Rebecca Kaplan: Building a better Airport Connector, to build a Better economy

In the debate about how best to proceed on the Oakland Airport Connector, I wanted to take this opportunity to share why I think it is so important to make sound choices. My goal is to result in a project that is better for economic growth and job creation, better for Oakland, better for BART, the Airport, the region’s transit, and the public.

The proposed $550 million project currently on the table, using “AGT” technology (an automated, elevated guideway) fails to provide any of the benefits originally promised, and also threatens devastating cuts in jobs, local transit service, and other vital public projects because it will be funded by taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from other essential services.

To re-cap the history, the Airport Connector project approved in 2001 was for a Connector which would cost $130 million in taxpayer dollars, be “flexible” and “seamless” and provide service for two intermediate stops for economic growth on the Hegenberger corridor, and take 7 minutes to travel. BART’s current proposal has NONE of these features. Instead, it will cost $6 each way for passengers to ride (making it the world’s most expensive connector), cost $550 million in taxpayer dollars, take 18 minutes to travel, and without the “seamless” connection, will require passengers to go upstairs, across a long walkway and through another payment system, and then also downstairs, outside, and across numerous lanes of traffic to complete the trip. It will NOT be flexible to adapt to future conditions, having no capacity to add or move stops/stations to accommodate economic growth, and therefore, no longer includes the potential for a more vibrant future for the Hegenberger Corridor – which is especially important because the capacity to support economic growth on the corridor was given as the prime reason for Oakland’s support for the proposal back in 2001. The projected ridership has plummeted, from 13,540 when originally approved, down to 4,000 in revised projections.

But won’t the money go away if we don’t use it for the OAC?

NO. This is one of the most troubling pieces of mis-information being spread about the proposed OAC by project supporters. Advocates of the more expensive system claim this project has been awarded stimulus funds by the Obama administration, and have told people that the money will just go away if we don’t use it in this way. This is entirely untrue. The Obama Administration did NOT award stimulus funds to this project. The Bay Area was given certain stimulus funds through MTC, and BART is lobbied MTC to give them $70 million of these funds to use for the OAC. If the money is not used for the OAC, it will go to save local transit service from deep cuts, for “transit system preservation and maintenance.” Under NO circumstances will the money leave our region. (Actually, the only way the money WILL leave our region is if we give it to BART to build the OAC, and then they give it to an out-of-State company, to purchase “automated guideway” equipment). If this money were not given to the OAC, it would be used to save transit service and transit jobs in our region. Similarly, the $89 million in funding from ACTIA, and the $109 million in funding from RM2 and more are all locally-controlled funds, which would stay local if not used for the more-expensive OAC, and would provide immensely more jobs and transit service if used in a more effective way. Using the funds more effectively would mean significantly less cuts and layoffs at AC Transit and other transit operators, INCLUDING BART. Yes, that’s right, BART would also get some of this money for their own “transit system preservation and maintenance” and thus, would be able to avoid numerous layoffs and the deep cuts now being implemented due to BART’s budget deficit and State funding cuts. For more on BART’s cuts, which are taking place starting today, see this article.



MTC still has $70 million in stimulus funds left to allocate – funds which are eligible for “transit system preservation.” That money has been held aside to give BART a chance to get the money for the OAC, if they come up with the rest of the money for the project. However, using this money for the OAC, instead of using it to save transit service, is resulting in significant loss of jobs and transit service. Sadly, MTC and others were told that Oakland endorses giving the money to the OAC – even though the Oakland City Council has NEVER voted on this question. Now that the cuts caused by this choice are actually happening, many constituents are asking HOW CAN WE STOP THESE AWFUL LOCAL TRANSIT CUTS? We can help reduce transit cuts – we can tell MTC and others– Oakland DOES NOT ENDORSE giving this money to the OAC, instead of using it for transit preservation!

BART’s proposal will result in numerous Oakland residents losing their jobs directly (in layoffs of AC Transit drivers, BART operators, mechanics, etc), and then more local economic harm as the transit cuts hurt local access to jobs and services. It is a bad decision for MTC to make, both from a jobs perspective and a transit perspective, and it is WRONG for this to be done in our name.

Since the OAC is the least job-producing option, moving money away from transit preservation to give it to the OAC will result in at least five jobs lost for each one that would be provided. Clearly, BART has recognized that jobs are important to the public, as BART staff recently sent out an email urging people to support the OAC by quoting fake inflated job numbers (PDF).

It is embarrassing to be told that Oakland’s best option is to spend the money on a single project that would be the least effective and most-expensive to ride airport connector in the world, while providing the fewest jobs and no support for economic growth. I know we can do so much better.

What I believe would be best:

We can build a rapid, reliable, sustainable airport connector – attract more passengers, and serve key destinations to support the economic revitalization of the area. This can be done for a total cost of under $60 million.

We can save money, and use it to fund additional vital priorities, (including building other important local projects) which will create more jobs. Instead of charging passengers a prohibitive $12 round-trip to ride to the connector as proposed, we could provide service at much lower cost, which would attract more riders.

Instead of using old, heavy, expensive 1960’s-era technology, we can use new systems that are now in wide use throughout the world. BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), including traffic signal prioritization and queue-jump lanes, which allow the transit vehicle to escape traffic congestion, is being used successfully in numerous locations and will provide faster service at a fraction the cost. The BRT technology will have the ability to be flexible and seamless, delivering passengers directly to their airport terminal entrances (rather than across multiple lanes of traffic into the parking lot), and will be able to accommodate not only today’s conditions on the Hegenberger Corridor, but also will be able to attract and serve future economic growth, with great ease to add or move stations.

Photo of BART’s proposed $550 million AGT Connector

Examples of Rapid, Cost-effective BRT Connector

There are transit systems in use across the world today, which combine the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of buses, with the reliability and amenities usually associated with rail. In Europe, they call these systems “trams with tires.” For one example, these are photos of the airport connector serving Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands. The Eindhoven Airport Connector uses magnetic guidance for a smooth ride, signal timing systems for speed and reliability, and more. These systems can be designed with sustainable energy systems, including options of zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell1, and hybrid-electric models. This is the cutting edge of modern transit technology, not the grid-power-driven slow system BART proposes to use.

