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Busy Thursday – Oakland Airport Connector & Netroots Nation

21 Jul

In case you haven’t heard, the BART Board will not let the Oakland Airport Connector die and is bringing it back tomorrow for a vote. Here’s TransForm’s alert (I’m doing some work for TransForm on the OAC):

BART staff continue to ram the Oakland Airport Connector project through, despite huge risks to existing BART service and the fact that the project still doesn’t meet federal civil rights requirements.

With the Oakland Airport Connector’s price tag of nearly $500,000,000 and anticipated operating costs of least $14 million a year, the Oakland Airport Connector will put BART so deep in debt that it will limit their ability to take out loans for critically-needed projects to fix the existing system, like replacing aging BART cars.

This will likely lead to more fare increases and service cuts over time as BART riders have to foot the bill for BART’s bad decisions!

We need your help and we need it now:

  1. Join us on Thursday, July 22nd at 8:45am for a short rally and then to speak at the BART Board meeting where they’ll have a final vote on whether to move ahead with the Oakland Airport Connector. The rally and meeting will be held at 344 20th Street in Oakland in the BART Board Room on the 3rd floor.  Email me if you’ll attend and to get talking points.
  2. Email the BART Board today to urge them not to support moving ahead with the Oakland Airport Connector at this time.

Thanks for helping us tell BART loud and clear that this project is simply too risky.

So if you can make it tomorrow, please go and tell BART they’d be making a big mistake by moving forward.

I unfortunately won’t be able to make it to this important meeting. Why? Well, I’ll be in Vegas (if my delayed flight ever takes off).

I’m speaking at Netroots Nation, on an awesome panel – “California’s Challenge: From “Failifornia” to Progressive Laboratory.” Here’s the description:

This panel will examine how progressives are working to move California from being a failed state to a progressive laboratory for change, consider the opportunities and possibilities for fixing what has become broken and assess the obstacles the state still faces as we seek to restore the California Dream. California’s crisis continues, but we now have an opportunity to assess what needs to be done to provide solutions that meet the needs of all Californians. We’ll bring together progressive leaders from across the state to talk about the budget crisis, jobs and economic recovery, immigration reform and how activists in the netroots can help build coalitions with other groups and elected officials to produce change.

And I’ll be joined by some pretty awesome panelists – Robert Cruickshank from Courage Campaign, Brian Leubitz from Calitics, Sally Lieber, former Assembly Speaker Pro Tem, Thomas Saenz, President of MALDEF, and Lindsey Horvath, member, West Hollywood City Council.

I’m guessing most readers won’t make it to Vegas on such short notice, but if you’re interested in watching, you can watch online at 3pm tomorrow (Thursday). And if you want to follow the general fun of Netroots Nation, check out the #nn10 hashtag on Twitter.

Take Action: Last chance to ensure an equitable Oakland Airport Connector

4 Feb

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

As you’ve no doubt heard, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted last week to give BART a bit more time to convince the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that it has its act together and can complete its equity analysis in time to secure stimulus funding for the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). The drop dead date approved by MTC is February 16th – by that date, if FTA does not approve BART’s equity action plan, the $70 million in stimulus funds will be redistributed to the regional transit agencies that desperately need it.

If FTA does approve BART’s action plan, MTC will meet on February 17th to vote on what to do. At that point, they can vote to keep the funds with BART for the OAC and pray that BART will follow through on its equity analysis. Or, they could vote to re-appropriate the funds to the transit agencies.

So there are still two decision makers at play here – FTA and MTC.

Many people have been asking me if there’s anything left to do. They want to take action. They want to make sure that the MTC does not roll the dice and gamble $70 million away, when the transit agencies desperately need it and BART has shown repeatedly that it is unable or unwilling to move forward with an equitable connector.

The one year fight for an equitable connector is likely coming to an end – either we’ll be stuck with an unequitable overhead connector that does not improve transit to the airport and wastes the region’s limited funds, or BART will have to start over and will hopefully embrace the bus rapid transit alternative that TransForm proposed last year.

