The MTC, the Oakland Airport Connector, and Larry Reid

By now, I’m sure you have read plenty about the MTC’s decision last week to take $70 million of the $340 million in stimulus funding for transit received by the agency and allocate it to the Oakland Airport Connector.

I wrote about the proposal for the Oakbook two weeks ago, and Becks at Living in the O, John Knox White at Stop, Drop, and Roll, and Eric at Transbay Blog reminded you about it again before the meeting. If you missed all that, here’s the (somewhat) short version.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is a Bay Area agency responsible for regional transportation planning. Most State and Federal funding for transportation in the Bay Area (both roads and public transit) goes to the MTC, which then distributes it for regional road and highway projects and among transit agencies. They are also the responsible body for administering regional transportation funds, like those received from bridge tolls. The basic idea is that having a regional body do all this will ensure better coordination between agencies and greater efficiency of funds than would happen if everyone was acting independently.

The MTC is governed by a nineteen member board, composed of local elected officials. San Francisco County, Alameda County, Santa Clara County, Contra Costa County, and San Mateo County each get to representatives on the Commission – one member of that county’s Board of Supervisors, and one person to represent the cities in that county. For us, that means Alameda County Supervisor from Fremont Scott Haggerty representing Alameda County and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates representing the cities in Alameda County. Marin County, Solano County, Sonoma County, and Napa County each get one Commissioner to represent both the cities in the county and the county itself. The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Bay Conversation and Development Commission each get a representative, as does the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the US Department of Transportation, and the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency.

Got all that? Without getting too much into the chip I’ve got on my shoulder about the MTC, I’ll just note that our county representative is so far out that the interests of his District are much more aligned with Santa Clara County’s than most of Alameda County, and the ABAG representative is Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. Santa Clara County is way over-represented and Oakland gets basically nothing. It’s not just me that thinks its unfair, either. The MTC is currently being sued over inequity in their distribution of public transit funds. The argument is basically that the MTC’s inequitable subsidies to local transit agencies violate Federal and State civil rights laws because they disproportionately subsidize agencies that serve affluent white customers while neglecting agencies like AC Transit which serves primarily transit-dependent people of color. This nifty little chart (PDF) illustrates the disparity. Bus advocates in Los Angeles won a similar case several years ago.

So the MTC was allocated by formula $343 million (PDF) for transit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, usually referred to as the stimulus package. Local transit agencies and riders wanted the MTC to disburse all of that money to the agencies for system preservation. The combination of plummeting sales tax revenues and the gutting of transit funding by the State has left most of these agencies in dire straights, so the influx of stimulus cash is much needed. Instead, the MTC decided to give 79% of it to system operators, and reserve $70 million for the Oakland Airport Connector project.

So, this was a terrible decision. Bay Area transit agencies desperately need every penny they can get for system preservation, so they can maintain operations needed to get people to jobs (and also avoid putting people out of work). That angle has been pretty well covered, so I’m going to leave it at that. What is not getting enough attention is what a ginormous boondoggle the Airport Connector is.

BART has been wanting an improved connection between the Coliseum BART station and the Oakland Airport for years. They have decided that the best way to connect the airport to the BART station is to build an automated train in the sky. Partial funding for what was supposed to be a $130 million project was included in the expenditure plan for 2000′s Measure B reauthorization (that’s our half-cent sales tax for transportation). The BART Board certified the EIR for the project seven years ago. The plan back then was that the system would start operating in 2008.

Of course, sky trains are expensive, and even with significant public funding committed to the project from a variety of sources, BART decided in 2005 that they were not going to be able to finance the project without private assistance. In February 2006, the issued a Request for Qualifications seeking companies willing to enter into a public-private partnership that would build and operate the suddenly $388 million project. The got five responses, and ended up selecting three teams to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) to get the contract. The RFP was issued in May 2007, with an original due date of September 2007. The deadline was then extended to early 2008, with a goal that a contract would be awarded by summertime and service would begin in 2011. By the end of 2007, two of the three pre-qualified teams had dropped out of discussions, and that timeline started looking a little less feasible. Finally, last November, after five separate deadline extensions, the third and final team withdrew from bidding. BART said at the time that they would start looking for more cost efficient connection alternatives.

