FTA Won’t Fund BART Airport Connector, $70 Million to Go to Transit Ops

HegenbergerRd_P1_HRes3000px_small.jpgImage: BART

In a stern letter to BART [PDF], Federal Transit Association (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff informed the agency that it would not be able to develop a suitable action plan by March 5th to comply with equity and race requirements for the $70 million in stimulus funds for the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), a move that may kill the project.

"Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was
well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART
while the agency remains out of compliance," wrote Rogoff.

In his letter, Rogoff said he was sure the project opponents that filed the original complaint with the FTA would proceed with further lawsuits, jeopardizing the tight timeline on stimulus funds. He advised BART and MTC to reallocate the money or the region would risk losing the funds altogether.

likelihood of protracted litigation with the parties that made the
initial complaint is extremely high," wrote Rogoff. "Given this situation, and the fact
that we are now only 3 weeks away from the March 5 deadline, I must
bring these discussions to a close so that we can work together to
ensure that the ARRA funds can create and preserve jobs in the Bay Area."

As a contingency plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission
(MTC), which oversees transportation planning in the Bay Area, had
planned to meet on February 17th to decide whether to reprogram the $70
million if BART did not meet its obligations. The MTC will likely move the $70 million to the region’s transit agencies by
pre-established funding formulas, rather than risk losing the money outright.

OAC opponents were delighted with the news.

"We think this is a victory for BART riders, transit workers and the community of East Oakland," said Wynn Hauser, spokesperson for Public Advocates, the legal team that filed the FTA complaint. "These are serious civil rights violations and we applaud FTA for following through on not only the letter but the spirit of Title IV. They are not saying you have to pay lip service, but you have to do this work."

"Now low income people and communities of color will be able to shape the project that they were originally denied so they can share in the benefits," he added.

John Knox White of TransForm, a transit and smart growth advocacy organization, said the decision vindicates the position TransForm and its allies have taken for more than a year. "Through this, BART has repeatedly tried to keep the public out of this process," he said.

White also pointed to the benefit the $70 million will have to maintain service and avoid fare increases at transit agencies across the Bay Area, including Muni, BART, and AC Transit, which all have budget deficits.

"FTA’s decision allows MTC to put this money to transit agencies, including BART, who desperately needs it now," said White. "It’s a win for everybody."

As for how this affects Muni’s budget concerns, spokesperson Judson True said: "It’s too
early to say exactly what impact this will have on our operating
budget." But, he noted, "We’ve done the work required to be ready to receive any funding that
MTC directs our way. Since the stimulus bill first passed, we’ve been
prepared for this eventuality."

According to True, of the $17.5 million Muni would receive, $4.3 million will go to preventive maintenance, which is essentially operating expenses. The remainder would be programmed toward light rail vehicle rehab.

Neither BART nor MTC were immediately available for comment.

More from FTA Administrator Rogoff’s letter:

Since my letter of January 15, FTA staff and BART have worked diligently but unsuccessfully on the development of a corrective action plan that might be acceptable. I am required to now inform you that your plan is rejected. I ask that you immediately get in contact with Region IX Administrator Leslie Rogers for the purpose of pursuing alternative projects for the Bay area that can be obligated prior to the March 5 deadline.

I am required to reject your plan for the following reasons. Based on the timelines submitted by BART, there is no way the agency can come into full compliance with Title VI by September 30, 2010. The requirements of ARRA dictate that any funds not disbursed by September 30, 2010, must be lapsed back to the Treasury. And since I cannot allow BART to draw any funds for the OAC project prior to coming into full compliance, it is clear that pursuit of the OAC project would result in the funds either being reallocated out of the Bay area or lapsed. Both scenarios are unacceptable to me as I am sure they are to you. Let me say that, based on FTA’s experience in other cities, BART is being realistic in admitting that the process of coming into full compliance will take considerably longer than the 8+ months that remain before the September 30 deadline. I appreciate and respect your honesty in this regard.

Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART while the agency remains out of compliance. Moreover, it is clear that, if FTA were to pursue such a course, the likelihood of protracted litigation with the parties that made the initial complaint is extremely high. Given this situation, and the fact that we are now only 3 weeks away from the March 5 deadline, I must bring these discussions to a close so that we can work together to ensure that the ARRA funds can create and preserve jobs in the Bay area.

The efforts of the last few weeks have not been wasted. Wholly separate from the fate of the OAC project, it is imperative that BART, as a recipient of FTA funds, come fully into compliance with Title VI as soon as possible. The plans developed between our staffs over the last few weeks lay the groundwork for BART to achieve that important goal.

  • Sven Bravo

    Congratulations! In the name of Civil Rights, Transform, Genesis, and Public Advocates have denied jobs to thousands of Bay Area construction workers, and denied opportunities to low income and minority communities that they claim they are protecting.

    What a bunch of hypocrites!

  • Michael

    Sven Bravo, did you even read the article? Maybe you only care if your rights get infringed upon, and no one else’s.

    From the article: “Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART while the agency remains out of compliance,” wrote Rogoff.

    And the “jobs” that are now “denied” to workers are short term temp jobs. It’s that short term/Wall Street/quarterly profits mentality that undercuts strategic research-based investments that will offer benefits the community as whole, not just enrich those who are wealthy or well-connected.

    And doesn’t BART take some of the blame for dropping the ball?

  • Nick

    Why does the $17 million have to go to MUNI and not into the MTA general fund?

    Using ARRA funds for operating expenses is the like watching a bad ending to a much hyped blockbuster movie. You walk out of the theatre with a sense of disgust and guilt for the money (your money) that was wasted.

  • tommy

    It’s always disturbing but unfortunately not surprising to hear people defend big showy projects like new stadiums, shopping centers, or unneeded rail lines in the name of “jobs”, when almost anything else would not only provide better, long-term jobs for actual locals, anything else would also likely be a much better land use for the area, in terms of mix of use, vitality, and mobility. Sure, if this line had an interim station then it’d provide some (expensive) mobility, but the whole project is still a waste in these times in terms of the benefits it might provide for its costs.

