OMG, OMG, OMG! FTA withholds funding from BART for OAC

20 Jan

This will have to be a quick post, but I had to share this. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has written a letter to BART and the MTC stating it will withhold $70 million in stimulus funds from the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project because “BART failed to conduct an equity analysis for service and fare changes for the Project.”

This is what advocates argued all along but none of our local agencies listened. BART, MTC, ACTIA, the Port, and to a lesser extent, the Oakland City Council, all ignored our complaints and brushed them aside, but the FTA gets it.

BART is trying to spin this as a minor setback and is having a press conference right now with Larry Reid and others to try to convince the press that the OAC will move forward. But without federal funding, it can’t move forward.

So one of two things will happen:

1. BART will finally conduct equity studies and improve the project.

2. The OAC will die.

I couldn’t be much happier. Thanks to TransFo, Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, and Genesis for filing the initial Title VI civil rights complaint that led to this!

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

24 Responses to “OMG, OMG, OMG! FTA withholds funding from BART for OAC”

  1. Andy K January 20, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    Any idea how long analysis this would take?

    Will they try to go forward with construction while they do this analysis?

    • Becks January 20, 2010 at 11:52 am #

      I don’t know how long it would take, but it seems unlikely that they could get it done in time. I don’t see how BART could start construction without federal funds.

      I think we’ll know more by the end of the day and I’ll post updates.

      • david vartanoff January 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

        If history is any guide the c%&*s at MTC will re-program money from some actually useful project, or arrange a loan from some ongoing one. Note the $91 million from voter approved Dumbarton Rail moved to cover an overrun at BART.

  2. Daniel Schulman January 20, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Becks, thanks for bringing this news.

    Can we be sure that without the $70MM ARRA funds the OAC will die? Can BART try to borrow that additional money or get it from somewhere else.

    It seems from the letter if BART and the MTC give up on the project now, the $70MM will go somewhere else in the Bay Area. However, if they continue to pursue it and screw-up, the money has to go outside of the Bay Area. Given their track record, the second possibility seems far more likely.

    • Becks January 20, 2010 at 11:59 am #

      I really hope not.

      I think it’s going to take more advocacy from individuals and transit agencies, including Muni and AC Transit. Muni’s share of stimulus funds would be almost the exact same size as the current budget gap they’re trying to close by slashing service.

      It’s going to take some work, but I’m hopeful we can convince MTC to reprogram the money.

      In terms of BART moving forward without FTA funds, I’m not sure how that’s possible because I’m assuming FTA is going to deny their loan as well. Without stimulus funds and without the loan, they have a huge budget gap to fill. Maybe they have some tricks up their sleeves, but let’s hope the BART directors can be convinced to instead build BRT for a fraction of the cost.

  3. Naomi Schiff January 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Just read the letter. It is impressively firm, I’d say. Seems like they are taking it very seriously, and didn’t appreciate whatever Hail Mary pass was thrown at them in the very last minute. I wonder whether it might be enough to trigger some major changes at BART?

  4. Karen S. January 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    OMG,OMG,OMG! is right! I’ll raise a glass of proseco for that one! Where can we view the press conference with Larry Reid?

  5. Gene January 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Woohoo! A government agency showing some sense? Who’d have thought…

  6. Wynn January 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    I’m the communication director for Public Advocates and can offer you a few more tidbits.

    In the interest of full credit going where it belongs, we filed the complaint on behalf of Urban Habitat and Genesis as well as TransForm.

    Not only did BART and MTC fail to make sure the required analysis was done, but they falsely certified to the feds and the state that it WAS done.

    It is highly doubtful that BART can complete the analysis on time. Even if they can, they don’t get the money until they complete full implementation to the satisfaction of FTA. If they continue to go down this path, they are really putting those funds at risk.

