A downtown Livermore BART station was panned by residents who attended a public hearing on extending the rail line, possibly through east Pleasanton.
The transit agency held a public hearing Wednesday at the Livermore Council Chambers to obtain comments on a draft environmental impact report, which details nine alignment routes and five station locations to extend service to Livermore.
Among the station sites proposed are Isabel Avenue at Interstate 580, Isabel at Stanley Boulevard, downtown Livermore, Vasco Road at Brisa Street and Greenville Road at I-580. A majority of speakers in the audience, which numbered roughly 100, said they preferred a route that continues along Interstate 580 to Greenville Road because it would be less noisy, easy to find parking and would attract less crime.
"I'm concerned about the environmental impact on a very important species here in Livermore -- myself," said Bonnie Nelson.
"I'm concerned about the train going right behind my house," she added, saying she would prefer the route to travel alongside the freeway.
Michelle Burkette echoed Nelson's sentiments, adding that her property values would be affected, it would be dangerous for pedestrians and there are privacy issues should the route travel via aerial tracks into downtown Livermore, as is proposed in one of the alignments.
Stacey Miller, who attends Livermore High School, said through tears that she's worried a downtown station would attract unsavory people.
But others said they could see the benefits of having public transit come downtown.
"Whenever there's change, people get nervous," said Cathy Streeder, adding that a downtown station would bring more money to the local region. "They don't think about the long-term benefit. We have to look at this dispassionately."
Martin Eisenberg said he moved to downtown Livermore recently from Berkeley and likes the idea of bringing BART downtown.
"They have a BART station in Rockridge and it's a very good community feel," he said.
"I'm not worried about crime," he added, saying there should be a different approach to keeping crime down than restricting public transportation.
A freeway station like Greenville, Eisenberg continued, wouldn't be as effective because the parking lot would fill in the early morning, rendering it useless during the day, and would serve mostly people on the other side of the Altamont Pass, not Livermore residents.
That sentiment was made by a consultant hired by BART at a workshop last week held at the Shrine Event Center in Livermore. The workshop was the first in what will be a three-part series with the next meeting scheduled for Dec. 10 at the same location.
The workshop, similar to Wednesday's hearing, outlined possible station locations, as well as detailing their respective advantages and drawbacks.
BART officials emphasized the need for transit-oriented development, meaning retail and residential projects that would encourage walk-ability to a station and lessen the demand for parking spaces.
Bonnie Nelson of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting said building parking structures and surface lots is expensive, while TOD developments offer more efficiency.
"When you build housing near a station, it's more cost-effective because the rides are spread out throughout the day," she said. "It's much more efficient to have a TOD station, having riders come throughout the day, than showing up between 6 to 8 a.m."
The Dublin/Pleasanton station is an example of one that could have used TOD, she added. Research shows that 60 percent of people who ride BART get there by car, 10 percent take transit and only 4 percent walk to the station. As a result, the lots are filled by early morning.
Abby Thorne-Lyman of consulting firm Strategic Economics, said a station with transit-oriented development would also be cheaper for the city of Livermore because it wouldn't require as much infrastructure, operation or maintenance costs.
"Downtown Livermore is a good site," she said. "There are a lot of attractions and an ACE station is already there."
Plans for extending BART to Livermore are hardly new and it could be 10-25 years before any development takes place, but plans, which have picked up steam recently, have come a long way. Most of the alignments include two stations, but a couple include just one with another planned as part of a possible second phase.
Though the extension would require mapping out a route from the Dublin/Pleasanton station east to Livermore, there was no mention made at the workshop of how it would affect Pleasanton. Plans obtained by Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho show that in two alignments, the route would traverse on elevated tracks through the northeast corner of the currently vacant Staples Ranch property, where development is planned for an auto mall, senior residences, retail center, a four-rink ice arena and a community park.
There is a 45-day public review period for the environmental report, which will conclude Dec. 21. A second hearing on the EIR will be held Dec. 2 at the Robert Livermore Community Center. BART officials will take all of the comments it receives on the draft EIR and include them with answers in a final EIR to be certified by the BART board of directors. At that point, a preferred alignment option will be recommended to the board, followed by further public comment.
The extension is estimated to serve between 20,000 and 30,000 new riders and could cost $2.9 billion to $3.8 billion. Funding sources, according to BART Project Manager Malcolm Quint, would come from a variety of sources: $120 million that's been identified by BART to preserve right-of-way, the Measure B sales tax, bridge tolls, the city of Livermore, Measure K funds from San Joaquin County, state and federal funding and public-private partnerships.
The next in the workshop series is Dec. 10, where participants will look at potential station pairings, view and rate examples of station features. The last workshop, which will summarize the progress of the first and second workshops as well as look at 3D visual imagery, is scheduled for Jan. 21.