Everyone is against the Oakland Airport Connector

Really, everyone.

I wish I’d had time to write about this one, but I’ve been so backlogged with budget stuff. And Becks has been covering it so well. In case you’ve somehow missed it all, though, here’s the deal.

A few months ago, the MTC voted to award $70 million in stimulus funds to BART’s ridiculously wasteful elevated people mover instead of giving them to local transit agencies. The catch was that even with the $70 million, the Airport Connector project was still short about $70 million. If they wanted to keep the stimulus money, BART had to come up with the rest of the cash by July.

So BART of course doesn’t have $70 million, so they decided to take out a $150 million loan to cover the cost. When a bunch of transit advocates showed up at the meeting to protest the loan and the wasteful airport connector project in general, they scored a temporary win, and the Board decided to delay their decision.

And today is the big day! TransForm has prepared an alternative proposal for connection, which they call RapidBART (PDF), would cost a small fraction of the skytrain, would benefit the Hegenberger corridor instead of bypassing it, and would be free to ride instead of $12 round trip.

What will the BART Board do? Well, even though nobody except BART staff and the construction unions support the project, it’s all still up in the air. For real-time updates, check out dto510 and Max Allstadt on twitter.

And if you’ve somehow missed all the discussion around this, here are some links to help you catch up:

Update: Everyone except the BART Board, apparently. They just voted 7-1 (Radulovich) to take out the $150 million loan.

51 thoughts on “Everyone is against the Oakland Airport Connector

  1. Frankie D

    With the money this elevated people mover will cost BART they could build a new infill station at 98th Avenue install the rapid bus system there and be closer to OAK with less traffic concerns while providing an additional stop for its riders and still have money left over for a new BART station at JLS.

  2. Christopher

    I don’t see how TransForm’s RapidBART materially differs from AirBART. Is TransForm selling more than just “fancy buses”?

  3. gem s.

    Christopher: yes. Read the RapidBART PDF V. linked above.

    Or: any of the blog posts and comments linked above.

  4. Dave C.


    It could skip to the front of the line at traffic lights, use dedicated lanes part of the way to avoid traffic, be entirely free instead of $3 each way, and board more quickly because people wouldn’t have to worry about having exact change etc. Since the steep fare, the heavy traffic heading to the airport, and the slow boarding process seem to me to be the main problems with AirBART, I would consider those improvements “materially different,” but that’s a judgment call.

    It’s important to remember that the question isn’t whether we think a people mover would be better than RapidBART. The question is whether the people mover would be so much better than RapidBART that it justifies paying 10 times the money on the front end (burdening BART with $150m in debt when it is already struggling fiscally) and costing riders $6 instead of being free.

    I can understand why people would prefer to ride an elevated people mover instead of a bus on city streets. I might actually prefer it myself, if the costs were identical. But I honestly can’t understand why people think that the people mover will be so much better that it justifies the high cost to BART and to individual riders.

  5. Patrick

    Actually, they’re proposing $6 EACH WAY, for a total of $12. And you get to walk across a parking lot once you get there.

  6. das88

    @Frankie D Having a needed infill station be the connector for the Airport is an interesting idea. Not exactly “shovel-ready,” but I like that out-of-the box thinking.

    When I looked at the area around 98th ave in Google Maps, it looks like there is a railroad spur there that goes almost to the airport. I do not know if that spur is active, but if it isn’t, there is some high quality right-of-way.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    I updated the post, but then it occurred to me that people who have already read the post probably won’t be reading it again looking for updates. So FYI, BART Board voted 7-1 to do the OAC, take out $150 million loan. Meeting play by play available on Twitter from dto510 and Max Allstadt.

  8. das88

    Dang, I guess it is everybody against it except those who get to vote.

    It was crazy there. The overflow room overflowed and there were people milling about the hallways.

    I had to leave early, so thanks to dto510 and Max Allstadt for the updates.

  9. Patrick

    This issue isn’t over. The last thing we need is yet another overhead system dividing one of our neighborhoods, especially when the OAC will serve people primarily from outside the community. FIGHT!

