Breaking down the Chamber’s misinformation on the OAC

6 Oct

Disclosure: I am working on a part-time, short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

So I really didn’t think I’d get to this today, but I have a few minutes of down time so I thought I’d take some time to break down the misinformation that the Chamber of Commerce is spreading about the OAC. Unfortunately, I won’t have the chance to write about the other issues coming before the Council tonight, as I had promised, so that feature will have to wait until the next Council meeting.

Since it’s simplest, I’m going to use Joseph Haraburda’s piece on SFGate as a launching point:

Myth: The connector is too expensive.

Fact: After decades of planning, BART is currently reviewing multiple bids, expected to be far below estimate. Other projects have seen bids 20 to 40 percent below estimate. Lower project costs should result in lower rider fares.

Well, first off, the bids are still private so we have no idea what they’ll come in at. But yes, everyone does expect them to come in below initial estimates. My response – so what!? Let’s just imagine that bids come in at $400 million, instead of the expected $550 million. Though it’s less money, $400 million is still a ton and really all that would mean is that BART would not have to take out a $150 million loan. That means they’d still be using up the stimulus funds, Port funds, ACTIA funds, RM2 funds, etc. Also, bids are initial estimates – most projects run up further costs.

Myth: The connector does not serve Oakland.

Fact: A reliable, fast connection will keep the airport competitive by linking the regional transit network to the Oakland International Airport, which welcomes 10 million passengers each year, employs thousands in Oakland, and generates millions in tax revenue for the city. Also, intermediate stations are part of the design to serve the Hegenberger corridor. This project is good for residents and businesses.

Nobody’s arguing about the value of the airport – it’s clear that it’s hugely important to Oakland’s economy. But by BART’s own admission in the 2002 EIR, the OAC will not draw more passengers to the airport. As for airport workers, it’s laughable to claim that they’ll be able to afford the $12 round trip fare.

The idea that an intermediate station will ever be built is almost as laughable. BART has made it abundantly clear that if a station is ever to be built, the City of Oakland would have to pay for its design and construction. And you know, Oakland’s just rolling in money. If the City is struggling to close a $1 million budget gap right now, how is it ever going to afford to build this multi-million dollar station? Without the intermediate station, the OAC flies over East Oakland and does not serve the Hegenberger corridor.

Myth: A clean bus will be free and faster.

Fact: The train-to-plane connector will run on clean, electric power for a 99 percent reliable ride. There is no transit agency ready to design, fund, and operate an alternative solution. ACTransit is already planning service cuts and scaling back bus rapid transit elsewhere.

He doesn’t address this, but advocates have not been claiming that a bus would be free (we did claim that it could be free). Our main claim here has been that a bus would have a much cheaper fare than the OAC – we estimate $2.

This idea that the OAC will be super clean and the bus is dirty is absurd. First, the overhead guideway of the OAC is going to be built with concrete – which itself pollutes the environment greatly. Second, buses can be run in just as clean a way as trains. They do not need to be run off of diesel.

My favorite line here though is this: “ACTransit is already planning service cuts and scaling back bus rapid transit elsewhere.” Um, yes, AC Transit would not have to implement as many service cuts and might not be considering swapping money from BRT if they had received the $6.7 million additional stimulus funds that would have come to them if they hadn’t gone to the OAC.

Myth: The project takes away jobs.

Fact: BART estimates the project will create 2,542 jobs. Half of the workers will come from BART’s district, and 25 percent are guaranteed to Oakland workers, specifically. Half the apprentice jobs will go to Oakland trainees. Without this project, Oakland will lose $70 million of federal stimulus money.

OMG! Lies, lies, lies!

Lie #1: “BART estimates the project will create 2,542 jobs.” Wrong. As V Smoothe pointed out this morning, BART in it’s TIGER application to the FTA claims that the OAC would create “689 direct and indirect jobs during the construction period.” The bigger numbers that they’ve been throwing around are generic stimulus job numbers but are not directly related to the project.

Lie #2: “25 percent are guaranteed to Oakland workers.” Well, not exactly. BART’s PLA is weak and only sets hiring goals. There are no repercussions if these goals aren’t met. But even if we assume that 25% of the jobs will go to Oaklanders, that’s only 172 jobs!

Lie #3: “Without this project, Oakland will lose $70 million of federal stimulus money.” This claim makes me crazy! The stimulus money cannot be lost. If it does not go to the OAC, it will be redistributed based on a formula to all the Bay Area transit agencies – BART, AC Transit, Muni, etc.

Well, that’s all for now – I hope that many of you will join me at the Council meeting tonight to speak out against this misinformation.

One Response to “Breaking down the Chamber’s misinformation on the OAC”

  1. Jame Ervin October 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    Sent my notes, and listening intently. I am glad most of the public is in disagreement with the OAC. I am hoping for a yay vote on the resolution against the OAC.

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