Changes are coming to the Downtown Berkeley BART station.
On Monday, BART opened a refurbished entry on the southwest side of the station that features a glass entrance arching over the stairway. On July 17, BART reopened the entrance across the street on the east side of Shattuck Avenue by Allston Way. Patrons accessing BART from both those southern entrances can only use Clipper cards, though, part of a regional push to get residents using transit on the service.
And on Aug. 7, the biggest change of all will be coming, at least for the next six months. BART will close the signature entrance to the station, the Rotunda, which has presided over Shattuck Avenue since BART opened decades ago.
The Rotunda will also be replaced by another glazed entrance.
The closure of the Rotunda entrance will not affect AC Transit bus service. Patrons traveling southbound towards Oakland on lines 6, 18, 51B, 79, 800, 851, and F should continue to use the bus stop at the northwest corner of Shattuck Avenue at Center Street.
The changes are all part of the $7.6 million renovation of the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. When the project is completed in 2018 (six months later than originally planned because of the excessively rainy winter) the Plaza will have an open, more modern, feel, bio-retention planters and landscaping that can treat on-site storm water. There will be screens displaying real-time arrival and departure times for BART trains and AC Transit buses, as well as better signage directing travelers to UC Berkeley and other locations of interest. The Plaza will also have spaces for tables outside restaurants. The red brick and benches will be gone.
A fence still surrounds most of the new southwest entrance on Allston Way, and on both Monday and Tuesday BART patrons appeared confused as to whether it was open or not. On both days, patrons approached a reporter taking photos of the glass awning to ask if that entrance was open.
And there were already expressions of concern about the new entrance, mostly about the fact that the new glass awning does not extend fully over the stairs. That means it will not provide shelter when it’s raining.
Bryan Garcia tweeted: “Just used new entrance. Very nice but was expecting it to be *fully* enclosed. Doesn’t have a roof. Could lead 2 problems.”
And Matt Wunderlich tweeted: “What’s even the point of the structure then? And why did this take months to build?”
Rebecca Saltzman, President of the BART Board of Directors, explained via Twitter that there was not enough money to fully enclose the glass arches. However, they were built so they can be modified in the future when there are sufficient funds, she said.
In a follow-up interview with Berkeleyside, Saltzman said the city of Berkeley wanted the funds allocated to the project to first go to renovations around the Plaza. BART did put more extensive renovations to the secondary entrances out to bid, and if more money is found, changes can be made in the future, she said.
The renovation project is six months behind schedule because there were 50 rain days in the winter which set things back, according to Scott Smith, the project manager for the Downtown Berkeley BART project. Initially, BART had hoped to complete construction by Sept. 2017. Now the projects should be done by early 2018, he said.
When the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza project is completed, patrons should expect other changes as well. Starting in January, BART will start the move toward a Clipper-dominated service by adding a 50 cents surcharge on the use of paper tickets.
The youth discount will be extended from 12 years old to 18 years old, but the amount of the discount will dip from 62.5% of a ticket to 50%. Ticket prices will go up 2.7%.
BART ridership has increased dramatically in the last few years, although there was a 3% decline in 2016 from 2015. About 30,000 people travel through the Downtown Berkeley BART station each day. BART is in the middle of purchasing 775 new rail cars, at a cost of $285 million. The first of the new cars will be put into service in September