  10. dto510

    Thanks everyone for your interest in this. The next step will be for the Port of Oakland to commit an additional $44m to the project. Not only does the Port very much not have the money (BART wants them to levy a fee on all airplane tickets), but the Port should appreciate more than most the economic impact of having intermediate stops versus a flyover. The Port owns almost all the land that would be served by a bus but not served by the OAC, so economic vitality of business along that corridor directly translates into Port revenue. Becks and I will provide updates on when the Port will make this decision and how to contact them.

  11. Dave C.

    If BART now goes on to raise fares beyond the previously scheduled increase in 2010, and pleads deficit in order to justify it, I am seriously going to blow a gasket and have steam coming out of my ears…

  12. Becks

    Thanks to everyone who wrote to the directors or came to the meeting this morning, especially to the BART and AC Transit unions and to Rebecca Kaplan, who made a persuasive case for a bus connector. Like dto said, this isn’t over, and we’ll be providing plenty of updates on how you can weigh in again.

    Oh, and if you didn’t follow the debate on Twitter, the best line of the day came from Director Tom Radulovich. He called the Oakland Airport Connector “municipal bling” or “blingfrastructure.” Too bad the rest of the directors didn’t agree.

  13. david vartanoff

    how about special violins for the BART directors decorated as AC Transit buses

  14. David

    Head-slappingly stupid. but then again that’s what passes for ‘governance’ around California.

    I’d love to see how many friends these guys have with contractors who just might get this job. I have a feeling with all those friends that these guys will never pay for a home improvement or a meal again.

  15. SF2OAK

    BART sucked from the begining not that regional transit sucked but the way BART went about it by creating a one off system where everything must be custom for BART only, to the unions who insist on jobs like riding in cars where there is nothing for the drivers to do b/c it’s all automated- they had to configure a few buttons to push.

    The public is working tooo hard to show outrage but I’m sure it is, if they knew.

    This is another boondoogle that absolutely reduces any faith in Gov’t, this when faced with budgets like we have. I’m with David on the head slappingly stupid comment. Bravo to Radulovich.

  16. gem s.

    SF2OAK: when the BART computer system has glitches (“ghost trains”), or there’s an incident like a track fire, the trains are run manually. Back in the day, an unmanned test train ran off the end of the Fremont platform. Ever since then, trains have had drivers. I’m OK with that. I’d much rather have a driver that does nothing 99% of the time that can be there when needed, than have a system where 1% of the time a driver is needed and isn’t there.

  17. Eric

    Please tell me that someone pointed out to the BART chowder-heads that no family will ever want to take the connector at the fare they are suggesting. $6 x family of four = 24 buckaroos, which is far more than the cost of a taxi from the Colosseum station to the Oakland Airport. Consider ever increasing BART fares and the logistics of managing kids when traveling, and abandoning public transit to the airport becomes even more tempting. As I’m sure it does with everyone here, it boggles my mind that the BART board is supporting this.

  18. Frankie D

    SF2OAK in defense of BART one must remember that it was the first new generation rapid transit system to be constructed in the US, post depression, WWII era. Unfortunately, a lot of new untested technology was introduced through BART which had a lot of bugs and took a long time to work out. The engineers who conceived BART had a very pie in the sky acceptance of this new technology which was a common mindset during that early 60′s, but the U.S. forgot how to efficently build an urban transit system compounded by using new untested computer technology. The Bay Area however, should be commended in being forward thinking enough to realize how important rapid transit would become for the region especially during a time period when cars were king and gas was cheap. Other regions such as Washington DC and Atlanta learned from our mistakes and constructed there new systems much more efficently. Knowing this history lets not become the first state in the union to construct the new generation of the US version of high speed rail, let another state like Texas be the guinea pig and we learn from their mistakes.

  19. SF2OAK

    There was absolutely no reason to reinvent the wheel which is what BART did. They did it as a jobs program- guaranteed jobs- it’s an incredibly expensive system ppm. I said absolutely they had foresight to do regional mass transit- but to get it done the price was and is very high.
    Now this BART connector to the OAK airport is just a bad joke- it is sooo expensive and thank you to the one that pointed out for a family of 4 it’s $24 each way to get to BART and then buy your BART tix. This won’t get people out of their cars, the parking operators have nothing to fear it will be cheaper and more convenient to drive. It shows the absolute insensitivity to a budget crisis and to taxpayers who foot the bill.

