As I mentioned yesterday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will be voting this Wednesday on how to use federal stimulus funds. While they’ve scrapped one of their initial wasteful proposals, the Transbay Terminal train box, they are still proposing to use $70 million for the Oakland Airport Connector. V Smoothe summarized the proposed project and its history last week at OakBook:
BART’s Oakland Airport Connector is a proposed 3.2-mile elevated tramway that would ferry passengers from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland Airport. Since the agency did not have enough funding to finance the project in full, they began seeking private partners to help build the rail line. All three interested parties dropped out of the project last year, citing concerns about profitability. At the time, BART officials said they would drop plans for the elevated train and begin exploring more affordable ways of providing a reliable connection between the station and the airport, such as dedicated bus lanes.
But then of course Congress passed the stimulus package, and MTC staff proposed to use $70 million of the funds to revive the Oakland Airport Connector project.
Now, I can understand why the Oakland Airport Connector is such a tempting project. I’m going to be taking BART to the airport this Friday evening, and a quicker and more reliable connection would save me a lot of time. The problem with the project as currently proposed is that it’s incredibly expensive, and like so many of BART’s projects, relies on ridership statistics that are entirely unrealistic. (They’re predicting that more people would use this connection than take BART to SFO!)
Another problem, as TransForm explains, is that the Airport Connector is not “shovel ready.” Meanwhile, transit agencies around the Bay Area are struggling, especially since the state has pulled all funding from public transit statewide. These local agencies, including AC Transit, desperately need these funds to continue providing an adequate level of service and to avoid raising fares. Even spread out among the regional transit operators, $70 million would have a huge impact.
The best part is that even if MTC decides not to provide this $70 million to the Oakland Airport Connector, BART already has sufficient funds to solve the problem of slow bus travel from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland Airport. That solution is Bus Rapid Transit. BRT would take buses out of traffic and shuttle riders quickly and reliably to and from the Oakland Airport. And BRT could be completed in much less time and with far less money than the current proposed connector, shifting the $70 million to where it could make an impact now.
MTC staff seem pretty stuck on this idea so it’s up to us to convince the MTC that the needs of local transit agencies should take precedence over another pie in the sky BART proposal. Here’s what you can do, via TransForm:
Join us on Weds., Feb. 25th at 10am at MTC (101 8th St., across from Lake Merritt BART) in telling the Commissioners to direct new funding to critical public transit needs, not the costly Oakland Airport Connector. It’s important that we coordinate our message for maximum impact. Please let us know if you’re coming and get a copy of talking points by contacting Joel Ramos.
If you can’t make the meeting, email your comments opposing the use of recovery funds for the OAC to John Goodwin at MTC now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric at Transbay Blog agrees about the Oakland Airport Connector and provides more background on this project and the MTC’s funding proposal.