Downtown Berkeley BART plaza slated for major overhaul

The city of Berkeley is undertaking a new project to renovate the downtown Berkeley BART entrances, build a new bus shelter and construct a redesigned Plaza. (This is a conceptual drawing for illustrative purposes only.) Image: City of Berkeley

The city of Berkeley is undertaking a new project to renovate the downtown Berkeley BART entrances, build a new bus shelter and construct a redesigned Plaza. (This is a conceptual drawing for illustrative purposes only.) Image: City of Berkeley

Major changes are in the works for Berkeley’s downtown BART plaza, with two public meetings about the project coming up in January.

The project, funded in part by a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission, includes renovation of the BART entrances, a new bus shelter and a redesigned Constitution Plaza. It is estimated to cost $11.44 million, most of which will be covered by the grant.

The community open houses, to which all members of the public are invited, will be set for January. Details about the meetings have not been released, but Berkeleyside will provide them when they are.

Participants will be able to review concept designs, provide input, identify issue areas and potential solutions, and learn more about the project history and timeline. Members of the community will have a chance to speak directly with BART and city staff, as well as the professional design consultants leading the effort. 

“It’s a major opportunity to upgrade the center of our downtown, which hasn’t been changed much since it was first installed in 1970,” said city transportation planner Matt Nichols. “It’s a chance to imagine a better public space, a more memorable space, that’s easier to find your way around. It will be more inviting, less dangerous, and just a nicer place to be in the heart of our downtown.”

According to the project application, the station has 24,000 daily entries and exits, and AC Transit has over 6,000 daily boardings or alightings on local, trunk, Rapid, and Transbay service in the project area. (See the application here.)

“Thousands of pedestrians and hundreds of bicyclists traverse the area. However, aging infrastructure and design flaws reduce the accessibility and safety of this major regional transit center. Bus riders lack adequate waiting areas, seating and wayfinding signage. Some sidewalks segments are too narrow for existing pedestrian volumes, and there are substandard curb ramps and poor elevator access for disabled persons. Bicycle parking is inadequate and poorly placed. The secondary BART lighting and maintenance problems, and its bulk restricts sightlines. The current brick plaza surface and vegetation are difficult to clean and maintain,” according to the application.

BART plaza project. Image: City of Berkeley

A conceptual drawing for illustrative purposes. Image: City of Berkeley

A lightweight and photovoltaic roof canopy above the main BART entrance could provide daylighting, natural ventilation and solar power to the station and the plaza.

Nichols said that level of detail remains to be determined, but that “sustainability is a major goal of the project, so we’re going to look at everything we can do to reduce energy and incorporate sustainable features.”

The project also includes the construction of a modernized bus canopy to make connection to the BART entrance more convenient, along with enhanced weather protection and realtime transit information.

The project aims, too, to “make this precious downtown public space memorable by beautifying hardscape, creating unique lighting, and mitigating noise and storm water run-off through use of low impact plants such as bamboos and native shrubs.”

A new stairway will be added to the main entrance between the existing escalators to provide bike access and to enhance station throughput.

The project also aims to improve way-finding and connections to and from the station by better utilizing the existing portal to the east side of Shattuck Avenue, which will provide access to the Cal campus and Memorial Stadium.

Construction is expected to begin in 2015.

Details about the meetings in January will be forthcoming on Berkeleyside.

Berkeley set for $12.7m in downtown transportation grants (5.28.13)
BART Plaza to become an inviting spot (08.04.10)

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  • Berkeley Southside

    I have two immediate thoughts, based on this drawing:

    Please don’t cut down the existing trees.

    If you take out the benches, folks are going to sit on the planters.

  • franco

    i hope there is a public art component.

  • Paddy

    How about directing some funds towards opening the south staircase to/from the BART platform? Congestion on the BART platform is a safety hazard during commute hours because it’s really too narrow for the rider volume. Fixing that basic design flaw would be very expensive & difficult, but increasing the number of staircases by opening an existing but closed staircase wouldn’t be that expensive and would alleviate a good amount of the platform congestion.

  • Tarek

    On page 68 of the PDF, there’s a new tunnel across Shattuck, creating a new BART entrance on the east of Shattuck, north of Center St. Seems like a great addition, although it I’d imagine it will require a fair amount of disruption to build.

