Geologizing on the bus: The 14 and 62 lines

I gave up owning a car ten years ago and I’m big on our bus system. The 33 line, as I’ve written, is good for access to the hills of Piedmont and Montclair. The 14 and the 62 will give you a good tour through, not just to, the lower levels of Oakland’s geology.

Both lines run from the West Oakland BART station to the Fruitvale station, but on separate routes that share just one six-block stretch and one intersection. I like them both because they’re residential, not arterial routes; they connect neighborhoods, not endpoints (unless a roundabout ride is just what you want). People get on and off all the way. Here’s the 14, as shown on the street map over at AC Transit.

And here’s the 62.

And here they are superimposed on the geologic map.

Their west ends cross the plain of former ice-age sand dunes that underlies West Oakland and downtown (Qms on the map, for Merritt Sand). It has a very low, almost imperceptible dome shape that you can perceive as you look down side streets. The hills are nice to watch, too.

The West Oakland plain from the 14

The downtown platform from the 62

Both routes dip as they cross the outlet of Lake Merritt, crossing artificial fill (af on the map) laid down on what was once a wide marshy slough.

The E.18th Street landing from the 14

Then they rise onto another very flat plain, just a couple meters lower than downtown. This is the same marine terrace (Qmt on the map) that underlies Lakeside Park, built up when the sea sat extra high for a while in the late Pleistocene.

The marine terrace’s east end on E. 14th from the 62

The two routes cross at 8th Avenue and E. 18th Street, and soon they both leave the terrace and climb into the long set of intricate low hills I call the Fan (Qpaf on the map, for Pleistocene alluvial/fluvial). These are made of million-year-old stream gravel that was uplifted, in my interpretation, along with the bedrock hills of Piedmont by interactions on the Hayward fault.

In the views from the bus, the topography competes with a set of interesting buildings that represent the whole twentieth century, plus glimpses of the hills and the Bay, especially at the higher elevations.

Old palm allee of the Smith estate on the 62 route

Topography near San Antonio Park. The 14 runs through this valley.

They also go up and down some of the stream valleys in the Fan. Both routes touch parts of Brooklyn (14th Avenue) Creek (though the 96 is the best line for that) and they share a stretch of 23rd Avenue Creek. The 14 also follows the valley of Courtland Creek along High Street.

Look for the edge of the Fan’s gravel hills wherever you cross Foothill Boulevard. The 40 line runs along Foothill, following an old Ohlone footpath. I like watching the Fan go by when I ride it.

The east end of both routes, at the Fruitvale station, sits at the northern extreme of an arc of coastal plain that extends unbroken around the Bay to South San Francisco (Qhaf on the map, for Holocene alluvial/fluvial).

At High Street, E.14th heads across the flats as seen from the 14

Once these flats were all orchards and farmland that made the Bay area (and Oakland) an agricultural powerhouse, and Fruit Vale, the floodplain of Sausal Creek, was one of the earliest nuclei of that industry.

Other bus routes go through the Fan and offer similar rides, but the 14 and 62 really focus on it. The 57 and NL are classic arterial routes that cross the Fan on its high inner side. If you happen to catch one of the plush transbay commuter buses, the NL can’t be beat but the 57 will give you Oakland color from end to end. The Fan ends just before the Eastmont Center at 73rd Avenue; Evergreen Cemetery sits on its tip.

The last thing I want to say is that AC Transit is going to be taking a hard look at its routes soon. I intend to enjoy the 14 and 62 when I can and speak up to preserve them.

3 Responses to “Geologizing on the bus: The 14 and 62 lines”

  1. Tim Walters Says:

    Very cool article, thanks! The palm allee is actually on the 62 route, though.

    [Thanks, I just fixed. — Andrew]

  2. Bruce Roy Says:

    Thank you. This is helpful and will motivate me to take up a long-ignored inclination to get a much needed geography lesson. I don’t get your title using the words “geology” and “geologizing.” Perhaps you might consider “geography” and “topography” to better describe your thesis and mission.

  3. Travis Wicks Says:

    I’ve always really appreciated the accessibility of your geology trips. It goes to show that anyone can gain an appreciation for our town’s natural history. I’ve also found that riding a bicycle around town helps with learning the lay of the land. On a bike, you can feel every time you cross from the flats onto the fan or into a new watershed. Sometimes, you can still feel them the next day, too.

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