I know you guys are tired of hearing about the Oakland Airport Connector. Believe me, I’m completely sick of it too. I have been going to meetings about the damn Airport Connector since January. Over and over and over again, I have watched dozens of people stand up and beg decision makers to be reasonable, to think of the future, to think of all the better ways this money could be spent.
And I have watched decision makers, over and over and over again, agree that the Airport Connector pretty much sucks and is a waste of money, but conclude in the end that since some people have been wanting to build a rail connection to the Airport for 20 years, and we have the money now, even if it is basically all of our money and building it means Oakland will not get anything else for almost two decades, and even though this isn’t actually rail and won’t offer the benefits of rail, it will kind of look like rail from the ground, we might as well just go ahead and do it.
It hasn’t helped, of course, that BART staff has lied about the project at pretty much every turn. They have lied to their own Board, they have lied to the MTC, and they have lied to the City Council. They probably lied to the Port Commission too, except I can’t say for sure because I wasn’t at those meetings because they conflicted with the City Council. I have a meeting to get to and limited internet access at the moment, so forgive the lack of links. When I’m done with my meeting I will go to use the awesome free wifi at AAMLO.
I think Becks is going to be covering the endless lies in a little more detail this morning, but there are three specific things that proponents of the project have been saying lately that I want to address. First, BART keeps saying to the press that they don’t care what Oakland thinks and that we have no stake in the project. However, they had quite a different story when they came to Rules Committee two weeks ago, basically threw a temper tantrum over tonight’s proposed resolution, said that the City of Oakland is one of their partners on the Airport Connector and threatened to sue for breach of contract if the Council passed a resolution saying they didn’t want it. So it kinda seems like they do care to me.
Second, BART’s job numbers are ridiculous. For ages, all their documents said the Airport Connector would create 200-300 jobs. Then, as soon as people started hammering them about how that is fewer jobs created than people who are going to get laid off because they’re taking those stimulus funds that could go to system preservation, they all of a sudden had new numbers. Their new “very conservative projections” had tacked a zero onto the old numbers, and Kerry Hamill sent an e-mail out to supporters that was basically one step away from encouraging people to just make job numbers up out of thin air. (The email does explicitly suggest that people claim the project will create 15,000 jobs.) BART’s official documents, submitted to the FTA, of course, tell a different story. How many jobs has BART actually figured the job will create? A grand total of 689 direct and indirect jobs, nearly all short-term construction jobs. That’s about $800k a job, and it’s a very far cry from what the ever-increasingly backwards and pathetic Chamber of Commerce promised in a letter to the City Council about how they support the Airport Connector, in which they claimed that the Airport Connector alone will reduce Oakland’s unemployment rate by 10%. I can’t figure out if the Chamber is really that stupid, or if they just think the City Council is that stupid.
Finally, there’s the issue of money. Project supporters, unable to convince anyone that this is actually a good thing to build, have basically settled on argument that since we have the money, we might as well spend it on this, because if we don’t, it will go away. That is, of course, not true. The only money that will go away if the OAC dies is $25 million (out of $550 million, remember) of a Federal public-private partnership grant. Most of the project cost is being funded by local, state, and regional money that will stay right here if this project isn’t going to be built. It can be reprogrammed to other projects.
Some people say “Oh, well maybe it will stay local, but the MTC and ACTIA hate Oakland so they won’t spend it on us.” Fuck that. The MTC has treated Oakland like a redheaded stepchild for decades, and telling us that the damn Airport Connector is the best we deserve is just another part of that. It is time for Oakland to demand better, and for Oakland to fight for its share of regional transportation dollars, and I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but all these people against the Airport Connector can make an awful lot of noise and do not get tired of fighting. If the funds are being reprogrammed, we will go back to the MTC and to ACTIA and to the CMA and fight for Oakland to get the money and the transportation infrastructure and improvements that we deserve because we love Oakland.
I certainly have no illusions that changing suburban-oriented regional transportation priorities is going to be an easy task, but there’s a lot of people willing to put a lot of time and energy into ensuring that the inner East Bay starts to get its fair share, and you know what? That fight would be a whole lot easier if we have the Oakland City Council on our side. Because if the City Council is not willing to stand up and say that Oakland deserves better than another flyover connection like the one that destroyed 7th Street for our transportation dollars, then why should the MTC listen to anyone else who says so?
Anyway, the slides below illustrate where the OAC money is coming from, and what happens to it if the OAC is not built.
I apologize for any typos and errors, I am putting this up without proofreading. My computer is running out of batteries and I have to go and I just really wanted to put this up in the morning, but I will return and fix it when I get back.
If you haven’t contacted the Council about the airport connector yet, time is running out. You can of course come speak against it at tonight’s meeting, but if you can’t make that, call or send an e-mail RIGHT NOW this morning. Instructions at Living in the O.