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.

  • 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.

  • Sardine Sidy

    @greg #47

    “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,”

    If this was, in fact, a bridge to no where – it should have been killed for that reason NOT under title VI.

    This is the same administration so indebted to the unions that they were given a free pass on their Cadillac health plans. And these are the same transit agencies (BART included) that regularly strike, cripple, and hold up the entire bay area to get even more UNION benefits. The Obama administration should have taken away the ability of public workers to strike as a condition of the subsidy.

    BART also has UNIONs – why don’t their matter here . What happened to the discussion about this being civil rights issue? The companies that were selected for this project had to jump through all sorts of hoops to prove their minority and / or disadvantaged status. Though there is no requirement that they be unionized.

    Greg – quit being such a rude boy. Sven has the right to his opinion and it appears he is not going away just because his views differ from yours. In fact, this discussion gets more interesting as you start to blow you gasket and come out with what your motivation is here. It appears to be about saving union jobs. It certainly isn’t about civil rights.

  • Sardine Sidy

    “So glad a foreign company got denied funds for a boondoggle.”

    So these funds should go to AC transit to purchase and expand their Van Hool fleet??? Not to mention the added bonus that these buses are poorly designed and not accessible to persons with mobility disabilities – what about THEIR civil rights?

  • Nathanael

    “Can anyone name ONE airport where the train takes you closer to the ticket counter than OAC?”

    London Heathrow. Yes, you have to transfer *vertically*, but at T4 the Picadilly Line puts you a fairly short *enclosed* escalator ride from the ticket counters. At T1-2-3 you come out on the sidewalk unfortunately, but it’s still *very* close to the ticket counters. I haven’t tried the *other* train stations in Heathrow (Heathrow Connect/Express)!

    Frankfurt airport is even *better*. The commuter trains stop right in the terminal, while the intercity trains remain within walking distance of the ticket counters.

  • Sven – meet Rob Anderson, the man who delayed the bike lanes in San Francisco for 3 years. He hates cyclists, but of course he sued to stop the bike lanes not because he hates cyclists, but because of his concern for the environment! – because the city did not do an Environmental Impact Report on the addition of bike lanes. Cuz you know, if we all started riding bikes the environment would go to hell.

    Everyone here knows that Transform pulled one out of their ass here, and I for one find it amusing that the same BS that drove us crazy in SF for 3 years is being pulled here. The difference being, Transform actually has a point. The other difference being, the stakes are so much higher.

    Re: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!

    I’ll make a wager with you that it won’t. The carpool toll will be $2.50. The non-carpoll toll will be $6. Prior to the increase, drivers saved $4. Now they’ll “only” save $3.50. They still have 87.5% of the original cash incentive, plus the incentive of being able to use the carpool lanes, which is frequently more important than the cash outlay. Money talks – bullshit walks.

  • Winston

    The OAC is just about the stupidest project imaginable. For a few million you could restripe a lane of Hegenberger and Airport Drive to be bus only. This would accomplish greater speed and equal reliability to BART’s plan and AirBART could continue its profitable operation at $3/ride and AC Transit service would also become more reliable. Add a few hundred thousand for better signage at the Colosseum BART station (heck, even throw in a new elevator) and you’re done. I really don’t like that it took a civil rights lawsuit to bring down this project because the main problem with the project is stupidity, not discrimination, but as was the case in L.A. if a bogus civil rights claim is what’s required to bring sanity to transit planning, then I’m all for it.

  • I’m Director of Communication for Public Advocates. I’m not going to get in a spitting contest with people who refuse to use their full name or identify their affiliations.

    But I will say this. Public Advocates has been fighting for civil rights for almost 40 years. We don’t need to defend our motives or credentials – our long history speaks for itself.

    Funny how the arguments attacking us and our allies (you forget Urban Habitat, but maybe that’s because they seem harder to attack on civil rights grounds) consistently parrot BART positions: these are “technicalities,” will cost thousands of jobs, BART is doing the right thing, etc.