BRT Connector arriving at Eindhoven Airport – direct access to Terminal entrance


The benefits of the BRT connector are not only cost-effectiveness, direct access, flexibility, affordability, green technology AND saving millions of dollars in transit service, but also allowing additional funds to be used to build other vital projects. The BRT connector would provide not only many more transit jobs, it would also provide thousands more construction jobs, and other post construction (retail, hotel) jobs, since funds would be available for other construction projects, potentially including:

  1. Part of the funding for the “AGT” Connector will come from the Airport’s facilities funds. This means tens of millions of dollars being cut from other airport construction and renovation projects. By contrast, the BRT connector would leave those funds intact, allowing the Airport to go ahead with the planned Terminal 1 Renovation project (which will have to be put on hold to fund BART’s AGT proposal). By freeing up these funds for the Airport’s renovation work, we will create more jobs, and provide an airport that is more appealing to attract more passengers and airlines.

  2. We can finally fund the Coliseum BART Transit Oriented Development Project. For years, there has been a strong desire, with no known opposition, to develop a significant new project at and around the Coliseum BART station, both to make the station itself more attractive and user-friendly, and to build a significant new transit village which would provide shops, restaurants, entertainment, hotel, and more. (Initial designs and drawings have already been prepared, but the project has not moved forward due to lack of funds. Transit villages tend to be built with a combination of public and private funds, and having $25 million in public infrastructure funding would make it possible to put together a full funding package, including private investment, to build this major new project). This is one of the most important economic development projects of our time, as it would provide economic development in East Oakland, thousands of jobs both in construction and in long-term positions, and a better experience for the tens of thousands of people who come to games and events at the Coliseum/Arena, providing millions in tax revenue for Oakland. The amount of money needed to launch this project would be available from the hundreds of millions saved. In fact, the Fruitvale Transit Village was able to be launched years ago because of initial public funding through ACTIA – and ACTIA would be able to use some of the money saved from the BRT Connector to provide this needed funding for the Coliseum BART Transit Village.

  3. Other “RM2” projects. Regional Measure 2 is the bridge toll charge which funds transit in the “bridge corridors.” By saving some of the $109 million in RM2 funds now proposed for the Connector, we can fund additional transit service and operations in our region, including express bus, BART, ferries, and more. (For example, if we use $40 million of this for the BRT connector, this would leave $69 million in additional transit service, which if used for transit operations, would provide about 500 direct jobs and provide tens of thousands of people with transit service).

  4. Seismic Retrofit Funds. BART plans to move tens of millions of dollars out of their seismic retrofit funds to pay for the AGT Connector. BART staff claims that they believe that the seismic retrofit project, scheduled to be completed in 2013, will come in “under budget” and therefore, they won’t need this money for seismic retrofit. However, since the project won’t be completed for four more years, we have no way of being sure this money won’t be needed for the seismic retrofit project, AND, even with the planned project, BART will NOT be bringing all of its system to the higher level of seismic preparedness. Therefore, if these funds are taken away from seismic retrofit, we will surely be asked in the future to give BART more money, from some other source, for this purpose. Or the BART system will be less seismically safe than it could be. Our safety in an earthquake and the ability of our vital transit system to withstand an earthquake are vital public goals which should not be put at risk to fund the more expensive connector!

  5. Attract economic development on the Hegenberger Corridor. Even the strongest advocates of BART’s proposal have spoken out about the importance of a project that can attract and serve new economic development on the Hegenberger Corridor, such as being able to provide a direct link from the Airport to planned Hotel Complex Development. In fact, in the Port’s own official documents about the planned Hotel, they explicitly mention the future Connector, with stops to serve the hotel. But the system BART is proposing lacks this ability, and therefore, will fail in this vital economic development goal. By choosing instead a BRT connector, with the ability to serve this development, we will be able to attract more jobs and a stronger local economy.


Numerous psychological studies have documented the fact that humans have a troubling tendency to assume that the higher-priced option must be of better quality when choosing between two products – even when there is no evidence this is true. In fact, evaluators put different price tags on the same orange juice, and test subjects reported that the one with the higher price tag tasted better. The same psychological problem is undermining a rational discussion about the Oakland Airport Connector. The reason we should prefer the more flexible BRT technology over BART”s proposed AGT “Elevated guideway” proposal is because BRT is actually much better in terms of the service we need for this important and growing corridor. Even if the BRT technology didn’t save hundreds of millions of dollars, it would still be the better choice – yet many find it hard to believe that a technology that costs ten times as much might actually not be any more desirable. Consider a hypothetical – if BART proposed to cover their trains with an outer wall of gold, this would make them cost hundreds of millions of dollars more – and, because gold is heavy, doing this would also make BART slower. So, even though gold-covered BART trains would be MUCH MORE expensive, they would NOT be better, in any way. Similarly, making the Airport Connector cost hundreds of millions of dollars extra, in order to use an elevated guideway which is actually SLOWER, and will dump riders out at an elevated platform in the Airport parking lot, and force them to go downstairs, outside, and across multiple lanes of traffic before entering the airport, is NOT better. When we look at actual goals, from economic development to “seamlessness” to speed, BART’s AGT proposal is actually worse than the BRT proposal. All while wasting money and killing other projects by taking the funding. We need to not be dazzled by the high price tag into thinking that is proof something is better. And, especially to survive and thrive in these economic times, we need to make sure our uses of public funds are cost-effective and viable, and not be seduced by wasteful proposals.

A Fair and Honest Evaluation

BART staff claims to have an analysis which shows their proposed AGT Connector is better than the BRT Connector, but an honest comparison was NEVER done. BART claimed to have hired consultants to evaluate the different alternatives, and claims that they concluded that the more cost-effective BRT alternative would not work, and therefore, we must choose BART’s “AGT” proposal. However, we have now learned that a fair evaluation was NOT done. Instead, in emails from BART staff to their consultants, in which they were hired to do this alleged “evaluation,” BART staff, rather than asking for an honest comparison, explicitly asked for a biased report.

