For the better part of the past century, the automobile contributed to unrestrained growth on the urban periphery. Now we have an opportunity to reverse this unsustainable course and create vibrant communities in the urban core areas centered on transit.
The community planning process for MacArthur Village began in 1993. I recall the promising tone of the first meeting held 20-years ago opposite BART at Beebe Memorial Cathedral. By the time the BART Board adopted a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policy in 2005 the Bay Area’s population had already blossomed by about one-million residents. The following year, the California Legislature and Governor passed the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which set the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal into law. If all goes according to the plan for MacArthur BART, the Transit Village will be completed by 2023—thirty years from inception!
Like the climate, the glacial pace of change is beginning to pick up speed. Construction began on the $28-million, 450-car garage in the Fall of 2012. One might be surprised to see that average weekday ridership continued to grow after reducing the parking. With an average weekday average of 8,576 exits in FY12, MacArthur BART is the fourth busiest station in the East Bay. Like other urban core stations, ridership growth is fueled by the millennium generation who are more likely to be dependent on transit and access the station on foot or bicycle. According to BART staff, only about 18-percent of the riders who board at MacArthur drive-alone to the station. The garage will be completed by early 2014.
Meanwhile, the real TOD is about to begin. The first 90 affordable housing units are undergoing a final design review. The BART Plaza and internal street construction will also begin this year. The planters in the Plaza will be removed to allow better pedestrian circulation, and a Bike Station will be built to provide secure parking for 200 bicycles.
The original plan called for 624 housing units (516 market rate, 108 affordable) and 42,500-square feet of retail space, and 5,000 square-feet of community space. The exciting news is that BART’s private partner, Bridge Housing, is encouraging other financial partners to contribute to greater housing density as approved by the community in the adopted Environmental documents. One environmental perspective is for the MacArthur Village to rise above the adjacent freeway.
I gladly inherited the MacArthur Station TOD site following the redistricting adopted by the BART Board in 2011. From listening to constituent suggestions, it has been a pleasure to implement several relatively small improvements over the past year. I pushed for the repair of the damaged tile paving in the sculpture plaza that features the Post & Lintel work by the late Oakland artist Harold Paris (1925-1978). The passenger pick-up and drop-off zone was clearly marked. Additional bicycle racks have been added in the paid area of the station. The decrepit newspaper racks were removed. All the while, I have worked to see that the TOD project move forward to deliver the kind of quality urban environment that befits the burgeoning neighborhood and public investment in BART.
If we don’t get this development right, there will not be another chance to revisit this valuable site for decades to come. I look forward to hearing your suggestions for businesses as the construction progresses.