    If you go to a surgeon for medical advice s/hell likely recommend surgery, likewise to a carpenter all problems fixed with nails and to BART what do you expect them to see but a BART train where a BRT would do.

    Finally , gem you mention a ghost train “back in the day” when was that? I’m curious as to what the glitch rate is now – now I know that BART has its own software I’d like to know how many glitches we have.

    Not finally remember when there was a shuttle from Millbrae to SFO but the BART rules say after every run a driver gets 15 minute break, well this was a run though 5 minutes, so a 15 min break- now where is that shuttle? yyes it has disappeared – Another BART Union solution. No thanks.

    And really not finally hopefully the Port of OAK will put the kibosh on this as it will have to shell out $44M that it doesn’t have.

    Remember each of these BART directors and vote them out of office, except Radulovich. Nobody ever remembers BART directors come elction time- have you ever heard a BART director stump speech me either- you can though just cancel the whole slate of incumbents.

  20. Becks

    Eric – that was pointed out, among dozens of other arguments in support of a rapid bus alternative. Joel Ramos from TransForm used his brother, who has a family of 6, as an example. They would have to pay $36 each way + BART fare + AC Transit fare, since they don’t live near a BART station. The total came out to more than $140. Of course, at that point, they would instead drive or take a cab or a shuttle. It just makes no sense to take BART when it’s that expensive.

    Although it seemed like the BART directors were engaged and listening to our comments, in the end it appears that they had already made up their minds, since they could not be reasoned with.

  21. Dave C.

    This whole “jobs” argument drives me crazy. Yes, it will create jobs. Guess what? Whenever you spend $522 million building, repairing, or operating something, you will create jobs. There are opportunity costs to this project, and if they wanted to spend $522 million to create jobs as a kind of regional stimulus package, then they should have a debate about what projects would create the most benefit. How about extending BART toward Livermore or San Jose? How about a BART spur along the MacArthur Freeway to the Laural District, with a stop at Grand Lake and a stop in the Dimond District, or how about…

    The argument that you have to waste $522m on an unnecessary project in order to create work for people is just ludicrous. Why not run trains all night run trains all night, if you want to spend half a billion dollars creating jobs? You would have to hire train operators, plus additional repairmen and janitors in order to handle the extra wear and tear on the cars and in the stations? There you go—jobs! You get my point. I have nothing against public employment projects during deep recessions, but if that’s what this is, then let’s be honest about it and debate the best use of the money.

  22. Dave C.

    Becks — and don’t forget to include the extra fee that they want to charge all OAK passengers, in order to recoup the $44 million that the Port of O has to pitch in. The more I think about this, the more outrageous it all seems.

  23. Jennifer

    This is such a bad idea it is mindboggling. Two people taking BART to OAK, even from downtown Oakland, would be more than 50 bucks! We can park for a week for that. Insane.

    Also, I was told that BART has different cars/tracks than other systems around here, e.g. Caltrain, so that it could never be taken over and joined with another system . . . in other words; pure politics.

  24. Christopher

    BART is run by engineers, for engineers. My friend works in urban transportation planning. He has many examples of how BART always chooses the cool (i.e. expensive) engineering solutions over more sensible or practical options, as if BART planners have never even ridden BART.

    BART’s size puts it beyond the jurisdiction of any one city or county; it is its own little fiefdom that must be protected beyond all reason.

    For example, BART trains are custom and incompatible with other train systems. BART built its own, incompatible ticketing system instead of collaborating with other local transportation systems like MUNI.

    Why do (many) BART trains have carpet? Did someone really think that was a good idea for maintaining clean trains? Why are the BART trains not designed to better accommodate bikes?

    Why does the BART go under the Bay (making maintenance and expansion difficult) instead of sharing infrastructure with the Bay Bridge?

  25. gem s.