Of course, then the stimulus package came along. And despite Obama’s warning not to waste that money, the MTC decided to do exactly that and take $70 million from their stimulus award and allocate it to the airport connector. The project, as it stands now, is estimated to cost $529 million. Existing public funding (before the stimulus money) only amounts to $288 million (that represents a combination of funds from ACTIA (Measure B money), the Port of Oakland, the State Transportation Improvement Program, MTC bridge toll funds, and the Federal Transit Administration. The MTC plans to cover the shortfall with contributions from a bunch of different pots of money – savings from the Doolittle Flyover project ($30 million), toll revenue ($20 million), savings from the BART tube seismic retrofit ($50 million), and of course, $70 million from the stimulus package. If you’re doing the math in your head and thinking about now that it doesn’t seem to quite add up, you’re right. The existing public funding, plus all this additional public funding, plus the stimulus money still leaves the project $71 million short. The idea is that BART would find the rest of the cash, probably through an agreement with a private system operator.

The existing shuttle service between the Oakland Airport and the BART station is AirBART, a bus that operates in mixed traffic. AirBART’s reliability is okay. but nobody questions the need for a better connection. But a connection that costs $165 million per mile (assuming the cost doesn’t grow even more, which it obviously will) is insane. A reliable surface transportation service could be built using only part of the already allocated existing public funding, which would free up the rest of the money for other transportation improvements and would have the advantage of encouraging ancillary transit oriented development. All this was excellently summed up by TransForm Executive Director Stuart Cohen, in what was hands down the best public comment at the meeting:

Regarding the Oakland Airport Connector. When we were involved in Measure B and the negotiations for it and then the campaign to support it, that was a $130 million project. Go back to the ballot – $65 million from Measure B for it, we need 65 of matching funds. Today, that project is asking the region – money that is not yet used – $420 million just for the match. The match went from 65 to 420. Only a little bit of that is inflation.

This project is three miles long. This project is not guaranteed to be a huge success. I spent a lot of time in New York this summer, spent a lot on AirTran by JFK, not many people riding it.

What we are proposing is now that the congestion has been taken care of by the terminal – that was the reason the bus alternative looked terrible in 99 and 2000, to have a study of a rapid bus alternative that is 100% free to riders in perpetuity. And we believe that you could use the money that the Port is offering, and the RM2 money could be flexed to allow that, to fund that project. I think you’d have higher ridership, you’d have greater affordability, one of the goals we had a hard time meeting as part of this RTP. And with that higher ridership, you’d come in similar or better on greenhouse gas emissions.

We don’t need Star Trek to the airport, which, I’ll hard out a picture. Part of this $520 million, I’ll show you the picture of it, is to build Star Trek to the airport. It’s a unique technology, it needs a unique maintenance shop, and that’s why it’s such an expensive thing to build. Thank you.

Cohen’s voice of reason was preceded by the worst comment of the meeting, from our very own District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid:

My name is Larry Reid. I’m a member of the Oakland City Council. I’ve been on the City Council for 12 years. Prior to that, I was Chief of Staff to Mayor Elihu Harris for 6 years. So for 18 years, the City of Oakland has supported this project and even before then – the airport connector, which is in my Council district, that I’m asking this body to give consideration to approve the recommendation that is before you.

We’ve been working on this incredible transit village in my district. Where we have the Amtrak Capital Corridor train that comes into one of the most incredible jewels in the BART system, the Coliseum BART station. And this airport connector will allow people who will live around that BART station to travel back and forth to the most convenient airport in Northern California, helping to reduce congestion along that Hegenberger corridor, and allow people from around Alameda County, which voted and approved this measure, in Measure B, in the reauthorization it was approved by 81%. As a member of the Alameda County Congestion Management Authority, this has been a priority for the County, it’s been a priority for the City of Oakland, it’s been a priority for BART, it’s been a priority for the Port of Oakland.

