Heminger to MTC – let’s give BART some more time; Advocates to MTC – reprogram the money now

27 Jan

Disclosure: I am again doing some work for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign.

As Streetsblog reported yesterday evening, MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger has recommended that the MTC should:

provisionally support the OAC and “accept the risk that the funds could be lost to the region if BART fails to remedy any Title VI deficiencies to FTA’s satisfaction.” If commissioners choose this option, Heminger recommends mandating that BART submit its “action plan” to the FTA by February 16, 2010. If FTA should find deficiencies in BART’s action plan at that time, then Heminger recommends his commissioners program the money to transit operators for their operating budgets.

How a reasonable person could believe that BART can get its act together on this project’s civil rights issues in just a couple of weeks when they’ve repeatedly failed to do so over the past year, I have no idea. But BART has always had MTC in some sort of trance when it comes to the Oakland Airport Connector, so why should that change now?

MTC commissioners do not have to follow Heminger’s recommendation and could still vote today to immediately reprogram the funds. That is what a large group of leading Bay Area organizations asked them to do, in a letter that was sent out yesterday:

Dear MTC commissioners,

You are being given a tremendous opportunity to do something great for the region. On Friday, January 15, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) delivered a letter to BART and MTC explaining that the $70 million in ARRA stimulus funds are at risk of being lost to the Bay Area. These funds are at risk because BART has failed to conduct an equity analysis or to consider an equitable alternative to the controversial Oakland Airport Connector project.

The Oakland Airport Connector has changed dramatically since you last voted to support it in February, 2009. BART has acknowledged that they are planning to serve a mere 600 new daily riders, at an average travel speed of only 23 mph. Instead of greater convenience, travelers will also have to drag their luggage 2-3 times further than they currently do from the BART train to the Airport.

We have serious concerns that this project will not attract sufficient ridership to justify this significant public investment. The project has become so expensive and slow that it will not likely benefit anyone – BART riders, the airport, jobs, and especially low-income families who can’t afford to use it. When there is such an urgent need to preserve vital transit services, jeopardizing ARRA money on this questionable project is a risk we should not take.

We would ask that MTC, the largest funder of this project:

  • Re-obligate the $70 million in ARRA funds to the region’s struggling transit agencies for the purpose of saving jobs and transit service, and;
  • If the agency is considering continued support of the OAC, require an objective, independent analysis of the alternative the FTA is requesting before allowing any further regional funds to be committed.

Sincerely,

Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
TransForm
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Urban Habitat
East Bay Young Democrats
Genesis
City CarShare
Alameda Transit Advocates
Public Advocates
Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN)
Bay Localize
CarFree City, USA
CC Puede
Friends of BRT
The Greenlining Institute
Livable City
Walk San Francisco

It should be an interesting meeting today. If you can’t make it, you can listen online or you can follow the meeting on Twitter. I think a lot of people will be live-tweeting, but this is the list I’ve compiled so far: OaklandBecks, MaxAllstadt, and StreetsblogSF.

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