There is one last thing you can do. Write to the FTA. Applaud them for their actions to date to ensure an equitable project, and urge them to insist that BART objectively and publicly complete the required civil rights analysis.

It’s easy to do. Visit TransForm’s action page and personalize your message. I know you have a lot to say. Say it, but keep it civil and positive. FTA has shown that they care about equity and that they will hold BART accountable for its actions. Let’s make sure they continue to do this. Send an email now and ask your friends, family, and coworkers to do the same.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Bay Area bloggers unite to urge MTC not to gamble stimulus funds on Oakland Airport Connector

26 Jan

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

Tomorrow, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has the opportunity to do the right thing and reallocate $70 million in stimulus funds away from the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) and to the transit agencies for maintenance. Whether they’ll do that or not, we don’t yet know, but one thing I do know is that the Bay Area blogosphere was on fire yesterday with bloggers urging the MTC not to gamble the region’s stimulus funds.

All of these bloggers asked readers to do a couple things:

  1. Email the MTC commissioners using TransForm’s online action page.
  2. Come to the MTC meeting tomorrow and the Rally for Justice and Jobs before the meeting (beginning at 9am at MTC headquarters, 101 Eighth Street, Oakland).

These blog posts are worth a read in full, but here are some of the highlights, that when strung together, tell the story in full.

Our Oakland:

If you haven’t been following the story, BART is not proposing an extension to Oakland Airport like the one to SFO. What they’re proposing is a $492 million people mover, that will move slower than traffic for much of the journey. For comparison, the new station in Dublin is being built for about $80-$90 million. So for much less money, BART could build a new station at 98th Ave. and implement a bus rapid transit system (BRT), thereby improving service for airport riders and local residents.

Stop, Drop and Roll:

Last February, this issue sprang back from the dead when $340 million in stimulus (job creating money) became available. But here’s the thing, MTC never looked at whether the project was a good jobs creation vehicle.

In response to an email sent by Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s office, MTC acknowledged that:

MTC did not perform/release any reports related to projected jobs created from stimulus funding.

This fact, that MTC did not even consider the job creation potential of this project, was confirmed by KALW reporter Jill Replogle.


BART mismanaged their planning of the project, changing it extensively over the years without adequately reviewing the changes. The MTC gave a large chunk of the federal stimulus money it received to the project, because the MTC totally hearts BART. Some local transit advocacy groups complained to the feds. The feds took a look at the project and were all like, ‘Woah, we can’t give money to a project that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,’ and told BART and the MTC to meet the Title VI requirements by March 5th or give up the money.

In Oakland:

The Connector is dead, and BART is moving through the stages of grief, with denial the first step. Here’s a initial statement from BART Board President James Fang (Republican of San Francisco) to The Chronicle:

BART Board President James Fang said he was puzzled and distressed by the letter because he believed that “FTA was one of our strongest partners on the Oakland Airport Connector.” But he said he was confident BART could satisfy the FTA in time to capture the funds.

The next state of mortal grief is anger. We saw some of that in BART’s letter to the FTA, which said that “BART takes strong exception” to the idea that their policies favor rich suburban areas over poorer urban ones. BART appears to have moved on to bargaining, attempting to get a five-week stay of execution even though the inevitable federal rejection would cost the region its stimulus funding. Many expect a depressed BART staff when this comes to a head in at a meeting on the 27th. Seventy million dollars of the region’s transit funding depends on whether the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission will find acceptance of the Airport Connector’s demise on Wednesday.

The N-Judah Chronicles:

However, there’s a silver lining. The Metropolitian Transportation Commission can vote this week to have the cash re-allocated to maintenance projects for Muni, BART, AC Transit and other looted transit agencies. Under the rules, this money cannot be used for big pay for anyone, only actual maintenance projects.

This would be a good thing in a time of budget crapola. Personally, I think that if we’re going to see the feds spend money, the least they can do is spend it on something that might actually be of use, instead of blowing out the deficit for something that doesn’t help.