And so I certainly hope that this body will approve the recommendation and allow us to have what San Francisco has – one of the most incredible extensions that move people to its airport. I wish Councilmember Dick Spees was here, who could give you the history of how Oakland took the back seat and didn’t raise an issue when the funding went towards the airport extension that San Francisco now enjoys. So I certainly hope that you would support the recommendation and thank you for allowing me to speak.

Normally, I like Larry Reid. He does, however, have an irritating tendency to behave in an incredibly (and inexplicably) short-sighted manner. This comment was infuriating. Larry Reid wants an improved transit connection to the airport. So does everyone else. He has also apparently forgotten that people living at the transit village will want to go places besides the airport. An elevated connection is not only a stupid waste of money, it’s also the worst approach to the problem for the Hegenberger corridor he’s so hell-bent on revitalizing. Surface transportation between the BART station and the Airport, like rapid bus (hell, even surface rail) would be dramatically cheaper than what BART wants to build, and it would also have the distinct advantage of not skipping over the entire street. A rapid surface transportation system could not only connect BART riders to the airport, it could also better connect them to jobs along the streets in between. Larry Reid, by advocating for giving stimulus money to BART for the Oakland Airport Connector instead of local agencies to maintain service, is not only screwing his constituents, but also acting against one of his own top priorities for his District. Infuriating!

After more than two hours of public comment, most of which was against the Airport Connector (the Commission also received 27 letters against the project, and only 2 in favor), the Commission voted nearly unanimously to allocate the funds to BART to build their sky train anyway. I was crushed. The only no vote was Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. Speakers in favor of funding the project argued that it was needed to create jobs. Of course, funding this project won’t create any jobs in the immediate future. If, and that’s a big if, BART can come up with the money to fill the funding gap by the end of June, they still don’t expect to award a contract until the end of the year. If they can’t find the money by June, the funds will be redirected back to local transit agencies.

39 thoughts on “The MTC, the Oakland Airport Connector, and Larry Reid

  1. Jason

    Wow, I hope they can’t fill the funding gap.

    The sky train to OAK is a bad, bad idea. What is the proposed fare? Right before BART gave up on this idea, I looked on their website and remember it being pretty pricey.

    Thanks for tracking this. Do you think further letters or calls will help? Maybe if they get flooded with calls they’ll reverse the decision.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    The fare for the Airport Connector would be $5 each way. So yeah, pricey.

    The MTC isn’t going to change their minds on this – the decision has been made, but if BART can’t come up with the rest of the money before the end of June, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

    In my fantasies, ACTIA would defund their portion of the Airport Connector money on the basis of the project being totally different from what was promised to voters in 2000 and vastly exceeding the costs the voters agreed to. If they refused their expected nearly $100 million contribution, there’s no way BART could get all the funding together. But I don’t necessarily think that’s realistic.

  3. Ralph

    can someone explain to me like i am a five year old who ac transit would be laying off if they don’t get stimulus money? how does money for infrastructure program help ongoing operations?

  4. dto510

    Ralph- because of drastic state cuts and flat local tax revenue, as well as the high labor costs ACT is saddled with, the bus system will probably have to both raise fares and cut service to balance its budget. Service cuts mean layoffs of drivers and mechanics, and probably managers as well (labor is ACT’s largest marginal cost). Stimulus funds can be used for “preventative maintenance,” ie, paying for mechanics. That’s the same pot of money that pays for drivers, effectively allowing the system to keep drivers and therefore maintain service.

  5. Max Allstadt

    $5 plus $3ish BART fare would be about 8 bucks to my house from OAK. That’s $20 less than a cab. Of course that five bucks is only worth it if i enjoy a super easy, stair free transition to the connector. You could get a similar effect by just adding more elevators at coliseum BART, and making sure the busses were always low riding like the Van Hools. The bus works alright now for me, and I assume for most no-frills travelers.

    I still think it’s a bad idea to be dumping money into this right now. Especially considering that hundreds of transit advocates packed the MTC meeting and the only people who spoke in favor of this were from the concrete lobby and a builder’s union. Pretty obvious who’s calling the shots, and it ain’t the general public.

