What AC Transit’s shift to a fully ward-based board means for your commute

A graph shows the percentage of each racial group that lives in AC Transit's current five wards. (Sonia Waraich - East Bay Echo)

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District is making big changes to how voters will choose its board of directors, which could have major implications for how much say you get if the board decides to increase fares, change routes, or adjust schedules, among other things. You can get all the details from the comfort of your own home at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

A map shows the five wards that make up the AC Transit district. (Courtesy of AC Transit)

Under the current setup, two out of seven directors on AC Transit’s Board of Directors are elected by everyone in the district, while five directors represent specific areas or wards. Now, the district is shifting to a system where all seven directors will be chosen based on geographic wards. This means a complete redraw of the map that decides who represents you on the board.

At a recent public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 6, Michael Wagaman, a demographer with Wagaman Strategies, explained that AC Transit wants to hear from you about communities of interest that prefer not to be split between two wards. Being divided could make it harder for those communities to speak up when the board makes changes to transit services, including fares, bus schedules and routes.

The district is split into five wards, each with about 300,000 people, and will soon be split into seven wards representing a smaller percentage of the district’s total population. Wagaman said redrawing the map might not result in an equal distribution of the population because there are other important factors to consider when drawing the lines. While race and ethnicity cannot be the predominant factor for determining ward boundaries, Wagaman said it is important to look at the citizen voting age population, alongside total population, to avoid depriving minority voters of an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

The decision to begin the redistricting process originated from a letter from attorney Ginger Grimes, who raised concerns that AC Transit’s at-large electoral system might be in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, according to the staff report. The district has decided to proactively transition to a seven-ward system to avoid potential litigation.

The process is expected to move fairly quickly, with the board expected to vote on a new map before the end of the year. The transition would be phased in during the 2024 and 2026 election years.

The next scheduled public hearing is a hybrid meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13. You can find more information here.

You can learn more about the redistricting process and share your thoughts at actransit.org/redistricting.

Graphic caption: A graph shows the percentage of each racial group that lives in AC Transit’s current five wards. (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)

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