    Pretty much all transit agencies are in desperate need of operating funds. This FTA decision is great news. Usually, agencies can only get federal money for junk like expanding light rail (or sometimes heavy rail) into low-density exurbia. There should be fewer fare hikes and less service cuts in the Bay Area thanks to this. And in turn, more jobs and more money in the pockets of the poor, elderly, and young.

  • Miles

    This project would have been one of the biggest transit boondoggles in Bay Area history. Half a billion for a rail link that would barely beat the current shuttle bus. Bravo.

  • Michael Krueger

    According to BART’s own numbers, the OAC project will only directly create 273 local jobs. At a project cost of half a billion dollars, that’s almost $2 million per job. Redirecting $70 million of ARRA (stimulus) money toward transit operating expenses, on the other hand, could save 700 existing local jobs at BART, AC Transit, Muni, and other Bay Area transit agencies, conservatively assuming $100,000 for salary and benefits per job.

    Of course, that’s only the direct job savings; that doesn’t count the indirect effect of keeping employment opportunities open to transit-dependent workers and job seekers who would be hit hard by the service cuts and fare increases that will happen if transit agencies lose these operating funds. Transit operations may not be as “sexy” as big construction projects, but they are the lifeblood of urban mobility. For example, a case study of devastating AC Transit service cuts in 1996 showed that every $1 in service cuts has $10 of negative impact on the economy:


  • Sven


    You say “And the “jobs” that are now “denied” to workers are short term temp jobs. It’s that short term/Wall Street/quarterly profits mentality that undercuts strategic research-based investments that will offer benefits the community as whole, not just enrich those who are wealthy or well-connected.

    So do you think people who work on construction have short term/temporary jobs? Of course they do! But how are they different from the people in Minnesota who will be building the buses that will be bought with the reallocated MTC funds. Certainly if there are no buses to be built, they will be out of a job, too.

    Do you really believe that construction laborers, steel workers, carpenters are “wealthy and well connected”? What kind of idiot are you?!

    But we can agree — BART can take some of the blame. They should have responded sooner. But they did respond, and they are now working toward compliance.

    The issue is not an issue of Civil Rights vs. BART OAC.

    The issue is BART OAC (and all the jobs it brings) PLUS Civil Rights, or

    Civil Rights, and no project, no jobs, no positive community impacts.

    Public Advocates, Transform, Genesis, and Urban Habitat should all be ashamed of this injustice! How have such fine organization been brought to stoop so low!

  • Sven

    And to Michael Krueger (are you the same as Michael?):

    If you use the White House Council of Economic Advisors “Simple Rule” to compare the number of direct, indirect, and induced jobs between reallocating the money versus the building OAC, OAC beats reallocation by 7 to 1. That is because the OAC project is 7 times larger. and you know the good thing about the project? The people that ride it pay its full cost. It is revenue neutral to BART.

    And isn’t a job that allows you to feed your family and pay your mortgage a civil right? That is what Transform, Genesis, Urban Habitat and Public Advocates are denying the low income and minority construrction workers in Oakland.

    Have you seen the folks opposing the project? By the best I can determine, Public Advocates, whose web site describes themselves as an “advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing and transit equity” doesn’t even have an African-American on their Board of Governors!

    Hey Public Advocates — You say you are representing the Oakland community in this action. How many African-Americans are on your Board of Governors?

  • Sven – MUNI is facing layoffs. Now they will be facing fewer layoffs. How is a construction job more important than a bus driver job? Especially when that bus driver enables other people to get to work – on buses that must exist.

    Steel workers? Like the steel workers who built the steel for the Bay Bridge – in China?

    The workers themselves are not wealthy and connected, but they are backed by Bechtel, Parsons Brinkerhoff, etc… and those firms are very wealthy and very well connected.

    The money is not going into a sinkhole. It will be spent, just not to build this train. You are defending the jobs – but you’ve never defended the actual benefits of the merits of the train itself. That’s because the train has no merit – other than perhaps providing employment for more workers at SFO as people flee OAK due to the increased fares to get to OAK in a manner that isn’t any more convenient than it is now.

  • Sardine Sidy

    The united states actually reached zero population growth in the 1970s. Somewhere along the line our population began to exponentially grow and the concept off population stabilization was replaced with that of “smart growth”.

    The issue is not so much as civil rights violations but rather using civil rights laws to grab the funding from BART. The Airport Connector is a good example of “Smart Growth”. The need for the other agencies to undermine BART to grab for their funding is an example of uncontrolled growth – and the need for unending subsidies to pay for it.

    Now they build the projects ( yeah, yeah, yeah we don’t call them that any more) right around the BART stations and thousands are held up on a regular basis while they resolve another yet “incident”.

    “Smart” Growth??? – Is that like being “a tittle bit” pregnant???

  • Sven

    John Murphy:

    So who spends a steel workers paycheck? A Bechtel or a steelworker? Get serious. BTW, Bechtel is not involved in OAC, and all the steel is from the US! So these are US steel workers you are disparaging! (And it was the same Department of Transportation that allowed the use of foreign steel on the Bay Bridge!)

    There will be fewer MUNI bus driver layoffs? The steel worker was laid off months ago, maybe even years! The steel workers house is being foreclosed. He is making choices of clothes vs. food for his kids.

    Are you telling me that if we give MUNI just a little more money they will be alright? The Region’s transit agencies have already gotten 80% of the stimulus money. Are they alright now? Give them more and guess what they will ask for — MORE!

    I’m sorry John. I have a son, and hopefully soon a grandchild. I will not pay for the President’s current stimulus program, the money involved here. That duty will fall on my son and his children. I would much rather they be able to see (and ride) on what they are paying for.

    Throwing additional money to pay for bus drivers to drive empty buses around is not good value for me or my child or my grandchildren. At least the OAC project will be an enduring project. Delaying reduction of bus service by a few weeks is not worth the sacrifice of a project that will benefit the Region for the next 50 years.

    What legacy do you want to leave your children?