  6. oaklandhappenings

    First of all, thanks a mil, V, for putting the time in to keep us up to speed with developments. You may recall I inquired about this months ago, and the updates are appreciated. I have mixed feelings about all of this. Yes, I want a fast way to get from BART to OAK (under 10 min with very minimal stops if any); no, I don’t want this to get to the point where BART is in such a tough position to come up with funds, that it gets delayed any longer. OAK is very much in the shadow of SFO, when it comes to a rapid way to get to the terminal area, which–with AirBART being what it is cost and timewise–is an embarrassment. I appreciate Larry Reid’s being in support of a faster connector, although I agree that his comments did not work well at all…or could have been dramatically reworded in some spots. I could go on and on with this, but will just say this for now, to BART: Get the rest of the money by June, or consider yourself the laughingstocks of public transportation organizations in the country…and no, don’t blame the economy or being sued for millions of dollars in recent days either. If the money doesn’t come up, BART and OAK will both end up f’d, compared to how things could be.
    As for the Port of Oakland, now with the PortsAmerica thing seemingly showing hope, http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/ci_11839542
    perhaps they can find a way also to come up with more money to contribute, if they wish. Any chance of that?
    The $5 fare, by 201?, whenever this gets done, is somewhat pricy, but actually won’t be extremely expensive at all, for even those traveling to/from for business once a week. I could see it being alot worse. As an employee at OAK, however (if I still am by then), I hope that discounts can be given

  7. das88

    V. this is a great post.

    Sure a skytrain is really cool, that would be mine and most people’s preferred solution, but NOT AT ANY PRICE. Supporters have to get over the gee whiz Star Trek awe and face reality.

  8. dbackman

    How about a light rail line that would not only connect OAK to BART, but connect BART to “Coliseum North” and adjacent neighborhoods on the other side of the tracks.

  9. hella bike

    From my place (14th Ave) to OAK would be $2 via the 1R and 50 buses. For locals the proposed $5 fare and extra transfers involved wouldn’t be very convenient unless the connector ran to International or Eastmont.

    I second suggestions for the BRT or light rail options.

  10. len raphael

    what you’re seeing with the stimulus spending on a skytrain is what’s gonna happen with much of the total 700 bill: it will go to public works projects targeting unemployed union construction people and construction material suppliers. keynes would say it doesn’t matter what the 700B is spent on, as long it’s spent in the usa. in that sense it’s not “wasted” and will eventually prime the economic pump.

    if anything, we probably have to spend (waste) a whole bunch more than 700B to make up for the decline in the economy.

    would be nice if it were spent on something that created long term economic or social benefits, but the construction unions and building industry has a lot more clout than low income bus riders and ac transit employees.

  11. Max Allstadt

    Len,

    I agree that we should be spending money on stuff that creates long term economic and social benefits. But I keep thinking about it, and I keep being unable to come up with anything that we could invest in to create those benefits.

    Maybe California should look into burying existing overhead transportation (highways, elevated rail) instead of creating new things make noise over our heads?

    That’s about all I’ve got, actually. Any other ideas?

  12. dbackman

    I work for VBN Architects, the firm that designed the Oakland Airport BART Connector a few years back. Our office would definitely welcome the project coming back on line. Its a good design, that would upgrade the existing BART station and improve the connection to the airport. I agree with you all that there are better solutions to this problem, and would definitely prefer to see a light rail line connecting the airport, an expanded sports complex and the surrounding neighborhoods. However the connection is resolved, it should be designed to better integrate the diverse programs that take place along the Hegenberger corridor. But, the stimulus favors shovel ready projects that can have an immediate impact, for better and for worse. $5 is some madness though.

  13. Ralph

    dto510, thanks; interesting, glad to see those liberals on the hill have such a broad defn of infrastructure and investment.

  14. oaklandhappenings

    dbackman, just curious, are you currently in communication with these MTC folks? It is good to see someone such as yourself with such familiarity with this…or the design, anyway.

  15. dbackman

    I personally am not in contact with MTC, but our transportation principal is. However, the project is probably out of our hands at this point. It is a design-build project, so the contractor will take our design and figure out his own way to build it. But I will see what I can find out.

