BART Moves Ahead With OAK Connecter Despite Civil Rights Violations

HegenbergerRd_P1_HRes3000px_small.jpgImage: BART.

Even though BART is not in compliance with the Federal Transportation Administration’s (FTA) Title VI civil rights regulations, the agency has sought funding from numerous local, regional, state and federal outlets to continue the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project, a three-mile elevated tramway that would connect the Oakland Airport with the Oakland Coliseum Station.

Internal documents obtained by Streetsblog (and The Bay Citizen, which reported on the matter this morning) revealed an internal scramble by BART staff and an array of local and state transportation agencies to come up with money to replace the $70 million in stimulus funding the FTA denied BART because of its failure to demonstrate a suitable fare analysis for the OAC project.

While BART staff acknowledged they were working to replace the funding at a board meeting on May 28th, General Manager Dorothy Dugger said there was nothing specific to report to the public or the board, despite a request by TransForm and BART Director Tom Radulovich to reveal in greater detail where staff was seeking funding.

When asked why BART wouldn’t release more
information about the possible sources, Dugger told Streetsblog, "It is a work in progress. When a full funding plan is developed we’ll bring that back to the board for their review and consideration. We’re working with funding partners in the region and the state to see if we can identify funding to replace the stimulus funds that were lost."

But according to internal documents dated May 18th, BART worked out an extensive funding plan for the OAC, now with a price tag of $484,136,000, and with numerous scenarios for filling the gap left by the FTA deficit.

Line items in the funding plan include: $10 million from an Alameda County Congestion Management Agency funding swap, $12,801,000 from The Public Transportation Modernization, Improvement, and Service Enhancement Account Program (PTMISEA) created by Proposition 1B, $10 million from the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) in another funding swap, $10 million from BART’s Capital Bond Reserves and between $10 and $20 million in a funding swap from the Corridor Mobility Improvement Account (CMIA), a regional fund for improvements to the carpool lane network, among
other projects.

As for how BART would secure the funding, the documents show BART is looking to take advantage of low construction costs and working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to free up money from various projects, theoretically banking on the assumption that those costs would remain low enough in the future to make up for the swaps, or convincing other agencies to be liable for cost overruns.

In one email, MTC staffer Kenneth Kao provided very specific language suggestions to help BART convince Caltrans’ District 4 boss Bijan Sartipi to approve a $10 million funding swap related to the Mission/I-880 interchange in Fremont as part of the CMIA. Although Kao acknowledged the move would leave a funding gap for the interchange project, he expected the CMIA savings could be used to fill it when needed.

The ACCMA funding swap was based on $15 million CMIA savings from the I-580 carpool lanes, though ACCMA would be responsible for any cost overruns if they should occur in the future. Another potential source of funds was BART’s Earthquake Safety Program, from which OAC staff hoped to draw up to $14 million.

Compliance with Title VI

OAC opponents are crying foul over this latest development, arguing it undermines the public process and shows BART is going forward with the project come hell or high water.

"That’s the value of public participation," said BART Director Radulovich. "You make your public process transparent, but BART doesn’t know how to do that."

"They’re presenting something that has a contract already, there is no
impacting the project," said TransForm’s John Knox White.

According to BART spokesperson Linton Johnson, there is nothing unusual about the funding process, "nothing under the table."

"There are always discussions of the process, but in any funding package, staff does the initial legwork before they present it to the public," he said. "When the opponents say this isn’t above board, I’d say this is representative democracy at its best."

OAC opponents also contended that BART hadn’t learned anything from the Title VI review. In response to the FTA’s concerns, BART has held numerous public
meetings
in the BART district counties over the past few months, presumably to get public input on BART’s civil rights deficiencies.

"Has Title VI changed the way BART does business? As far as we can tell
the answer is no," said Radulovich. "It means we have more meetings,
meetings where we don’t listen to people. Nothing about this process is
likely to change thanks to Title VI."

Radulovich also claimed that a growing divide has developed
internally among BART staff, with a number of people upset the project
is moving forward at the potential expense of improvements such as
seismic safety.

"A lot of people inside BART know this is a pig in a poke," he added. "They know it’s not going to pan out like its boosters say
it’s going to work out."

Radulovich contended that the public meetings should be about showing the feds that BART is open to public feedback, but they fail because they aren’t taking public input back and significantly altering the
project to reflect the public’s concerns.

Johnson countered by saying the FTA had only told BART to address its fare analysis on OAC and that the agency was doing as
much. There was no requirement for BART to alter the project.

"These public meetings aren’t designed for OAC, they are designed to fulfill an FTA requirement on any future project," added Johnson.

BART staff could take the funding plan to its board as early as next week, when the directors meet in a special session.

