Oakland plans to begin a free weekday shuttle service to and from Jack London Square, transit stations and downtown restaurants and theaters to lure more people and business into the city core.

Service is expected to debut in May or June now that $720,000 is lined up for first year of the shuttle, city officials announced Monday.

Buses will run every 15 minutes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with 10-minute intervals during morning and evening rush hour, on a proposed three-mile loop between Jack London Square and West Grand Avenue.

City officials said they hope to give commuters, downtown workers, diners and theatergoers a faster and less polluting way get around downtown areas where many new restaurants and housing projects have opened in the past decade.

"I see this as another step in revitalizing the downtown," said Rebecca Kaplan, a City Council member who formerly served on the AC Transit Board. "By connecting these areas with a free shuttle, we're going to draw more people in the area, increase business and reduce pollution."

Offering the shuttle for free speeds service because the buses don't have to wait for passengers to pay before boarding.

Other cities ranging from Portland, Ore., to Walnut Creek and Emeryville in the East Bay have used free or low-cost bus shuttles as a tool to attract more people to their downtowns, officials said.

The Oakland City Council was scheduled to give final approval Tuesday to a funding plan that relies on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to contribute $500,000 in clean-air grants annually for two years to run the service.

Oakland will contribute $80,000 this year in redevelopment funds and three property owner groups will contribute another $140,000 this year. The groups are the Jack London Square Partners, and the Downtown and Lake Merritt-Uptown community benefit districts.

Kaplan said city officials are determined that this bus service will not flame out and die for lack of permanent funding, as did a lunch time downtown Oakland shuttle in 2001.

"Failure is not an option," she said. "We are counting as this, and we will continue to look for (government) grants and funding from the private sector to sustain it."

City officials plan to make an agreement for the Alameda Contra Costa Transit District to run the buses on the loop mostly following Broadway and Telegraph Avenue.

Shuttle stops at BART and Amtrak train stations and a ferry dock near Jack London Square will make it easier for commuters to get to and from downtown Oakland, said Zach Seal, an employee in the city's business development department.

If the shuttle proves popular, city officials likely would look at expanding service past 7 p.m. on weekdays, Seal said.

Kaplan said she and other city officials also hope that new bus shuttle can be the first step toward developing an electric streetcar system to the downtown some time in the future. Streetcars ran in downtown Oakland in the 1940s.

Reach Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Read the Capricious Commuter blog at www.ibabuzz.com/transportation.