    The truth is, had BART and MTC listened to repeated warnings that they were not living up to their obligations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and followed the law (oh, that silly thing) there would have been no need for us to file our complaint. But they didn’t, so we did. And FTA found that our charges were true and well-founded. No amount of excuse-making or diversion can obscure that simple fact. The parties at fault here are BART and MTC, and them alone. And they have yet to take responsibility for their failures.

    We’re used to this type of criticism. It is typical and goes with the territory. We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing: taking on the powerful so low income people and communities of color are treated fairly and share in the benefits of projects using federal and state dollars, as well as making sure they have a seat at the decision-making table.

    Anyone interested in exactly what BART did wrong with this project can read our complaint. http://tinyurl.com/lwh8ev

  • Sven

    Some unfinished business on OAC:

    Alex, you must be kidding about BART being closer to the ticket counters at SFO than BART’s OAC design. While I agree that it is walkable (I always do, even to T1), it is MUCH further to any of the counters than the furthest counter in the OAC design.

    Someone argued that AirBART drops you right in front of the terminal. Apparently you don’t travel much. There is just one AirBART stop at OAK (and has been this way for some time), and it is essentially where BART’s plans show the OAC. For confirmation, see BART’s link on AirBART:


    John Murphy, I agree with you where Transform pulled this one from. It bears the aroma! I can tell you that they have really PO’ed the minority communities that they claim to protect. I suspect there will be a political price to pay for their supporters. WRT the casual carpool situation, I hope you are right on the system surviving. I plan to start a personal survey of drivers to see what their opinion is on the subject. BTW, did the Bay Area Toll Authority study the impacts of their action to minority and low income communities? Perhaps Transform and Public Advocates should challenge their raising of tolls… Oh, wait… they want the tolls to fund a bike line on the suspension span. Now that would be a REAL boondoggle!

    Winston, so you think that all is involved in BRT is painting a few stripes on the road and designating them bus only? Tell me, how many years has the Berkeley-Oakland-San Leandro BRT project been in planning. I’m guessing close to 10 years, and it is a LONG way from construction… With activist groups and a state full of NIMBYs with lawyers, any project is a huge investment of time and money!

    Nathanael, I need to get out more. Last time through Heathrow I remember the train was convenient, but my (hazy) memory is that we had to walk some distance to get the train to Picadilly. Could have been a different terminal I flew from. I’ve flown through Frankfurt, but never traveled into the City. I do agree with everyone that wants the train to come as close as possible to the plane. It is just very hard to come up with a design that can be constructed while the airport continues to carry passengers. The best opportunities are with “greenfield airports” like Incheon, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou. BTW, none of these new airports bring the train as close to the plane as OAC. Admittedly, the scale is VERY different for each of these airports.

  • Sven


    No one here is opposed to requiring BART to meet the requirements of Title VI. I, for one, agree that BART screwed up. However, according to their press releases and what I am hearing in the community, BART quickly agreed to come into voluntary compliance with Title VI, worked with FTA to develop a plan, but wanted to save their OAC project. Yes, it took Public Advocate’s complaint to bring them to this point.

    But what several of us on this blog are opposed to is Public Advocates’ use of Civil Rights as an EXCUSE to kill the OAC project. It is clear from Transform’s testimony at every public meeting, from their web site, and from their press reaction that their goal had nothing to do with Civil Rights, and everything to do with killing a project that Transform thought was a boondoggle.

    The project clearly has widespread public support — it had been approved by every publicly elected body that it has come before.

    The choice was not “Civil Rights or Not Civil Rights”. If there were serious Civil Rights issues at play with the project, how do you explain the support of

    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

    These are all strong voices in support of Civil Rights!

    The project now appears dead. It will not be able to generate the promised construction and service jobs in Oakland where unemployment is 18% and construction unemployment is 30%.