  • patrick

    I suspected BART would pull something like this. They never seem to learn from their errors. In fact, with pulling funding away from other projects, including seismic safety, it seems like they are trying to use this project as a way of telling opposition to not even bother, as no matter what, BART will do whatever it wants, no matter that it makes absolutely no sense.

    It seems that the Federal ruling would put the entire project at jeapardy of a lawsuit on civil rights issues. Also, doesn’t the EIR need to be redone? I believe it was done years ago, and the project has changed so much it would no longer be valid, but of course I could be wrong.

    But I’m not wrong about this: the MTC needs to be disbanded!

  • robo

    That sucking sound is BART siphoning off funding that would be better spent at local transit agencies. Not that they ever cared about local transit agencies.
    I smell pork.

  • political_incorrectness

    BART has done it again. Really effing things up as per usual. 150 million dollars a mile and $6 one-way fares. They should be subject to an audit of cost efficiency.

  • When will this project die????? 3 miles for half a billion dollars????? WTF???

  • bubu

    BART Board of Directors have no reign on BART management. They have run a muck on how they treat their employees, they are inattentive to public concerns and they are definitely a racists organization with their construction cohorts!
    The public needs to speak up and shake up the Board of Directors!

  • The seismic money was promised to be used for such in Measure AA and the fare increase for such purpose. Can the will of the voters be so easily overturned by BART staff?

  • sf4fun66

    Geez Louise. Not this again. Enough already with the OAK Connector. Time to legally stop BART from making yet another stupid mistake.

  • david vartanoff

    BART staff and their co dependent enablers at MTC need to be fired. Last night a presentation from MTC at TransForm basically outlined how ALL local transit in the Bay Area is in deep structural deficit as far as we can foresee. Wasting vast sums on dysfunctional projects must stop if we are going to save any serious local transit. BART’s insistence on resuscitating this evil project is unacceptable.

  • @TOW How much would half a Bill buy us underneath Geary?

  • Well if it wasn’t built like the Central Subway perhaps 2 miles in a best case scenario. It would pay for BRT on Geary straight up though. If we think about Daniel’s streetcar on Broadway, you could build some serious trackage for half a bil and get way more economic return for your buck. Heck if you built a dedicated lane streetcar instead of the OAC you could do the three miles to the Airport for $90 million. This is just ludicrous.

  • TOW, it would be built like the CS because that is how the MTC works. Sadly enough.

  • 2 miles is more than enough to get us from Market St past Van Ness. Just saying…

  • Rod Stevens

    How do ideas like this get so far? That an amazing price tag- half a billion dollars! I’ve taken this bus trip over the years and been disappointed in the frequency, price and driver attitudes. And it doesn’t get all that much ridership. You wouldn’t replace a sparsely ridden route in the city with a half-billion subway. Why build this?

  • wanderer

    There are real problems in how MTC thinks about transit. First, it prioritizes the “regional” system serving long distance trips, even though transit trips (and the trips most amenable to mode shifting) are local. I think this partially number magic (long trips have more miles) and partially excessive focus on relieving congestion on the freeways rather than providing transit.

    Still, there’s a genuine regional interest in connecting Oakland Airport to BART. The second problem is that, with limited exceptions, MTC thinks that “regional” transit equals rail. Therefore, bus-based solutions are not taken seriously. The irony in this case is that a busway could provide better regional service, since it accommodate airporter buses and other buses starting from various points in addition to trips from Coliseum BART, which a monorail can’t.

  • Joshua Santos

    That half billion should be used to move along BART to San Jose, which will bring dramatically more riders to BART than this.

  • annonymous1

    First of all, the one-way ride fare has not been set; it will be based on the state of the economy by the time a fare must be decided. If the economy is poor, it could be as much as $6; if the economy continues to improve, perhaps $5 or even $4; if a very good economy; perhaps as low as $3, as AirBART is now.
    Second, a rapid bus or street car are likely not options, even if cheaper. There would still be the problem of lights and traffic congestion; especially before and after events at the Coliseum for the latter. Besides, with opposition urging multiple stops (already done by AC Transit Line #73 between Eastmont and the Airport), it would almost be be redundant to have an extra bus or sc.
    BART is looking towards extra convenience between the Coliseum and OAK, with as little interruption as possible. The more seamless the trip is, the better it can be for everyone…especially OAK, which is finally slowly recovering from the bad economy, and a projected 3% increase in passengers this year compared to ’09.

  • Daniel

    BART needs to build this airport connection ASAP. Almost every other big city in the world already has (or is now building) a fast, convenient connection from the airport to their rail system. These Civil Rights accusations against BART were just another red herring. Alameda County voters twice approved funding specificly for this Oakland Airport Connector, as part of Measure B (81.5%) in 2000 and again in 2004, as part of Measure 2 (increased bridge tolls). More delays for additional studies and “outreach” won’t lower the cost of this People Mover.

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