Email from BART staff to consultants, Re: BRT Alternative:

Any information you can provide to put holes in this would be appreciated – we have some worried Board members and I need to easily discredit this ‘paper.’

So, BART staff knew that even their own Board was worried about the AGT proposal (which will increase BART’s budget deficit by at least $150 million), and BART staff asked consultants not only to help them lie to the public, but even to their own Board, about having done a fair evaluation when in fact they hired the evaluators with specific instructions to produce a biased report!

The original EIR in 2002 also avoided a fair evaluation, by using a “model” in which the AGT version was described as being much faster than has turned out to be the case, and included two intermediate stops, but the BRT version had NO such stops. Then, BART argued that this difference was the reason people should endorse the AGT version. Not only has this “benefit” now been removed from the AGT version, but also, the original claim by BART, that the BRT version could not have intermediate stops, was entirely fabricated. BRT has the ability to include intermediate stops, despite BART’s odd claims to the contrary, and now, the AGT version does NOT have them.

So, in conclusion, I am seeking not only to defend fiscal responsibility, jobs, economic growth, and to provide a better connector, but also to defend basic principles of honesty and fairness in decision-making about use of public funds. If someone really believes their proposal is the better one, they should be able to support it using truthful information and welcome an honest comparison.

We will be discussing these issues at Oakland City Hall on Tuesday Morning, at the Public Works Committee, and I look forward to an honest conversation, and to working together to strengthen our area’s transit and our area’s economy. Please attend the meeting, or if you cannot attend, you can get involved online here.

1 I suspect BART will claim that Hydrogen Fuel Cell is “impossible” – but this next generation green energy technology is efficient and in successful use within our region already. Hydrogen Fuel-Cell transit vehicles are available, and, due to the hundreds of millions of dollars available for this project, it is possible to use Hydrogen Fuel-Cell vehicles and save millions, since the entire BRT system, even with Hydrogen Fuel-Cell vehicles, can be developed for around $60 million (as compared to $550 million for the AGT system). Then, they might point out that there are only a couple-dozen hydrogen fueling stations on the planet, and of these, only about 5 stations on earth have the industrial-size capacity to handle transit vehicles. Luckily, one of these is located at right here in Oakland, less than 2 blocks from the Coliseum BART station! So we could have not only a cheaper connector, but also one using cutting-edge green energy.

Rebecca Kaplan is the At-large Councilmember for the City of Oakland.

78 thoughts on “Rebecca Kaplan: Building a better Airport Connector, to build a Better economy

  1. Dave C.

    Amen. And even if BART staff were correct that BRT is unworkable or inferior to AGT for some reason, then spending $0 million and keeping AirBART as it is would be a better option than this awful project.

    I have say, however, that gold-plated BART trains might actually be pretty cool. Talk about blingfrastructure!

  2. dto510

    The proposed connector is rubber-tired, like SFO’s. It is often erroneously described as rail by BART and transit funding agency staff, who know better.

  3. Victor Ochoa

    Thanks for taking this strong and well-thought out stand, Rebecca. One thing many of us learned from urban transit visionary Enrique Penalosa of Colombia is to not get dazzled by “sexy” transit alternatives that are ultra expensive, when there are reasonable and much less costly choices like BRT. Unfortunately, the BART board and staff have stars in their eyes that are blinding them to the obvious in this case – that the connector they are dreaming of is grossly disproportionately expensive compared to the amount of people to be moved. And that is only one of its big problems!

  4. SF2OAK

    Bravo Rebecca!

    Fav line:
    It is embarrassing to be told that Oakland’s best option is to spend the money on a single project that would be the least effective and most-expensive to ride airport connector in the world, while providing the fewest jobs and no support for economic growth.

  5. Patrick

    What I want to know is: “why?” Even leaving BRT out of the question, it is patently obvious that the OAC is a horrible project, with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Yet, the BART board is trying to ram it down the public’s throats. WHY? What’s in it for them? We need an FBI investigation; something in this whole mess smells worse than the last BART train I was on.

  6. Chris Kidd

    Patrick, it seems pretty clear to me why BART is so set on making this boondoggle happen: People have staked their political careers on getting this project through. Their careers, and the livelyhoods of some of their erstwhile supporters (and probably campaign contributors) in the construction community are probably relying on it as well. They lose face, they lose clout, they lose money. Compared to that, $550 million on the wrong project is probably pretty palatable to them.

  7. Madeleine

    Who has ever clamored for this connector anyways? If Bart has a lot of money it wants to spend and jobs it wants to create, by all means invest it in late-night service. But airport to Bart connection? It’s a non-issue. Forget a Bart extension, forget BRT or any other grand plan. Have any of these people complaining about the shuttle ever taken it? It’s as good as any public transit around here will ever be. Sometimes the simplest solution is, indeed, the right one.

  8. Joanna Adler

    Becks – I am no longer working, so I plan to be at City Hall tomorrow speaking out against the OAC!

  9. Naomi Schiff

    I am very sorry I have to stay at work Tuesday morning and will miss the PW discussion, but thank you, Rebecca, for this cogent post. I will communicate with the city council, though, and I hope everyone else has or will do so as well. BART is seriously in the running now as my least-favorite public agency, and even with competition they are pulling ahead. This haplessness has got to stop.

  10. Andrew in Berkeley

    I’m glad there’s still a strong chance to defeat this bone-headed boondoggle. BRT to the airport makes significantly more sense.

  11. AustinOAK

    Rebecca – this is a STELLAR analysis of the OAC Proposal. Truely.

    Can we please get the Oakland City Council to weigh in on this asap? I suspect that you might be leading that effort already.

    BRT is the BEST solution – I support that 1000%

  12. Chris L

    Prior to filing her campaign papers to run for City Council, Council-At-Large seat, Rebecca Kaplan was an active member in the Leftist-Progressive-Socialistically Green Party, but, quickly changed her affiliation to Democrat to get her endorsements (namely unions) for her run.