    MTC already has a backup plan for this $70M – it would be reallocated to transit agencies across the Bay Area. If this happens, BART would get around $19M back for operations, which will go a long way to filling the budget deficit they just announced. So what BART is essentially saying is that they are willing to sacrifice jobs, cut service and raise fares to save this ridiculous project.

    There is still a full report to be issued by FTA. it will be interesting to see what else they find.

    You can find the background documents on the false certification, MTC’s reallocation proposal and a timeline on our web site (

    MTC next meets Wednesday, 1/27. We’re hoping for a strong turnout.

    • Becks January 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks Wynn for the background info and explanation. In my haste to get this post up, I did neglect to credit Urban Habitat and Genesis, but I’ll update that now.

      Thanks for all of your work on that, and I’m look forward to next Wednesday.

    • Gene January 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

      TransForm has set up a form to send a note to the MTC to encourage them to reallocate the $70 million.

    • Chuck January 23, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

      BART doesn’t understand this, much like a child doesn’t get why it’s good to eat broccoli, but they need this money reprogrammed into ops / general funding a gazillion times more than they need to build OAC.

      Yes, they’ll tell you OAC will bring jobs! But BART’s raison d’etre isn’t to provide public works projects, it’s to, you know, rapidly transport people around the Bay Area. That’s what the damned acronym *stands for*, for crying out loud.

      In order to keep BART BARTing, they’re trying to juggle something like a $24 million budget deficit. Good God, do you suppose they could use another $17 – $19 m (the figures I’ve heard vary) in the general fund? Yeah. Yeah, I suppose they could.

      They need to accept that this project is poor at best, the timing is poor at best, and their budget balancing is poor at best, and make the most out of the opportunity before them. Take the repurposed funds for operations, and quit terrorizing us with threats of further service cuts and additional fare increases.

  7. Naomi Schiff January 20, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I wonder if AC Transit could get a few bucks too?

    • Gene January 21, 2010 at 11:04 am #

      Yep, AC Transit would get some of the $70 million if the MTC reallocates it.

  8. Wynn January 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    AC Transit would get 6.7M.

    For the entire list, see

  9. Max Allstadt January 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    Wynn, I don’t think that James Fang and Linton Johnson don’t get it. I think they’re dissembling. They have a habit of doing that.

  10. Alan from Berkeley January 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Here’s the letter from Exec Director Steve Heimoff to the MTC, in which he says that MTC staff will make a recommendation about how to respond at the board meeting:

    Probably won’t be part of the public record in advance.

    The full original letter makes chilling reading if you’re an OAC supporter: going ahead will NOT be easy.

    Click to access Rogoff.pdf

  11. oaklandhappenings January 23, 2010 at 4:15 am #

    “The full original letter makes chilling reading if you’re an OAC supporter”

    “Chilling”, my behind, Alan.
    Becks, and other anti-OAC’ers: before any of you prematurely gloat about the OAC “dying”, I ask–if you haven’t already–to please read the following:
    The PDF link at the very bottom (BART’s letter to the FTA) is very thoroughly written, and about the time when this blog entry was, and I don’t feel that it is a “spin”. Although BART can be criticized heavily for major mistakes such as New Year’s morning, ’09, there are at least a few clever heads in the bunch, who put together their response.
    Thousands of people who find–or consider–themselves financially unfortunate, can do the smart thing and apply for one of the available jobs made available by the OAC…a project that can continue to have a future if certain individuals quit trying to kill it.

  12. oaklandhappenings January 23, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    do pardon my missing my posted link already having been a couple days earlier, yet my opinions remain. Thanks, Wynn, for beating me to it. The two names that you mentioned the quotes for, may not get it. From the letter, further emphasizing, others must.

  13. david vartanoff January 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    @ oakland happenings. You are probably right, that is BART with the connivance of MTC will succeed in squandering the obscene cost of this project. As to unemployed construction workers hoping for a piece of the action– like the workers who want GM to continue building Hummers we would ALL be better off paying them to stay home than build this turkey. Just my tuppence.

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