Fight against Oakland Airport Connector leads to FTA civil rights investigation of BART

17 Nov

I didn’t expect to be writing about the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) anytime soon, and I certainly didn’t expect to be sharing good news about it. Well, ok, maybe it’s not good news about the OAC, but I do have some incredible news to share about the outcome of our efforts to stop the OAC.

Today, Public Advocates Inc. and TransForm announced that their Title VI civil rights complaint against BART over the OAC has led to a full Title VI investigation of BART by the FTA! From the press release:

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights will conduct an on-site compliance review of BART’s entire Title VI program “within the next several months,” based in part on a complaint filed by transit policy experts and community advocacy groups. That complaint charged that in the rush to build the controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), BART officials were evading well-established civil rights obligations…

A letter from FTA to Public Advocates Inc. staff attorney Guillermo Mayer informing him of the action reads in part:

“The specific issues in your complaint are being addressed from a broader perspective by this compliance review, with the intent of resolving any issues of non-compliance identified. If we make findings of deficiencies, FTA will monitor activities until we determine that the deficiencies noted are corrected.”

“We’ll have to wait and see what FTA finds, but the fact they find this case worthy of comprehensive federal review is a giant step forward,” said Mayer. “It also sends a strong message to agencies like BART and MTC that they’re going to have to start taking their civil rights obligations more seriously.”

I’m not sure what will come of this, but one thing I do know is that this never would have happened if we hadn’t worked so hard to stop the OAC. And even though the OAC seems to be moving forward, we could have accomplished something much bigger. Again, from the press release:

“We are fighting for a strong, sustainable BART, one that meets the needs of all Bay Area residents,” said John Knox White, Program Manager for TransForm. “This move by the FTA validates our concerns that the OAC planning process has not openly presented key information about a project that we feel will lead to future fare increases and service cuts on the BART system.”

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen! I’ll be watching this process closely and will report back when I have more information.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

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16 Responses to “Fight against Oakland Airport Connector leads to FTA civil rights investigation of BART”

  1. Andy K November 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    It is time for a big change at BART. From the mess with the recent lighting contract to the SFO extension (great articles in the Examiner recently), to the OAC, to Warm Springs, etc, etc.

    What has BART gotten right?

  2. Dave C. November 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    Good to hear. For the BART board, “civil rights” seems to mean throwing public money at a minority contractor every once in a while, no matter how unqualified and possibly criminal he may be. It would be nice if BART were forced to start taking a more enlightened view of the matter.

    I have absolutely no sense of how unusual this compliance review is. Does anyone know if this a major step on FTA’s part, or just a pretty routine response to a complaint like the one from Transform and PA Inc.?

    • Becks November 17, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

      This is very unusual. From what advocates have heard from the FTA, the FTA does about a dozen of these a year, which isn’t very many, considering there are probably a few thousand transit agencies in the country.

      That said, the complaint was also very unusual. We think it is the first Title VI complaint filed against a transit agency so it makes sense that the FTA took notice.

  3. Gene November 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    Good to hear! Even if you discount the effect of the needed fair hikes and/or service cuts to pay for this boondoggle, a basic fact is that BART could build a new station at 98th to better serve the people of East Oakland *and* implement RapidBART for a good deal less than the proposed OAC.

  4. Naomi Schiff November 17, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    This is really great news! Congratulations for all the hard work at Transform!

    Just back from NYC. I was thinking about the OAC as I took the LIRR to Jamaica Station, and the loop train to JFK airport. Arrived at Oakland and took the trusty shuttle to Coliseum station and BARTed home quite efficiently. The JFK airport loop train does not touch the ground. It serves six or eight terminals (connecting walkways: you don’t go outside), the car rental zone, and Jamaica station (either subway or LIRR). It costs about $8 for subway plus airport train trip and runs 24 hours 7 days a week. (A little more $ on the LIRR but where I was coming from in Brooklyn it was a lot faster.) JFK is a way bigger airport.

  5. david vartanoff November 17, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Three cheers for Transform!!!

  6. Patrick November 17, 2009 at 7:50 pm #

    Whaaaaaaaaaat? <— My initial reaction! Please clarify, however: is this a result of BART inaction re: construction or BART failure to consider ridership and local needs? I'd love a link to the complaint.

  7. david vartanoff November 17, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    Becks wrote “Hopefully they’ll expose all the problems at BART.”

    That would take many months if not years. If not a member of BATN a yahoo list, start with the recent Examiner series by ‘Guy Span’ Then visit Transbay Blog
    http://transbayblog.com/2008/10/01/bart-to-san-jose-volume-1-a-long-expected-party/
    for some further BART ## flim flamery.

  8. PRE November 18, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    All I know is BART is planning on another ridiculously expensive suburban extension out to Livermore, so what we may end up with is that extension and nothing here in Oakland.

    I’d love for BART to see the light and build a station at 98th Ave with rapid bus to the airport, along with a San Antonio station between Lake Merritt and Fruitvale, but I fear Oakland will get the short end of this stick. Be careful what you wish for…

  9. ralph November 18, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    If people can barely afford a bus ticket, I don’t see them making too many trips to the airport. So I don’t see them being adversely impacted by the fare increase. I would hope that BART will add the intermediate stops.

    • Andy K November 19, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

      People go to the airport to work too – BART projected a large % of the travelers on the SFO extension would be workers.

      With the $6 fare on the OAC, it would be cheaper to take a cab from BART to the airport.

      The OAC effects poor riders as it will be a drain on the rest of the system – causing all fares to be raised.

  10. gem s November 19, 2009 at 7:41 am #

    ralph, the complaint has little or nothing to do with poor people affording fare to the airport.

  11. david vartanoff November 19, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    and you think the concession workers are not working poior? Articles in the media have profiled SFO ground crew taking several slow Sam Trans local buses because the BART fare is too high given their near minimum wages. The OAC promises to be similarly uselass.

  12. oaklandhappenings November 20, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    Some of what I have read about this makes it seem as if the OAC is the only public transportation from BART to the airport. What about AC transit?? The 50 line (or whatever number it is by then) will not go away, and by 2012 or ’13, will likely not raise their one-way fare more than a dollar at the very most. Although few will enjoy a $3 one-way ride, the route will continue to have multiple stops, and still be affordable/convenient for those less fortunate financially. By then A/C transit should also have a much nicer fleet of low or zero-emission buses…the more of the hydrogen ones. I also heard that with the proposals, shorter routes could make the trip down Hegenberger much faster, with less dwell time for so many people getting on and off (i.e. Edgewater Dr at the “H” shopping plaza) and/or fewer times the bus will have to stop (i.e. the three too close southbound between Edes and South Coliseum Way).
    In summary, folks, A/C transit still exists, and should be better by then, despite budget problems.

  13. gem s November 20, 2009 at 8:44 am #

    david, I can’t tell if you are referring to my comment, but you’ve completely misunderstood my point if you are.

    The complaint is largely based around the fact that removing the intermediate stops no longer serves the largely poor and minority neighborhoods between BART and the airport. It’s not hinging on whether “poor people who can’t afford bus fare” are going to be taking flights, as ralph suggested. It is that anyone living in those areas is not being considered in the same way people from other areas going to the airport are, whatever their reason for needing the connector.

    I could have phrased it better, but since I was responding to ralph’s dismissive comment, I didn’t realize I need to be so explicit.

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