  • Juanita

    Finally, an honest perspective of what is really going on. I don’t agree with everything you’ve posted, but there is a lot of mis-information out there about this project that it’s shocking when you start to fact check. I’ve been a lifelong supporter of civil rights and the empowerment of the disenfranchised. So, this story caught my attention when I read about the Civil Rights violations. Initially I was eager to see this project go away, until I did my own research. I was upset with the amount of inaccurate information that Transform and their attorneys Public Advocates were disseminating. I was even more disappointed that PA is now serving special interest groups and on this issue, it’s NOT the low-income and minority communities that they are claiming to protect. Transform and Public Advocates filed the Title VI complaint. Based on my research, the community impacted by the project has been fighting to keep this project – they have been going to every meeting to try to stop Transform from killing the project. The truth is that the Connector replaces Airbart shuttle (which does not even serve the community – its a non-stop shuttle service — AC Transit lines that currently go to the Airport will remain in service). I’ve also noticed that this victory has created jobs — for Transform — check their website, they are hiring at least 3 new positions. Fact check everything they’re saying. The reallocation of $70 million to other agencies will be diluted and have no impact on jobs (check the MTC projects that will be awarded the monies). Its another attempt for these transit agencies to temporarily bridge their operating budget deficits (the black hole) I’m sure you’ve read about this throughout the country — the monies will evaporate within a few months (again) — long before the next budget cycle, when they will face the same deficit then attack the next capital project due for stimulus money – it will not save jobs. FACT CHECK — look at where most of the stimulus money has been shifted to — overspent transit agencies that rely on tax payers backs. This decision of FTA’s Rogoff is a disappointment and people should be outraged. Especially, people in the impacted community who have been fighting for this project and who Title VI was intended to protect — they no longer have a strong voice 🙁

  • Jon Spangler

    As I see it, building a transit connector that is slower, more expensive, and provides less frequent service than the one it replaces just does not make sense and is a waste of money, no matter what the funding source. (In the USA we have a history of being enamored of sexier “gee whiz” technologies, even when they are less dependable or functional than less sophisticated ones.)

    Add to that the fact that the communities through which the “impacted community” are not even served by this elevated system that divides and destroys street-level commercial and social vitality, and I cannot see that this would have been a good deal.

    As to whose jobs are sustained, i would rather keep bus drivers on the road in more buses so there is a broader social benefit to the community. That, IMHO, trumps construction jobs, which I have nothing against otherwise.

    Even if this dumb project was stopped for the “wrong” reasons I’m glad it has been killed.

  • Sven


    I’m glad to see that you are acknowledging that the project is being killed for the wrong reason.

    I hope that you agree that it appears that Transform, Genesis, and Public Advocates were more interested in killing the project than in Civil Rights. If you have any doubt, read their web sites. Juanita made a good point — check the facts!

    These groups were so determined to kill the project that they would us any tool they could. As it turned out, Civil Rights was the handy tool, and they used it.

    Civil Rights leaders must be fuming!

  • This entire debate is incorrectly framed as choice between OAC project and saving transit operating funds.

    There is plenty of money to do both.

    The BRT option can be built without having to tap into the $70 stimulus funds. The BRT option still provides for a large number of construction jobs. BRT can even use made-in-America buses, as opposed to made-in-Austria cable cars.

  • Alex

    Sven, you’d have a point if the OAC was the only possibility for construction in the Bay Area. If BART had its act together, they could have proposed something productive like infill stations at 30th & Mission or 98th & San Leandro.

    In fact, if BART had proposed a 98th Ave station, they would have created jobs and served a low-income community. In fact I bet you could build a 98th Ave station + bus rapid transit lane to the airport for about what the OAC is expected to cost… and it would actually be faster.

    Hell, BART could have proposed something such as another bore for the tube… and that would have been a less absurd than this people mover.

    Of course you’re also ignoring the MUNI employees who have already been laid off (such as custodians). You cry about the steelworkers, but what happens to them when they’re priced out of public transportation because BART kept embarking on expensive projects that don’t bring in any revenue? What happens to those steelworkers when the sales and gas taxes keeps going up to support these projects?

  • Alex

    @Juanita Do you want to see what happens when low-income neighborhoods get suckered into blingfrastructure?

    Come out to the Bayiew/Hunters Point neighborhood. Check out what the first half of the central subway (the T) has done. Ask the residents what they think of the black flight. Ask the college students who no longer have a direct route to City College what they think. Ask the commuters what they think of the reliability of the train vs the bus it replaced. Ask the business owners who bet the farm on the train bringing lots of foot traffic.

    Come out to District 10. You’ll be surprised.

    Hell, you wanna talk about Oakland? How many low income residents will be taking this people mover (it’s twice as expensive as the bus)? How many residents of that neighborhood will actually be employed?

    Just because something has a lot of political will behind it does not make it a good idea.

  • Monorail! Monorail! Monorail! Not so fast…

    @ Miles (#5), Jon Spangler (#13):

    i’m reticent to count the OAC as dead or defeated; i think it has been dealt a heavy blow, but this does not mean that we are free of Monorail (a la “the simpsons”), er, OAC fervor. this only means that the OAC is still short of full funding. does anyone recall how MTC redistributed money that was to go to dumbarton rail to BART’s warm springs extension? i’m crossing my fingers that MTC/BART do not find another project to cannibalize in an last ditch effort to build the poorly-designed OAC legacy project. only when a reworked project, be it BRT–not just some “rapid bus” upgrade to AirBART–or a less costly and more beneficial automated guideway, is devised and open for revenue service will i feel relief.

    while i support the reallocation of the $70M in ARRA funds to other bay area transit agencies (and i would benefit, as i am a bus operator at a smaller agency that last year cut its service by one-fifth and had a lay-off of nearly 40 operators; to use a quote from one of my favorite movies, my “balls are this close to the bandsaw”), i do agree with critics of this decision that this–trying to stave off what, for the time being, appear to be inevitable service cuts with capital monies–is no long-term solution. this is only a band-aid approach, not a sustainable method to preserving transit operations.

    i would be ecstatic if MTC’s transit sustainability project actually results in substantive change to bay area transit operations, rather than become yet another pile of papers collecting dust on a shelf at 101 8th street. consider for a moment that each of the more than two dozen service providers has, for the most part, a board of directors, a general manager or other executive, and administrative personnel and other support staff. imagine the cost savings and greater operational efficiency we could realize from consolidating all those agencies into, if not a single bay area-wide provider, just four or five subregional agencies (e.g., san francisco and the peninsula, the east bay, the south bay, etc.). instead of the more than two dozen agencies competing against one another for a small slice of the money pie, money would be allocated to just a handful of agencies. imagine having a uniform fare structure. of course, consolidation alone is not a panacea. the bay area’s citizens must demand that any new agency be accountable to those it serves and not allow itself to become a bloated, top-heavy bureaucracy. if there was ever a time to effect significant reform in the way we operate transit in the bay area, it is *now*. the dire situation facing bay area transit agencies provides the perfect conditions for change, and i hope we will overcome the historical inertia against agency consolidation and emerge from this fiscal crisis stronger and better than before.