  16. fakchek

    You’ve left a few key poiints out of this post.
    In November 2008 voters approved a parcel tax to fund AC Transit & support its operating costs to prevent fare increases. This was placed on the ballot at a time when gas was creeping close to $5 per gallon & voters/drivers were feeling the pain & willing to be generous. In other words, there are other ways AC Transit taps other funds to cope with its budget gaps besides laying people off & raising fares.
    The adversaries of the Airport Connector wanted capital funds allocated to AC Transit’s operating costs. Not allowed. Plus, even if AC Transit got the money, it would only delay the inevitable cost-cutting measures that will be needed to run the system.

  17. V Smoothe Post author

    That’s not correct, fakcheck. Opponents of the Oakland Airport Connector who testified before the MTC wanted the $70 million for the Airport Connector o be redirected among all the Bay Area’s transit operators for system preservation. 79% of the stimulus funds were used this way – obviously it’s allowed.

    The parcel tax approved by voters in November (when California’s average gas price was $2.78/gallon, not $5) will raise $14 million annually for the agency. The elimination of State funding for transit agencies in the budget approved since then has essentially erased all the benefits of this tax. That is, the amount of State funding lost is greater than the revenue generated by this tax.

    Anyway, AC Transit’s financial issues have nothing to do with this post, which is about how the Oakland Airport Connector as it is currently planned is a terrible, wasteful project.

  18. fakchek

    East Bay voters & taxpayers have long supported AC Transit. The ballot language for Measure VV was written months before voting day in November as AC Transit panicked about rising costs of fuel: June 2008 average price for diesel was $5.16. That is why they drafted a measure to DOUBLE the existing parcel tax.

    The parcel tax couteracts some of the State’s routine robbery of gas tax funds which are intended to support transit. Still, because it’s parcel tax money, it does remain in local control (eventually) which is a good thing since the Legislature has no qualms about balancing the budget on the back of transit agency cuts.

    My point on the stimulus funds is that some were dedicated to capital projects & others to operating costs (what you refer to as system preservation). MTC’s authority to switch those around is somewhat limited, especially when the OAC was on the requested project list submitted to the Feds earlier this year.

  19. V Smoothe Post author

    MTC’s authority to direct the stimulus funds to system preservation instead of the Airport Connector was not limited in any way, and I really hope you know better than that. We all know the funds will most likely end up being redirected to system preservation in the end anyway.

    Honestly, I would have no objection if the MTC wanted to spend some of the stimulus money on capital projects, if they had chosen to direct them to something useful, such as Caltrain electrification. But giving the money to the Oakland Airport Connector is about half a step above throwing it in the trash. The decision is indefensible.

  20. Steve Lowe

    Hi

    If the Airport Connector were Cybertran instead of a giant Monorail to Nowhere, all of the Airport area could be linked up like a giant business park so that passengers could get off just about anywhere along Edgewater or wherever folks out there wanted to run the system and improve on the strung out access we’ve got today.

    As I understand it, Cybertran costs maybe 60% less than BART and maybe even less than 80% of the Monolithic Monorail which has only one touchdown between Coliseum BART and the Airport itself. Plus which, Cybertran allows passengers nonstop service to their point of destination, because cars are shunted off the main system and into their preprogrammed stops instead of queuing up and, as currently at all BART stations, waiting for the car ahead to disgorge its passengers and take off for the next station, finally leaving space for your car at the platform. An Express BART function would improve things a lot, even though the retrofit to allow for it is going to cost us all a pretty penny, as my Auntie used to say back in the day when money meant sommething.

    Cheaper system, better performance, newer technology, less cost, higher satisfaction: what’s not to like? Oh, I forgot, MTC already figured out what’s best for the peons by peeing on us once again and “giving” us (with our own money yet) a giant Monorail that will cost millions and be used by maybe hundreds per year.

    Quo vadis, Porky Pig?

    ????

    – S

  21. Rebecca Kaplan

    Above, Max asked, “I agree that we should be spending money on stuff that creates long term economic and social benefits. But I keep thinking about it, and I keep being unable to come up with anything that we could invest in to create those benefits.”

