Transforming the Suburban Transit Legacy Community Dialogues - a Unique Public Outreach Process for Transit Alignment Selection

For over 4 decades the City of Livermore had been waiting for a commuter rail extension (BART). We were there on the BART maps as a dotted line but forward progress to make that line a reality was stalled. Numerous studies had been performed, most recently in 2002 yet obtaining consensus on a preferred alternative remained elusive. For years the region was unable to justify the extension based on patronage projections, elected officials representing the City and transit agency were reading from different playbooks, and the community itself was not engaged in the decision-making. Historic community support was for a freeway median alignment, but emerging smart growth principles pointed to an alignment that served the existing residential and employment centers and areas suitable for transit oriented development. Meanwhile, every year the freeway corridor grew more and more congested topping the charts in the entire Bay Area Region, and air quality in the Tri-Valley grew worse.

So how was one to develop a consensus for a preferred alignment for extending BART to Livermore? The selection would need to factor in community values, garner regional support and meet the criteria for regional, state and federal funding. The project had been on the books for over four decades and a part of the work program was to recognize past actions and place them in perspective of the current regulatory and physical situation. Overcoming the past predeliction toward freeway orientation proved a large obstacle. The transit provider (BART) and the local community (Livermore) needed to develop a partnership where each took ownership of the process(es) and the funding agencies also needed to buy in. A preferred alignment would need to satisfy the community’s goals and values, but also prove to BART and the funding agencies that the regional transit needs were met and that state, regional a federal policies for funding and sustainability were achieved.

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