    She also served on the Board of Directors at AC Transit.

    Of course she’s concerned about job losses in the Bay Area; we have the highest paid municipal workforce in the country, with unions that are some of the largest contributors to election campaigns.

    There’s nothing “green” about buses.

    I use to transit via the Colisuem Bart-link to get to OAK airport. However, my safety comes first and I’ll take BART directly to SFO and avoid OAK.

  13. SF2OAK

    Chris L.

    I don’t really care about a politicians party affiliation (or I would not have given Rebecca a big Bravo above) when a pol does the right thing they ought to get applauded/ rewarded.

    The fact is is that OAC connector is a waste of taxpayer money. Again Bravo to Rebecca for saying that (and showing that.)

    There’s nothing “green” about buses.” What? these busses will be hydrogen fuel cell so I think there is a green component and what’s so green about an empty BART train- where does the electricity come from? and how green is that manu. process. How green should you be to get to an airport ferrevinsake?

  14. SF2OAK

    New fav. line

    “It is embarrassing to be told that Oakland’s best option is to spend the money on a single project that would be the least effective and most-expensive to ride airport connector in the world, while providing the fewest jobs and no support for economic growth. I know we can do so much better.”

    The bar is set pretty low. how about free taxis from bart station to airport that would be better than OAC.

  15. Ralph

    I too would like to support Ms. Kaplan and our fight against waste and inefficiency. With any luck other smart minds will see the folly in a go-forward with the OAC.

  16. Frankie D

    Chris L who cares what her past party affiliations are? Kaplan makes a logical sound argument against this piece of overpriced, outdated, blingfrastructure. One would think a conservative or a liberal would support this logic. But heaven forbid we agree with someone on a particular point even though other aspects of their politics differ from our own.

  17. gem s

    It’s not “green” to build an entirely new elevated rail system when there’s a perfectly functional strip of asphalt that runs directly from BART to the airport. As far as electric power goes, over 60% of California’s electricity comes from natural gas and coal, most of it imported from other states. I agree that electrically powered vehicles seem cleaner when you’re standing next to them, but when power plant emissions are factored into the equation, modern diesel engines are cleaner and cheaper.

    You don’t have to a union sympathizer to be concerned about job losses, BTW. Generally speaking, the more people that are employed, the better off we all are.

  18. Work in Oakland

    A few clarifications: 1-one of the vehicles being considered only takes 7 mins one way. 2- there is a provision in the route for an additional station mid-way. 3- the station at the airport doesn’t drop you “in the middle of the parking lot”, but at the edge of the driveway in front of the terminals, where you will cross, along with everyone who drives and parks there, or takes a shuttle bus.

  19. Rebecca Kaplan

    Thanks much to everyone for your thoughtful comments. One correction to the above: In today’s presentation, BART did say that the amount of time their proposed OAC system will take does depend on which vehicle technology they choose, BUT, in any case, the trip time range they are projecting is from 12 minutes to 15 minutes. (The 7 minute figure was in an old 2002 report, but BART is no longer claiming that even their fastest option will take less than 12 minutes).

  20. Joanna Adler

    It was quite fun watching Molly McArthur’s face and listening to her comments as people spoke.

    A savings of 8 to even 15 minutes isn’t going to make a difference when service is cut because there’s no money to run it.

    If you asked someone if they wanted to pay $3 each way for AirBART as it is now, $5 for a BRT system, or $6 each way for a new OAC – none of which are seamless like we voted on, much less like the SFO connector, which do you think people would choose. If AirBART is profitable as it is now, then it makes even less sense to do OAC, because one has to ask if that would EVER be profitable.

    Is (possibly) reducing the transit time worth $70 million dollars that COULD be spent on other BART improvements and saving other jobs? If we save jobs, that will create money that people can spend on building something and hiring contractors…

    To me it’s like building a new park that we can’t afford to maintain… oh wait, didn’t we do that too?

    I could almost understand the passion if it was a) seamless and b) if the proposed OAC had extra stops. Oh yeah, but we can’t afford them – ANY MORE THAN WE CAN AFFORD OAC!

    My favorite line was, “Just you have a coupon for $70 million dollars, doesn’t mean you have to use it.” Priceless!

  21. Patrick

    As I have never used Oakland Int’l Airport, I must first confess my ignorance. However, is it safe to assume that the multiple lanes of traffic that must be crossed after de-OACing is San Leandro? And, isn’t San Leandro a city of Oakland street…a street on which Oakland could erect an 8′ high, 3-5 block barrier in the median if it chose to? Perhaps coupled with a pedestrian bridge – with a $20 fee to cross? If not, perhaps we could employ disaffected ACTransit riders to harass potential OAC riders at the Coliseum BART station. I imagine we’d have many applicants.

    Oakland has a stake in EVERY aspect of this boondoggle. Carving up/bypassing our city streets to further appease the egos of suburbanites is not acceptable. Oaklanders unite! Make sure that the OAC is a failure – whether or not it is built.

  22. Rebecca Kaplan

    More info:

    Yes, the BRT Connector vehicle in the photo is run on LPG fuel, but I am not proposing we use LPG. The BRT vehicles are available also in hydrogen fuel-cell, and also hybrid-electric models.

    I believe that Oakland definitely has a stake in this, for numerous reasons, including the $89 million in Oakland taxpayer dollars (sales tax) involved in the project, the carving up of Oakland streets, the cuts to local Oakland transit service caused by giving certain funds to the project which would otherwise go to “transit system preservation,” and more. And, of course, since BART staff told other agencies that Oakland is in support of their proposal, it is kind of funny that now that Oakland is questioning it, they are saying they don’t care about Oakland’s opinion, because when they were saying Oakland supports the project, they seemed to care about Oakland’s opinion.

    Finally, I want to make clear that my goal is to make sure that what we do is a success — which is a totally reasonable goal, and which BRT (along with the other transit and infrastructure improvements we could fund) could certainly help make happen.