    SF2OAK: “ghost trains” are artifacts in the computer system that appear as a train. Weirdly, they used to be mentioned on the BART page of Wikipedia, though that is no longer the case. Here’s some numbers in The Risks Digest from 10 years ago (from an article search for “bart”):

    On 16 Apr 1999, a ghost train appeared in the BART computers on a section of
    track between the Montgomery and Embarcadero stations in San Francisco.
    BART continued to operate manually on that stretch of track for about 4 and
    one-half hours through the morning rush-hour. Although this is not news to
    commuters, what seems startling was a recent consultant’s report, which
    documents 567 such incidents in a two-year period. (We also reported
    repeated appearances of ghost trains in the Muni Metro system about 15 years

    A more recent article mentions software engineers trying to solve the problem permanently.

  26. gem s.


    The California governement created the Bay Area Rapid Transit Comission in 1951 to study and develop a multi county system, meant to encircle the Bay. It is it’s own entity because it was created that way by the state.

    BART trains are incompatible with other systems because there were very few electric rail systems remaining in the US at the time, and there probably weren’t any that could go 80 mph while pulling the longest Metro trains of any system in America.

    Yeah, they though carpet was a good idea. The plan was to get all the people who grew up in the 50′s and 60′s to get over their fear of the bus and out of their cars. It was designed to be more attractive to suburban users. Cars with carpet have less ambient noise, and it doesn’t get slippery. You just need to 1) keep it clean, 2) replace it more often. Derail: The cars without carpet have been around for just a few years, and are already just as filthy (got to ride one with a lovely loogie colored floor yesterday).
    Oh, and in the 70′s, grownups didn’t ride bikes to work. Caltrain didn’t allow bikes either, until about 15 (?) years ago.

    It’s a very good thing BART didn’t share infrastructure with the Bay Bridge, because when the bridge section collapsed in 1989, BART trains kept running, even moments after the earthquake. In fact, they ran nearly 24 hours a day until the bridge was fixed. Besides that, I doubt the bridge could have been retrofitted to carry two lines of extra-wide BART tracks for less money than it cost to assemble the tunnel sections on land and then put them together on the floor of the bay. They are not hard to maintain; they were built with a maintenance tunnel. As far as expansion, how could that be achieved if BART was attached to the bridge in the first place?

  27. Robert

    and Christopher, if you need to blame somebody for the incompatible ticketing systems, BART was the first electronic system in the area, so you really should be blaming MUNI.

  28. david vartanoff

    a few corrections as to BART history. First there WAS an active rapid transit carbuiler industry in the US when BART was in the planning stage. Several of the traditional vendors bid on the BART cars. Because BART was way over budget (shock, surprise) they decided to buy only half of the cars they wanted. One carbuiler bid a lower price IF guaranteed the follow on. Rohr being experienced in DOD bidding low balled for the first order and then delivered late, with cost overruns. When the next order came around, Rohr was the sole bidder at nearly double the price.
    Second, ten years before BART started revenue service Chicago Transit Authority had tested a “hot rodded” set of their L cars @ 76.1, so 80 was not a revolutionary speed to achieve, and in the 50s NYC ran subway trains only 60′ shorter than a ten car BART train.
    Third, yes BART DELIBERATELY ignored much subway history seeking to be a Buck Rogers system to attract the suburbanites. Thus the cushy seats, carpet, insufficient doors. The choice of incompatible rail guage is connected to the history of Caktrain. a post for a later date.

  29. len raphael

    i’m too late for this thread, but in hindsight besides the political power of construction unions, isn’ t there an unspoken belief that is probably shared by the Port officials, that typical users of the airport would not enjoy an bus ride thru any part of East O? And multiply that an order of magnitude if the bus actually makes stops in East O.

  30. gem s.

    “Second, ten years before BART started revenue service Chicago Transit Authority had tested a “hot rodded” set of their L cars @ 76.1, so 80 was not a revolutionary speed to achieve, and in the 50s NYC ran subway trains only 60′ shorter than a ten car BART train.”

    My point was that the BART system was designed to be as modern as possible, and that it was engineered to run the longest trains at a high speed- not that no one had ever run fast trains before. The NY subway did not run its long trains at 80mph.

    If you’re talking about the CTA GE demonstration cars, those cars only reached 76 mph when run individually with a light load, not fully seated. The fact that GE was making these experiments in the ’60′s doesn’t contradict the fact that BART was engineered to be different from previous urban rail systems; it indicated that faster inter urban rail was on the minds of many cities.