Future Oakland:

Here’s the choice before the MTC Wednesday: give BART one last but impossible chance to save their Airport Connector and lose $70m forever, or keep the $70m for the region. The OAC, which becomes more expensive and less useful with every passing year, needs to be put out of its misery. Though the federal government won’t give the OAC a penny, BART has been willing to bankrupt every rival agency and steal from every available pot of money to fund their pipe dream, up to and including robbing their own seismic retrofit bond of funding to fix the Transbay Tube, so losing the FTA’s nod may not actually kill this zombie project.

A Better Oakland:

Even if you ignore the fact that the redirection of the $70 million to system preservation among local agencies will save more jobs than the entire OAC project will create, this decision should be a no brainer. The risk of just throwing away $70 million in stimulus funds is too high. First, it makes the MTC look like incompetent morons, and undoubtedly will render us ill poised to receive competitive grants in the future. Second, the impacts of losing the money are just too devastating to justify.

21st Century Urban Solutions:

This vote is a pivotal moment for the future of Bay Area transit: will MTC continue to stand by BART and its wasteful, suburban-oriented “blingfrastructure” project to cater to a few hundred new riders in 2020 in spite of the huge risks that now accompany it, or will they take a stand and prevent service cuts, fare increases, and hundreds of layoffs at transit agencies and support the needs of roughly 1,600,000-1,800,000 transit riders now?  Nothing would be more embarrassing (and disastrous) for the Bay Area than losing $70 million in stimulus funds (well…other than actually building the OAC I guess).  The bottom line is that this vote is MTC’s last chance to make the right choice–the choice that will increase transit ridership, improve service, cut our emissions and oil consumption, reduce congestion, and save jobs–and NOT fund the Oakland Airport Connector.

Please click through and read all of these excellent job posts, and then take action online and make plans for tomorrow morning.

Believe it or not, the final Oakland Airport Connector project is even worse than expected

9 Dec

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the BART Board voted earlier today 7-1 to approve the project.

Tomorrow, the BART Board of Directors will vote on approving the contract to begin construction of the Oakland Airport Connector. And believe it or not, the project has gotten even worse.

Remember at that late night City Council meeting in October when BART and its supporters went on and on about how we need to do this project now because the bidding environment is so competitive and we’d save so much money? BART had been lobbying the Council for weeks saying just that and reminding the Council how all of their projects were coming in way under budget. Of course, they couldn’t share exact numbers because the bids were still private, but there were rumors going around at the time that the bids were coming in significantly lower (someone even tossed around the number of 30% lower).

And this was an argument we just couldn’t fight because we thought they were right. Most infrastructure project bids in the Bay Area had been coming in much lower than expected. We of course countered that even if it was a $400 million project, it still wasn’t worth it, but we never argued that the bids would not be low.

Well, apparently we should have because now we know that the bids didn’t come in all that low. In fact, out of the three companies that made it through the process (one other dropped out), two of the three bids came in over budget and one came in just a bit under budget. The chart in the BART meeting packet obscures the total costs a bit (you have to look further for the total costs), but using their numbers, here are the estimated total bids (including funds BART has spent to date):

Flatiron / Parsons JV

$492 million

Walsh Construction Company

$571 million

Shimmick/Skanska/Herzog JV

$568.5 million

Does that look like huge savings to you?

So they obviously picked the cheapest bid, since it’s the only one they could choose and still come in under budget (or even at budget). The problem is that this company has by far the slowest technology. The even bigger problem is that the staff report doesn’t tell us exactly how slow (we know via research) and the detailed info from their bid won’t be made public until after the BART Board votes tomorrow. What we do know is that the RFP was changed this summer, to accommodate what ended up being the winning bid. As I wrote in August:

In its RFP, issued in April, BART had set the minimum speed for the OAC at 35 miles per hour, which is already really slow, and significantly slower than the initially proposed 45 mph. But on July 31st, BART released an addendum to their RFP that sets the minimum speed even lower, at 27 mph!

The speed limit on Hegenberger is 30 miles per hour, and while there are stop lights, at some points, traffic will be moving faster than the OAC. Then, on the airport road, the speed limit rises to 45 mph, which means that cars and buses will be speeding past the OAC. Even without considering the less seamless connection of the OAC (going upstairs at BART; going downstairs and across a parking lot at the airport), with these new lower speeds, I can’t imagine many scenarios in which the OAC would make the trip in less time than the current AirBART bus.

