Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nightlife in the DTO

There is frequently talk of -- and rightfully so -- ways to make transit in the East Bay more effective, or lamenting how the East Bay gets screwed. I don't wish to contribute to the 'effective' discussion right now :) Instead, how about a pipe dream: What about transit as a vehicle to make the city itself more attractive as a destination for dining and nightlife? What about transit that makes people want to go out and about, stroll the streets and enjoy the city's amenities, which in turn helps to foster a collective sense of security and community.

The Tribune carried a nice piece about how, actually, there is some pretty cool, pretty classy (OK, well, classy on a level of your choosing, lookin' at you, Ruby Room and I adore you when you're sedate, Radio) nightlife to be had in Oakland, particularly in some up areas that are legitimately in a position to start kicking some ass, like Downtown, Old Oakland, Uptown and Jack London Square. Yes, there's Rockridge, and yes, it's my hood, and yes, I like living here. But Rockridge is basically a bedroom community that happens to have an atrociously slow two-lane funnel into hardcore college town. That's why I feel at home here. It's about 30 blocks down Broadway that I think there is some magic to be made.

There are several great areas with fun night spots that I'm familiar with in that area. However, they're also connected by areas you just might not want to walk through at night, y'know what I mean? It seems like having a bus loop from Broadway and Grand down to Embarcadero, over to Oak and up Lakeshore / Harrison to grand would be an amazingly cool shuttle route. It has a lot of advantages, including the senic Lakeshore drive. From there, it's up to Grand where there are some fun restaurants and such. The quick spin over to Broadway & 19th includes easy access to BART, The Uptown, Luka's / Franklin Square Wine Bar / Fox Theater. Then it's down Broadway past 12th St. BART / AC Transit hub to Old Town Oakland which has its share of classy and fun dinner and bar places that people don't go to because who knows why. Swing down to Embarcadero and through the nightlife in Jack London Square, including the movie theater down there, Yoshi's, and other things I'm sure I'm missing. By returning to Lake Merritt on Oak, there is yet another convenient connection to BART.

It seems like this would create a local shuttle that would be incredibly easy to use, transport people between areas of downtown when they might not want to walk in between, and create a network of interfaces with the BART system as well as existing AC transit options, to boot.

With this size route, I believe only one or two buses would be needed to provide frequent-enough service, and would provide tremendous marketing appeal. Yes, there are AC Transit buses that already cover that route, but none which are easily branded as the Oakland Nightlife Express or whatever. The focus group could surely come up with a better title than that. But you see where I'm going: This sort of thing could really plant the seed in people's minds that there are things to do in Oakland and the nightlife scene is actually pretty cool. No, it's not San Francisco, but (and you'll pardon me if this sounds glib) who cares? Building up the offerings around the lower part of Broadway can only improve the image of downtown Oakland, and I think this kind of concept just might be the ticket.

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