Tag Archives: Oakland Port Commission

Don Perata on Oakland Airport Connector: “Too much money for too little transit”

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

(Cross posted at Living in the O.)

Last week, Don Perata joined the effort to stop the wasteful overhead Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) by sending a hard-hitting letter to Metropolitian Transportation Commissioner and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. On July 8, the MTC will be voting on providing even more funding to the OAC from Regional Measure 2 funds, and Perata is not pleased about this:

As the author of SB 916 – which placed regional Measure 2 on the ballot-, I must oppose the Oakland Airport Connector project. In short, the proposal is too much money for too little transit and economic value.

While the connector was included in the menu of RM2 transportation projects, that election was in 2004. The world has since changed dramatically. And so has the project. In 2003 when the project was proposed, only $30M was needed to complete funding for the $230M connector. In fact, we told the voters (in the ballot pamphlet) that this was “the final portion of funds needed for direct BART service” to the airport. Project costs have now increased by over $300M and the RM2 dollars needed have quadrupled. Even more damning, the ridership predicted in 2003 has fallen substantially from 13,540 to fewer than 4500 by 2020. This fails any cost-benefit analysis on its face.

Advocates have been making these arguments for months, to the MTC, BART, and the Port Commision, and most of our pleas for reason have fallen on deaf ears. But I'm hopeful that these elected officials will find it more difficult to ignore the former State Senate Democratic leader and the likely future mayor of Oakland.

Perata continues:

Elected representatives everywhere act as consistent with today's realities; we cannot conduct public affairs as if the weak economy is simply a market correction. There is less tax dollars available and more competition than our generation has ever known. This requires strong fiscal discipline and hard choices. Whether the money comes from taxes, tolls or fees, it's the same pair of pants, only different pockets!

I am unconvinced an Oakland Airport Connector is the highest and best use of available transit money – even assuming potential millions from the federal government stimulus program. Washington bureaucrats don't know any better; we should.

In the coming weeks, the Port Commission, MTC, the Oakland City Council, and ultimately BART will all have opportunities to prove that they do know better.

Today, the full Port Commission will vote on taking the first step on funding the OAC to the tune of $44 million. (Two weeks ago, the Aviation Committee of the Port Commission voted to move move the OAC funding issue onto the full committee, and then for some reason the full commission delayed the hearing.) Just as BART has gone back to MTC again and again for increasingly larger amounts of RM2 funding, they have asked the Port for more and more. The Port has the opportunity to leverage its contribution to require BART to study a rapid bus alternative that would save hundreds of million of dollars.

Then, on Thursday, the Rules Committee of the Oakland City Council will vote on a request from Councilmember Nancy Nadel to bring the OAC project before the Public Works Committee and ultimately the full Council. There are a multitude of reasons that the City Council should review the project again, as dto510 explains:

A lot is at stake for Oakland. On one hand, project supporters claim that it will improve the Oakland Airport area, attracting more airline passengers and perhaps more businesses to Airport and surrounding area. For the reality-based community, however, there are enormous costs to the City of Oakland to moving ahead with the project. ACTIA funds that would otherwise go to East Oakland bike/ped/transit improvements, such as a mooted transit village at the Coliseum BART station, would be lost. The Port of Oakland will have to use funds that would otherwise go to airport renovation and expansion. Regional stimulus funds would go to this instead of to shoring up AC Transit and BART service. And the City of Oakland will lose the opportunity to improve transit service that would serve the workers and businesses in the Hegenberger Corridor, since the RFP for the Airport Connector does not include any intermediate stops. Many of these problems are a result of changes to the project, and many former supporters are now opponents.