    So while Public Advocates has done something worthwhile, they have also done something many think is despicable — they have used Civil Rights as a tool to killed a public works project that would benefit the very communities that Public Advocates claim to project.

    That’s how I see it.

  • Sven –

    I have strong suspicions as to your motives and affiliations given that you continue to refuse to identify yourself or your affiliations and continue to quote BART’s party line. But I’m going to break my own rule by responding anyway.

    My guess is that most of these people and organizations supported the project before they were even aware of the civil rights violations. And all the people/groups you mention have multiple agendas. We have one: civil rights. That’s our goal in itself, not a means to the nefarious end you accuse us of.

    Why are you willing to accept BART at face value and not us? Why would you trust an agency that willfully ignored the law and has tried to attack opponents without taking responsibility, but not the people who are holding them accountable? Have you actually seen BART’s proposed corrective action plan? I have – we commented extensively on its shortcomings.

    To repeat: we are not responsible for killing the OAC (if it is in fact dead). BART did that all by itself. That’s not the way I see it. That’s the way it is.

  • Sven


    “My guess is that most of these people and organizations supported the project before they were even aware of the civil rights violations.” !!??

    You are Director of Communication for Public Advocates and your organization represents Civil Rights and you GUESS that these organizations supported the project before they were of the Civil Rights violations?!?!?

    Public Advocates is clearly out of touch with the communities which you claim to protect.

    You don’t represent the community!

  • Yes, I try not to make statements as fact without knowing first hand. Go figure.

    Anyway, nice game of gotcha, Sven. Mighty brave of you attacking people who have enough integrity to put their true identity out there and try to have an open discussion while you hide behind an alias. That way no one can hold YOU accountable. Hmmm, sounds familiar…

    Anyway, knew I was better off letting you spout off rather than trying to engage. Oh well, lesson learned. I’ll just rest easy knowing you’ve shown your true colors and complete lack of ethics. You’ve done more in this exchange to discredit yourself than I ever could have. Thanks for your help!

  • Sven – who do you represent?

    Dude – it’s just not worth it to the users. Not more convenient, more expensive, and soaks everyone for half a billion.

    If a public transit project that involves a heavy investment is opposed by people who rely on transit, it must REALLY suck. A lot of bad things can be said about CAHSR and SMART but advocates generally support them. The Central Subway at least gets a smattering of support. BRT (almost no matter what project locally) tends to be split – either you hate it or you love it.

    Everyone on the end-user side hates this one. Even if you could conclusively prove to me that I would save 10 minutes for that extra 100% in fare, it’s not worth it. The average transit rider in the Bay Area takes a flight out of OAK what, a couple of times per year? Let’s say 10 times. So we spend half a billion dollars and I save 100 minutes a year. The proposed MUNI cuts would cost me 100 minutes every 2 weeks. Not to mention my Millbrae to SFO BART ride that just got 5 minutes LONGER because of service cuts, and I lose 5 minutes in frequency off peak on BART due to service cuts.

    If you polled BART’s ridership if they could have the 15 minute headways off peak or BART (not OAC) direct into Oakland Airport the shorter headways would win in a landslide – except for anyone making money off of the extension.

  • “The project clearly has widespread public support — it had been approved by every publicly elected body that it has come before.”

    Because none of these elected bodies were paying for it.

    No politician is going to turn away billions in free money, no matter how ridiculous the project.

  • Sven


    A nice game of gotcha?!?! Your group claims to represent the minority and low-income community in Oakland, except that you admit that you, the Director of Communications, have no idea what they think of what your group has done. And that is a game of gotcha? You wrote it, not me.

    We are all on this blog sharing ideas and challenging each others positions. I’ve learned a lot, and I think some others have too. I’ve challenged people to find errors in what I have said. There haven’t been many, other than perhaps a couple of European airports are way ahead of us in having a train to the plane. Why do I need a last name for that? Other than to stop someone like Gregg up in Post #48 from burning a cross in my yard for having a Scandinavian name… (BTW , what was HIS last name?)