The truth is that after we lost at the Oakland City Council, I realized that this project was going to happen and there was little hope left of stopping it, no matter how wasteful it is. But I also hoped I had been wrong the whole time. I hoped that the bids would come in very low so that BART would not have to take out a huge loan that mortgages the entire system. I hoped that they’d pick a reasonable technology that would at least somewhat improve the trip time from BART to the Airport, albeit at triple the price. I hoped that people would ride it and that it wouldn’t bankrupt the system. Because ultimately, one of my biggest concerns is about BART’s longevity and if the OAC fails, BART fails along with it.

But now that I see what this project really is, I’ve lost much of that hope. I know it’s incredibly unlikely, but the right thing for the BART directors to do tomorrow would be for them to reject this project, now that they have all of the information at hand. I’ll be there tomorrow morning to tell them just that and to make one last stand against this terrible project.

If you agree, join me there:

What: BART Board Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector
When: Thursday, December 10th @ 10am
Where: Kaiser Center – Third Floor, 344 20th Street in Oakland

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Flatiron / Parsons JV

$492 million

Walsh Construction


$571 million

Shimmick/Skanska/Herzog JV

$568.5 million

Fight against Oakland Airport Connector leads to FTA civil rights investigation of BART

17 Nov

I didn’t expect to be writing about the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) anytime soon, and I certainly didn’t expect to be sharing good news about it. Well, ok, maybe it’s not good news about the OAC, but I do have some incredible news to share about the outcome of our efforts to stop the OAC.

Today, Public Advocates Inc. and TransForm announced that their Title VI civil rights complaint against BART over the OAC has led to a full Title VI investigation of BART by the FTA! From the press release:

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights will conduct an on-site compliance review of BART’s entire Title VI program “within the next several months,” based in part on a complaint filed by transit policy experts and community advocacy groups. That complaint charged that in the rush to build the controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), BART officials were evading well-established civil rights obligations…

A letter from FTA to Public Advocates Inc. staff attorney Guillermo Mayer informing him of the action reads in part:

“The specific issues in your complaint are being addressed from a broader perspective by this compliance review, with the intent of resolving any issues of non-compliance identified. If we make findings of deficiencies, FTA will monitor activities until we determine that the deficiencies noted are corrected.”

“We’ll have to wait and see what FTA finds, but the fact they find this case worthy of comprehensive federal review is a giant step forward,” said Mayer. “It also sends a strong message to agencies like BART and MTC that they’re going to have to start taking their civil rights obligations more seriously.”

I’m not sure what will come of this, but one thing I do know is that this never would have happened if we hadn’t worked so hard to stop the OAC. And even though the OAC seems to be moving forward, we could have accomplished something much bigger. Again, from the press release:

“We are fighting for a strong, sustainable BART, one that meets the needs of all Bay Area residents,” said John Knox White, Program Manager for TransForm. “This move by the FTA validates our concerns that the OAC planning process has not openly presented key information about a project that we feel will lead to future fare increases and service cuts on the BART system.”

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen! I’ll be watching this process closely and will report back when I have more information.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Oakland Airport Connector Updates

9 Sep

Woo! I leave for a week and the blogosphere and media worlds explode with news about the Oakland Airport Connector. In case you’ve missed any of the excellent coverage, here’s a brief roundup.

FTA Title IV complaint filed: Last week, Public Advocates filed a complaint on behalf of TransForm, Urban Habitat, and Genesis, arguing that BART has failed to comply with civil rights requirements in planning the OAC. Streetsblog and Transbay Blog cover the issues well, but the short story is that BART did not complete studies about how the changed OAC would affect low-income residents and did not study alternatives. If the complaint moves forward and is successful, it would endanger all of BART’s federal funding for this project.

BART tried to kill BRT alternative immediately: Jeff Mitchell wrote a story for the Sacramento Bee about the OAC that frames the issues well. Also, towards the end of the story, he shares some information gained through a public records request that I filed:

In one May 8 e-mail, Tom Dunscombe, BART’s Oakland Airport Connector project manager, expresses concerns about TransForm’s request for the district to analyze its RapidBART bus counterproposal.