  31. len raphael

    P, never fails to amuse and concern me that all of my friends and clients from the burbs avoid driving the streets of oakland, like the plague. if they have no alternative, they will drive rapidly with windows rolled up, and try never to come to a stop. but then there are parts of our town i’m not familiar with, where i do the same.


  32. david vartanoff

    @ gem s., While GE may have supplied hardware, the CTA cars were members of the existing fleet, and when not involved in testing, saw regular service on what is now the Brown Line.
    Modernity, was BART’s aim. and yes BART after they actially had enough cars and riders (not during the 70′s) were the first to regularly run ten cars @ 80mph. As to automatic fare and train control, PATCO linking PHL to south NJ opened in Jan ’69, AND unlike BART the systems mostly worked from the get go. I have ridden on BART from opening day in 72, I like rail transit, but having lived where better service is provided, I have little respect for BART’s design or operational policies. Worst of all BART continues to set records for wildly fanciful ridership projections, and vastly expensive construction.
    In terms of the link in question, both Boston/Logan, and Baltimore BWI demonstrate that a free shuttle bus can be operated to conveniently get riders to/from nearby rail to the airport terminals. I am not sure why airline passengers should find a quick and clean shuttle bus to BART any scarier or less convenient than the shuttles to motels, rental car sites, or more distant parking. If money were no object, an airtrain automated link would be dandy, we DO NOT have that luxury, and given that BRT could do 90% of the job at a fraction of the cost, this is the prudent maneuver.

  33. Patrick

    Actually, as the BRT proposal actually drops passengers off at the individual terminals, which the OAC proposal does not do (and can also be easily expanded if/when there is a third terminal), BRT does 110% of the job at 10% of the cost. In addition, it serves the neighborhood it goes through, whereas the OAC only serves to divide it. Maybe BRT does 125% of the job?

  34. East Lake Biker

    I’m so confused. AC Transit’s #50 only takes15 minutes from Coliseum to the terminal. Hauling luggage on can be a problem and there are a couple of stops along the way, but it’s a cheaper way to go. Sure, you might rub rub shoulders with the “locals” but that’s the charm of transit. Len and P, you are right on.

  35. len raphael

    the other factor you’re running into opposing this, is the perception (which might be true) there is plenty of funny money, fed grants/bond issuances etc. so that the cost won’t hit till the current officials are long gone.

    no doubt the Port is worried about the airport’s economic health. I was there the other day at an air freight facility. staff were telling me how many airlines had withdrawn from oakland over the past few years and how freight volume was way down.

    unless i were a frequent flyer carrying just an overnight bag (and maybe that’s the target market) i can’t see why i’d struggle with luggage on BART even if it had a seamless shuttle.

  36. Patrick

    What’s really puzzling to me is why airlines so love SFO. It’s so frequently socked in by fog or otherwise crappy weather. When you look online at airport delays, it’s common to see SFO 2.5 hours, OAK 10 minutes. Perhaps this is why so many want the “blingfrastructure” (love that word)? I suppose this plan that BART is proposing could allay the concerns of people who are petrified of Oakland due to media bias (Nav? Are you listening??) Maybe they know something I don’t, but in any event, OAK is a better choice for travelers – fewer delays, easier access to San Francisco and less expensive.

    On a side note, that entrance into the SF runway – the one that makes it look like you’re about to crash into the Bay? Not a fan. I’ve only done it twice but, trust me, each time I had a firm grip on my “flotation device”.

  37. david vartanoff

    @ Patrick, because for inbound traffic San Francisco IS the Bay Area. Its not the Oakland Bay. That said 35 + years ago there was a proposal to fix the problem– rename the two airports SF West gates, Sf East Gates and build a high speed under the bay connector so that a transfer would be painless. Too rational to be seriously considered besides, linking the two would have cut into the influence of the respective city commissioners and griftters. In my utopian dreams when a full HSR is in service, we will barely need either airport for domestic flights other than transcon. .

  38. Patrick

    Yes, in every other city I’ve lived in, the smaller airports have attached the name of the primary destination to the airport name, like “Oakland-San Francisco Bay International”

    Bringing up HSR, it’s a damn shame it’s probably going to go on the peninsula. I really don’t understand why they would contruct it knowingly to a dead end, when if the terminus was in Oakland, people from SFO north could connect via BART in a matter of minutes. Another dreadful transportation decision. Hopefully all of the lawsuits on the peninsula will change their minds.