  23. DontBotherDelores

    John Klein, you’re post is an insult to people of faith whatever your thought is about the OAC.

  24. ron

    If anyone has rode the current bus, the ridiculous thing is once you get on, it slowly drives around the block and basically ends up where it started before going to the airport.

    I suspect that even without BRT, if that going around the block is taken care of with some re-configuration, and the bus gets one of those devices that changes lights to green, you would achieve 85-90% of the BRT efficiency with even less cost.

  25. len raphael

    why does larry reid support this? JK, what are big $$ you’re referring to? i might not agree with his positions, but he seems a principled guy (for a pol).


  26. Frankie D

    We have to make smarter decisions with our limited tax dollars especially now, this helps everyone not just the citizens of Oakland but rather the entire Bay Area. A clearly smarter decision is to build a new infill station at 98th Ave. and incorporate a state fo the art BRT system at that new stop. It could be designed so that you board the bus within the paid BART area if necessary. It would be closer to OAK then the airport/colisieum station and done at half the cost. This solution would best serve the people of Councilman Reid’s district.

  27. Robert

    I’m thinking it would actually be cheaper to just pay for taxis for the 4000 people a day for the next 30 years than it is to dump $550M into the airport connector (at $10 each way, 350 days a year for 4000 passengers that is only $470M). Just saying.

  28. freddy

    Will this proposed airport connector also serve the recently re-located rental car lot?

    Well, that would be be practical – so we know the answer to that.

    Of course not!

  29. Rebecca Kaplan

    Thanks for the question, I know it seems more bizarre with each new piece of information. Although BART staff said the plan is to give Oakland what SFO got, in fact, SFO got a Connector that serves every airport terminal directly, whereas Oakland gets one stop in the parking lot outside the middle of the two terminals. And, SFO got a Connector that serves also the long-term parking, and the Rental car center. By contrast, Oakland Airport will *still* have to pay for, from its own budget, additional millions to keep running seperate shuttle buses to the long-term parking and to the rental car center, since the Connector will not serve them. And, SFO riders got the benefit of a fare of just $1.50 since it opened, but OAC riders would have to pay $6.00. And, since BART just raised the SFO fare to $4, there has been outcry and protest against the new SFO fare, and now, San Francisco Airport is paying extra money to add: A Bus to their airport! To serve those outraged by the new higher BART SFO fare….

    (Whereas the BRT alternative would likely have a fare of $2, because the costs would be so much less and there would be no debt payments needed.)

  30. len raphael

    David, you don’t have to look for illegal bribes, it can be explained by legal back scratching by unions, contractors,port and bart management, and politicians. much much bigger boondoogles than this are routinely approved in the usa (and the world). japan is famous for building empty museums and bridges to nowhere to stimulate their economy. etc.

  31. Rebecca Kaplan

    Bad decision-making can happen without anybody being bribed, and without anybody intentionally being corrupt. Given some of the comments above, I felt the need to clarify that I think that Councilmember Larry Reid is a person of integrity who cares about doing the right thing for his district and for Oakland. Also, I ask people please NOT to mock someone for their faith. Putting down my colleague for his faith is no more okay than it would be to put me down for my sexual orientation, or any other personal trait that is unrelated to a valid policy disagreement.

    I think the biggest cause of bad decision-making in this case (the OAC) is inertia. Many people agreed to support a project years ago, and although the project has changed and gotten much more expensive, it is hard for numerous government agencies to “change their minds” because there seems to be a presumption that once we have started in a certain direction we must keep heading that way, without regard to new information or changed circumstances.

    This is a common problem in decision-making, especially in large organizations where decisions must be made by multiple people acting together.

  32. Max Allstadt

    Wow. Thanks for stepping in and softening the tone Rebecca. As outrageous as the OAC is, we cannot expect to oppose it successfully if we stoop to equally outrageous invective.

    In my involvement in local politics, I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty despicable and outlandish allegations, and I can say with certainty that the last thing they make me want to do is bow out or give up. Being a jerk is a tactic most likely to backfire.

    And I wholeheartedly agree, inertia is more rampant than bribery or cronyism.

    Offering and accepting bribes is so illegal and so punishable in this country that the odds of a BART official making $180k a year taking a bribe are pretty slim. People with a comfortable lifestyle just have too much to lose. It’s a pretty big leap and assumption to decide that a silly and wasteful project is happening because of corruption.

    There just aren’t that many Rod Blagojeviches and Randy Cunninghams in America. That kind of hubris is exceptionally rare, and so exceptional that when it happens, we really take notice.

    Lets focus on the facts. They’re on our side and there are plenty of them.

  33. Patrick

    Rebecca, while I agree with the underlying premise of your recent comment, the fact remains that BART staff specifically asked consultants to “put holes in this” because “we have some worried Board members and I need to easily discredit this ‘paper.’” That’s not inertia – that’s fraud.

    Max: “It’s a pretty big leap and assumption to decide that a silly and wasteful project is happening because of corruption”. I don’t think it’s something we’ve “decided” but – to the average person considering the facts – it sure seems possible. A project that wastes $550 million (which is $73.40 for every man, woman and child in the Bay Area) is not “silly”. It is a huge amount of money that, if spent on this wasteful boondoggle, will negatively affect area transportation, Bay Area transit operators and their finances, for decades. Not to mention the impact another overhead piece of transportation infrastructure will do to that part of Oakland. Living in West Oakland as you do, you witness the result of that kind of physical divide daily.

  34. Max Allstadt

    Don’t get me wrong, Patrick. I think it’s a horrible project, a boondoggle of epic proportions, and something that must be stopped (and will be).

    It is the single most inefficient use of transit funds in the history of the United States. BART’s PR people have been stretching the truth beyond the breaking point in order to get it funded and started. It’s an abomination. I’ve shown up and said so at BART meetings. I also have said that I want to see Carole Ward Allen and James Fang run out of office.