  • Michael Krueger

    First, a quick clarification: I am not the “Michael” who wrote comment #2 above. I always post my comments under my full name because I’m willing to be held accountable for them.

    The FTA letter stated quite clearly that the civil rights complaint is “well founded.” The FTA is a federal agency with no axe to grind and no motive to kill this particular project. If the FTA felt the complaint was frivolous or without merit, it could have said so and used its discretion to grant the funding anyway. This crucial fact has been overlooked in some people’s mad rush to condemn those who filed the complaint instead of turning the spotlight on BART and its failure to comply with the law.

    As for the jobs issue, folks need to understand that this is not a question of how much money will be spent in the Bay Area. The ARRA money will be redirected to other agencies, and BART can use the rest of its capital money to build a less expensive project and have plenty left over to spend on capital projects that serve riders in the urban core, such as infill stations. Those who are calculating jobs benefits based only on the total amount of money spent should recognize that the same number of jobs will be created or saved whether or not the OAC is built in its currently proposed form.

    In short, the Bay Area will not be losing anything if a more cost-effective airport connector is built; it will merely be gaining more transit bang for each of those bucks that would have been spent anyway.

  • Benjamin

    @Sardine Sidy, first, a quick factual correction: the annual US population growth through the 1970s ranged from 0.91% – 1.26% per year. For comparison, the growth ranges for the 1980s and 1990s were 0.87% – 0.98% and 0.92% – 1.13%. In other words, there were actually years in the 1970s with growth higher than in the following two decades.

    With that said, smart growth is absolutely not the advocacy of population growth, as you seem to imply; smart growth is about shaping the built environment in such a way that it remains (or becomes) livable, vibrant, easy to get around and pleasant to be in as cities grow to serve larger populations. Smart growth does acknowledge population growth, but advocates a more dense population, not simply a larger one.

    The airport connector is not an example of “smart growth” at all. While smart growth advocates densifying urban centers and building transit around them, the airport connector would run a transit spur from a decentralized BART stop to a decentralized airport.

    Your final metaphor is typically employed to imply that a binary condition (you either are or are not pregnant) is being described as having finer gradients (being a little bit pregnant). Yet clearly there are some urban developments that are far less smart than others. I find highway widening and suburban sprawl to be examples of pretty stupid growth, for instance, and denser, pleasant, walkable communities to be smart growth. Surely you don’t actually believe that all development types are identically and indistinguishably bad?

  • tNOB

    I have not looked into the details about the complaints lodged against the OAC project, but have a hard time finding any connections to civil rights. This project was designed to transport people from the BART station to the airport, just as the AirBART does now. The times I have ridden the AirBART, it does not stop to pick people up between the two stops.

    I can understand the argument that it may be an expensive project, and the price to use the OAC may be high, but fundamentally it would provide the same exact function. Therefore, the complaint that someone who has paid several hundred dollars for a plane ticket is having their civil rights trampled upon by having to pay a few extra dollars to take a convenient ride on an elevated tram to the airport is ridiculous.

    Nowhere have I seen the point made that the current AirBART setup is crowded and frustrating. My wife and I do everything possible to fly from SFO, including paying extra for flights to not have to deal with the AirBART hassle. I believe many others may share my point of view, and this would not bode well for the Oakland Airport. In fact, more people flying in and out of Oakland brings revenue into the city.

    I fear that the real reason is that the nature of the complaints against the project lie in the fact that federal stimulus dollars are being spent inequitably. If that is the case, then how about the billions being spent on roadway construction? How might millions of city dwellers without automobiles (whether by choice or economic reasons) feel about that?

    Come on people, it was a project to connect Point A to Point B for people who want to pay to use it.

  • Max Allstadt


    This failure is entirely BART’s fault.

    They payed no attention to warnings about Title VI problems, and essentially pretended that they were in no danger. Oops.

    They violated state law by using BART Staff to lobby for the project on the clock.

    BART got caught creating “astroturf” campaigns online when bloggers traced multiple pro-OAC comments from different user names back to BART owned IP addresses.

    BART got caught writing pro-OAC letters and emailing them to businesses to re-send, when Bloggers noticed that the Word .doc had “BART” listed in the author field.

    BART got caught inflating their jobs numbers without justification: the number was as low as 237 at first, and later, when BART felt political heat for creating a boondoggle, the number magically shot up to 5000 with no explanation or research to back it – This means they were lying to thousands of out-of-work construction workers, and cynically exploiting their hope for work as a political tool.

    BART also claimed the support of the Mayor of Oakland and the Oakland City council, but repeatedly failed to acknowledge that this support was conditional upon BART creating enforceable local-hire rules and adding an intermediate stop. BART did neither, so their claims of support turned out to be bullshit.

    Then, when the FTA demanded Title VI compliance, and BART put together a plan (or an attempt to play lip-service to compliance), BART failed. Why? They had set the stage for transit activist to show conclusive evidence that BART promises are empty lies.

    The Bay Area won this fight on a collective level. The only people who lost are the concrete industry lobbyists. Construction jobs will increase in the long run, because now money goes to maintaining our infrastructure so that people will want to move here, and thus the demand for new housing will increase.

