Oakland Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan and community advocates demanded on Tuesday that a 100-year-old controversial bus stop be reinstated, despite objections that some riders might pose a "security risk" in front of a bank.
At a Oakland Public Works Committee hearing, city Transportation Manager Wladmir Wlassowsky said the bus stop in question would be relocated to Broadway and 30th street in front of Summit Bank. He estimated this might take several months.
"The stop removal goes against our policy goals and is hurting people, including seniors and people with disabilities," Kaplan said, "who are left to schlep extra blocks to another stop, sometimes carrying groceries."
This particular bus stop was thrust into the spotlight in September 2015, when the East Bay Express first reported that that Line 51A was discontinued when the city of Oakland heeded the demands of Summit Bank, according to interviews, emails and letters the news agency obtained.
On Tuesday, newly hired bank spokesman and public relations expert Sam Singer said putting the bus stop in front of the bank poses a "security risk," a claim many called ridiculous, citing other banks that have bus stops in front of them and suffer no additional harm.
Singer instead said the bank wants the bus stop to be put back in front of Sprouts or up the block. Sprouts officials said it's too dangerous to put a stop in front of the grocery store because there are so many shoppers entering the market, it would get too congested at that corner.
"It's not a good idea to have a bus stop directly in front of a bank where people are constantly withdrawing money or depositing money," said Summit Bank spokesman Alex Doniache.
Chris Peeples, an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District board member disagreed.
"I think it's silly," he said. "That implies somehow people who ride buses are dangerous."
The route in question took riders, many of them elderly and disabled, to nearby medical offices and a new Sprouts grocery store.
For the past year, bus rider Michelle Rousey has struggled to get around her neighborhood.
"I don't have the option of just walking," she said. "Not having a bus stop that's convenient right there has been a hardship."
The bus stop was moved during the construction of Sprouts, and it was supposed to be relocated in front of Summit Bank, which has not yet happened. Sprouts is paying for the relocation.
"My sister was excited to see a healthy grocery store coming to my neighborhood so she can get groceries and visit me all at once," said Lusita Richards, a senior bus rider. "But now that the bus stop has been moved we have to travel farther in the rain with paper bags. Now she comes over less often and that makes me angry."
Dave Lyons, a retired bus driver and member of ACCE Riders for Transit Justice said, "This bus stop has been here for 100 years. It's an injustice to seniors and disabled bus riders who don't have a choice in how they get around.
"With all the gentrification in our city right now removing this bus stop in a community that's ‘pro-transit’ is a slap in the face to the community."