“Any information you can provide to put holes in this would be appreciated – we have some worried Board members and I need to easily discredit this (TransForm) ‘paper,’ ” Dunscombe, who declined to return an e-mail seeking clarification, wrote to four outside project consultants. BART spokesman James Allison defended Dunscombe, but failed in a written response to explain the project manager’s choice of words.

Dunscombe concludes the e-mail: “Any time you can give to this would be really helpful – another delay from the Board and we are practically dead.”

What this story does not mention is that Dunscombe’s email was sent just a few business hours after TransForm sent its RapidBART proposal to BART so this makes it very clear that BART wanted to kill this proposal before even considering it.

How BART could have come up with a more politically viable OAC: Daniel at 21st Century Urban Solutions has argued against the OAC project in the past and yesterday imagined a different possibility for the OAC. For less money, BART could have built an infill station at 98th Avenue and built the connector from there. Bonus: it would be faster, since it’s a more direct route. Daniel doesn’t think this would be a good project, but his point is that BART clearly put little critical thought into the OAC or they might have come up with something similar to his suggestion.

Trying to come up with language for a poll on the OAC: Yesterday, V Smoothe recounted a conversation she had with dto510 and I a couple weeks ago about what polling language would sound like for a fair poll on the OAC. It’s an entertaining post and also demonstrates how absurd this project really is.

Pissed off yet? If so, follow V Smoothe’s directions on taking action:

First, you can have some fun while helping stop the project by entering TransForm’s Oakland Airport Connector creative criticism contest. Cash prizes await the person who comes up with the best image or haiku illustrating just how bad this project is.

Second, you can sign this petition urging funding agencies to explore cost-effective alternatives to the connector. Over 420 people have signed so far, and if you’re not one of them, I urge you to add your name today.

Finally, you can contact the Oakland City Council’s Public Works Committee, who will be discussing the Airport Connector at their first meeting back from recess, next Tuesday. They’ve submitted a long list of questions (PDF) about the project to BART, and considering how completely indefensible the expense of the Airport Connector is, I can’t imagine that BART is having a very fun time answering them all. The members of the Public Works Committee are: Nancy Nadel (, Pat Kernighan (, Desley Brooks (, and Rebecca Kaplan (

The questions submitted by Public Works is incredible – I highly recommend reading the document. And please consider attending the Public Works Committee meeting next Tuesday at 9:30am at City Hall in Hearing Room 1. It’s early on the agenda so you won’t be waiting around for a long time, and your testimony is very important. As a bonus, the committee will also be discussing AC Transit’s unrelated BRT project just a couple agenda items after the OAC so you could stick around and speak on both items.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Sign the Petition: Stop the Oakland Airport Connector – Demand a Better Connector!

11 Aug

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.

The fight to stop the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) has not been easy, and as you can see from the list of posts at the bottom of this post, it has been a long one. But it’s not over yet. The Oakland Public Works Committee will be voting on the project on Tuesday, September 15th, and the issue will likely go to full Council after that. BART will also be voting on the project again in the coming months.

We’ve showed up at every meeting, generated hundreds of emails and phone calls, and expressed our concerns about the project to the press. But now it’s time for something much simpler. We’ve set up a petition asking BART, the Oakland City Council and the region’s transportation funding agencies to review the significant changes that have occurred in this project immediately and to halt movement forward until alternatives are studied.

Until September, this petition is the best way to voice our concern about the OAC so please do the following:

  1. Visit now and sign the petition.
  2. Send an email to your friends asking them to sign the petition.
  3. Post the link to Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else you can think of to get the word out.

And if you need one more reason why you should oppose the OAC, I have one: It’s even slower than we had initially thought!

In its RFP, issued in April, BART had set the minimum speed for the OAC at 35 miles per hour, which is already really slow, and significantly slower than the initially proposed 45 mph. But on July 31st, BART released an addendum to their RFP that sets the minimum speed even lower, at 27 mph!