    Some Answers:
    There are many investments, in infrastructure and related things, that can have long term benefits. For example, in some areas, where we want to encourage development of housing/office/shops, part of what prevents them from being developed is lack of certain physical infrastructure (e.g. adequate sidewalks, storm drains, lighting, crosswalks, utility connections, etc). Thus, there are cases where a targetted public investment to improve or create this infrastructure will create jobs immediately (jobs fixing sidewalks, etc, which are important jobs to create, as there are many workers in such industries available and needing work, and the jobs tend to be local, which then provides for local incomes, which then enables local workers to themselves spend money in the local economy). But also, by creating the conditions to encourage private investment, these kinds of infrastructure investments then create additional employment opportunities. (E.g. a company that would not have moved in without the improved infrastructure then does move in, and provides long-term jobs).

    Another example, using “stimulus/infrastructure” money to fix up a school (e.g. repair leaking roof, broken plumbing, etc) creates immediate jobs doing the renovations. The people who do the renovations then have more money to spend, which itself creates more jobs. And the school in better shape is more able to retain students and attract good teachers, which improves the financial and educational capacity of the school for the long-term.

    However, one of the challenges is that often, the public investment which would do the most good, is one that involves paying ongoing “operating” costs, not just building a physical object. Thus, in parts of Oakland, the biggest impediment to private investment may be lack of adequate public safety staffing, or lack of adequate funds for repair/maintenance staff. Thus, expenditures for improved public safety personnel (including both police, as well as other security guard options in some situations), or repair/maintenance staff, may, in some cases, be the kind of public investment which would then attract the most long-term economic opportunity. Similarly, providing transit operations (the cost of paying drivers, mechanics, buying fuel) will, in some cases, provide more bang for our buck than building physical structures, both by the jobs that it directly creates, and because paying these “operating/maintenance” costs allows agencies to provide an essential service which itself encourages more economic opportunity.

    In the stimulus bill, some fund sources are restricted to “capital” only, some are flexible, (such as the funds going through MTC), and many remain to be seen, since the regulations have not all been written yet.

  22. Navigator

    Let’s build the darn thing. You’re telling me that San Francisco and San Jose get to drive the HSR up the Peninsula into a culdesac and nobody says a word, but once Oakland attempts to stay competitive all heck breaks loose? Ever since that new BART Terminal at SFO, Oakland International has been losing market share to San Francisco. For the longest time, the reverse was true. Why are the 2.4 million residents of Alameda and Contra Costa counties forced to cross the Bay for every form of transportation? Is this public transportation money used for the benefit of the majority of travelers in the Bay Area, or, is it designed to channel traffic to politically connected areas?

    Let’s stop whining and build this thing so that people in the East Bay have good transportation alternatives at Oakland International. Maybe at some point Oakland will get more International flights so that everyone won’t be forced to fly out of San Francisco. We are so backwards in this country. Go to Europe and take a look at their public transit. If we have something in the pipeline which will improve the connection to Oakland International, and create good jobs in the progress, then what’s the fuss all about. Let’s build the darn thing so that Oakland can once again regain the momentum it had before the political and social SF engineers decide to divert the majority of the East Bay traffic to their airport in Milbrae via a new BART station.

  23. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator, I’m shocked that you, of all people, would support such a boondoggle. Not only is the airport connector a terrible waste of money, it’s decidedly BAD for Oakland and reinforces perceptions that Oakland is a place that must be avoided at all costs. This new position hardly seems consistent with your previous comments.

  24. Navigator

    V, I don’t understand how keeping Oakland International competitive with all the improvements which have been made at SFO, is “bad for Oakland.” Also, why do you say that this reinforces perceptions that Oakland is a place to be avoided at all times? Is it because there is only one stop and the train is elevated? If so, then there are many other cities which have BART tracks running above them which also must give that impression.

    What do you propose we do to make Oakland International competitive with the direct connection to San Francisco International via its own terminal? A bus line just doesn’t do it.