Unfortunately, it is possible that OAC proponent and Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid will urge the Rules Committee not to agendize this item because he fears that when the City Council finds out how drastically this project has changed, they will no longer support it. So if you're an Oakland resident, please contact Rules Committee members to ask them to support a public Council hearing on the OAC:

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
[email protected] or 510-238-7001

Jean Quan, District 4
[email protected] or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
[email protected] or 510-238-7005

A half billion dollars, affordable access to the Oakland Airport, and so much more are at stake in the OAC project. In the coming weeks, let's hope that our elected officials show as much leadership and reasoned skepticism as Don Perata and save our region from this boondoggle.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Oakland Airport Connector now in the hands of the Port Commission

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

(Cross posted at Living in the O.)

UPDATE: There's an excellent column about this issue in Saturday's Contra Costa Times.

A couple weeks ago, the BART board made a terrible decision by approving the wasteful overhead Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). As dto510 wrote, quoting Director Radulovich, they mortgaged the system for “blingfrastructure.” But the OAC is still not a done deal because several sources of funding need to fall into place for the project to be fully funded.

The next stop for the OAC is the Oakland Port Commission Aviation Committee meeting this Monday, June 1st. The committee will vote on taking the first step on funding the OAC to the tune of $44 million. In the grand scheme of this half billion dollar project, $44 million might not sound like that much, but let’s look at this amount in context.

When the OAC project was first proposed, it was touted as a $130 million project. I couldn’t find out how much BART had hoped the Port would commit at the time (if anything), but it was clearly less than $44 million. Colleagues who have been involved in this process longer than I have told me that as the price tag of the OAC rose, BART kept going back to the Port, asking them for more and more money. The Port Director kept saying yes, but the Commission never actually voted on the $44 million, and I guess BART just assumed they’d come through in the end.

The Port Commission should emphatically vote no on this funding. A lot has changed in the past few years. Traffic is down both at the airport and at the port, which means that the Port is in a much worse financial position today. To pay this $44 million to BART, the Port will have to borrow the money, and with interest, the total cost to the Port will be $70 million. Ultimately, this $70 million will come from the $4.50 per passenger fee that they currently charge to airport travelers.


This might sound reasonable, except that the Port has other projects for which it needs funds from those passenger fees. One major project is the renovation of Terminal 1, which right now is set for a five year renovation schedule. Shifting the $70 million to the OAC would push this back to a seven year schedule. The Terminal 2 (Southwest) renovation project has been a huge success, and there’s no reason we should have to wait 7 years before Terminal 1 looks like this:

Terminal 2

Besides the economic reasons for rejecting this project, the Port commissioners should look at how the project has dramatically changed. The Port has a fact sheet up on its website from 2002 about the OAC, which has these fun facts:

  • The Connector will be a seamless connection between BART and the Airport. What that means is that the Connector is part of the BART system, so riders don’t have to pay a separate fare when transferring between BART and the Connector.
  • Riders will save a considerable amount of time over the current bus connector between BART and the airport, especially when there are major events at the Coliseum complex and during peak travel periods at the Airport…
  • A design/build contract for the Connector is scheduled for award in 2004 and the system should begin operation in 2008.

These facts were true in 2002, but they’re no longer true. The connection won’t be seamless and will cost an additional $6 fare, paid separately from the BART fare. At its best projections, riders would save a few minutes with the OAC, and when factoring in the long walks, it could even take longer than the current bus. And I think it’s pretty clear why the last fact isn’t true.

The Port Commission should vote no on funding the OAC and should recommend that BART do a serious study into a rapid bus option, like the one TransForm proposed. The Oakland Airport could benefit from an improved BART connection, but the OAC is not the right choice.

Here is the info for the Port Commission meeting, if you’d like to attend and speak:

What: Port Commission Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector

When: Monday, June 1st @ 3:30pm

Where: 530 Water Street in Oakland (accessible by the 72, 72M, or 72R buses)

If you cannot make it to the meeting, but want to tell the Port Commissioners to vote against OAC funding, please send an email via TransForm’s action page. You can find a pre-written message there, but I encourage you to take the time to personalize the email, as non-form letters are always more effective.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector: