Berkeley, CA (BKY)
Located between the Fourth Street retail district and Eastshore State Park, the Amtrak station is part of a larger multimodal transit plaza served by local buses and shuttles.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2019): 174,656
- Facility Ownership: N/A
- Parking Lot Ownership: N/A
- Platform Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Track Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
The Berkeley stop, the second most northerly of the coastal Capitol Corridor stations, is part of a city transit plaza and consists only of a platform. Centrally located in West Berkeley, the stop is located at the end of University Avenue, adjacent to the former Southern Pacific (SP) train station, which is presently occupied by Brennan’s Restaurant. Visitors to Berkeley will find themselves a convenient distance from the city’s Fourth Street retail district and the Eastshore State Park on San Francisco Bay.
The transit plaza and rail stop are tucked underneath the University Avenue overpass. The paved transit lane is flanked by brightly-painted red piers on one side. Also on that eastern side, furthest from the rails, a red wall enclosing the highway piers features larger-than-life depictions of Native Americans colorfully painted and set in relief. Above the piers beside the transit lane, red lettering on a yellow stucco beam declares on one side, “Where hidden creeks and freeways flow,” and on the other, “Sure as tides and sunset.” Close to the tracks, a bright yellow wall encloses the piers. The marquee hanging from this wall announces, “Berkeley Station” in Art Deco lettering and shelters the Quik-Trak machine and iron benches. This public art as well as the checkered motif of the concrete platform create an airy, bright, and welcoming setting. Signage in kiosks near the former SP station continues the red and yellow Art Deco theme.
The Berkeley Redevelopment Agency, which established the Berkeley Redevelopment Area around this West Berkeley locale in 1967, completed an extensive project which created today’s station. The $2.4 million open-air facility, completed in 2005, included nighttime lighting, improved access for people with disabilities, street repaving and new striping for more efficient access by buses, bicycles, paratransit, shuttles and taxis, bicycle racks, landscaping and benches. The transit site includes four bus stops, 18 two-hour and six long-term parking spaces.
Directly adjacent to the platform stands the Mission Revival Southern Pacific station, the original facility the railroad built as their main Berkeley stop in 1913. The SP building had stood empty for some years by the time the new station was completed. It was first converted from a station into a restaurant in 1974, housing the China Station restaurant for two decades; then a restaurant called Xanadu. After the new station opened in 2005, Brennan’s, a favorite local sports bar since 1959, bought and renovated the historic station, and opened for business in that location on October 14, 2008. Brennan’s renovation preserved the station’s arched windows and exterior arcade, along with some of the interior elements such as the support beams in the ceiling of the main room.
Archaeologists digging in the San Francisco Bay area found that Berkeley had been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 3,000 years before the Spaniards came to find the Huichin peoples there. The beginning of the end of the Huichin way of life came when Captain Gaspar de Portola made the first European contact with San Francisco Bay in 1769. Three years later, Governor Pedro Fages led an exploratory expedition along San Francisco Bay’s eastern shore and might have camped on the banks of Strawberry Creek, possibly near what today is the West Gate of the University of California campus and where a monument commemorates the event. The Spanish system of Missions brought their culture to California, but the majority of settlers were in Colonial California were soldiers and their families. Given by a grant from the Spanish crown, the Peralta family founded Rancho San Antonio, which they began to sell off in the 1850s, with the advent of the Gold Rush to pay for legal fees over boundary disputes with prospectors wanting to buy up valuable land. By1872, the Peralta dominion had all but vanished. In 1877, they triumphed in the California courts, but owned almost none of their original land by that time.
The first American settlement in the locale was called Oceanview, where Captain James Jacobs anchored his sloop at the mouth of Strawberry Creek in 1853. Oceanview saw lumber and starch mills grow up into a blue collar town that eventually became West Berkeley. Even in the 1850s and 60s, Oceanview was a place of substantial national and ethnic diversity, very much reflecting the social mix of people who had originally come to California during the Gold Rush.
By the mid to late 19th century, the College of California came to dominate the eastern part of Berkeley, formerly the farm belonging to Orrin Simmons. Two brothers sent on a Congregationalist mission, arrived in Oakland to found a college at the time of the Gold Rush; but not until a Yale graduate with much energy arrived did the dream take shape.
Reverend Henry Durant found Oakland too rowdy, and founded the Contra Costa Academy on the eastern side of the Bay, literally the “Opposite Shore”—in a former dance hall. As this location soon proved unsatisfactory, they moved to purchase a portion of Simmons property in 1857 and by the end of the year had purchased the entire farm for $35,000, and created a new community. Following the intellectual tone of the community, they laid out a grid where north-south streets were named in alphabetical order for men of science: Audubon (now College Ave.), Bowditch, Choate (now Telegraph), Dana, Ellsworth, Fulton and Guyot (now Shattuck). East-west streets took the names of men of letters: Allston, Bancroft, Channing and Dwight. They named the community after George Berkeley, an eighteenth century British philosopher, man of letters and Anglican Bishop of Cloyne, Ireland, who had been a strong supporter of colonial education.