    As for the fraud you speak of: No that’s not ok, and neither is BART staff lobbying on the clock. Neither is the ham-handed attempt to astroturf the blogs that Becks noticed earlier in this fight. But…I just don’t think that there are bribes to blame, nor do I think that unfounded accusations of bribe taking serve the cause of stopping the project.

  35. Patrick

    The BART board has advanced their agenda by lying, so why can’t we?

    I wrote the above after viewing the youtube link on your Twitter page. The Republicans have learned that deceit is a perfectly fine way to advance your agenda – especially if the people you are preaching to are a bunch of morons who have no use for factual information. Obama caved on a Public Option as a result. I read an article – was it in Time? – that suggested that Democrats/Liberals fail to advance their agenda specifically because they rely on factual information. As the BART board’s resolute march towards building the OAC is not based on reason or facts, the opposition will not win by playing with a different set of rules. If the revelation that BART staff commited fraud can’t stop the OAC (which in and of itself is amazing), perhaps getting people to believe that the OAC is the result of bribes from the Chinese government, as part of their plan to occupy California, will.

  36. Guy Span

    We do not need to lie about the OAC. The facts are so horrible that there is no need to embellish them. Why not consider a lawsuit claiming that the use of RM-1 and RM-2 funds, which are directed to mitigate congestion in bridge corridors, are being illegally applied to the OAC. No rational mind can find a nexus between the OAC and bridge congestion mitigation.

    $31 Million RM-1
    $78 Million RM-2
    $50 Million BART Seismic “leftovers” that came from RM-2

    Total $159 million

    That might put a dent in this project. Note that final bids from the consortia are due by Sept. 22; award January 10, 2020.

  37. Max Allstadt

    I totally disagree.

    BART lies, we fact check and prove they’re liars.

    We tell the truth, they try to do a bogus fact check, we catch them in the lie.

    Stopping this project is about winning over the City Council, not the populus as much. Only a small percentage of the general public will likely even pay attention to this.

    This fight is about empowering Oakland to fight back against being bullied by regional agencies that have explicitly said they don’t care about Oakland.

    Scott Hagerty, an Alameda County supervisor, has said “Oakland doesn’t matter” in this fight. Molly McArthur of BART has said that this decision isn’t Oakland’s to make.

    We need to get the city council to look these folks in the eye at the next meeting and say “screw you and the crumbling infrastructure you rode in on”.

    This is our city. Our right of way that BART wants to put a boondoggle in. And it is our BART riders that will suffer fare hikes, service cuts and safety problems when that boondoggle sucks all the money out of the system.

    We also need to ask our Councilmembers to contact their allies at the state and federal level. The democrats do not want to see this project becoming a talking point against Obama’s stimulus. It is the most expensive transit project per passenger mile in the history of the US (I bet the space shuttle is more economical.) It is the most unpopular stimulus project in the US. It could be used by the right to embarrass the president and the democratic congress.

    All of this is fact. We don’t need to lie, because we’re right.

  38. Patrick

    We’ve been right all along – and that hasn’t made one bit of difference. They’ve been lying all along – that hasn’t made one bit of difference either. The OAC is closer than ever to becoming a reality. The Oakland City Council can pass all the resolutions it want’s to but until you convince – or force – 5 BART board members to change their votes, the OAC is as good as built.

  39. len raphael

    MA, you might be on to something with making the OAC a political football. Hand this on a silver platter to the conservative blogs as an obama union bridge to nowhere and we’re much more likely to get this killed then counting on our council to pass a non binding resolution.

    now if we could just tie accorn to this…

  40. Max Allstadt


    I absolutely do not want to hand anything to conservatives or conservative bloggers. I’m scared enough that they’ll find this debacle on their own.


    No, if Oakland’s council votes against the OAC, it’s the end of the OAC. So far the only politicians to vote on the OAC are obscure ones. A clear statement from the council changes the game entirely.

  41. Naomi Schiff

    Carole Ward Allen’s term is up in 2010. Time to either get help from her or find another candidate? Two other directors with Oakland turf are up in 2012. These are the three to target, it seems to me.

    Who wants to run for BART board on a green/sustainable transit platform? I think we should start now.

  42. Max Allstadt

    Naomi, James Fang is also a worthwhile target because he’s the last republican in any office in the city of San Francisco. That in and of itself is a liability for him. That and he’s a horrendous board member.

  43. len raphael

    MA, no risk of this catching rush’s eye. i’m sure in a program the size of the last stimulous bill that involved a bunch of log rolling, there are much bigger fiscal fiascos.

  44. Max Allstadt

    Len, I’m actually pretty confident that the OAC is the least popular, least fiscally responsible and least transparent use of stimulus funds in the entire country.

  45. Patrick

    Eh. $70 million in stimulus funds (which is only 12.7% of total funding) is not remarkable or interesting. It also does not meet the media ADD test: can the reason it is such a boondoggle be explained in 15 seconds or less? No, it can’t. On its face, it really does seem like a good project: replacing a bus from the train to the airport with overhead, “seamless” service. Except that it’s not seamless. But the City Councilmember of that district is for it. And it’s more costly than we agreed to. But the people voted for it. And riders have to cross a street… By the time all of that is explained, people have turned the channel, figuratively or literally.

    The footnotes of history are the province of honorable losers.

  46. len raphael

    has any one talked to Larry Reid one on one?

    without his support, why would most of the other council members want to stick their necks out and guarantee losing points w him?

  47. Max Allstadt

    OK Patrick, here’s the ADD version.

    1. BART is 8 billion in debt and just RAISED FARES.
    2. They now want to spent $550 million to replace an inexpensive bus that works great.
    3. This will force them to RAISE FARES AGAIN.

  48. Allan

    What we really need is “across the platform” interchange between BART and buses, at the airport station, at McArthur, and other urban BART stations. Passengers need to be able to walk across, no steps up or down, no turnstyles, as though it were one system, so they can carry luggage, groceries, packages etc. The objective is to make it easy to complete the entire trip bus-BART-bus, not to focus on one leg of the trip. It would be expensive to reconfigure our poorly designed stations to focus on the passenger, but we would get some real value.