  39. Steve Lowe

    CyberTran is the answer at the Airport. Better than the monorail and better than BRT, it’s a local company that simply doesn’t have as much money to buy this politician’s vote or that wonk’s support. Unlike BART, Group Rapid Tranist (GRT) uses a system that doesn’t require operators and functions more or less like a horizontal elevator: you climb in, program the car, and it then takes you directly to your stop, not stopping to pick up anyone or let anyone off at an intermediate station. So it’s also faster than the traffic-avoidiing monorail, now supported by BART’s Board because it ostensibly won’t get stuck in traffic.

    Not only that, it’s cheaper! For 20% to 25% the cost of BART, we could have a better system that is expandable in all directions, including out to the Eastmont Mall or even over into Alameda. It’s sort of like BART Lite, offering more and better access to the area surrounding the Airport, coalescing it all into a giant business park easily on a par with the biggest in America – and at the natural confluence of the Bay Area, where I-880, BART, AMTRAK, AC Transit, etc., all come together. Maybe with that kind of synergy, Lew Wolff would even begin to reconsider the Coli.

    The Bay Area has the worst transportation planning in the universe, and Oakland, with zero money to pay for staff, has to rely almost entirely on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, an agency that loathes Oakland. Think it doesn’t? Look at High Speed Rail: no stops in Oakland; all of ‘em over in San Jose, Silicon Valley, SFO and into SF itself. If anyone who contributes to A Bitter Oakland believes that there’s a correlation between commerce and transportation, he or she should be able to figure out why Oakland, “The Bay Area Hub of Transportation,” has such a rotten economy (plus which, we get to pay twice for it: first with our tax dollars, and second with our lungs).

    Solution? Find someone who will champion a plan that MTC Commissioners will have to honor instead of the elitist, staff-driven, obfuscatory, citizen-hating methodology that’s now in place. And, in the process, give points to local businesses that will partner with community groups that are dedicated to clean air, hyper efficiency and sustainability, as opposed to the big guys lobby whose august members would build their transportation mini-empires at the expense of Oakland, the environment and, as cynically as it gets in this economy, the goodwill of the Obama administration.

  40. Navigator

    This is indeed about Oakland’s economy. As I’ve said many times, Oakland International Airport is dying because it can not compete with San Francisco’s direct BART connection. Oakland Airport was thriving a few years back and literally cleaning San Francisco’s clock before BART began service into SFO.

    I don’t like the fact that a monorail system would divide Hegenberger in half. I love the palm trees and the landscaping. I agree, that’s a problem. However, I’m not worried about the fact that a monorail rapid train system to the Airport behaves exactly as such. This is not suppose to be a local bus. One stop, half way at a strategic point, would be sufficient in my view.

    If any kind of monorail system can be built with a seamless connection from BART directly into the terminals, AND, we can address the blight/separation issue of an overhead tram on Hegenberger, then I’m all for it for the sake of Oakland International and the local economy.

    Also, the HSR issue needs to be factored in somewhere in this conversation. This is much too important to Oakland’s and the East Bay’s economy to roll over to San Jose and San Francisco business interests. Where are the East Bay politicians on this issue? Where are Lee, Miller, Tausher and Senator Boxer on this issue? Oakland and the East Bay were left out to dry!

  41. Max Allstadt


    Here is my outline of a plan for a BRT Road-Tram, which would solve most of the problems you’re talking about. I’ve based it on the best and most high-end options suggested throughout the course of this debate.

    Road-Trams would operate in dedicated lanes for almost all of the route. The lanes would be maintained by BART at a high standard, and incorporate magnetic guidance for a smooth, train like ride. Multiple entry doors, low to the ground, would park next to a low platform, creating exactly the same feel as boarding a train.

    Multiple intermediate stops would be put it, but there would be both local Road-Trams that stopped at every stop, and express Road-Trams that went direct to the airport. At peak air-travel times you’d have more express service than local.

    In addition, local Road-Tram service would continue past the Coliseum BART station, all the way to the Eastmont mall.