    When is Oakland going to stand up and fight for itself and for the people of the Oakland Metro Area? We’ve already been completely overlooked by the HSR project even though we have over 2.4 million residents in the East Bay who will once again be forced to cross the Bay Bridge in order to accommodate San Francisco political and business interests. Can you explain to me how that helps our economy and our environment? Oakland just sits back and allows this to happen even though Oakland is clearly the best area for a HSR station based on its central location, and a larger population base.

    V, If you want to identify a boondoggle which harms Oakland, you should be talking about THAT multi billion dollar train to nowhere, instead of a project which will help Oakland’s International Airport and by extension help Oakland’s overall economy.

  25. Patrick

    I have to admit, boondoggle or not, anything that makes OIA “appear” to offer a seamless transit option to SF will probably be an advantage. OIA has much better weather conditions and therefore would not have the consistent delays that plague SFO. And people who travel figure that out very quickly. 90 minute delay at SFO or 45 minutes on the BART? It may cost $6 more, but you’d still be at your ultimate destination in less time.

    Would we prefer the transit option to offer a local advantage? Well, of course. Perhaps we can finagle stops along the way (I’m picturing elevators or escalators to the street below. It is possible and could be installed after the fact. But those options are not “shovel ready”). This money is being offered now – take it or leave it. And as a former citizen of Atlanta, I know what economic importance a large, competitive airport offers.

  26. Paulette Hogan

    First of all ladies and gentlemen, we are talking the name Larry Reid, the same man who announced proudly the Toyota Dealership opening less than 3 months ago. The same man who thought it necessary to have a curfew for 13-18 year olds in the City of Oakland that has nothing for Youth to entertain themselves with. Larry Reid, the same man who thought that he should push though a grant to motorcycle cops for $294,000.00 -$411,000.00 to stop side shows between the hours of 2p.m. to 10 p.m. Larry Reid, the same man who doesn’t know a hustle from and illegal street vendor.

    Let’s look at what’s happened: The Toyota Dealership is gone! Youth Of Oakland United and Trained To Help and to Heal shut him down in Council Chambers about the curfew. Since when have YOU seen a side show from 2p.m. – 10 p.m.? Finally, since when has an Obama T-Shirt, hat or button, been seen as an illegal item?

    Why are we listening to Larry Reid?

  27. Patrick

    The Toyota dealership was a victim of the economic situation, not Larry Reid.

    I grew up in a middle-of-the-road city, and my parents managed to “entertain” me after school. Actually, they “engaged” me, which is more than I can say of some parents today. They knew where I was and made sure I was doing what I was supposed to – even though they both worked. Chores, work, whatever. OMG, YES! They were parents! I applaud them for NOT relying on the city in which we lived to parent for them.

    Frankly, if I were a cop, I wouldn’t interrupt an Oakland sideshow for a million dollars.

    I think it all comes down to culture. If you’re willing to accept violence and empty commercial space and bars on your windows as a perfectly acceptable way of life, then please continue to advocate for the “children”. And please, be sure to forward me the results. P.S. I already know what the results will be: FAILURE.

    I think that what many forget in the US is that human beings spend much more time as adults than we do as children. And from what I’ve recently witnessed from Oakland youth, I’d rather spend the cash on the adults. I love kids, don’t get me wrong. But our City cannot afford to babysit children after school when we can’t even afford to police our streets. WAKE UP!

  28. Izzy Ort

    “Since when have YOU seen a side show from 2p.m. – 10 p.m.? ”

    I get your point that sideshows usually occur much later than that, but since you asked, about a month ago on Foothill about two blocks east of 35th Street, on a Saturday afternoon about 4 p.m.

  29. len raphael

    MA,
    RK makes a good point that funding existing muni services could contribute more economic growth than funding hard cost infrastructure projects, and that in other situations the physical infrastructure projects can both get money into people’s pockets to spend plus create future benefits.

