A community outreach meeting to discuss the Contra Costa Centre/Pleasant Hill BART Shortcut Path will be held on August 16, 2005 at the Contra Costa Transportation Authority offices in Pleasant Hill. The CCTA offices are located at 3478 Buskirk Avenue, Suite 100. Please see map at right. After entering the parking lot, go around to the right side of the building.

A draft recommended alternative for the path will be presented and input will be taken. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Contra Costa Centre Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC) Meeting. An informal open house to examine project related materials, maps, photographs, etc, will be held at 4:00 PM. The MAC meeting will begin at 5:00 PM with the Shortcut Path discussion expected to begin at 6:00 PM. The MAC will reconvene after the path discussion to potentially develop a recommendation.

For more information contact John Cunningham at (925) 335-1243 or jcunn@cd.cccounty.us

Project Background: The purpose of the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre BART Shortcut Path project is to make the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre BART station area more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. The project will improve access to and from the area to the northeast of the station. During the development of the Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan the County was given a clear message from the community that increased parking and roads in the area should not be a priority but that the improvement of pedestrian and bicycle access is crucial.
This project is one of several initiatives the County has undertaken to be responsive to that direction; the Iron Horse Trail & Greenspace project and the Iron Horse Trail bridge over Treat Boulevard are other examples.

The previous meetings presented various options for fulfilling the direction the County has received. The County, taking into account community input, design, cost and maintenance issues, and consulting with staff from affected jurisdictions has developed a draft recommended alternative for completing the path. This recommendation is being presented at the meeting and comments on the design will be taken.

The following pages describe the draft recommended alternative and summarize the basis for the recommendation.

Directions

If Driving: Take the Monument Avenue exit from either direction of I-680. Go east on Monument to the 1st light (in front of shopping center) Turn right and follow Buskirk behind the shopping center to the stop sign. Stay to the right and follow Buskirk around until it goes next to the highway. After passing the Hookston/Buskirk intersection, go left into the entrance for Hookston Square. Go through the office parking lot to the right. There is a direction sign to the lobby of the building at the end of the driveway.

If Taking BART: Exit at the Pleasant Hill BART station. Get on the Route 116 North County Connection bus. Follow bus stop instructions below.

If Taking Bus Transit:
stop at the corner of Buskirk and Hookston Road from the Pleasant Hill BART station. Walk to the entrance of Hookston Square and go straight through the parking lot. There is a direction sign for the lobby of the 3478 building on the grass at the end of the driveway.

DRAFT
RECOMMENDED ALTERNATIVE

Option B: BART Property Path

This option makes use of the BART Right-of-Way immediately to the north west of the track. After additional review an optional route has been recently added to avoid the BART gap breaker structure located at the end of Clemson Court in the BART right-of-way. Given the fencing requirements related to this piece of equipment, the path would have to be moved towards the BART track (into the toe of the slope) requiring a retaining wall. BART staff suggested the optional alignment bringing the path on the other side of the structure to eliminate the need for a retaining wall.

Complete descriptions of all the options can be found in the full report or here.

Recommendations

Staff members from the following agencies are in agreement on the recommendations that follow (BART currently supports the project but have not developed a preference for an alternative):

· Contra Costa County Redevelopment Agency

· City of Concord

· Contra Costa County Community Development Department

· East Bay Regional Park District

· City of Walnut Creek

Staff recommends that Option B be adopted as the “Preferred Alternative”. During discussions staff highlighted the following factors to support this recommendation:

· Option B is the shortest, most direct route.

· Option B is the “greenest” route and is likely to generate substantial use.

· All of the options have some affect on nearby property owners. Of the options that achieve the goal of reducing the walking/biking distance to the BART station[1], Option B appears to be the furthest away from occupied structures:

· Option A opens an otherwise closed street (Briarwood Way) in an area with 12 homes[2]. This option makes use of an existing easement across private property between two existing homes.

· Option C opens an otherwise closed court (Clemson Court) in an area with 6 homes[3] and directs traffic out on to the sidewalk along Clemson Court outside and adjacent to the fenced in BART right-of-way.

· Option B opens an otherwise closed court (Clemson Court) in an area with 6 homes[3] similar to C. However, this option keeps trail users off of the sidewalk and street along Clemson Court and entirely in the BART right-of-way out to Las Juntas Way. The affect on nearby property owners would be less than Option C given this use of the BART property.

Option A is a longer, more complex route as well as the most expensive. Option B is more expensive than Option C but it provides more privacy to the Clemson Court residents by keeping the trail users within the BART right-of-way.

Staff further recommends that the issues with the existing path under the BART tracks be addressed concurrently with the recommended option. These issues are detailed in the full report.

Support for Recommendations

This section summarizes the points made in the complete report on the preferred alternative.

1. A shortcut path would provide safe and more convenient access to BART for the neighborhoods northeast of the station area. Pedestrian access to the BART station from these neighborhoods is effectively eliminated by the barrier created by Bancroft Road and the Walnut Creek flood control channel. The current route around this barrier adds about 11 minutes travel time for a pedestrian, with much of it spent along the busy Bancroft Road. The shortcut path avoids exposure to traffic and out-of-direction travel, and offers shade & landscaping and will likely lead to increased pedestrian activity.