    All Road-Tram stops would have indoor, gated stations, with attendants and ticket machines. These features would address the blight and loitering issues commonly associated with buses.

    The stations could all be built by separate contractors and architects to specifications created by a master planner. This would allow for division of labor: multiple local and minority owned businesses to participate in the project.

    This solution addresses the blight and separation issue. It would spur local economic development. And it would be expandable to the proposed third terminal at Oakland Airport for a very small cost. It would also be an innovative, precedent setting initiative, a project for the 2010s. The monorail idea is more of an anachronism than an innovation.

  42. Patrick

    So, within the stations, the Express Trams would have a separate lane so that they don’t get stuck behind the Local Trams?

    Increased blight, especially in that area, is a huge concern, as is separation. Local economic development must be addressed, as that part of Oakland is, frankly, a different city.

    If this is done correctly, OAK could replace SFO as the airport of choice. As population grows and moves east, it make sense anyway.

  43. gem s.

    @Navigator: Oakland and the East Bay were left out to dry!

    The cities of Fremont and the city of Pleasanton both opposed the Altamont route.

  44. Steve Lowe


    Of the three transportation options for the Airport / Coliseum area, the monorail is obviously the least desirable from the POV of widespread accessibility and convenience. Its single stop at the Airport means that everyone will be schlepping their incunabula all over the place and driving the Homeland Security folks absolutely crazy until one of them goes postal (or maybe the new word is Kirkuk). Also, as the monorail will have only one stop twixt the Coliseum BART station and the Airport (a hard-won concession at that!), the benefits of pinballing that entire area as the Bay Area’s largest and most accessible business park will not be realized anytime soon.

    If we had a matrix of cost to benefits, the sheer weight of the monorail would cause it to fall off the grid altogether – as perhaps is best evidenced by the fact that there absolutely is no matrix now nor ever will be if BART and/or the Port have anything to say about it. But let’s pretend there is one in our mind’s eye and take a peek at what remains: BRT and CyberTran. With CyberTran, you get maximum accessibility and quickest travel time, maybe even worth the price of the ticket (which should be free). With BRT, you’re basically getting a bus – a bus with better bells, shriller whistles and electronic doodads, but still a bus.

    Busses have to stop at every stop along the way to ingest and disgorge passengers, and they take a long time to load, and they are real uncomfortable when you’ve got more than a briefcase to trundle around with. Plus they’ve got a driver who may or may not be in a good mood. And sometimes they run with only one passenger aboard, and other times they’re so crowded, you’ve got to stand or await the arrival of the next one.

    Fully automated GRT systems have none of that and deserve at the very least to be put into the matrix so that everyone can see for themselves exactly what kind of service they’re getting for all the dough that’s about to be awarded to some contractor or other, as opposed to all the transportation justice and benefits that are supposed to be our due as citizens of Oakland and/or the greater Bay Area metropolitan region.

    So the solution for the Airport Connector is a matrix that we can all weigh in on, yes? Or shall we continue to clash by night, and, in that mode, be kept from the real discussion – you know, the one about voting money towards something infinitely more organized – that is going on at the Board level right now while we still remain confounded by our own strife (and lack of clarity, charity and unity) and therefore mere background noise?


    – S

    [When the cities of Fremont and Pleasanton voted against HSR, who was doing the voting? The people of those towns or the politicians who were lobbied by MTC to vote staff's already-determined agenda? It smacks of the Mountain View POV where everyone voted for HSR and is now going beserk when it's suddenly a lot clearer what will happen to the cute little downtown when the elevated tracks split the town into. Undergrounding will only add a few million to the multibillion cost overrun, so who'll really care a decade from now?]

  45. Navigator


    That’s an interesting concept you’re proposing. You’re thinking out of the box and that’s what we need to solve the blight separation problem on Hegenberger.

    As far as HSR, the Peninsula route is fatally flawed. There is no way that we can afford to spend NOT millions more, for under grounding, but, billions more. This will make the Big Dig in Boston look like pocket change. The Altamount Route is the logical and most cost-effective option by far. Bringing that train down the Livermore Valley, directly to the Bay Fair BART station where it would connect to the proposed BART extension to San Jose, (see, we Oaklanders think about San Jose even as they try to steal our train AND baseball team) and then bring it up to Jack London Square where SF riders can make the connection via Bart or Ferry. HSR will then continue on to Sacramento on upgraded Amtrak tracks. This would allow for an eventual connection to Portland and Seattle. The entire route would be above ground and cost a fraction of the current exorbitant amount just to put a feather in the cap of San Jose and San Francisco business and political interests.