    Oh, you know who else lost big time: James Fang. He’s a BART board member who championed this project, and failed because of his own compulsive lies. He’s also the only Republican in any elected office in the entire city of San Francisco. And he’s up for re-election this year. This failure and his role in it give San Franciscans another reason to vote him out of office. So long, sucka.

  • Max Allstadt

    Oh Sven,

    One more thing.

    As far as civil rights issues go, there’s a man I can think of who’s got more civil rights cred in his pinky toenail than you’ve got.

    This man I speak of is on record saying that BART has serious civil rights problems. He supported the connector, but he certainly made a point of condemning BART’s civil rights record a the same time.

    His name is Ronald V. Dellums.

  • Alex

    tNOB: Paying twice as much to get dropped further from the gate would encourage you to fly into Oakland? I call BS. If you were willing to spend so much extra money to fly out of SFO, why not take a cab to OAK? Hell, if you’re willing to pay $6 a trip, why not take a cab to OAK? As an added bonus a cab will be less crowded than your pooh poohed AirBART.

    It’s more than just a project for those who want to use it (altho, really, who wants to use it in the first place?) — it’s a project that will suck transit dollars out of the bay area. BART has already diverted Regional Measure 2 funds away from the seismic retrofitting of the tube to fund the airport conncetor.

  • tNOB


    I have taken a cab to the Oakland airport, and it is much more expensive than the $6 would be for the OAC. I am pooh poohing the AirBART in comparison to taking BART south to SFO. The two experiences don’t compare, I am surprised people are singing AirBART’s praises.

    If I am not mistaken, the OAC not have sucked transit dollars from the Bay Area, but brought it in. There is a competition out there around the country to bring those dollars in. The Bay Area just lost that chance due to this lawsuit.

    The other element is the Oakland Airport competing with other airports to bring in additional airlines and routes. The construction dollars being spent out there to modernize OAK are part of that strategy to make it more competitive, as would the OAC.

  • Alex

    tNOB, so paying twice as much as the existing bus, for a slower trip, to be dropped further away from the terminal is progress? On what planet?


    As for sucking money out of the Bay Area, did you not read the article you’re commenting on? The article is championing the fact that the MTC must use said $70 million dollars for things other than the OAC (like MUNI and AC Transit). If the MTC had their way, the OAC (which would serve less than one million riders a year) would have gotten priority over systems that handle over a million each day.

    As for the RM2 funds:


    If you dig more on the BART site, you’ll see that BART bigwigs would prefer to build the OAC than retrofit the tube. Or you could read the Examiner article:


    “Note that in the above funding sources, only the $25 million form the FTA is unavailable for local use. Thus, local projects and Transit preservation would benefit from an available $403 million and BART would save taking on new debt levels, should the OAC be shelved”

    IOW, it’s brought in $25 million at most.

  • Sven

    To Max Allstadt:

    Your comment on Ron Dellum is right on! But look at what he said. When he spoke to MTC, he stated that the intent of Title VI was to bring agencies like BART into line on Civil Rights, and that BART was now paying attention. He also said a job was also an important Civil Right, and he supported the project for the jobs and the long term benefits to the Oakland Airport and the corridor.

    Don’t forget that Labor negotiated a project labor agreement that guaranteed jobs to Oakland, where unemployment is 18%, and construction unemployment is 30%!

    Yes, BART screwed up. But now they are coming into compliance without reluctance.

    Look at BART’s announcement on their web site:


    It is a shame that all the construction jobs are going to be lost…

    BTW, look at their list of project supporters. Take out the labor unions that have a vested interest in the project going forward. BART’s list of supporters is pretty darned impressive, and make it clear that there is not a serious Civil Rights issue here… Maybe a technical issue, but not an issue that makes it worth killing a project that has been a Regional priority for years.

  • Alex

    Also from the Examiner blurb:

    “The proposed OAC would spend up to $550 million so passengers (and their baggage) could walk from Coliseum BART to a new station, pay $6.00 more to be delivered at the airport (there are two terminals and one stop), walk down to street level, cross the street, navigate on foot to the proper terminal and check in.”

    From the Transbay Blog:


    “The assumption that an AGT would provide a more “seamless” connection is no longer true, since the direct pedestrian connection from OAC to the terminals has been removed, and passengers will have to descend to ground level to access the terminal. A bus like AirBART, even with a single stop at the Airport, would now be more “seamless” than the OAC, because the bus has the flexibility to stop right in front of the terminal. Travel times have thus been adjusted, so that a trip on the OAC from Coliseum BART to the Airport will take longer than BART supposed in 2002 (12-15 minutes now vs. 8.2 minutes then), and thus is comparable to existing AirBART service. Increasingly, then, the alleged travel time and convenience advantage of AGT over a bus is starting to look like a wash, particularly since roadway widening and other improvements near the Airport have eased traffic snarls in the area.”

    Aside from looking prettier, what does the proposed OAC offer over AirBART now? Over an AirBART system converted to Bus Rapid Transit?

  • Sven


    My understanding is that the ARRA money could only go to “shovel ready” projects. Infill stations, BRT options to OAC, etc. would all take years of environmental review before they could be considered for construction.

    With regard to the fares, my understanding of the reason the fare is expected to be so high is in order for the connector to recover 100% of the projects ongoing cost (operations, maintenance, electricity usage, etc.) from the fares. If anyone thinks the fares are too high, they can still ride AC Transit bus service, just like today.

  • Sven


    I think most people going to the airport would chose walking a few extra feet rather than ride a bus. Sorry. It is fact. That is why every airport in the world wants a direct rail connection to their airport.

    Have you ever taken the train to an airport anywhere in the world that dropped you closer to the ticket counters? Not SFO, Chicago, Washington National, Hong Kong. Can anyone name ONE airport where the train takes you closer to the ticket counter than OAC? I’m sure there must be one somewhere… (Portland?)

    If you like the bus, there is always AC Transit. I don’t think you will find it crowded with travelers.

  • Alex

    Sven, in answer to your question, yes I have. National Rail from Liverpool St Station to Stansted drops you damn near at the counter (actually, right under it). Hell even the SFO connection is closer.

