For bicyclists and pedestrians wary of weathering the narrow walkway and noise pollution of the Webster-Posey Tube, a quick and free alternative for getting to and from Oakland is headed their way: the Estuary Crossing Shuttle.
Scheduled to begin operating on Aug. 15, the shuttle between Alameda and Oakland will run at 30-minute intervals on weekdays between 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m and 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“Providing some sort of crossing is an issue that’s been important to the bicycle community,” said Matt Naclerio, director of Alameda's Public Works Department.
The shuttle will make two stops in Alameda — at Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway and the College of Alameda’s satellite campus on Atlantic — and one in Oakland, at the Lake Merritt BART, near Laney College.
The shuttle will hold up to 24 passengers and 12 bikes.
There is one other perk. The service will come at no cost to riders, thanks to a grant of $236,000 from the Bay Area Quality Management Transportation District.
The need to increase accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians was included in the Alameda Bicycle Master Plan, which was created in 1999.
Since 2006, BikeAlameda has aggressively campaigned to meet goals laid out in the bicycle plan. When the Alameda Landing development was slated to move forward, they proposed the construction of a dock to operate a water shuttle across the Estuary.
But the economic downturn stalled the development and ultimately the possibility of the water taxi. Then in 2008, BikeAlameda secured $200,000 for a feasibility study to identify solutions to the estuary crossing problem. The study was finalized in 2009.
Jeff Cambra, a BikeAlameda board member who was involved in the organization’s early initiatives, said he’s happy a concrete solution has finally come to pass.
“The tube is a barrier that has prevented pedestrian and bicycle connection between the two cities,” he said.
According to field work conducted by BikeAlameda in 2006, about 100 bicyclists and pedestrians used the tubes on a daily basis. Although no updated counts exist, some speculate higher gas prices and the increased cost of public transportation have led more people to walk and ride their bikes.
“It’s increasing out of necessity,” theorized Cambra, noting that the rising cost of tuition has likely motivated more students to bike and walk to school.
For that same reason, the city saw the project as a good opportunity to link up with with the Peralta Community College District. The shuttle stops are located near the community colleges. Many students take classes at both Alameda College and Laney College, and currently no school shuttles exist to transport students traveling between the two campuses.
“I think the idea of a free shuttle makes a lot of sense to people,” said Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, president of Alameda’s Planning Board.
But the grant that is funding the shuttle is only for one year. While the city can apply for funding next year, securing future funds will depend in large part on ridership. Proponents of the project are intent on getting the word out to residents between now and August.
“Hopefully, it’s too good to pass up,” Ashcraft said.