    Look, I gave Public Advocates credit for getting BART’s attention on Title VI. But beyond that it is clear that Public Advocates is out of touch with the community it claims to represent. You post confirmed it. The community want the project that Public Advocates killed.

    As Director of Communication for Public Advocates, I would think you would be working hard to communicate with the affected community, including the list of organizations I noted in post #59. But if you do, be prepared — You will get an ear full! They are not happy!

  • patrick

    I don’t know why people are even arguing the civil rights issue. It clearly failed, and in so big a way it couldn’t even be corrected over the next 8 months. Case closed, the OAC was socially inequitable. Whoever was for or against it is irrelevant as it violates civil rights law.

    It was also a bad project from a transportation perspective. About $500 million, twice the fare price, no faster, no more riders (and given BART’s history with ridership projections, it probably would have actually cut ridership in half of the current level). That’s a bad project. If you think I’m wrong then say what was good about the project.

    It was also bad from a jobs perspective. Since the project actually had negative benefits, it would have been better to spend that money on people digging holes and refilling them. Fortunately we are able to redirect the money for much better use in the bay area.

    Still think the construction jobs were the most important thing? BART & MTC came up with a project that violated civil rights and made no sense from a transportation perspective, thus creating a large group of people opposed to the project. They had ample time to make corrections for civil rights and transportation benefits and completely failed to do so. They also failed to have a backup plan or alternative if the OAC was rejected that could have provided construction jobs in this contingency. They also defunded other projects that could already be under construction in order to gamble on the OAC. All blame lies with BART and the MTC for their shocking arrogance and incompetence.

  • Sven

    Hey, Drunk Engineer, (That is your real name, right? Just wanted to verify it for Wynn.)

    I think I would enjoy a beer with you! You are a cynical as I am.

    No, the elected officials that have voted for OAC aren’t paying for it, but they are the duly elected representatives of the people who are paying for it. In a democracy that is how it works. But OAC was on the ballot twice (three times?) as projects that would be built with (I think) Regional Measure 2 and a bridge toll increase.

    BTW, who elected Transform?

    Note how the other transit agencies in the Region are licking their chops, waiting for their windfall with OAC’s demise. They already got the first 80% of the Stimulus money, but they will gladly take more… Anybody think that throwing more money at them will satisfy their money appetite?

  • Sven


    So what was the Civil Rights violation? Not just “they violated the law”, but what specifically did BART do or not do?

    (And, darn it, use your last name for Wynn!)

  • Little defensive, aren’t we Sven? What’s the matter, don’t like when people call you on your BS?

    Last names and affiliations are important when the person in question is engaging in personal attacks as you continue to do. And notably, you continue to fail to come clean.

    And, your last comment is most telling. You mean you’ve posted 19 times on this thread defending BART and you don’t even know what their violations are? WOW! See http://tinyurl.com/lwh8ev. Lots more on our web site at publicadvocates.org.

    Signing off on this thread, so go ahead and attack away.

  • Sven

    Good night, Wynn.

    I think I understand the Civil Rights violations. Patrick was so adamant that BART did something bad, I was wondering if he knew what.

    I thought it might lead us into a discussion of whether what BART did (or didn’t do) was so serious that the Region should lose a $500M project…

  • tNOB

    I have been following this since my previous comments, and have really enjoyed follwing the debate. Even after reviewing the complaint document and many of the arguments here, I am going to offer the following:

    – Does the OAC project in any way specifically terminate the AirBART operated by AC Transit?

    – It doesn’t seem to have been mentioned that the OAC was never intended to provide service the communities that it passes through. It is not a branch of a BART line, but a single purpose Point A to Point B connector. (AirBART does NOT stop between the Coliseum station and the Airport). Additionally, more stops would have significantly increased its cost, slowed the connection and ultimately made it far more unreasonable for its intended purpose of getting people from the BART to the airport.