The speed limit on Hegenberger is 30 miles per hour, and while there are stop lights, at some points, traffic will be moving faster than the OAC. Then, on the airport road, the speed limit rises to 45 mph, which means that cars and buses will be speeding past the OAC. Even without considering the less seamless connection of the OAC (going upstairs at BART; going downstairs and across a parking lot at the airport), with these new lower speeds, I can’t imagine many scenarios in which the OAC would make the trip in less time than the current AirBART bus.

So if you don’t want our region to spend half a billion dollars for a slower trip to the airport, sign the petition and get all your friends to sign it too.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Oakland Public Works Committee strongly questions Oakland Airport Connector

17 Jul

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a 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.

On Tuesday morning, the Oakland City Council, via the Public Works Committee finally had a chance to review the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). The last time they had reviewed the project was in 2006, and it has changed greatly since then, with projected ridership plummeting and costs growing. And the Public Works Committee members seemed to understand this well, asking pointed questions of BART and agendizing the project as an action item for their first meeting in September, when they return from recess.

Before the committee deliberated, BART and TransForm gave 10 minute presentations. BART’s presentation was the same one they’ve been giving for weeks – I think I’ve seen it three times now. I don’t have a copy of the Powerpoint slides, but here are the key points in it:

  • The first page has renderings of the OAC stations that are entirely inaccurate now. The airport station shows a covered walkway directly from the station to the terminal, even though this was taken out of the project due to costs long ago.
  • On ridership, BART concedes that its financial model shows that there will only be 4,350 riders in 2020 but explains that this is a very conservative model and makes the arguments that its 13,000 ridership projection from the EIR is still valid (I’ll get to why that’s wrong later)
  • BART explains away eliminating the two intermediate stops, essentially blaming it on Oakland for building a Walmart at one of the proposed stops and then saying that one day in the future the other stop “could” be built. (Yeah, because BART is so good about building infill stations.)
  • There is one slide that mentions the rapid bus alternative that TransForm has proposed and then says that BART studied it and it doesn’t work. There is no more information provided on this.

John Knox White from TransForm followed with a new presentation, which mostly focused on ridership. Check out a YouTube version of the presentation:

The presentation shows that while the 2002 EIR projects 10,200 new riders per day, a lot has changed since then. The fare has increased from $2 to $6, AirBART ridership has increased much more than expected, and the intermediate stops have been taken out. The reality is that BART’s own numbers show that there are only projected to be 440 new riders per day. Yes, you read that right, half a billion dollars for 440 new riders per day! In contrast, a rapid bus would cost an estimated $60 million and bring in 700 new riders per day. You should check out the full presentation for all the images and numbers, but this one alone is quite telling:


After the two presentations, several Oaklanders spoke about the need to study alternatives and why the current OAC is not the best project for Oakland. dto510 presented the committee with V Smoothe’s awesome presentation about financing. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out right away, as its some of her best work yet (which says a lot). A few OAC supporters also spoke, claiming the OAC was good for business and labor.

Then it was the committee’s turn, which was the really fun part. Between the four committee members, every question that we’ve been encouraging BART and MTC to ask were finally asked. Pat Kernighan started things off, saying that she wasn’t sure that she had access to all the correct info. She proceeded to ask a series of questions of BART:

  • What happens to the funds if they don’t go to the OAC?
  • What are the operations costs?
  • How many people will use it?
  • She asked for a clarification of the Port’s position, since Commissioner Margaret Gordon spoke and said the Port has asked for a study of alternatives and still has concerns about local hire requirements, and a Port staffer basically said the Port loves the project unequivocally.
  • What fees will fund this project? (i.e. airport passenger fees)
  • She asked for more comparison of a bus to the OAC, including pros and cons and wanted to know how a rapid bus would be different from the currently operating AirBART bus.
  • Are any of the funds from voter approved measures specifically dedicated to this project?

Desley Brooks followed, calling for the item to be re-agendized as an action item immediately to see if the City still wants to continue to support the project. She said that based on the information provided at the meeting and the letter from Don Perata, who was an early supporter of the project, she needed more information. Also, early in the meeting, before the presentations, she brought up concerns about hiring locally and hiring minorities, stating that BART has an atrocious record on these issues.

