United(?) Stakeholders of Howard Terminal

Earlier this week, the City of Oakland presented some findings related to transportation at Howard Terminal. While some of the observations were quite sharp, many of the proposed solutions were fuzzy and ill-defined.

Take this zinger for starters:

For a year or more, I’ve heard a ridiculous mantra, No one lives at Howard Terminal, which should pave the way for all manner of changes with few complaints. Problem is that impacts are not confined to the project site alone. The surrounding area is much larger and can suffer from being in close proximity. That’s the flip side to the economic improvements often claimed in stadium projects. Sure, Howard Terminal will get a lot of jobs. Is it worth the gridlock? The CEQA process is designed to help the public make an informed decision.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease, so to speak

To that end OakDOT has apparently decided to attack the gridlock problem by prioritizing certain types of traffic on specific streets in the area. Embarcadero West/1st Street has train tracks right in the middle of it, forcing rail activity there to take priority. A block north, A four-block stretch of 2nd Street is the location of a transit hub. Which sounds pretty exciting, until you scratch the surface and realize that it’s mostly a staging area for BART shuttles. That’s not stopping Oakland from full-on selling the hub’s prospects:

It’s Oakland’s version of the Transbay Terminal, except, not

There is talk of a potential BART stop there, though BART nixed any near term prospects. You can hope for 2050, which at the current rate of stadium aging is around the time that a Howard Terminal ballpark becomes obsolete. Bottom line, what’s planned is the stop for the bus bridge between the ballpark and BART, whether you’re talking about 12th Street/City Center, West Oakland, or Lake Merritt. Buses would line up along that stretch before turning onto a bus-prioritized Castro Street, then heading to one of the BART stations or the other parts of Oakland.

Bike traffic currently has 2nd Street as a designated route, which got the attention of bike advocates:

Strangely, 2nd Street is a designated bike route

Every redevelopment vision is going to have winners and losers, which makes it incumbent upon local government to work to protect the interests of those who can’t afford to buy their way out of the gridlock (hello, ridesharing). Keep in mind one of the bullet points above:

While BART serves a critical transportation role for communities of color, riders are disproportionately whiter than the residents around the stations

BART functions as a set of contradictions. It uses the same technology that powers metro subways, yet has less frequent, more spread-out stops and runs longer distances like commuter rail. For a long time it had those comfortable, e. Coli-infused wool seats. BART’s operational and spiritual hub is in Oakland, which makes it strange that the A’s and the City/Port are working so hard to propose a project that actively sidesteps it. Yet those contradictions make it difficult to justify an infill station nearby, as any slowdown in speed or efficiency within downtown Oakland could negatively impact ridership from the admittedly whiter suburbs.

Absent a direct connection to BART, HT proponents are pumping up that transit hub, limited as it is, and other solutions. As part of designating certain streets for certain types of travel, ballpark vehicular traffic is mostly confined to Market Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

Rush hour gameday traffic map is a huge visual improvement from the old LOS (level of service) charts

You may remember that last year there was talk of a new ramp to the Adeline overpass to help route cars to the Nimitz. Evidently that idea encountered some resistance from Port interests, as there’s no mention of the ramp in the presentation. That’s probably just as well, since the ramp would mix ballpark traffic with Port traffic, which trucking companies have been fighting to keep separated for some time. It doesn’t help that the ramp runs through Schnitzer Steel, another opponent of the ballpark. Are those measures enough to satiate all concerned stakeholders? As usual, color me skeptical. Project mode splits show that with the move from the Coliseum to Howard Terminal comes a shift in cars to downtown Oakland, a duh moment but one with surprisingly minimal planning to deal with it.

10,000 vehicles is 10,000 vehicles, no matter how you slice it. Thankfully, fewer than half are expected around the ballpark on gamedays.

Some infrastructure is planned. Again, whether that’s enough is up for vigorous debate. Consider the following legend from the pedestrian map:

The terms Proposed and Potential are the keys here. The pedestrian/bike bridge at Jefferson is Proposed. The vehicle/pedestrian bridge at Market is listed as Potential, as are some underpass improvements. Can you discern the difference?