    – Per the comment above, can a demographic be discriminated against if it was never intended to serviced by one project? Any future expansions to public transit is not going to service all demographics. Highway expansions don’t serve people who can’t drive. Where do we draw the line?

    – Many of the concessions between the original design, including transit time and distance from terminal are classic value engineering decisions made to bring the cost into alignment with potential funding availability. Keep in mind that all projects are less than their ideal due to cost restrictions.

    – Comparing a BRT solution to the OAC should be evaluated on their own merits. A BRT with multiple stops to service the minority community would quickly find itself with compromised efficiency, and hardly be considered “Rapid”. I have sweated making my flight many times on AirBART.

    – Has anyone considered that BART saw an opportunity to grab a bug chunk of the stimulus funds that would have gone to some other city? We live in a capitalist world, and if you don’t someone else will. Go big or go home.

    And to emphasize a previous comment and the one above. My wife and I pay extra to fly from SFO. AirBART sucks.

  • Alex

    tNOB: Nobody mentioned that because it’s not the case. BART has been dangling intermediate stops for quite a while. Even their current paperwork indicates that there are provisions for intermediate stops in the future.

    BTW, all of the money, save for $25 million, would have been spent elsewhere in the Bay Area on more reasonable projects. See one of the links I’ve provided above. Hell if you want to see how the $70 million will now be spent, take a look here:


    BART is not in the business of providing a luxury service. If you want luxury, rent a limo or take a cab… but don’t starve other transit agencies. Every project listed there is far more worthy than an overpriced people mover that will worsen service.

  • Alex

    And, Sven, really, how difficult do you think it is to add/move a bus stop vs adding/moving a people mover stop?

    The whole idea is that BART could sink a fraction of the money into a BRT system that will improve service. It would be faster than the OAC (and the existing AirBART), closer than the OAC, and cheaper than the OAC. As proposed the OAC is *slower* than AirBART, more expensive (to build, run, and ride), and so-on.

    BART originally proposed a pedestrian bridge to the terminals from the OAC. Now they propose you walk down some stairs and across the parking lot.

    About that 98th Ave station:


    Using BART’s own numbers, it would be cheaper to build an entirely new station and fancy rail airport connector there than it would be to build the currently proposed OAC. Given that nearly all of the money BART was going to siphon off for the OAC can be used elsewhere in the Bay Area, there’s simply no reason to reward BART for coming up with such a poorly designed system.

    Or how about these numbers?


    You could build 18 miles of bus rapid transit lanes for the cost of the OAC.

  • patrick

    Sven, BART did do something bad: It violated civil rights law. There is no argument there. MTC and/or BART could have mitigated that by having a backup plan, but they didn’t.

    BART also made a bad project, as I mentioned above, very expensive, no improvement in service, and double the fares. If you think there was something good about it, then say what that is, and construction jobs don’t count, since as already mentioned if they had a backup plan those construction jobs would have still been created.

  • Michael

    Bart Riders Beware!

    Bart pushed for a number of years to extend the line to SF Airport. They did and it goes right into the airport terminal. Wonderful. How convenient. BUT! Recently they tacked on a charge of $6.50 extra to go to the airport. Even if you go from San Bruno to the airport. One Stop!
    4 minutes! It’s still $6.50…So, A family of four traveling to the airport to meet somebody and returning home will be charged $52.00 for 8 minutes on Bart. They could hire a limo for that!
    Don’t let that happen with the Oakland Airport Connector. It’s too expensive and we will get stuck for the tab. The bus is just fine, Thank You.

  • tonistolle

    Thank you for perhaps the most level headed thing I have read today. I also can be helpful here 🙂 Filling out forms is super easy with PDFfiller. Try it on your own here https://goo.gl/7ioJnw and you’ll make sure how it’s simple.


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