Oakland: Shaping the City with Transit

Tour curated by: Emma Ishii

The mass transit systems have shaped Oakland into what it is today. Transit can create connections, divide access and grant opportunity. Freeways, railroads, BART tracks and bus routes all influence the character and community of Oakland.

Locations for Tour

It may be an empty lot close beneath the BART running above, but this site was once the first West Coast location of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). The BSCP is the first black labor union in the U.S., founded in 1925 by A. Phillip…

Caroline Park was a significant meeting place for the Chinese community that was lost when Bay Area Rapid Transit began construction on the immediate area in 1969. The original BART Headquarters was built atop Caroline Park and the Lake Merritt BART…

The Key System was a privately- owned intricate network of electric powered trains, cable and street cars woven throughout Oakland. The system served Oakland and its surrounding cities from 1903 up until 1960 and is remembered for connecting the…

West Oakland’s 7th Street is a strip of land that has been defined and redefined by the transit systems running directly through its lanes. This one street perfectly embodies the timeline of Oakland’s complex transit history and how it has…

On October 17th, 1989 tragedy struck Oakland in the form of a massive 6.9 earthquake. The quake, now known as the Loma Prieta, lasted a mere 15 seconds but killed a total of 63 people in the Bay Area and injured many others. A staggering 42 of the…

The Fruitvale Transit Village is a comprehensive development of mixed housing units, retail spaces for businesses, social services and community spaces, all adjacent to Fruitvale BART. The Fruitvale Transit Village opened in 2005 and is the first…

Chappell R. Hayes was a well-respected West Oakland activist who championed local level environmental justice issues. After the collapse of the Cypress Viaduct of the I-880, Oakland and Caltrans understood they needed to rebuild. The big question was…

What rights do we give up when we step into a public space? A subway platform? In another story on this site, my colleague Stacey wrote about the death of Oscar Grant in her tour, Oakland Under Arrest: Policing the Police. Oscar Grant’s life was…

This Oakland-based nonprofit is all about Transportation. Founded in 1997, TransForm is first and foremost an advocacy group that sees transportation in city planning as the key to creating thriving communities. By focusing on public transportation,…

Any history of transportation in Oakland is simply incomplete without discussing Henry J. Kaiser. As one of the most influential business tycoons in the area, Kaiser invested much of his wealth into making the city an industrial hub of the coast.…