Port of Oakland approves Oakland Airport Connector project. Well, according to the Trib, anyway.

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?

12 thoughts on “Port of Oakland approves Oakland Airport Connector project. Well, according to the Trib, anyway.

  1. Jennifer

    I am so glad I read this because I was really disappointed when I saw the headline on the Trib website this morning. Have you sent this post to the reporter who wrote the story? She should get a chance to correct it asap. Or to her editor. BTW, I saw that Perata came out in opposition to the Connector.

  2. David

    And then they wonder why newspapers are going bankrupt. Gee, when your job is to provide somewhat reliable information…FAIL.

  3. Ken

    The port and nancy nadel seem to be buddy buddy. They give her money to disburse as she sees fit for air pollution mitigation. I don’t know how effective that has been.

    We should have our next blogger party at the port of oakland PARK!

  4. Andy K

    The really bad thing about this article is that other news organizations are picking up on the Tribs story and perpetuating the inaccuracies. I heard a radio report this AM on the way to work that said “According to the Oak. Tribuine, the Port of Oakland approved funding for the $500 millon OAC, a 3 mile light rail system to replace the existing bus connector.”

    Is this just bad reporting or is something else at work?

  5. Chris Kidd

    It’s like the reporter from the Trib didn’t even go to the meeting and just lifted text off of a pre-arranged PR-flack press release from BART.

    Hey, that’s just as plausible as gross incompetance.

  6. livegreen

    Makes me wonder if NPR’s CA Report will pick it up & run the story. Sometimes they just lift the headlines. Shows how the decline in journalism is even negatively impacting the best.

    Is there anywhere anyway we can complain about such outright false reporting?
    (Beyond the paper itself). Any truth in journalism or oversight body or local/state FCC (the federal FCC is useless and not staffed or funded to do it’s job).

  7. livegreen

    I just emailed KQED California Report to make sure they don’t repeat this headline.
    I emailed a copy of V’s Post & linked it (hope you don’t mind V) so they’d get the details. (At the very least they’ll be turned on to your blog).

    California Reports contact info is calreport@kqed.org.

  8. dto510

    You missed an error! The OAC as proposed by BART is not necessarily rail, but more likely to be rubber-tire like the SFO connector.

  9. Karen Smulevitz

    The reporter, Janis Mara, has “corrected” the errors in the report. In later editions, the new version appears. No need to do research until someone challenges your facts! As was done on InsideBayArea forums.

  10. Steve Lowe

    Hate the Airport Connector, love Cybertran! Lukewarm on the busses because they have to stop too long while people get on and off, unlike the other choices. Check it out!

    Ken’s earlier observation, as above, that the Port and NN are “buddy=buddy” is probably being made without knowledge of the long history of the lawsuit between West Oakland Neighbors (WON) and the Port, the beginning of the Port’s culpability that it was contributing to WO’s higher-than-just-about-anywhere asthma rate. The issue of clean air remains one of the principal drivers of economic develeopment in West Oakland (relating as it does to trucking, logistics, Army Base reuse, etc.), and, if anything, we all owe a large debt to WON – founded in Nancy’s livingroom back in the last century!


    – S