Berkeley City Council member proposes car-free section on Telegraph Avenue

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The Telegraph Shared Streets proposal, which would make the section of Telegraph Avenue from Bancroft Way to Dwight Way a car-free zone, has received “some new buzz” after the launch of the Better Market Street plan Wednesday, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson.

In October, Berkeley City Council unanimously voted to begin studying how the four blocks of Telegraph Avenue could be turned into a “shared street.” The implementation of Robinson’s initiative is not a matter of support but rather a matter of funding, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar.

“The City will soon be applying for grants from the Alameda County Transportation Commission to fund the planning (and) design process for this vision,” Robinson said in an email.

The current proposal intends to build on the 2016 Telegraph Public Realm Plan. According to Robinson’s referral, the 2016 plan had received “extensive” input from community members, including vendors, merchants, property owners and UC Berkeley and AC Transit representatives for the shared street element.

Some of the many short and medium-term projects within the extensive 2016 plan, including the modular trash stations and enhancements to Dwight Triangle, have or will be implemented, but the long-term shared street element has not.

“Creating a shared street on Telegraph is a win-win-win — prioritizing pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, revitalizing our commercial district, and bringing Berkeley closer towards meeting our climate goals,” Robinson said in an October press release. “This concept has been years in the making and I look forward to working closely with community stakeholders to make it a reality.”

According to Sarveshwar, there are still a lot of “important concerns” that need to be figured out. Deliveries to campus and Telegraph businesses, transportation — including Uber and Lyft drop-off points — and construction projects could affect Telegraph residents and businesses, she added.

The ASUC, however, has communicated its support of Robinson’s project to City Council, Sarveshwar said. She added that she believes there are many benefits to making Southside more pedestrian friendly.

“We do want to be incentivizing people to not take ride-share if there are other options available,” Sarveshwar said. “It is important, from my perspective, for those concerns to not derail the project.”

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley supports efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the “broadest possible array” of transportation possibilities.

Mogulof added that “if and when” the plan is implemented, UC Berkeley will continue to abide by its commitment to campus and community needs.

“We will continue to provide safe, convenient, and well maintained transportation options … to effect positive change and implement sustainable transportation alternatives that support the campus long range planning objectives,” Mogulof said in an email.

Skylar Schoemig is a city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sschoemig_dc.