    As for rail preference, sure, it’s shiny people like it. As I’ve said before, come out to BVHP and see how people like their shiny new rail (hint: they don’t). Poorly designed rail is still shiny, thus politicians flock to it. Once it’s built, the riders won’t. In fact BART’s consultants suggest that the rail will only attract 350 more riders a day than a rapid bus. That’s not worth half of a billion dollars.


  • Sardine Sidy

    @ Benjamine #19
    The term “Smart Growth” came out of the Sierra Club. They initially considered population stabilization as an environmental issue. This was changed to the advocacy of “smart growth” when one one of their funders bought them out by threatening to pull his funding if they ever became “anti-immigrant” (ie advocating enforcement of our immigration laws.)www.sups.org The Sierra club does address overpopulation – but considers it a global issue. This would be like the US ignoring its own green house emissions by dismissing it as a global issue.

    If one wants to make the argument not to build a new project when there are not funds to further subsidize the system we have in place – fine. But using the Title IV to kill the BART project as a means to grab the funds is ultimately counterproductive to civil rights when civil rights legislation is abused as a tool in this way. It is *extremely* offensive. How soon will the legal challenges be made to the organizations that this will benefit? Can they provide the same FTA documentation before the deadline? The only justice served will be that of poetic justice when they also lose the funds.

    Just as is may not be so “smart” to start a new project when the current infrastructure is in shambles. It is not very “smart” to continue to allow unabated illegal immigration when we cannot support our own citizens, (legal) immigrants and inner cities. The poor and the communities of color are hit first the hardest by illegal immigration. And *everyone* has to subsidize it – leaving nothing left for the “growth” of new civic or infrastructure projects. This is the generational justice and the legacy we will leave for our children and our country.

    No,Thank You. I an not interested in living in an ever “denser” urban environment.

    That metaphor of “Smart” Growth and being “a little bit” pregnant was not a binary (either or) analogy. It was referring to being in denial and oblivious to the obvious that is sure to come. Finite resources – exponential population growth. Putting on a girdle to pack things in denser is not a real solution.

    Make Love – Not More

  • Sven


    You must be kidding! There is no ticket counter within a five minute walk from the BART station at SFO. In fact, in most cases you have to take the AirTrain!

    I haven’t been to Stansted, so I’ll take your word. But I hope that it is more accurate than you comment on SFO… BTW, according to their website the rail fare to Stansted is £18, or about $25. OAC’s fare of $6 looks like a bargin!

    What is the issue with BVHP?

  • Jon Spangler


    What do you do for a living? You really seem to have an axe to grind that precludes your listening to or respecting others’ points of view or the validity of information that does not support your views. And your posts read like a paid-staff party line PR effort.

    How about some accountability here?

    For the record, I Am a member of TransForm, the Sierra Club, the league of Women Voters, the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, and other civic and environmental organizations. And I spent my high school years as the token white guy in a mostly-black
    poetry and dance presentation called “A Voice in the Crowd,” so I know a tiny bit about “civil rights myself, despite being a male Caucasian of 58. I am a freelance marketing writer by trade (such as it is one in this economy), and a former union member in several jobs. And i do NOT get paid to post here.

    Do you?

  • Alex

    Sven, I was comparing BART to SFO + AirTrain to BART to OAK + OAC. The walk from the AirTrain is not bad. The walk from the OAC would be quite a bit longer. Plus the AirTrain is free, the OAC is expensive.

    As for Stansted, the National Rail train *is* the connector train. It drops you right below the ticket booth and baggage claim areas. You walk to the end of the station, and up a flight of stairs and you’re inside the airport. It is expensive for two reasons:

    1.) It’s a long trip. Punch it up on Google Maps (Liverpool St Tube Station to Stansted). It took me between 45 and 70 minutes each way.

    2.) Rail is expensive in England, and National Rail / National Express are more or less a premium service. The tube service to Heathrow is significantly cheaper (about what you’d pay for BART to SFO).

  • Sven

    Wow, John. You seem defensive! Are you fearful that a little truth causes a problem for the views of your groups?

    No, I do not get paid for posting here. Do you?

    But I am concerned that Civil Rights is being used as an excuse to kill a project that has been a Regional priority for years. I believe that investment in infrastructure is important to the long-term interests of everyone living in the Bay Area. I believe that buses must be replace by technologies that can use electricity that can be generated from renewable resources. I believe the OAC project has gone through vigorous review, there have been dozens of opportunities for public comment, that the community shows widespread support for the project, that construction workers deserve jobs too, and that Transform, Genesis, and Public Advocates are far more interested in killing the project than in Civil Rights.

    So can you list any inaccuracies in my posts?

    Sunshine is a great disinfectant!

    But you have a good point — BART, can you ask a PR person to start posting your positions here? It would add balance!

  • “If you like the bus, there is always AC Transit.”

    Ah…the BART version of Separate but Equal.

    Airport visitors never need worry about bumping shoulders with airport workers and other persons-of-color who cannot afford $12 fares.

  • Sven

    BTW, Jon, your list of organizations do not seem to include any that are involved in Civil Rights. You are 58 years old and you go back to high school to get your Civil Rights cred? You seem to be an environmentalist with no interest in Civil Rights.

    Do you think your “Civil Rights” view override these project supporters from BART’s supporter list:

    Congresswoman Barbara Lee
    Congressman Jerry McNerney
    Mayor Ron Dellums
    Oakland City Council
    Oakland Port Commission
    Metropolitan Transportation Commission
    Alameda County Congestion Management Authority
    Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority
    Assembly Member Sandre Swanson
    Bay Area Council
    Oakland Chamber of Commerce
    Oakland Branch NAACP
    Chinatown Chamber of Commerce
    Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce
    San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce
    Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
    Cypress Mandella Partnership
    100 Black Men
    Pastor Earl Crawford, frmr President CA State Baptist Convention
    Unity Council
    Airport Area Business Association
    Former City Council members and Port Commissioners Henry Chang and Dick Spees
    ABAG Executive Director Henry Gardner
    All airlines doing business at the Oakland International Airport
    Bay Area Business Coalition
    Alameda County Building Trades Council and all its affiliates – Operating Engineers, Laborers, Carpenters, Ironworkers, etc
    IBEW Local 595
    California Alliance for jobs
    Oakland Visitors and Convention Bureau
    Oakland Association of Black Trade and Trade
    East Bay Small Business Council
    Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce
    Association of General Contractors
    Oakland Post Newspaper – Editor Paul Cobb

    Sorry, Jon. You are confirming that opposition to OAC has nothing to do with Civil Rights.

