Do you ever read an article in the newspaper and think “Wow. How did that even happen?
I don’t really spend much time these days pointing out errors in media coverage of Oakland. Not that there aren’t plenty to point out, it’s just that my writing schedule is overfull as it is. Besides, most of the stories that bug me have like, the general idea right, and it’s like, little details that probably hardly anyone cares about that are wrong. So it’s not really worth mentioning.
This, on the other hand…OMG. The Trib today has an article about the Oakland Airport Connector that is just patently untrue. And not “untrue” in the sense that there’s some specious claim written in the story as fact, like if they had said, “This will be a great benefit for our economy” or something like that (although there is some of that in there). And not “untrue” in the sense that they left out key facts, like say, not bothering to mention that the $500+ million project is not projected to produce any significant increase in ridership over the existing AirBart service (although that’s there too).
No, I’m talking about untrue in the sense of just completely wrong in every way. Let’s take a look:
An overhead rail structure connecting the Coliseum BART station to Oakland International Airport got a boost Tuesday night from the Port of Oakland’s board of commissioners, who voted unanimously to give $70.4 million to the project.
Okay. Let’s get the easiest one out of the way first. The vote was not unanimous. It was 5-1. Commissioner Ken Katzoff voted no.
Beyond that, the Port wasn’t even voting on whether or not to give money to the Airport Connector! The Port was voting on whether or not to submit an application to the FAA to impose a Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), a $4.50 per ticket fee that goes to finance capital improvements. The fee would raise $70.4 million for the Port, and might go to fund the Airport Connector. But this is by no means guaranteed, because the Port hasn’t yet approved spending any money at all on the Airport Connector. As explained in the agenda report (PDF):
Even if the Board approves submission of the current PFC application, and the FAA approves the application, the Board will need to separately approve the Port’s participation in the BART-OAC project before the Port will be committed to use PFCs for that project. The Board will have a subsequent opportunity to approve or disapprove the BART-OAC project in the form of Development and Use Agreements currently being prepared and negotiated with BART.
Still, I suppose it’s possible that one could read the Board’s approval of the PFC application as a tacit endorsement of the Airport Connector project. Oh! Oh! Wait! No, you can’t. Why? Because although the Board had the option of voting to submit the application to the FAA and be done with it, waiting for the final approval to show up in July as a formality, they didn’t do that. Instead, they approved the PFC application and also directed BART to study alternatives (PDF) to the Airport Connector, like Rapid Bus (PDF). Ringing endorsement, there.
And also, even if, the Port does end up approving the Airport Connector and using the PFC to fund their contribution to the project, they will not be giving the Airport Connector $70 million. They would contribute $43.9 million to the project, and the other $26.4 million would cover their financing costs.
So every single thing about that sentence is just flat-out false. WTF?