Tag Archives: Public Advocates

Tomorrow (Thursday): Learn the truth about MPOs

24 Aug

I’ll have some more substantive posts up later this week, but today I received an email from the Transportation Equity Network about a free webinar they’re holding tomorrow that I thought Living in the O readers might be interested. It’s called “The Truth about Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)” and will be held at 1pm PST tomorrow (Thursday, August 25th). With all the action going on at our MPO – the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) – this seems like a worthwhile opportunity to learn more about MPOs.

Here’s the description from their email:

Tomorrow, 8/25, at 4pm EST, TEN will host a free educational webinar entitled The Truth About Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), the second in our new series of free monthly seminars. This Thursday’s webinar will cover the importance of MPOs, the ways in which current legislation shapes MPOs, and stories of actual engagement with MPOs from TEN leaders and organizers. Continue reading


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 (nnadel@oaklandnet.com), Pat Kernighan (pkernighan@oaklandnet.com), Desley Brooks (dbrooks@oaklandnet.com), and Rebecca Kaplan (rkaplan@oaklandnet.com).

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:

Transportation Day of Action in Oakland Tomorrow!

21 Jul

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.

You hopefully have already noted that the MTC hearing on the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) is tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10am, but you might not know about the nationwide transportation day of action on which the hearing coincidentally falls. Several advocacy groups will be joining together to hold a mock funeral to mourn the loss of transit lines in the Bay Area due to lack of funding for operations. After the funeral, advocates will march to the MTC hearing to urge them not to provide further funding to the OAC.

Though the timing of these two events is coincidental, they are tied together quite closely. While the state and federal government have been slashing operating funds, the stimulus bill has pumped tons of money into capital improvements for transportation. So while BART and MTC may end up wasting more than half a billion dollars on the OAC, including $70 million in stimulus funds, BART, AC Transit, and Muni are slashing service and raising fares.

It’s time we get our priorities straight, not only by prioritizing public transit over highway expansion, but also by prioritizing operations funding within transit funding. What is the use of a shiny new bus if we can’t afford to pay someone to drive it? What is the use of an extension to the Oakland Airport that will only draw 400 new riders a day, when it will suck funding from the entire BART system?

Please attend the funeral tomorrow to mourn public transit losses and then head over to the MTC meeting to win back some of this transit funding by halting funding to the OAC.

Here is the info, via a press release from Public Advocates:

WHAT: Wearing black and carrying a coffin, transit advocates will stage a mock funeral to mourn the death of crucial public transit lines in the Bay Area due to a lack of funding for operations. The event is tied to a National Day of Action called by Transit Riders for Public Transportation (TRPT), a national campaign led by environmental justice and civil rights groups, to highlight the need to provide funding for transit operations in the Federal Surface Transportation Authorization Act currently being considered in the US House of Representatives.

WHEN: Wednesday July 22, 2009 8:30am-9:30am

WHERE: Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612 (Corner of 14th St. and Broadway, outside of the 12St/Oakland City Center BART station)

WHO: Representatives from Public Advocates Inc.; Urban Habitat; TransForm; Genesis; CALPIRG; and BOSS. John Gioia, Supervisor for Western Contra Costa County; Dominique Nisperos reading a statement from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. A number of other elected officials have been invited.

WHY: With transit service cuts affecting people locally and around the nation, operating funds for public transit are sorely needed. Federal legislation offers the best current hope for preventing further service cuts in our communities. Representatives Barbara Lee (D, CA-9th) and Jerry McNerney (D, CA-11th) are co-sponsoring HR 2746 (Rep. Carnahan, D, MO-3rd) which would give local transit systems the flexibility to use anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of their federal capital grants for local operations. Event organizers are calling on other members of the Bay Area congressional delegation to sign onto the bill and advocate for dedicating federal funds specifically for transit operations in any new federal transportation legislation.

And the info for the MTC meeting:

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: