Despite the fact that federal regulators pulled the plug on $70 million in stimulus funds from BART’s Oakland Airport Connector project in February citing noncompliance with civil rights rules, the District’s Board of Directors voted today to move full-steam ahead with construction of the 3.1-mile elevated guideway linking a nearby BART station to the airport.
Currently, BART moves passengers from Coliseum Station to the airport via bus for a $3 fare. The service, branded AirBART, delivers passengers to a curbside stop just outside the passenger terminals. When completed, the OAC is expected to charge a fare of $6 and will still require transferring from BART trains. Higher fares will unfairly burden airport employees and could discourage other riders.
It will provide a reliable, on-time connection for passengers going to and coming from OAK airport, but the project’s big price tag (estimated at $484 million) leaves a lot to be desired. BART already provides direct service to SFO, and Bus Rapid Transit with exclusive right-of-way could deliver similar on-time performance to OAK for much less.
If the OAC must go on, then there should at least be intermediate stations (the current plan calls for trains that express from the Coliseum Station to the airport parking lot). Two or three intermediate stations on the line combined with more reasonable fares could provide an opportunity for transit-oriented development while giving East Oakland residents a connection to the regional transportation network.
The OAC plan as it exists today is a luxury project – it is by no means a regional priority. The Bay Area and California cannot afford to squander our limited transportation funding resources on a project that will likely have no effect on regional SB 375 emission reduction targets or on traffic congestion.