    There is no reason Pleasanton should have opposed the Altamount route. There is plenty of open spaces next to 580 in the Livermore Valley. We’re not talking about splitting cities in half like in the Peninsula. And Fremont, is probably in cahoots with San Jose.

  46. bikerider

    Regarding Pleasanton and Fremont “opposition” to HSR: Fremont needed MTC monopoly money for Warm Springs BART. Pleasanton needed MTC infrastructure bond money for its hwy 84 widening project. The HSR-quid-pro-quo was pretty obvious.

    And while on the subject, note that OAC monorail is utterly incompatible with any future HSR (not that we are ever going to see HSR in the East Bay…). The whole concept of seamless plane-train transfer is destroyed once you force passengers to buy a second ticket just to get from the plane to the train — and then drop them off way far away from where the HSR platforms would go.

  47. Navigator

    So basically San Jose and San Francisco interests control MTC? And, 2.4 million residents of the East Bay are shut out from HSR? Again, a great example of tax dollars working for the majority of the population.

    They need to make sure that if they build the monorail, that it goes directly to the terminal. The fair could be charged directly on your BART ticket as “Oakland Airport” destination. Also, any connector should be able to link up to HSR in case the boondoggle up the Peninsula falls out of favor.

  48. David

    Sorry, gem s. etc….There WERE electric trains in the US running at speeds of 80-90 mph–The South Shore line in Chicago was one of them. Didn’t even have to ‘hot-rod’ the L (which is actually quite difficult, considering the number of 90 degree turns). The South Shore line was running at 90 mph in the 1920′s! We’re talking nearly 100 year old technology here. BART was a ridiculous re-invention of the wheel (and Key Route) system. It continues to this day in this utterly stupid OAK proposal. I mean, look at what you can do for less money–change grades in streets, etc. I’m sure that BART/Key Route could have done this back in the day, and then utilized the tracks on the bay bridge and cost a whole lot less. It’s like the SFO connector–why the heck didn’t they just dig (what is now proposed) a spur from Montgomery station to CalTrain and then upgrade CalTrain? Oh yeah, then Willie Brown’s contractor buddies wouldn’t have gotten their $5B kickback, er contract. That’s why.

    This system is designed to cost more for the benefits of the politicians, their contractor friends, and their union supporters, and to the detriment of taxpayers. Period.

  49. Steve Lowe

    Navigator, I think maybe you are seeing only the tip of the MTC iceberg (or cold shoulder or frosty glare) when you note that the East Bay’s greater-than-West Bay population is being ignored! In the fast lane, it’s all about politics and/or construction contracts, and Oakland – the very crossroads of the Easy Bay and therefore the throbbing, sobbing transportation heart of the Bay Area – simply doesn’t have the money required to play at that level: not even enough for staff to show up once in awhile and sit in the audience when JPC / BART / MTC / ABAG / BCDC / BAAQM meetings are going on ever month – let alone any of the several subcommittee meetings each of those agencies has going in a given month.

    And, as no individual or civic group can possibly keep up with all that meeting, scheming and cross-collegiality (the word “conspire” literally means breathing together), your ideas or mine are like so many pennies on the railroad track just before 60 or so of double-stacked flatcars of empty containers comes barreling through Oakland bound for the Port. So what to do?

    A champion on Council is needed for Oakland’s transportation issues, someone who is willing to work with a new Committee of the Planning Commission dedicated to Land Use & Transportation – just like the Transportation & Land Use Planning Committee of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Such a new Committee, working alongside the Zoning Update Committee, the Design Review Committee and the Special Projects Committee, will provide a new perspective for City Hall and its understanding of Oakland’s real place in the Bay Area.

    Maybe then, High Speed Rail, Airport Connectors, Broadway Trollies, etc., can be discussed in terms of smart growth and Oakland’s real contribution to the rest of the greater Bay Area metropolitan region.


    – S