You’ll notice a passing mention of the gondola above. You haven’t heard much about it since its splashy introduction a year ago. That should tell you how much traction it has. Whether it gets traction or evaporates like most non-traditional transit proposals, there still remains a big last mile transit hole that is being addressed with little efficacy. Not much new infrastructure is planned, other than the stuff the Port interests are pushing for. The above map shows a bus rapid transit station at 12th Street, a separate project from Howard Terminal. Presumably BRT would be expanded to include HT, effectively making the hub a nice BRT stop. The disjointed nature how how all of the various transit options (three BART stations, Amtrak, ferry, AC Transit) come close but don’t actually converge is rather disturbing, more than a year after studies started. Obviously, you can’t move a ferry terminal or the train stations, but that last mile problem remains vexing. The way to resolve it, as proposed, is to throw a bunch of rules, operational costs (buses), and gridlock at it. That doesn’t sound much like progress to me. I eagerly await the end of the month, when the draft EIR is scheduled for release.

27 thoughts on “United(?) Stakeholders of Howard Terminal

  1. Maybe this is fanciful thinking but Broadway Smog and Auto Repair at 431 MLK (and 5th St.) has moved locations. This would make an great stamp sized BART stop. You could even make it a stop with no (or very little) parking. It would be constructed on already existing track and would still be used on non-game days. And yes, I know that BART has said no to this but maybe that is a starting position rather than a firm declaration.

    • I know the second transbay tube is only in the talking stages, and as been for many years, lord knows it may never happen.

      But, you bring up an interesting point, if the thinking is to extend 12th street to Jack London Square, so that it may be a starting point to Alameda, and then eventually across the bay to the south of market area (Warriors arena), that would be great.

      It may take 30-40 years, but…it may only take 10-15 years to complete the first leg of that, which for our purposes only needs to be 12th street to JLS.

      • The problem with a planning a second Transbay Tube is coming to a consensus on the route. Should it go with the old Southern Crossing concept? If it goes through Alameda the route could go up Broadway or skip downtown altogether and head to the East Bay. I’ve said more than once that BART is not a substitute for a proper streetcar system like Muni Metro or the old Key System. No one should pin their hopes on BART fixing Oakland’s long-held public transit issues. Especially if Oakland gains 200k or fewer new residents as is currently projected.

      • A street car system from 12th street to JLS would be great, but that seems way to costly a proposition to cover one mile.

        It’s true they haven’t choosen a rout, but with a ballpark (if they build it), and all the other growth that’s going on in and around JLS, that simply gives more credibility to the idea that a route starring with an extension from 12th to JLS should start things off.

      • Transit projects aren’t planned on a piecemeal basis like that. All of the expense for tunneling underneath Broadway and underneath all of the existing BART tunnels has *very* little ROI, short or long-term.

      • “Transit projects aren’t planned on a peacemeal bases like that”

        I agree, of course they are not, but it’s also true that BART wasn’t built out in the first place.

        JLS dosen’t need a BART stop to work for a ballpark, there are three of them fairly close, but it would certainly help.

  2. The only relatively short-term way to address the public transit accessibility problem is for the A’s to build their new ballpark at a site in close proximity to a BART station, either currently existing or definitively planned; as opposed to building a prohibitively costly line branch and BART station to a proposed ballpark site that would have very limited full-time utilization capacity.. The previously rejected proposed sites for an A’s ballpark at Laney-Peralta-Lake Merritt and at Diridon Station in San Jose had both met that former example to have met that very crucial requirement.

  3. You didn’t list their current site (coliseum), which has BART service, and unfortunately would probably serve as a back up to HT if that site didn’t work.

    Dirdon is a none starter at this point, MLB is covering the SF Giants ass, and that probably won’t change.

    I would have preferred the Peralta site, if for no other reason then the fact that the A’s wanted that site. But, that site dosen’t allow for the development opportunities that HT does, also the Lake Marit BART station is bit small, and that site even if available isn’t a slam dunk either.

  4. LOS = “level of service” not “loss”

  5. “You didn’t list their current site (coliseum), which has BART service, and unfortunately would probably serve as a back up to HT if that site didn’t work.”