  • Benjamin

    Folks, Sven is a troll. Please stop feeding the troll. (if you aren’t familiar with that terminology, and comment regularly online, the preceding sentence is worth Googling.) Note how, when he replies indignantly to this post, I don’t respond.

  • Sven

    Drunk Engineer:

    Great post! But we all make choices based upon cost and convenience. I ride BART every day — from the City home to the East Bay. I take the casual carpool every morning, and ride BART home. And on the occasions that I have to ride BART in the morning, I still refuse to pay their parking fee! I park blocks away and walk — rain or shine!

    BTW, the casual car pool is about to disappear now that there will be a toll for carpools. Now there is an issue that I could have supported Transform on had they opposed the carpool toll!

  • Sven


    So because someone doesn’t agree with you, they are a troll? I applaud your open mindedness. You are clearly a great thinker!

    Come on! Find an inaccuracy in my posts!

    Perhaps as Jack Nicholson said in “An Officer and a Gentleman”, “You can’t take the truth!”

    To everyone else, I am quite enjoying this dialogue. I still want to know, what is the issue at BVHP? Educate me!

  • SFHope

    Sven — actually BART drops you RIGHT IN FRONT of the SFO International ticket counters — this includes domestic flights on JetBlue and Virgin America. Don’t go up the escalator to the AirTrain station and instead walk out the exit at the end of the BART platform.

    United ticket counters are a VERY short walk to Terminal 3. Terminal 1 (for Southwest, American, et al) is a bit more of a hike but I can make it in 5 minutes at a brisk pace.

    I do wish the station had been in the center of the airport instead of the international terminal. Moving walkways would’ve meant a 1 minute walk right up to the ticket counters, but the existing setup is still very convenient.

    I *NEVER* take AirTrain because walking is always faster, except for going to Terminal 1, in which case it’s usually about the same (depending on when the train arrives).

    The only situation where AirTrain is actually useful is if you’re going to the car rental terminal or if you have heavy luggage that doesn’t have wheels to roll on for some reason.

  • Alex

    What happened in BVHP? The bus that ran down the main drag, the 15-Third Street, was replaced by the first segment of the preposterously expensive central subway, the T-Third Street. It’s been nothing short of a disaster. Capacity has been reduced, headways increased, the rest of the light rail system suffered (first because they tried to end the T in the middle of the system causing massive backups, but that worked really poorly, now they’ve just gutted another line and combined the T and K), and my pet peeve — it’s eliminated a direct link between the BVHP and City College. Sure you can transfer, but you’d be transferring to some of the most crowded buses on the system. The ride is generally quite a bit slower than the bus because the route takes it through the path of a highway onramp and the streetcars do not have priority.

    Amid a lot of initial speculation lots of homeowners and business owners uprooted and sold their property. From what I can tell the expected influx of customers and inflated property values failed to materialize.

    Sure, most of the problems could have easily been corrected. But that’s my point. A poorly designed project does a large disservice in the long run. The OAC is the same way. The OAC offers worse service in every possible manner compared to AirBART save for the fact that it’s rail and not a bus. The OAC would also suck money away from other more important BART projects (seismic retrofitting of the tube for starters) and other transit agencies. It’s bling, not sound policy.

    Here are some other comments:


    Note that many of these folks have only experienced the T in recent times. It was much worse when it first opened in 2007.

  • Max Allstadt


    The list you just copy pasted was BART propaganda, direct from their site.

    For instance, Ron Dellums offered conditional support and said strongly that he took Title VI seriously, and that BART needed to take Title VI seriously too. BART didn’t. They lost the project because of it.

    The Oakland City Council is on that list. They passed a resolution that offered support IF and only if BART agreed to 1. and intermediate stop. and 2. Binding language requiring local hires on the project. BART played lip service to those requirements at the meeting when this happened. They never met either of them.

    Many of the other groups on that list stood to gain financially from the project in some small way.

    Others, such as the Alliance for Jobs, are pro-industry groups dedicated almost exclusively to lobbying for government projects which put taxpayer money in the hands of large general contracting firms and concrete distributors. A much smaller amount of that money goes to the workers on the jobsites. The Alliance for Jobs, in particular, makes absolutely no evaluation of whether a project is good for the area. They only care if it makes money for industry. They might as well be called the Alliance to Waste Money.

    The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Chamber of Commerce wanted the project because Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid wanted it in his district, and they wanted to maintain a strong alliance with Reid, who is a reliable pro-business vote on the council. The Oakland Convention/Visitor’s Bureau is essentially an arm of the Chamber of Commerce.

    Many of the other individual leaders who endorsed the project are distant from it, and were also influenced by Reid.

    Larry Reid, incidentally, is a really nice guy. I had my first long conversation with him at a meeting where I was protesting this project, and we were able to be total gentlemen to each other despite our disagreement. But the fact is, he was looking out for one of 7 districts in Oakland. Title VI mandates that BART spend equitable in all 7 counties it serves.

    It doesn’t matter what organizations backed it anyway. In a slew of competing hyperlocal interests, any manner of influence can be negotiated. The leaders of those organizations were not necessarily going to do a meaningful evaluation of the facts and stats around a transit project. When BART pulled a 5000 jobs figure out of their ass (no public records explain the jump from 200ish to 5000), there was nobody on these organization’s staff to question it.

    You know who did question the project though? Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who had 2 terms on the AC Transit board in an at-large seat representing 1.5 million people. Before that, you know what she did? She was a civil rights attorney.

    The reason FTA has the process it has is specifically to prevent local political momentum and backroom deals from screwing over working class and minority transit riders. In the Bush administration, nobody in the FTA cared. Obama has apparently hired staffers who do their jobs the way the law says they should.

