model for Berkeley. If Oakland can do it, why can’t we?

The Broadway Shuttle is funded completely privately, by local businesses, and does not use public funds. And just like the similar Emery-Go-Round, it’s a big hit with local residents.

Berkeley city officials, please take note!

Route 1 of the proposed B-Line system — a free shuttle running from north Shattuck through downtown to Telegraph and Southside — is very similar in concept to Oakland’s Broadway Shuttle. Perhaps we can get the B-Line started with just this single route, as a “proof of concept,” and once it proves successful, expand the system to include the other proposed routes serving the various Berkeley neighborhoods and shopping districts.

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