Planning Commission Seeks to Improve Traffic on Southside

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A proposal to convert one-way streets into two-way streets may be added to a plan that will revitalize Southside, the Berkeley City Planning Commission said last week.

The commission is considering adding the proposal to the Southside Plan, a university- and city-sponsored project that recommends policies for future housing, transportation and economic development.

But before the proposal can be added to the long-range plan, studies need to be done in order to determine which streets should be changed and whether or not it will benefit the residents of Berkeley.

"One of the problems is trying to find a plan that will benefit all three groups," said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, referring to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

Some members of the commission say the conversion proposal will only succeed with some modifications.

The plan must ban automobiles on Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way in order to work, said commissioner Rob Wrenn.

Since there are no driveways on Telegraph Avenue, automobiles do not have to be on the street, Wrenn said. Although parking spaces on the street would be eliminated, sufficient parking can be found on side streets and in the Sather Gate Parking Garage, he added.

Only buses and bicycles will be allowed onto Bancroft Way if it is changed to a two-way street. If cars were allowed on a two-way Bancroft Way, the buses would be caught in traffic, Wrenn said.

The conversion can improve traffic flow on Southside, the commission said. With more two-way streets, there will be less congestion in the area.

Martha Jones, a Berkeley resident, calls the one-way streets a nuisance, saying that people use Southside as a quick way to travel through the city because they can drive more quickly without risk of colliding with oncoming traffic.

Changing Telegraph Avenue will also accommodate the rapid transit system that AC Transit is working on for the city, Wrenn said.

The conversion will allow the buses to run more frequently and more often on schedule.

Currently, one-way streets sometimes require round-trip travelers to get on and off buses at different streets.

One of the main concerns of the residents at the meeting was the safety of pedestrian and bicyclist.

Two-way streets are a better alternative for pedestrians and bicyclists because motorists tend to go faster on one-way streets, said Dave Campbell, president of the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition.

"Conversion back to two-way streets makes it safer for cyclists because it slows down traffic. It makes the roads safer for everybody," Campbell said.

Bicyclists are forced to use other routes to get to campus because of all the drivers on streets, he said, complaining that on campus they also have to deal with dismounting laws.

In 1996, the city hired a consulting firm to do a survey of the city. Its report, the Preliminary Southside Circulation Study, recommended changes to minimize traffic flow, Wrenn said.

Five of the 10 worst collision areas in the city are in Southside. Some are at the intersections of one-way streets.

Although road conversion was discussed at the meeting, no decision has been reached, Wrenn added.

Most of the one-way streets in Berkeley were once two-way streets, but they were changed when it became more "fashionable," Worthington said.

Now there is more support for the streets to be changed back to two-way streets. The city council will consider changing the streets, but they will not make a rushed decision, Worthington said.

"We have to proceed very carefully and find the right streets to change," he said.


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