Speaking at a news conference near the intersection of Broadway and Franklin Street, which is the north end of the shuttle route, Oakland Redevelopment Agency Director Gregory Hunter said, "This is a green way to make our downtown even more enhancing" because it will get people out of their cars.
Hunter said the shuttle, which is called the "Broadway Shuttle" or the "B" for short, would also help commuters travel from BART stations, the Amtrak station and ferries to their offices in downtown Oakland.
The shuttle service will consist of three 30-foot AC Transit buses that will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
The buses will primarily travel along Broadway and will have 19 color-coded stops in six downtown areas: Jack London Square, Chinatown, Old Oakland, City Center, Uptown and Lake Merritt.
Buses will arrive every 10 minutes during commute hours and lunchtime and every 15 minutes the rest of the time.
The service is managed by the Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency and is being funded by a two-year, $1 million grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and an alliance of public and private sector sponsors.
Financial supporters include the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, the developers of Jack London Square, the Downtown Oakland Association, the Lake Merritt-Uptown Association, the Uptown Apartments and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority.
Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said the city and its partners are trying to get more funding so the shuttle can also operate at night to serve customers at the city's restaurants.
Damian Breen, the grants manager for the air quality management district, said the district is trying to provide alternatives to driving and believes the shuttle buses will remove 5 tons of greenhouse gases annually.
Theo Oliphant, the mayor's director of public and private partnerships, said, "This is a very, very momentous occasion" and a "step to having cleaner and greener businesses."
Oliphant said he also believes the shuttle will help the city's general fund, which is facing a budget shortfall, by increasing sales tax revenues downtown.
He said the unveiling of the shuttle service is "a very proud moment" for Oakland.
Mayor Ron Dellums was invited to attend today's ceremony but wasn't present. His chief of staff didn't return calls seeking comment.
In a statement, Dellums said he envisioned the shuttle service as a precursor to an electric streetcar, which he said he believes is possible in the next three to five years.
Oakland had a similar downtown shuttle from 1996 to 2001, but it only operated during lunch hours and had a shorter route.
Among the others who attended today's event were City Council members Nancy Nadel and Patricia Kernighan, AC Transit Interim General Manager Mary King and AC Transit board president Rocky Fernandez.