    After all this time it is very apparent and obvious that the A’s are not interested in the coliseum site for their new ballpark for a number of reasons, one of which is their belief that they could not earn a suitable return on their privately funded investment in a new A’s ballpark at that locale.

    • The A’s may not be interested in the coliseum, well it wasn’t that long ago that they were not interested in HT as well.

      Even if they are willing to build at the coliseum, they would not state that publicly because there would be to much pressure for them to just build there.

      Fact is at this moment the only back up option available is the coliseum.

    • To me, it is not “very apparent and obvious that the A’s are not interested in the coliseum site for their new ballpark…” Look, they’ve certainly named many other sites to build a park, but in the end, what’s the real estate they are actually trying to buy? The Coliseum.

      It certainly doesn’t appear to be their first choice, but they clearly know that the location has some value.

      • @ GM

        I could not agree with you more on this point (apparently llpec may not, which is ok), although I continue to hope they can do something at HT, if for no other reason then the fact that the coliseum site isn’t vary dynamic, which I think the A’s need to capture the casual fan.

        Obviously most of the folks that read & comment here, are going to go to any new ballpark the A’s build regardless of where it is in the Bay Area. I will be more than thrilled even if it has to be at the coliseum, I am just not sure that will be enough, unfortunately the coliseum and surrounding area don’t have a great reputation as is, and no matter what they build there it probable wont ingrate into the neighborhood well.

  6. Looking at that last map, I think the potential underpass improvements would be a slam dunk. You are talking about cleaning and brightening existing underpasses, basically making them feel more safe and inviting. That doesn’t have to be a major project. What San Jose did under 87 between downtown and the arena would suffice. The proposed/potential bridges are where I am much more skeptical.

    But even if those bridges were built out, I don’t see why you would choose to drive to the stadium. I know I will be taking BART to the 12th St station and having a nice walk down Broadway, through JLS and along the promenade shown in all the renderings. Perhaps arriving early to eat somewhere along the way. My folks have mobility issues. Today they take BART, where A’s personnel meet them with wheelchairs. At HT, I think they’d still take BART, then take a bus/shuttle to the park, where I assume the A’s will help them get to their seats like they do today. Driving into a choke point like that when there are better options just seems nuts to me.

  7. I personally think the variety of non-overlapping transport options is a decent scenario for a facility (like HT) designed for sporting events. There are 3 BART stops in about a mile radius, bus lines, Uber, and scattered parking options all around. It’s a classic urban ballpark situation where people will figure out a variety of routes that work for their own situations. If the project happens, I’ve already got my route planned, but it is only one of many, so I do not envision fighting 20k people going the exact same way. There is a certain natural logic to avoiding hubs, which can also become chokepoints during events. However, one major key in my opinion will be for the A’s to provide easy, logical, and free transport for the mobility challenged from several launching spots (BART stations, etc) right to the gate. On the seperate topic of the coliseum as a continuing option, my opinion is that the A’s absolutely remain interested in building the new stadium there if HT doesnt work, but there is zero benefit to them in broadcasting that fact.

    • I agree, Rickey. I think ingress/egress will work best if people move away from the stadium (choke point) in a variety of directions via means other than private car. Then you spread out the car choke points (which are the real issue here, not people) to several areas that are as far away from each other as possible (mine would be a BART parking lot in El Cerrito). I think that’s the best approach to mitigating traffic around an urban stadium like this.

      • The presentation shows that FIFTY percent of fans will drive and park, plus 16% coming via ridesharing, for a total of 10,000 cars. Plus the hundreds of new shuttles that will jam up the streets so much Oakland has no choice but to designate priority uses for some of them. Perhaps that will drop over time as it did at China Basin. It won’t happen like this. Remember that the Giants got a Muni light rail extension as part of their ballpark deal. The A’s are offering a vaporware gondola and nothing else. What if the gondola becomes itself infeasible? And they’re requiring development rights of the Coliseum as part of the package. Do any of you really think that’s going to pass muster? Come on.

        I drew up a table comparing transit in 2007. Based on today’s information and those old standards, Howard Terminal looks comparatively awful.


