Oakland’s transportation manager Wladimir Wlassowsky said during the public works committee meeting yesterday that his department is in favor of AC Transit’s plan, which recommends relocating the bus stop in front of Summit Bank because it would position the stop on the far-side corner of the intersection which is safer for motorists and pedestrians. Summit Bank executives and public relations specialists and security consultants working for the bank expressed fears that bus riders loitering outside the bank’s entrance would cause or attract crime, however. Bank executives also said they want to preserve street parking for customers in front of the bank.
But the decision to eliminate the bus stop ran counter to Oakland’s stated environmental and transit policies.
“Broadway, and the area around this stop, have been designated as priority areas for transit-oriented development, and the stop removal goes against our policy goals and is hurting people, including seniors and people with disabilities, who are left to schlep extra blocks to another stop, sometimes carrying groceries,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who is also the Chair of the Oakland Public Works Committee.
Kaplan’s initiative to reinstate the stop in front of Summit Bank isn’t coming without pushback. Summit Bank recently hired public relations consultant Sam Singer to handle the bus stop controversy. Singer and Summit Bank announced in a press release on Monday that Summit Bank is circulating a petition against locating the stop in front of the bank branch. The petition calls the plan “ill-conceived.”
Steven Nelson, President and COO of Summit Bank, said in the press release that the bus stop would present “serious safety and security concerns for [Summit Bank] employees, customers, the disabled, and the community.”
David Travers, the president of Guardian Security Agency which is working with Summit Bank, told the committee that having people loiter in front of the bank would provide cover for bank robbers or muggers. “It’s very difficult to differentiate between someone with evil intent, and someone who’s just there to wait for a bus,” Travers said.
Singer said that Summit Bank wants the bus stop located in front of the nearby Sprouts market, and Singer portrayed Sprouts as the villain who eliminated the bus stop in the first place. But Sprouts had agreed previously to pay for the bus stop’s relocation in order to avoid having it placed in front of their busy street entrance, and city and AC Transit planners agreed that moving the bust stop across 30th Street to the curb in front of Summit made the most sense from a safety and efficiency standpoint.
Advocates in favor of the stop in front of Summit Bank said that Summit Bank’s vague security concerns don’t justify the removal of the bus stop. “If security is an issue, there shouldn’t be a bus stop in front of City Hall, restaurants, or anything else,” one bus rider told the committee.
“I think it would be pretty easy to do a study of all the banks with a bus stop in front of it and how many had been robbed by bus riders,” said Joyce Roy, an 81 year-old Oakland resident who said she used to frequent the stop for medical appointments.
For residents like Michelle Rousey, who has a disability, deciding which corner the bus stop will be located on is less concerning than the fact that no timeline has been set for it’s reinstatement. “People with disabilities and seniors didn’t have a choice with this,” Rousey said. “I’ve been riding the bus since I was in a manual wheelchair in the early 90s. The buses have changed a lot, but when you take the stop out, we have to roll further and walk further.”
“They say they are working on it, but that could take up to a year,” Rousey continued. “For me, that’s too long for something that shouldn’t have bee removed in the first place.”