2. A shortcut path would expand and improve on local transportation alternatives and improve access to community amenities. The BART station property is being transformed from a parking lot and a place to catch the train or bus to a complete community that offers places to live, work, shop, eat and play. The station area is served by the recently completed Walden Green and the popular Iron Horse Trail. The shortcut path would also connect to complementary facilities in Concord as described in the Concord Trails Master Plan.

3. Various health-related studies support the need for the shortcut path.[4] These studies show that more people would walk if conditions were improved for pedestrians. Actions by local government to encourage more active lifestyles can help us live longer and better.

4. A shortcut path implements policies adopted by the Board of Supervisors. During the Board’s review of policies guiding future development around the BART station in 1997, the public requested the Board to adopt new policies that encouraged access to BART by walking and cycling. The County’s Specific Plan for the area now includes development of new routes for pedestrians and cyclists from the north, east and west of the station area. The recommended shortcut path is supported by this Board policy and is compatible with related policies in Walnut Creek and Concord as well as with policies adopted by BART and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.

Neighborhood Concerns

The major concerns communicated to County staff are listed below along with a summary of the full response found in the complete report:

1. The path will result in a loss of privacy, property crime, and a general decline in quality of life.
There have been substantial numbers of studies done that look at privacy and crime issues along trails. Specific references to those studies are in the full report. Some studies do acknowledge that there will be some loss of privacy given the additional pedestrian and bicycle traffic that is likely to be present. However, the conclusions of the studies are that there is little evidence to support the fear that paths will produce significant disturbance to private landowners. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary (see full report). Trails are not crime-free; no place is, public or private. However, studies and statistics show that trails are typically as safe as the communities through which they pass and have incidence rates of crime that are typically lower than other public spaces.[5]

Compared to the abandoned space they replace, trails are a positive, active community space enabling walking, running, bicycling and provide a proven crime prevention strategy. Much of this information was corroborated by staff from the Walnut Police Department at an earlier path meeting. The statement was that if anything, the path would help prevent crime; criminals don't want to be in places where people are. Paths increase foot/bike traffic and would likely be a deterrent to crime.

Although studies and statistics show that crime on trails is rare, it is nonetheless a legitimate concern and will be treated accordingly. At the time the implementation plan and final design for the preferred path option is developed, design and management strategies will be considered to address these concerns.

2. The project is a “waste of money, another study should be done to determine its cost-effectiveness.”
The suggestion has been made that a “cost-benefit” study should be conducted to validate the usefulness of the project. In order to do this you must be able to accurately predict the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the path. There are methodologies and software programs that exist to predict pedestrian and bicycle travel. A consultant would have to be hired to develop a model for the area and run the scenarios, this would be costly. Even with this expense, the accuracy of these models isn't such that you would be able to base a “rigorous” or reliable cost-benefit analysis on the results.

In the event that such an analysis did not support such a facility, the information presented in the Recommendations is still sufficient enough to justify project implementation.

3. Who is going to pay for and ensure that the path and bridge are maintained?
This project will require maintenance like all public improvements do. The identification of a maintenance entity and funding stream is a critical issue. A maintenance funding stream is not yet defined for this project given the early planning stages that this project is in. However, it is staff’s intention to not begin construction until such a time that a maintenance entity and funding stream is identified.

Related Issues

Residents identified a number of other areas for improvement during previous workshops. One of these issues was the need to improve the existing path along Las Juntas Way under the BART tracks. As a result, upgrades to this existing path will be addressed with any project moving ahead.

At the request of the residents in the project area, Options D and E were developed and evaluated. These Options are described in the full report and are available online. Briefly, Option D had merit in that it specified installation of additional sidewalks in the project area. These sidewalk projects will fill gaps that exist but they do not decrease the walking and biking distance to the BART station as Options A, B and C do.

Option E looked at the feasibility and practicality of operating a shuttle to the station. However, there is already a fairly high level of transit service feeding the station from the project area. In addition to this, Option E was flawed similar to Option D in that it did not decrease the walking/biking distance to BART.

Consultation with Affected Jurisdictions & Property Owners

The location of this project results in a number of different jurisdictions and landowners being involved. Prior to proceeding with the project the County will consult with the affected jurisdictions and property owners on the details related to final design, construction and maintenance. With the recommended Option B the landowners are BART and the Contra Costa County Flood Control District. Agencies with planning responsibility or interest in the area include; Contra Costa County, Walnut Creek, BART and Concord. Comments from the August 16th workshop will help guide the County in the following outreach/consultation sequence:

1. Concord City Council in consultation with the Concord Parks & Recreation Commission

2. Walnut Creek Bicycle Advisory Committee

3. Walnut Creek Transportation Commission and the Parks, Recreation, & Open Space Commission

4. Walnut Creek City Council

5. BART

6. Contra Costa Centre Municipal Advisory Committee

7. Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors

The full project report is available here.

 

[1] Options A, B and C 

[2] There are 12 homes on Briarwood Way. However, a letter from residents in the area opposing the project and making their concerns known had signatures from residents of Briarwood Way as well as Briarwood Court and Foss Court.

[3] There are 6 homes on Clemson Court. On Le Jean Way there are also two residents whose property would either adjoin or nearly adjoin a path along the BART right-of-way.

[4] Physical Activity and Good Nutrition: Essential Elements to Prevent Chronic Diseases and Obesity 2004 and Improving Conditions for Bicycling and Walking, January 1998, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Page 3

[5] Rail-Trails and Safe Communities, RTC, 1998

Funded, in part, Through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Transportation For Livable Communities Program