  49. Guy Span


    An excellent idea. The buses that meet BART could roll through an elevated station, eliminating the need for passengers to go down and out. This would be every bit as “seamless” as the proposed OAC.

    Nice thinking.

  50. Patrick

    Max, you have just proven my original point. All of that is well-known – yet hasn’t made a single bit of difference. TransForm and its supporters have shown up at every single meeting. They present their case. The people in charge go “uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh” and then approve whatever it is they have to approve to move the OAC forward. Sticking to an opposition plan that has failed miserably thus far seems like a poor strategy to me.

  51. Max Allstadt

    It hasn’t made a bit of difference in the playground politics of BART board and the other random-acronym boards that have approved the project.

    City Council is different because those seats are actually competitive. That means they actually have to pay attention to their constituents. Plus, the Oakland City Council is a minor league political body, much more likely to affect the opinions of major league politicos that could stop the project. BART board isn’t minor league. BART board is tee-ball. The Council can trump them simply by virtue of their visibility and connections.

  52. Naomi Schiff

    Getting to the BART board members directly is critical. The thing I have learned in local affairs is that things are rarely decided at meetings. By the time of a meeting it is often too late, with the policymakers having already figured out how they will vote.

    A coordinated strategy is what’s needed to put some pressure on these BART people. The people who stand to make money out of the OAC are certainly not waiting for any hearings. It will take about ten times as many opponents as proponents, since opponents might not have the big bucks to wave around. But I believe it is possible. It requires advocates think about contacts and connections and figure out how to approach the board members, and then to do so in a coherent, polite, but firm manner.

  53. Patrick

    Yes, Max, it is obvious that BART is trembling in their boots about what the City Council thinks. Telling the Public Works commitee to fuck off and mind their own business was simply part of their nefarious scheme to capitulate at the last minute, but having a jolly good laugh in the interim.

  54. Guy Span

    A key ingredient to significant funds comes from the MTC aprroving RM-1 and RM-2 funds, including BART’s supposed $50 million in “spare cash” for seismic upgrades, that they would now prefer to spend on the OAC. Add to the pot some $70 million in allocated MTC funds that could have gone to transit preservatrion, and you will find the “bad guys” here: The MTC and the BART board.

    To them it’s a done deal. And outside litigation, it will remain a done deal. This is an ideal candidate for TRANSDEF to challange, as the RM-1 and 2 funds are to mitigate effects of bridge congestion and cannot be applied to spurious projects that have no nexus to bridge congestion (bridge tolls funds RM-1 and RM-2).

    The City of Oakland can censure this project, but this will not change either the MTC or the BART Board’s position. It may help in a future lawsuit to remove bridge congestion funds, should someone have the ability to challenge this.

    This project has taken a life of its own and we need help to stop it.

  55. Patrick

    As an aside, Max postulates that City Council seats are “competitive”. Are they? Who was the last incumbent to lose their seat?

  56. Max Allstadt


    They’re competitive by comparison to a BART Board seat or an AC Supe seat. Meaning you have to actually run a campaign to keep your seat on the Council as opposed to BART Board, where you simply have to fill out the election forms, make some coffee and wait.

    And it doesn’t matter if BART is “trembling in their boots” or not. Remember, BART is dumb. They don’t know what to be afraid of.

    The Oakland City Council represents a real chance to stop this project, and I’m not really interested in continuing a debate that’s shaping up as “it’s hopeless” vs. “no it ain’t”, ad nauseum.

    The reason people reading this Blog need to know it isn’t hopeless is that every vote against the OAC from a City Councilmember is important. We need readers to be writing their Councilmembers and demanding votes against the OAC. While I’ve spoken with Larry Reid and we politely disagreed on this topic, I believe a 7-1 vote is absolutely possible here, and needs to be pursued. I’m not giving up, and neither should anybody else.

  57. Patrick

    I’ve never suggested that the cause is “hopeless”. But I also don’t believe that the most virtuous side will necessarily prevail.

    Now. I need to go get me some election forms. I’m going to be a BART board member!

  58. Rebecca Kaplan

    Incumbent City Councilmember Moses Mayne lost to challenger Desley Brooks in 2002 for Oakland Council District 6.

    And, perhaps more importantly, what Oakland says on this really does matter. Numerous outside funding agencies have been told, by BART, that “Oakland endorses this project,” and they would be influenced by learning that wasn’t true. Several members of those agencies have explicitly asked (some in public, some made the request directly to me), to have Oakland give input about what to do now that the project has changed so much. Even a couple BART board members have said, “I don’t understand why Oakland would still support this, given that Oakland had said its priority was the intermediate stops to promote economic development on the corridor, but BART staff are telling us that this is what Oakland wants.”

    There are a wide variety of ways that Oakland can still influence the outcome of this project — so please, don’t give up hope! And, it will require a vote of the City Council — so please don’t give up taking action and calling your Councilmember.

  59. Naomi Schiff

    I don’t know if it is still true, but years ago when engaged in a controversy with BART I discovered that not so many people go to their meetings. They were very surprised and upset when we spoke up to the press, and when we attended a bunch of their meetings. Certainly if the staff is misrepresenting Oakland’s feelings we should be disabusing the board members!

  60. Ralph

    Moses Mayne? Wasn’t he elected in a special election with 4 candidates and in office for less than a year? But I digress. I get where the OAC bites monkey butt but what were the benefits of the original plan that I am giving up?

    I am not convinced that my opposition for purely financial reasons is going to win the day. Despite all the reasons to do so, I have never known either a municipality or an agency to reverse course when the financial analysis says abort.

  61. Patrick

    Yes, Moses Mayne won in the April, 2001 special election but lost 11 months later to Desley Brooks. When’s the last time a “real” incumbent lost?

    I have no doubt that the Council will vote “yes” on the resolution.

  62. Allan

    Seems to have degenerated to the usual “who can be more cynical” – remember – you can’t beat something with nothing – you need an alternative proposal.