  • Tech Solutions

    What that plaza really needs is one of those machines that produces a high-pitched sound that annoys dogs. Maybe then people would not lay on the sidewalk all day long in that area with their pit bulls.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I got a notice saying there is a public Open House about this redesign at the library on December 10, 4PM to 7PM. The article doesn’t mention it. Does anyone know if it has been called off?

    Overall, I would say this new design is a huge improvement. The existing design leaves just a small walkway for pedestrians between the wall of the plaza and the shops, without enough room for shops to put seating outside. Now there is plenty of room, and I hope some businesses take advantage of it by adding cafe seating, as we have on Center St.

    Speaking of cafe seating, one thing I would add to the plan is a food cart or two next to the main BART entrance and cafe seating for its customers – all to the south of the entrance where it wouldn’t block the flow of pedestrians. That would enliven the plaza.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    Since the homeless live there, the homeless should have a say on how this all goes down.

  • Eeew

    Who would want to eat in that open toilet?

  • emraguso

    The date was changed to the 16th and then it was canceled — there will be two sessions in January instead.

  • FiatSlug

    I support this idea. I’m sure that there would be many BART riders who would like to be able to exit the system at that end of the Berkeley station and enjoy the shorter walk times to the Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley High, and businesses in the area around Allston Way and further south.

    I know that I would appreciate being able to access BART system fare gates at that end of the station after stepping off an AC Transit 67 terminating on Allston Way or and 18 line bus stopping on Shattuck near Allston.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Look at all the people who eat at the sidewalk cafes on Center St, right around the corner from here. We could attract similar crowds here, if we changed its character to make it more like Center St.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Thanks for the info.

  • FiatSlug

    A closer look at the application .pdf linked in the story shows that the staircase in question is anticipated as being returned to service. There’s major access improvements envisioned in the application, indicating the heavy use this station has in the BART system.

  • guest

    Every staircase to/from the BART platform is used as a toilet at night by the homeless that congregate in that area.

  • Mosquito Anti-Loitering Device

    They should be required outside every liquor store in Berkeley.

  • galaxy_pie

    Cool! But ugh, public meetings: decision making by consensus = impossible. We elect our officials. officials, so officials should decide and fast track this through. ANYTHING is better than the ugly outdated design that we have now. GET IT DONE officials.

  • FiatSlug

    Non-sequitur. So, what’s your point?

  • Doug F

    The illustration fails to show the permanent homeless encampment.

  • Question

    A comment about the stairwells at the downtown BART station in response to another comment about the stairwells at the downtown BART station is a non-sequitur? How so?

  • Sick Of It

    Berkeley’s city officials are too spineless to make any real choices and since they are lifelong politicians (even on the council!!!) they are too worried about their job security to make any decisions that might be unpopular with anyone.

    So EVERYTHING goes to the ballot box or to endless public meetings which creates massive delays and drives up costs.

    What a sad state of affairs.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Easy solution: add gates on the outside of these entrances and lock them at night, and add public restrooms nearby. At night, BART could just have the main entrance open.

  • FiatSlug

    It’s a non-sequitur because it doesn’t have a point.

    Is it the author’s intent to say that there should be no new staircases at Berkeley BART? Or maybe the author wants to point out that rolling grilles will be needed to keep the staircases from being used as a toilet? Or maybe the author favors the Amsterdam style outdoor urinals referred to elsewhere in this thread.

    The comment is meaningless in and of itself because it could mean anything at all. I want the author to declare his/her point without resorting to meaningless but likely inflammatory statements.

  • David D.

    Great idea. Can we dismantle existing “art” and re-purpose it here? There are a couple statues over 80 that we can use as donors.

  • CalAlum04

    I actually like the 1970s-style octagonal structure main entrance. Could we not freshen that up? To me that’s an iconic part of downtown Berkeley.

  • designgauge

    As attractive as this plan is, the first step should be how to get rid of the homeless from taking over this key downtown location. Solve that and the area will be transformed.

    It amazes me that we have laws int his country that prohibit camping in campgrounds and parks without the right permits, but we don’t have a mechanism to enforce a similar ruling in a much forgiving urban center. A shame that members of a tiny minority feel so entitled to ruin the area for all the other residents.