Opinion: SunCal Must Present Transit Plan for Oak Knoll

By Yvonne Williams---Before either the Planning Commission or the City Council vote on whether to approve the Oak Knoll project to go forward into construction, developer SunCal must present the public with a comprehensive public transit plan for the housing development. 

Currently, only AC Transit’s hourly 46 bus line, which drops people off at Coliseum BART, stops at the Oak Knoll site. The 46L and the NX4 lines go through the site, but do not stop there. The NX4 line, which is the only Transbay line serving the area, begins and ends in Castro Valley and has stops 0.8 and 1.2 miles away from the Oak Knoll development site.

Though SunCal and AC Transit both recommend adding bus stops and expanding service to the site, as well as providing bus passes to residents to encourage their transit use, none of the details for these proposals have been worked out as of yet. The developer is not required to present details of a public transit plan to the Planning Commission or City Council before the two bodies vote on whether to approve the project.

The public currently has no details on how many bus stops will be added to Oak Knoll, how additional service to the site will be paid for, or how many car trips the buses will reduce.

The lack of information is not something that can or should be ignored. The Environmental Impact Report for the Oak Knoll project currently estimates that the development’s 2,293 new residents will generate 11,250 daily car trips to and from the site, while adding just 765 daily public transit trips.

Interstate 580 is right next to Oak Knoll. Anyone who has ever tried to commute on I-580 during peak commute times knows that it’s not pleasant. Cars can back up for miles. 

Picture: MacArthur I-580 On-Ramp, Westbound. Near Oak Knoll.  Photo Credit: Jennifer Winfrey

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Picture: I-580 Mountain Blvd Overpass Off-Ramp at Keller Avenue. Near Oak Knoll. Photo Credit: Jennifer Winfrey

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No doubt thousands of the 11,250 daily car trips will spill onto I-580. Oak Knoll residents, if they want to get to Downtown quickly, or get to their jobs in San Francisco, will have to use the freeway often. Since Oak Knoll will include 72,000 square feet of retail space in an area lacking shopping options, off-site shoppers will likely use I-580 as a main route to get to the retail.

More cars on the interstate will mean more road repairs and more money spent by taxpayers fixing infrastructure problems. That’s a problem for everyone, not just those living at Oak Knoll. Additional public transit options to and from Oak Knoll could lighten the load on I-580 significantly.

Some may presume that the residents at Oak Knoll won’t be interested in using public transit. The average projected family income for Oak Knoll is $220,000. With that type of income, residents may prefer to take their cars. But, according to a recent report done by the American Public Transportation Association, 21 percent of all people using public transportation in the U.S. are earning more than $100,000 a year, which is equal to the percentage of riders making $15,000 yearly. 

The affluent Oak Knoll population is not immune to the desirability of public transit.

SunCal must work with AC Transit and other public transit agencies to complete a comprehensive public transit plan for the Oak Knoll project. It must do this before the Planning Commission or the City Council votes to approve it for construction.

Yvonne Williams is the President and Business Agent at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, which represents AC Transit workers.