  63. Max Allstadt

    And there is an alternative proposal. BRT. A tenth the price and better for East Oakland. More adaptable, more scalable, more repeatable.

    As for incumbents losing elections, I believe Nancy Nadel was the last person to unseat a full term incumbent, but I may be wrong.

    That’s not the point. The point is that incumbent BART Board and County Supes don’t even have to work to keep their seats. Last election, De La Fuente and Nadel had to run serious, expensive campaigns, and Nadel came within under 200 votes of a runoff.

    BART Board and the Supes have nothing like that kind of race to deal with. They’re relatively unknown names in relatively low-profile seats. They can fairly easily ignore the public voice. (Although with the Oscar Grant fiasco and losing the support of virtually every pro-transit advocacy group, BART Board might actually have some fights on their hands in 2010.)

  64. len raphael

    can someone (no, i don’t expect RK to respond but that wb great) explain the politics keeping the various cc members from publicly opposing the OAC? no conspiracy theories pleease :)

    i assume the cc members see no reason to waste their banked favor credits with regional transit powers that be and construction unions over an issue that most oakland voters either don’t know about, dont care about, or will forget about before next election.


  65. Patrick

    How about this: the City Council (along with the airport and port) can put forth an alternate proposal to create a Coliseum BART station to OAK shuttle that exactly mimics the TransForm proposal. Isn’t the Port already contributing enough to pay for the BRT system outright? Or, the CC could vote to place a bond measure on the next ballot. It’s been shown that it would be revenue-positive. That would put the OAC on even shakier ground, financially (which doesn’t seem possible). With the prospect of competition, the BART board would be forced to prove that it could effectively compete – which it can’t.

    RE: the BRT proposal – it is truly amazing what a polished and professional proposal was put forth in such a little amount of time. If done correctly, BRT could not only transform Hegenberger, but would potentially give ACTransit something to point to when it argues with shopkeepers on Telegraph.

  66. Steve Lowe

    Max, Nancy beat out the incumbent, Natalie Bayton, for any number of reasons thirteen years ago, and Natalie had a sizable following in West Oakland. And though Nancy’s 200-vote margin was indeed tight in this last election, she did manage to garner more than 50 percent of the vote against a very popular, well-established West Oakland resident who had served brilliantly on the OUSD Board and another equally bright individual who had the backing of the Chamber’s super-flush Political Action Committee.

    It was a tough race, and our democratic system was well-served – unlike other places hereabouts where the candidates are too often merely the lesser of six or seven evils. Overall, it seems like fault enough can be ascribed to just about anyone zany enough to stand for office these days (followers of this blog excepted, of course), so we in District 3 came out okay in the wash this time, particularly when compared to how it used to be back in the days before Redding when the Council was a complete mess and downtown damn near dead and buried.

    As Nancy is opposed to OAC, Rebecca’s analysis of the situation is pertinent: two or three more votes translates into a real problem for the hard line apologists at MTC, BART, CTC, etc. With enough of a yowl, maybe Arnold will step in as he did on the BB span and demand another bid. Who knows? Meanwhile, if Jean, Desley and Pat are open enough to see the awful downside of the connector (where’s the two stops in between that we were promised?),
    maybe there’s five votes against.

    Incidentally, the Mayor’s Task Forces recommended that a Transportation Commission be established just so that vital community input could counterbalance exactly this kind of sleazeball situation where policy descends from on high, representative of no one but special interests. In the meantime our At Large Councelmember (who, as above, served on the Transportation Task Force) has contemplated starting a Transportation Roundtable, sorta like the one that Supervisor Nate Miley began years ago when he ably served as District 6 Councilmember.

    It’s a great idea, and I hope she’ll convene it soon: I’m ready to draw diagrams, write screeds and/or get involved as someone who believes that Oakland’s voice in transportation matters, especially considering our ultra-strategic position at the very epicenter of the greater Bay Area metropolitan region, is absolutely paramount.

    Do you think anyone else might be willing to participate?


    – S

  67. David

    You don’t think there’s any bribery going on here? Wow. I have a BART connector to sell you, cheap.

    Just like Willie Brown and the BART extension to SFO, when it would have cost 1/10th as much to upgrade CalTrain and connect it to Montgomery (which of course is now being proposed)? I’m sure Willie’s tailor is paid in lots of small bills.

    The only difference between here and Chicago is that in Chicago, 1) the bribes are cheaper (zoning change? $5,000, thank you very much) and 2) when you bribe someone, that thing gets done, whereas here you have a much bigger chance of it not happening (but the pol still takes the money, i.e. Don Perata).

    As for the other political comments, I find it hilarious that in an area where there has been no elected Republican officials for, what, 40 years, residents still blame them for all their ills, or claim that they have the political monopoly on “lying.” (for a hoot, check out ACORN’s voter registration lists). Grow up and repeat, “the personal is NOT the political” and get that antiquated 60′s crud out of your system.

    Yes, many politicians and bureaucrats are idiots, fools, and gullible. But when hundreds of millions of dollars get thrown about, you can be 100% sure that those politicians are getting their beaks wet.

  68. Guy Span

    BART indicates that since the City of Oakland is not signatory to the OAC documents, then Oakland’s opinion is bootless. To build an aerial connector will require condemning some property from the City and others. Use along Hegenberger will create a shadow and noise for current property owners and not benefit the residents and businesses of this area.

    Perhaps the city and property owners might object to this shadow and noise further impinging on the ambiance of the area. If the OAC perhaps put it underground, these would not be issues… The environmental impact and taking of city land for project that the city might not endorse is certainly high-handed behavior. And a lack of support by the city might cause the Port to rethink applying its airport seat charge to this project.

    MTC’s questionable behavior is highlighted in today’s article:

  69. Dan

    I am curious about the cooperative agreement regarding the OAC between Oakland and BART. Please tell me about the impact the proposed resolution would have on that agreement, and any other existing and possible future agreements between these two entities.
    Thank you.
    Maxwell Park resident