Public Works Chair Nancy Nadel said she wanted to echo Kernighan’s questions. Particularly, she was concerned about high costs, high fares, and local jobs. She also wanted more information on how smooth the transition would be on each alternative. Nadel ended her comments by saying that her district (in West Oakland) is seeing enormous AC Transit service cuts, and ACT is able to accommodate more people at lower cost. She didn’t say this, but I assume she was speaking to the fact that the stimulus funds, if they didn’t go to the OAC, would be reverted back to the transit agencies, including ACT.

Rebecca Kaplan, who has been a leader in fighting for a better connnector, spoke last. She explained that the stimulus money would not be lost if it was not given to the OAC, since it would be reverted back to the transit agencies. The only way it would be lost, she said, is if it is given to the OAC, since most of it would go to concrete, steel, and out of town jobs. She then asked for a legal analysis of BART’s 2006 contract with Oakland, which states that BART should give the RFP to Oakland before it is issued and allow Oakland 15 days to comment. BART did not follow this process and instead allowed Oakland to see the RFP several days after it had been issued.

Kaplan brought up the possibility of a third terminal being built at the airport and explained that at a BART board meeting, staff said that the Port would pay for an extension to this terminal if it was ever built, which is not true. She agreed with TransForm that BART’s ridership numbers  and revenue projections for the OAC include revenue from third terminal passengers but not the cost of extending the OAC to the third terminal.

Kaplan ended by making a pretty incredible comparison about jobs creations. The OAC, which costs more than half a billion dollars, is projected to generate 350 jobs, while another project that was heard at Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee later in the day on Tuesday, which has a similar price tag, is projected to generate 5,000 jobs.

The committee and the full council will be holding further hearings on the OAC in September, but there’s another important hearing next week before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). They will be voting on $140 million in funding for the OAC. This vote will be one of the last votes on funding for the OAC, yet BART has failed to provide accurate information on projected ridership and a bus alternative. We are urging MTC not to approve this funding until BART can answer questions that advocates have been asking for months. Please join us:

What: MTC Meeting on Oakland Airport Connector Funding

When: Wednesday, July 22nd @ 10 am

Where: MTC Headquarters (101 Eighth St near Lake Merritt BART)

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

It’s time for the City Council to weigh in on the Oakland Airport Connector

29 Jun

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a 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.

The campaign for a better connector is really heating up. The Oakland Port Commission directed their staff to work with BART to look at alternatives to the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). Don Perata sent a hard-hitting letter to MTC arguing that the OAC is “too much money for too little transit and economic value.” And just last Thursday, several Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) members strongly questioned the project and asked staff about alternatives.

Doesn’t it seem like it’s time for the Oakland City Council to weigh in? Larry Reid and BART don’t think so.

Last Thursday, Councilmember Nancy Nadel asked the Council Rules Committee to put a review of the OAC on the agenda for the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting, which she chairs. Specifically, she asked to agendize the “Discussion And Possible Action On The Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) Design And Construction Proposal, Funding Status, Local Job Projections, And Projected Ridership For The Oakland Airport Connector Project.”

It seems commonplace for the Chair of the Public Works Committee to ask to review a half billion dollar public works project that the Council hasn’t reviewed in many years and which has changed substantially over time. So when the item came to Rules Committee, it was largely expected that they’d put it on the agenda.

BART and Larry Reid didn’t want that to happen though. Kerry Hamill, from BART, spoke to the committee and urged them to hold off hearings until after recess, in September. Her stated reasoning was that the RFP was just released and that BART wouldn’t have solid numbers until then. The problem with that argument is that BART has been approaching agency after agency for funding, so although the final financial numbers may change a bit when proposals return, the numbers are solid enough to present to MTC, the Port, and ACTIA, which means they should be ready to present to Oakland.