      • @ML

        It’s not like there is going to be 10,000 cars in JLS. As I understand it there is 10,000 parking spaces within a two mile radius (not sure about that number), of those 10,000 cars I am guessing 6,000 will find spaces in downtown lots, or metered spots on city streets, and either walk or shuttle the rest of the way.

        I sure wish there was light rail, from 12th Street to JLS, it would sure help even if it was something as simple as an old school key route system that could turnaround at JLS. I know…wishful thinking.

        Why wouldn’t it “pass muster” they do own half of the property, so half the development rights. Not that anything is easily done in Oakland, but they are making real progress here.

        I wouldn’t say HT looked awful, of course if it had a BART stop, or light rail it would be great, but awful???

        There are three BART stations in opposite directions relatively close (one a little less than a mile from JLS), there is an AMTRAK station at JLS, there is bus service that will increases, (shuttle busses as well), and your graph did not take the ferry service into account, which as you know there is a stop there already as well. That’s hardly awful.

      • It’s worse than “would be nice.” It’s flat out regressive. That’s a big problem. What disappoints me is how willingly so many fans swallow the “it’s only feasible at HT” line without much if any backing documentation. Demand more.

      • @ ML

        It’s worse then “would be nice” point defanitly well taken.

        As you know I love the HT site, and it excites me that the A’s are making a real effort to make it happen there.

        “It’s the only fiesable site”

        Well, as you probably know I am not one of those people…hell I have heard so many times in this comment section (mostly in the past), “it won’t pencil out” folks had me wondering if it could work anywhere in Oakland.

        Anyway, thanks for the response, and good work as always.

      • I don’t disagree with what you’re saying ML. I was addressing how I think they should handle those 50% of fans coming via car. My thought is you disperse those to as many separate locations around the stadium (that are also as far from each other) as possible.

        You are definitely on point about the need for them to get more specific on how they plan to handle all this, including traffic management around those dispersed parking options. I’m just talking theory. They need to get specific to make sure it’s managed properly. You also raise a good point that those last mile shuttles will also add traffic to the area compared to today. That needs to be addressed as well.

        PS: I never gave the gondola 2 seconds of thought. That had vaporware written all over it from the get-go.

      • Baseball and other major sports demand a certain amount (~1,000 spaces) of parking adjacent to the stadium, whether for the team, press, or VIP fans. Beyond that, fans will pay for convenience. There is talk of technology to help, such as dynamic updating of inventory and routing to participating garages downtown. That should help. Prioritization of traffic is good, though not without growing pains as fans try to deal with it and get around it. What isn’t being discussed is the need to beef up on and off-ramps or widen arterial streets, including getting rid of on-street parking. That could impact area small businesses dependent on street parking. There are no estimates for the “proposed” or “potential” bridge improvements, as if we’re being conditioned to expect one and not the other. The biggest problem I’m seeing coming out of the West Oakland community meetings is that Oakland has a difficult task to not turn much of downtown into a chokepoint, which would cut West Oakland off from the rest of the city.

    • The Coliseum seems to only have one strike against it (but it’s a BIG strike) in that it’s not near Downtown or Jack London Square. But it’s an excellent ballpark transportation wise; BART, Amtrak, one freeway right near, a second freeway close by, ample parking. Add a ferry stop and I might speculate the most access’s ballpark in the MLB……….maybe? Also a 35-37k ballpark won’t crowd up the way a 55k ballpark will on a fireworks/Yankees/Giants/Red Sox game. Factor in that there is a bunch of room for redevelopment, maybe add an tech related office park or something akin to the Giants redevelopment around China Basin. It’s just too bad it isn’t close, or even closer to the heart of Oaktown.

  8. I agree with ML on the “only feasible site” idea likely being incorrect. I prefer the HT site personally, but I also think the Colisseum could produce a high quality ballpark and development with many advantages. I personally suspect the A’s are also of that opinion. But there would only be downside to making that belief known.

    • @ Rickey 24

      I agree with him as well.

      “only feasible site”

      Can mean whatever people want it to mean, personally I think pretty much any site can be feasible, if the person doing the investing believes it can be.

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