  • Max Allstadt

    Oh and Sven, the Project Labor Agreement was non-binding. Based on BART’s track record, any agreement they make that doesn’t have a performance bond is utterly worthless.

  • The money, as with the money which went to extend BART from Millbrae to SFO, would do so much more good sextending Caltrain weekend service to make that useful rather than the current farce it is. Unfortunately operations don’t require shovels.

  • William

    Three cheers to anyone who had a role in killing this boondoggle.

    Anyone claiming this was the best use of these transit funds is either corrupt or a fool.

    P.S. Think anyone named Sven lives in the affected neighborhoods?

  • First off “Sven” (aka the troll) can blow it out his ass. The lies told by the unions to get this thing through are many, and ultimately, a case of how union leadership misleads the members. Sorry, but a foreign company could give a shit about you all.

    Second, this would have been hung on the Obama Administration’s neck as the Bridge To Nowhere, Democrat style. The fact that this money will instead go to save UNION jobs in many transit agencies, and will go to keeping fares lower and allow for cash strapped transit agencies to put the money where it’s actually needed means once again trolls like “Sven” can seriously f*ck off and take their trolling bullsh!t elsewhere. The fact is , “Sven” you hate the public, you hate mass transit, you are for wasting tax money and you’re just a troll for some lobbyist for some foreign company. Please say your real name or be a man and admit you’re such a coward you can’t honestly debate this.

    So glad a foreign company got denied funds for a boondoggle. PROUD AMERICAN.

  • Sven

    Wow, I was gone for just a day and look at the polite conversation that my posts have generated! Greg, you need to see someone about anger management. So you spue hatefully because I have a Scandinavian name? Should I expect a burning cross in my yard if I give you my full name?

    And also note how many times Civil Rights were mentioned in the last day. Which, I think, helps prove my point. Transform, Genesis, and Public Advocates were not seeking to advance Civil Rights, but rather to stop the project using whatever tool was available. And Civil Rights was the convenient tool.

    Here are some quotes from another blog:

    “We are thrilled,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm. “The truth is, this was going to be an enormous boondoggle. First off, it would have cost nearly half a billion in taxpayer money. And also, because it was going to be so slow and because it was going to drop you off in the parking lot and you’d have a long walk, we thought it’d have very low ridership.”

    “Added Supervisor Chris Daly, a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, “In terms of Muni, basically getting the same amount of money they needed in this round of cuts, that helps. That helps a lot.”

    You would think if their objective was related to Civl Rights, they would probably mention Civil Rights. No mention of Civil Rights; rather they talk of a boondoggle and moving money to MUNI. Draw your own conclusions as to Transform, Genesis, and Public Advocates objectives.

    For those of you reading this thread that are not frothing and foaming with glee at the project’s apparent demise, but rather are reading to gain some insight into what the controversy is all about, please join me in a moment of silence for the great blow AGAINST Civil Rights that has occurred here…..

  • Sven

    Hi, Max Allstadt,

    Thanks for keeping the dialogue civil. Let me give a response to some of your points:

    List of project advocates is from BART site: Correct. But it doesn’t make it any less meaningful. You are correct that some of the groups on the list are going to benefit from the project. So discount them. There still are a remarkable number of groups that support the project that one would expect to oppose the project if there was a Civil Rights injustice:

    Congresswoman Barbara Lee
    Mayor Ron Dellums
    Oakland Branch NAACP
    Chinatown Chamber of Commerce
    Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce
    San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce
    Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
    Cypress Mandella Partnership
    100 Black Men
    Pastor Earl Crawford, frmr President CA State Baptist Convention

    I think that they see that this is not about Civil Rights, and that the project’s benefits are substantial.

    Oakland City Council: You are again correct — they asked for an intermediate station and an assurance of local jobs. The project labor agreement guaranteed the local jobs (I don’t know why you think a Project Labor Agreement is not binding. Perhaps you could elaborate as to when BART has violated a Project Labor Agreement. I, for one, would not want to get crossways with trade Labor!) As far as the intermediate station, I don’t know where that stands. I had heard that BART wanted the City to pay for it, since it wasn’t in BART’s budget. Not certain what the final status was.

    Larry Reid: We can agree that he is a great guy, and he is advocating for his district in which the project is located. He is a strong voice for the African-American community and is certainly one of the City’s leading proponent of Civil Rights. If Civil Rights was an issue, one would think he would be leading the charge! Again, the controversy is not about Civil Rights.

    Rebecca Kaplan: You are correct — she was a vocal opponent of the project. However, to her credit, after she saw that the Oakland City Council overwhelmingly supported the project, she backed off. And again, her opposition was to have the money go to AC Transit and other transit agencies around the region — not Civil Rights.

    So will a representative of Transform, Genesis, and Public Advocates admit that their opposition to the project had little to do with Civil Rights and much more to do with killing a project they did not like?

    And will everyone else agree that using Civil Rights to kill the project is a perversion of the law?


Advocates Want Oakland Airport Connector Funds for Transit Operations

Image: TransForm With the civil rights imbroglio between BART and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) making news last week, a problem that could imperil $70 million in federal stimulus funds obligated to the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), advocates are calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to give the stimulus money to cash-strapped transit operators […]

The Oakland Airport Connector: BART’s Little Engine that Could?

The fatigue is palpable, but the battle over BART”s Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) is nowhere near its conclusion. That’s the message coming out of yet another marathon hearing today at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the region’s transportation planning body, over the merits of the airport connector, which I would argue has now become the […]

BART Board Reaffirms Commitment to Build Airport Connector

At a hastily scheduled board meeting today, BART’s directors once again voted to approve the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), this time granting General Manager Dorothy Dugger the flexibility to proceed with the contract, despite several outstanding sources of funding still unresolved. BART needed to send strong signals to the contracting team of Parsons/Flatiron that the […]

BART Responds to FTA Rebuke, Defends Minority and Equity Practices

Proposed Coliseum Station OAC connections. Photo: BART In a strongly worded reply to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff yesterday [PDF], a number of BART Board Directors and General Manager Dorothy Dugger contested the FTA’s assertion that BART has not complied with its obligations to minority riders under Federal Civil Rights Act Title VI […]