Councilmember Larry Reid backed up Hamill and pleaded with the other committee members to hold off until after recess. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan presented the reasons why the committee should immediately agendize the item – costs have skyrocketed, ridership projections have plummeted, the fare has increased from $2 to $6, and the local community stops have been eliminated. She made it clear that if the Council waits until September to review the project, it would be too late for them to impact the OAC project.

Kaplan is right, and it was apparent that besides Reid, the rest of the committee members were convinced by her arguments. Ultimately though, they didn’t take any action and pushed the issue to this week’s Rules Committee meeting. This July 2nd meeting will be the last chance to agendize the issue before the Council goes on recess.

That’s why it’s so important for any Oaklander who cares about public transit and economic development to contact the Rules Committee members and ask them to immediately agendize a review of the OAC. Please take 2 minutes and send an email via TransForm’s action page.

Or if you’d prefer, email or call the committee members directly:

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

When you contact them, know that you’re not alone in asking for the City Council to weigh in on this project. Last Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the Rules Committee meeting, ACTIA heard an informational report on the OAC. Many ACTIA board members raised questions about the project and alternatives, and some specifically wanted to know whether Oakland really wants this project or not. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said, “I need some direction out of Oakland….that says either you want this, or you don’t want this.”

So please contact the Rules Committee and echo the words of Haggerty. It is time for Oakland to give some direction on the OAC, and the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting is the time and place for that to happen.

For background information and ongoing updates about the OAC, please visit

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Oakland Updates: Best of the East Bay, Uptown Unveiled, Oakland Airport Connector & Pay-Go

20 Jun

There’s so much going on in Oakland lately that it’s kind of impossible to keep up with here so I decided I’d just lump a bunch of brief updates into one post.

Still time to vote for Best of the East Bay: For some reason, the East Bay Express decided to extend voting for its Best of the East Bay Awards. Earlier this week I recommended voting for Damon and the Heathens as best band and Sean Sullivan as rising political figure. You have through Monday, June 22 to vote, so vote now if you haven’t already.

More Uptown Unveiled Photos: I posted my iPhone photos yesterday and Chris Kidd asked where he could find some more professional photos. Luckily, there are TONS on Flickr. My favorite photo sets come from The Inadvertent Gardener, psilocybes, vision63, amicicara, and Ken L. Katz. Enjoy!

What really happened at the Port? The Tribune covered the Oakland Airport Connector vote at the Port Commission, but unfortunately got it very wrong. V Smoothe wrote a blog post correcting all the mistakes and adding more background so that’s where you should go for the whole story. (The short version is that the Port voted to move ahead to apply to be able to give money to BART, and they’ll later have to vote on whether to actually give this funding or not. Also, they directed BART to look into other alternatives – yay!) So I called the Tribune reporter, Janis Mara, and discussed the mistakes in her story since I knew this was not a story that she had covered before. She went ahead and issued a correction. Thanks to V for bringing this to my attention and to Janis for making the correction.

Other Oakland Airport Connector updates: The City Council Rules Committee was supposed to vote this past Thursday on whether to agendize an update on the OAC, but Rules Committee got canceled, so it will be before them this Thursday, June 25th. That means there’s still time to contact the Council about this. Later on Thursday, ACTIA will also be discussing the OAC. It’s unclear at this point if they’ll just be receiving an update or if it will be an action item, but advocates will be there to encourage ACTIA to direct BART to study alternatives. If you need a good refresher on the OAC, check out the debate KPFA held on Friday between John Knox White of Transform and Linton Johnson of BART  (about 10 minutes in):

Terra Verde – June 19, 2009 at 1:00pm

Click to listen (or download)

And some good personal news – TransForm just hired me to work part time for the next several weeks on the OAC campaign. Since I already have another full time job, that means I’ll be very busy so posting here might be lighter than usual. (If you’re interested in filling in by writing a guest post, please contact me.)

How do you feel about pay-go? In response to Dellums saying he thought pay-go should be entirely eliminated, Debby at Today in Montclair set up a survey to find out about how Oaklanders feel about pay-go. Whether you have strong feelings or not, please take her very brief survey – I know I’m interested to see the results.

That’s it for now – if you have questions about other Oakland issues I’ve written about (or haven’t), feel free to ask them below.