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BART Board mortgages system for East Oakland “Blingfrastructure”

This afternoon, the BART Board of Directors voted 7-1 (Radulovich no, Murray absent) to take out a $150m loan to fund the construction of an elevated fixed-guideway transit system to the Oakland airport. Community groups including Genesis, Asian-Pacific Environmental Network, and Urban Habitat, teamed with BART and AC Transit unions and transit advocates to urge the BART Board to adopt a Rapid Bus that would serve workers and businesses along the route and have a lower fare. The arguments from BART staff that a bus just isn’t good enough, and from construction interests urging job creation, apparently swayed the Board. Board President Tom Blalock argued that the community benefit of the flyover connector is increased road capacity on Hegenberger, and BART staff said there was potential for one infill station, but no financial commitments were made. Mr. Blalock also made it clear that the flyover not serving Airport expansion was not BART’s problem. Tom Radulovich, after agreeing with many speakers that BART shouldn’t borrow money for expansion when the core needs of the BART system are underfunded, said that the bus alternative was clearly superior, and characterized the overhead Airport Connector as “blingfrastructure:” ostentatious, expensive, and unnecessary. The Port of Oakland must approve raising $44m from airline ticket fees, and two federal agencies must sign off on aspects before the project receives final approval from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

If you’d like to learn more about the meeting and the Directors’ comments, please see my Twitter (@dto510), @MaxAllstadt, and @TheBlackHour. Even if you don’t have a twitter account you can subscribe to RSS feeds of my twitter to follow breaking news or my other updates. Living in the O and I will blog when there are further opportunities to advocate for a more cost-effective Airport Connector that better serves East Oakland.

Posted in actransit, airport, bart, breakingnews, california, oakland, transportation.

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16 Responses

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  1. Kyu says

    Help keep the A’s in Oakland

  2. dto510 says

    The OAC will not help keep the A’s in Oakland. Not that you suggested that it would, I just wanted to clarify.

  3. dave o says

    With the end of cheap energy and declining air traffic, why add infrastructure to support the airport? Shouldn’t the money go towards more efficient forms of mass transit? Isn’t peak oil considered for these big long-term projects?

  4. gem s says

    I can’t believe Blalock seriously said that OAC would get cars off Hegenberger- even Robert Moses noticed back in the 40′s that his new roads increased traffic. It’s well documented that more road capacity means more people driving.

    Never mind the fact that if the comments at SFGate are any indication, people would rather pay for a cab that will drop them at the terminal.

  5. dto510 says

    Not only did Blalock assert that the flyover connector would take cars off the road despite having no recent traffic data, he said that the increased road capacity would be the community benefit to East Oakland. It’s not just a terribly ungreen thing to say, it’s so insulting to Oaklanders. Road capacity we got. Better transit is what we need.

  6. Daily Rider says

    I sent an email to BART Board member Bob Franklin about his vote in favor, and received an interesting response. As he described it, the airport connector is far from a done deal and his vote in favor of it on 5/14 was an attempt to keep all options open. He also suggested there would be time for the rapid bus option to become better defined, and return to the Board for consideration again. Based on his comments, at least, it may be too soon to count the bus alternative out.

  7. S Raney says

    Personal Rapid Transit promises a superior solution to Automated People Mover for the Oakland Airport Connector, winning on cost, speed, service area, Oakland economic development, BART ridership, Airport improvement, long-term jobs, in-fill development, visual impact, risk, and AC Transit enhancement. A web page details the arguments:

  8. newoaktown says

    they’ve done it because every other airport in the world does it. (SFO, tokyo, shanghai, SEA-TAC, JFK) and in a way, it makes sense.

    i know we are against their specific method of doing it…

  9. dto510 says

    Certainly the money should go to more-efficient forms of mass transit. That’s what many were arguing, that a rapid bus system would be just as good (actually, better, because of the intermediate stops), and cost 90% less. But there is no movement to abandon airports.

  10. gem s says

    Oh, genius. If there’s one thing I hear East Oaklanders clamoring for year after year, it’s road capacity. Especially to the airport.

  11. dto510 says

    Yeah, it is too soon to say that the flyover connector will definitely get built (the Port, the FTA, and the FAA each have the power to concel it). But the BART Board did not vote to further study the bus alternative (which is pretty well-defined to everyone but BART planners), so if the overhead connector isn’t built, the bus improvements won’t be ready to go.

  12. newoaktown says

    when i used to drive/be driven to OAK or even take the bus, it always irritated me to see a sea of matrix-sentinel-like brake lights.

    i thought, damn, why isn’t there a train here to bart?

    makes so much more sense. then they can slim down that hegenberger road and even develop the space into buildings or farms or something USEFUL

  13. dto510 says

    To be clear, BART is not proposing rail, but an overhead connector that will mostly likely run on rubber tires. Basically, a bus freeway. With a fare of $20, it won’t get much traffic off of Hegenberger, so would preclude a road diet. Also, it takes up a lot of space for all the pillars.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. BART Director James Fang again chooses bling over tested technology « Living in the O linked to this post on May 18, 2009

    [...] by Becks So you might have thought that BART directors couldn’t shock me anymore. After approving the half billion airport connector blingfrastructure that robs funds from BART operations and capital projects, they couldn’t do anything worse, [...]

  2. BART Director James Fang again chooses bling over cheaper & more sensible technology « Living in the O linked to this post on May 18, 2009

    [...] by Becks So you might have thought that BART directors couldn’t shock me anymore. After approving the half billion airport connector blingfrastructure that robs funds from BART operations and capital projects, they couldn’t do anything worse, [...]

  3. Oakland Airport Connector now in the hands of the Port Commission « Living in the O linked to this post on May 29, 2009

    [...] 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 [...]