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Berkeley Measure KK may allow NIMBYs to block BRT

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  • 10/14 UCB Daily Cal
    Published Tuesday, October 14, 2008, by the UCB Daily Californian Measure Would Take Bus Lane Plan Directly to the Voters By Deepti Arora Contributing Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 15, 2008
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      Published Tuesday, October 14, 2008, by the UCB Daily Californian

      Measure Would Take Bus Lane Plan Directly to the Voters

      By Deepti Arora
      Contributing Writer

      While residents have been fighting a plan to create dedicated bus
      lanes on Telegraph Avenue in the City Council chambers for months,
      some hope a plan to put the issue before voters will give residents
      the final say.

      If passed by 50 percent of Berkeley voters, Measure KK would give
      residents the power to issue an up or down vote on a regional plan to
      designate a lane specifically for buses and high-occupancy vehicles.

      Opponents of the plan, which will include lanes on Telegraph, Solano,
      University and Shattuck avenues, say dedicated bus lanes will harm
      businesses by eliminating parking spots and increasing congestion.

      Traditionally, the City Council would decide how the plan would be
      implemented in Berkeley, which they will still do if the measure
      fails in November.

      Members of the council voted unanimously in early October to oppose
      the measure, saying it would lead to inefficiency and inappropriately
      bypass the council's authority.

      "I think it's very poor public policy," said Councilmember Max
      Anderson. "I think we have a representative democracy here and people
      elected us to make decisions while giving the public a chance to
      weigh in."

      But measure supporter Karl Reeh, the president of the Le Conte
      Neighborhood Association, said people affected by the bus lanes
      should be able to decide on the plan.

      He pointed to a petition drafted by supporters that includes more
      than 3,000 signatures from Berkeley residents who support the

      "If KK passes then the people will at least have more say in the
      final decision, but if it doesn't pass, then the council will approve
      it the way the bus system wants it," he said. "We have discussed the
      issue for the last year and a half and we realize that we'll be the
      ones most immediately affected in this part of the city, and no one
      is representing us."

      Members of the council stress that they also have concerns about the
      plan, but that giving more direct say to voters will create undue
      procedural delays.

      "It's cumbersome, long and drawn-out and expensive," said
      Councilmember Linda Maio. "It's not the way to make policy. We have
      a very extensive review process for everything we do, and that's the
      place where we get in and figure out what will work and what will
      not work."

      Organizations like the Sierra Club and the Berkeley-Friendly Bicycle
      Coalition also do not support the measure, claiming that it would set
      up a roadblock to changes in the transit system that would benefit
      the environment.

      "In this era, we have global warming increasing and we need to do
      something major to cut down on greenhouse gas," said Helen Burke,
      the vice-chair of the Northern Alameda County Group of the Sierra
      Club. "Nearly 50 percent of Berkeley's greenhouse gases come from
      private automobiles. (The bus plan) would provide an attractive,
      reliable, fast form of transportation."

      What it Means

      Yes on Proposition KK -- the public will vote in a later election
      whether to allow a designated bus lane on major streets like
      Telegraph and Shattuck avenues.

      No on Proposition KK -- the City Council will decide the details of
      a Bus Rapid Transit Plan with input from the public, but the issue
      will not go to a general vote.
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