AC Transit's $205 million plan for a bus rapid transit line for speedier service through Oakland and San Leandro would boost system ridership 4 percent but take away hundreds of curbside parking spaces and worsen traffic congestion at six intersections, according to an environmental report.

Release of the report opens a public comment period in advance of the AC Transit board's final decision in the spring whether to develop the 14.4-mile-long line touted as "rail on wheels."

Seven public hearings on the environmental report are planned in Oakland and San Leandro between Thursday and March 12.

Buses would arrive every five minutes. Bus-only lanes with elevated platforms for quick loading would be developed on much of the route along Telegraph Avenue, International Boulevard and East 14th Street.

Many public transit advocates tout the project as a way to lure drivers out of their cars, but some critics say it will be harder for motorists to drive and find parking.

"We think there is a benefit to us in attracting more riders and a benefit to the cities in attracting investments for transit-oriented developments" said Jim Cunradi, AC Transit's bus rapid transit project director.

The report estimates that the project would boost AC Transit's overall bus ridership by 4 percent or by 13,700 passengers between 2015 and 2035.

About 9,000 of those extra passengers would be new transit riders lured out of their cars. Others would be passengers lured away from other bus lanes or BART.

The overall time saved by bus riders will exceed the time lost by motorists who couldn't drive as fast, Cunradi said.

Motorists will find more congestion at six intersections -- mostly in north Oakland along Telegraph Avenue where there is little room to modify the intersections, according to the report.

"It's not going to cause gridlock, but it will cause impacts that are significant," Cunradi said. "We examined more than 100 intersections and found only six where impacts could be not be mitigated."

Those car traffic delays could be avoided if AC Transit scaled back the bus project to omit about four miles of route north of downtown Oakland, he added.

Switching to that $152 million alternative would reduce bus ridership, but it would solve another problem -- a money shortage.

AC transit is about $33 million short of having enough money commitments to build the full-size $205 million project, the report writers say.

Parking is another issue. The bus rapid transit would displace 1,000 curbside parking spaces in Oakland and San Leandro -- but about half of them are in areas where there is not a parking shortage, the report says.

In other areas, AC Transit would consider whether to offset parking shortages by acquiring nearby land for new parking lots or working with cities to set time limits on some curbside parking areas.

"We are trying to work with the cities to come up with a proposal that fits each neighborhood," Cunradi said.

A small portion of the 14.4- mile route is in Berkeley, but buses won't speed up in that city because the Berkeley City Council last year withdrew from the project by refusing to convert auto lanes to bus-only lanes.

For more information on the planned public hearings, view www.actransit.org. and click on news.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267.

AC Transit BUS RAPID TRANSIT PUBLIC MEETINGS
All meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. and will focus on the project environmental report
Feb. 23: Fruitvale Senior Center, 3301 E. 12th St., Suite 201, Oakland
Feb. 27: Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd., Oakland
Feb. 29: Havenscourt Campus auditorium, 1390 66th Ave., Oakland
March 1: San Leandro City Hall, south offices conference room, 835 E.14th St.
March 5: Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Hearing Room 3
March 7: Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th St., Oakland
March 12: Allen Temple Arms multipurpose room, 8135 International Blvd., Oakland
Note: The report is available at AC Transit headquarters, 1600 Franklin St., Oakland; at public libraries in Oakland, San Leandro and Berkeley; or by calling 510-891-7175.