Don Perata on Oakland Airport Connector: “Too much money for too little transit”

16 Jun

Last week, Don Perata joined the effort to stop the wasteful overhead Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) by sending a hard-hitting letter to Metropolitian Transportation Commissioner and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. On July 8, the MTC will be voting on providing even more funding to the OAC from Regional Measure 2 funds, and Perata is not pleased about this:

As the author of SB 916 – which placed regional Measure 2 on the ballot-, I must oppose the Oakland Airport Connector project. In short, the proposal is too much money for too little transit and economic value.

While the connector was included in the menu of RM2 transportation projects, that election was in 2004. The world has since changed dramatically. And so has the project. In 2003 when the project was proposed, only $30M was needed to complete funding for the $230M connector. In fact, we told the voters (in the ballot pamphlet) that this was “the final portion of funds needed for direct BART service” to the airport. Project costs have now increased by over $300M and the RM2 dollars needed have quadrupled. Even more damning, the ridership predicted in 2003 has fallen substantially from 13,540 to fewer than 4500 by 2020. This fails any cost-benefit analysis on its face.

Advocates have been making these arguments for months, to the MTC, BART, and the Port Commision, and most of our pleas for reason have fallen on deaf ears. But I’m hopeful that these elected officials will find it more difficult to ignore the former State Senate Democratic leader and the likely future mayor of Oakland.

Perata continues:

Elected representatives everywhere act as consistent with today’s realities; we cannot conduct public affairs as if the weak economy is simply a market correction. There is less tax dollars available and more competition than our generation has ever known. This requires strong fiscal discipline and hard choices. Whether the money comes from taxes, tolls or fees, it’s the same pair of pants, only different pockets!

I am unconvinced an Oakland Airport Connector is the highest and best use of available transit money – even assuming potential millions from the federal government stimulus program. Washington bureaucrats don’t know any better; we should.

In the coming weeks, the Port Commission, MTC, the Oakland City Council, and ultimately BART will all have opportunities to prove that they do know better.

Today, the full Port Commission will vote on taking the first step on funding the OAC to the tune of $44 million. (Two weeks ago, the Aviation Committee of the Port Commission voted to move move the OAC funding issue onto the full committee, and then for some reason the full commission delayed the hearing.) Just as BART has gone back to MTC again and again for increasingly larger amounts of RM2 funding, they have asked the Port for more and more. The Port has the opportunity to leverage its contribution to require BART to study a rapid bus alternative that would save hundreds of million of dollars.

Then, on Thursday, the Rules Committee of the Oakland City Council will vote on a request from Councilmember Nancy Nadel to bring the OAC project before the Public Works Committee and ultimately the full Council. There are a multitude of reasons that the City Council should review the project again, as dto510 explains:

A lot is at stake for Oakland. On one hand, project supporters claim that it will improve the Oakland Airport area, attracting more airline passengers and perhaps more businesses to Airport and surrounding area. For the reality-based community, however, there are enormous costs to the City of Oakland to moving ahead with the project. ACTIA funds that would otherwise go to East Oakland bike/ped/transit improvements, such as a mooted transit village at the Coliseum BART station, would be lost. The Port of Oakland will have to use funds that would otherwise go to airport renovation and expansion. Regional stimulus funds would go to this instead of to shoring up AC Transit and BART service. And the City of Oakland will lose the opportunity to improve transit service that would serve the workers and businesses in the Hegenberger Corridor, since the RFP for the Airport Connector does not include any intermediate stops. Many of these problems are a result of changes to the project, and many former supporters are now opponents.

Unfortunately, it is possible that OAC proponent and Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid will urge the Rules Committee not to agendize this item because he fears that when the City Council finds out how drastically this project has changed, they will no longer support it. So if you’re an Oakland resident, please contact Rules Committee members to ask them to support a public Council hearing on the OAC:

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1 or 510-238-7001

Jean Quan, District 4 or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5 or 510-238-7005

A half billion dollars, affordable access to the Oakland Airport, and so much more are at stake in the OAC project. In the coming weeks, let’s hope that our elected officials show as much leadership and reasoned skepticism as Don Perata and save our region from this boondoggle.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

8 Responses to “Don Perata on Oakland Airport Connector: “Too much money for too little transit””

  1. Andy K June 16, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    I’m making my call.

    I only hope it is not too late.

    Don Perata has just gone up a notch in my book – he is now at notch 1.

  2. mark o June 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    where did you get this perata letter? i checked and scott haggerty never received it. seems like this might just be a draft that an advocate prepared in hopes that perata would agree to sign, but it seems that he didn’t actually do so. or do you know otherwise?

    • Becks June 17, 2009 at 8:51 am #

      A colleague of mine got it directly from Perata. It has definitely been sent so I’m not sure why Haggerty has not received it, but I’ll follow up and see what I can find out.

    • Andy K June 17, 2009 at 9:34 am #

      Are you Mark from Oakland that works for BART?

    • Becks June 17, 2009 at 9:39 am #

      I just reconfirmed that the letter was sent. It is also being hand delivered again today just to be sure.

      And I’ve uploaded the signed copy so you can see it for yourself, if you’d like.

  3. Andy K June 17, 2009 at 11:16 am #

    The OAC is shear madness. WE ARE BROKE! It is time to stop wasting our limited $ on these flashy solutions to problems that don’t exist. At a $6 fare on the OAC, it would almost be cheaper for 2 people to hop a cab ride from the Coliseum BART Station to the airport.

    It is high time we implement workable solutions that are in line with our means.

    James Howard Kunstler just had a piece about how we need to implement projects within our means.

  4. Mike d'Ocla June 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    I emailed Jean Quan at the end of last week suggesting that the Rules Committee hold a hearing on the Airport Connector.

    Quan’s reply to me was a curt “Not our project.”

    I wrote her again reminding her that she is a representative of the people of Oakland and what democracy is all about.

    I hope she got the point, but I’m doubtful.

    • Becks June 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

      Thanks Mike, for emailing Jean and for the feedback. We’ll certainly be following up with her.

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