The two communities were separated by more than pastures and marshlands: Oceanview was diverse, substantially Catholic and working class, while Berkeley was inhabited by American Protestants, with many working in professional occupations. In the end, the threat of Oakland expanding its borders north united the two communities, and on April 1, 1878, the governor signed a bill that formally established the city of Berkeley.
The coming of the railroad to the city eventually provided common ground for both “town” and “gown.” As Oakland, their neighbor to the south, became the terminus of the first transcontinental railroad, that community grew explosively. In 1877 the SP relocated its mainline along the Berkeley waterfront, where it remains today; this is the route that runs through Berkeley Station, although the stop itself was not created until 37 years later. The railroad’s arrival did contribute to the commercial and industrial development of West Berkeley, but the railroad did not provide regular Berkeley passenger service on this line until the 20th century.
Meantime, the city negotiated with the SP to build the Berkeley Branch Line. Completed in 1876, the Berkeley Branch followed a route that today includes Stanford Avenue, named after railroad president Leland Stanford; Adeline Street and Shattuck Avenue. The angle of Adeline in South Berkeley is due to the alignment of the original rail right of way. At University Avenue, the route looped back so that the train could return to Oakland on the original single track. Inside that loop, now Shattuck Square, the railroad built its Berkeley station—the first Berkeley Station. That general location has been Berkeley’s transit hub ever since. The Downtown Berkeley BART station is just a few yards southwest of the original branch line depot, and a transit bus line still follows much of what was the original branch line route.
While the Gold Rush years put Berkeley on the map, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 actually brought considerable growth to the city. Berkeley was not hard hit, compared to the city across the Bay, and the region saw both residents and businesses relocate wholesale to Berkeley and the East Bay region.
But the earthquake was by no means the only event that prompted growth. Berkeley and the rest of the urbanized East Bay developed new transit systems that would have promoted dramatic development during those years even if the earthquake hadn’t occurred. Ferries and, more importantly, electrified interurban railways provided a quick way into San Francisco as well as to jobs in the Oakland and Richmond shipyards, these commutes becoming practical for the first time. However, with the upswing in popularity of the automobile, even the Key System rail line, the most used in the area, began to decline, even though it saw a renaissance during World War II’s gasoline rationing days. In 1946, the Key System was purchased by National City Lines, a holding company owned by Firestone Tire and Rubber, Phillips Petroleum, Standard Oil of California, Mack Truck and General Motors, among others with strong automotive interests. The Key System’s famed commuter train system was finally dismantled in 1958.
The growth and evolution of the University of California at Berkeley, grown from the College of California, provided another reason for Berkeley’s dramatic early twentieth century development. The University provided the city a buffer against the Great Depression during the 1930s, and along with shipbuilding and the holdings of industrial giants in the region such as Bayer, Colgate, Heinz, and Pacific Steel, brought prosperity to the city.
The World War II era proved another watershed in the city’s and indeed the Bay area’s history, since the war effort brought unparalleled growth to the region. Armed forces personnel were stationed at various military installations located around San Francisco Bay. In Berkeley, the Army established Camp Ashby, headquarters for a segregated unit of African American military policemen located near the west end of Ashby Avenue. The Navy built the Savo Island housing project for married personnel in South Berkeley. Both services established officers training programs at the University of California. However, in nearby Oakland and Richmond, shipbuilding became the main economic engine, and Berkeley’s non-academic residents commuted.
At the same time, Berkeley’s Physics department provided some of the minds that brought the U.S. into the atomic age. In 1930, Ernest O. Lawrence, an experimental physicist, was hired away from Northwestern University, and soon after arriving at Cal, began work on the cyclotron, a device that allowed revolutionary advances in the study of the atomic nucleus. In 1928, Berkeley recruited another physicist of note, J. Robert Oppenheimer. The presence of these two giants in their field attracted the finest young minds to Berkeley’s physics programs. Oppenheimer, the most important participant in the Manhattan Project, served as director of the laboratory in Los Alamos, where the first atomic bombs were developed and assembled. In the early 1950s, when another Berkeley physicist, Edward Teller, established a third laboratory in Livermore to develop the hydrogen bomb, that lab also came under university management. All three federal labs still exist and continue to be managed by the university. The Berkeley facility has not done classified weapons research in more than 30 years, but Livermore and Los Alamos remain the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories.
So much that happened at Berkeley in the postwar years is still very much part of popular culture today. While a struggle over fair housing, desegregation, and the considerable amount of active politics on campus are well-known, a great deal of the definitive cultural and social rebellion of “the 60s” was born in Berkeley and influences the nation even now.
The Capitol Corridor is primarily financed and operated in partnership with the State of California. It is managed by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), which partners with Amtrak, the Union Pacific Railroad, Caltrans and the communities comprising the CCJPA to continue development of a cost-effective, viable and safe intercity passenger rail service.
Platform with Shelter
- Quik-Trak kiosks
- No ticket sales office
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- Bag storage not available
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is not available
- Overnight parking is not available
- Accessible platform
- No restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Accessible same-day parking is not available
- Accessible overnight parking is not available
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available