    I see her point about the benefits of many soft costs, but even in the bubbly boom years efficient spending on muni infrastructure in many cities including Oakland was failing to keep up with aging sewers, water mains, roads, etc. There is an argument that we can limp thru the next 3 to 5 years with fewer buses, bigger class sizes, degraded parks, and yes more dangerous streets, because we can ramp up to fix those when the world economy recovers. But this is an opportunity to fix that infrastructure, which might not come again for years.

    it is a perfect time to spend money on infrastructure such as smart electric distribution systems that can move power to where it’s needed from where it is or can be generated most efficiently carbon and cost wise. without that in place, all the windmills and solar panels will just be local feel good home improvement deals. On water mains that don’t leak or are less likely to fail in a quake.

    My concern is that many of the jobs getting eliminated now are not coming back, either because of permanent changes in consumption habits, accellerated globalization of white collar jobs, or what bizman pointed out no more cheap credit to buy stuff.

    Not obvious that spending this and forthcoming needed couple of trillion for just stimulous (not counting the couple of trillion needed for recusitating the credit institutions) on retraining housing industry people and laid off software engineers to install home solar panels, or change my diaper when i get old is going to replace those jobs.

    Other concern is that this really is the end of cheap money. The US govt cost of borrowing will never be this low again (if it is, time to grow victory gardens on grey water). When my fellow baby boomers hit the medicare and social security ATM in vast numbers, at the same time that china et al finds better use of their money than buying US t bills, there ain’t gonna be anything to spare for those big ticket hard cost projects.

    -len

  30. Paulette Hogan

    Patrick:

    Times have changed, therefore we must change with the times. Parents are working 2-3 jobs trying to make ends meet. It takes a village to raise a child. So may I talk to the Village. Since when have WE engaged the youth in our neighborhoods? It appears to me that we ALL have to change the way we see young people. The best thing about being POSITIVE is NOT being NEGATIVE!

    The Toyota Dealership is gone, and yes, Larry Reid was a strong advocate for it. He was happy the day it opened and sad the day it closed. Anyone could tell you that this was not the time to INVEST in a dealership. Economy’s down! People can’t get enough pay!

    I do have an idea for the Toyota Dealership. Y.O.O.U.T.T.H.H. Youth Of Oakland, United and Trained To Help and to Heal. Developing the Mind of the Youth Of Oakland. It is ample space for a bowling alley, skating rink, after-school care center, dance hall, LGBTQ Support Center, recording studio, Radio Station (Youth Radio University) and a Branch of KTOP, Computer Lab (Bill Gates Foundation), Mental Health Service Center, Youth Medical and Dental Clinic. There is also an opportunity to teach mechanics, and detailing. Oh one more thing…JOBS for the Youth of Oakland, United and Trained To Help and to Heal.

    For those who would say how will we pay for it? Unity in the Community, Bridging the Gap between the Elders and the Youth. I believe that there are some Golden Agers who could benefit from being around some young people, to share the wealth of information from the past. Oh there are so many posibilities.

  31. Patrick

    Paulette, I really must disagree – although we all share responsibilities towards the youth of our city, I really can’t believe that we should decimate public safety, roads, parks and libraries (things that benefit everyone) to do it. And, if the village has the forced responsibility for the care of other people’s children, may the village also have the right to forcibly terminate pregnancies that will result in a child being born to a person or persons who cannot afford to take care of that child?

    OK, so I really don’t believe that. But all of the parents don’t work 24/7. Why doesn’t the smaller village of parents (and “elders” who have an interest) get together and share the responsibilities of child care? Why does the government have to step in to take care of it? “Times have changed, therefore we must change with the times.” And Oakland cannot afford to take care of the basic needs of its citizens, let alone provide free after school care.

    I truly doubt that the failed Toyota dealership happened overnight. The acquisition of land, the design-build-permit process, actual construction of the building, purchase of product, hiring and training of employees, etc. certainly took at least 2 years – and therefore likely started when times were “good”. It was obviously not the best time to open a dealership, but who predicted this economic debacle two years ago? Your argument here is too facile to be discussed further.

    Your Y.O.O.U.T.T.H.H. center actually sounds like a great idea. We had something similar in the town in which I grew up – but it devolved into a super-cliquish, “this pool table is OURS” mentality which eventually doomed it. In the end, the “Teen Center” (we hated that name) sort of promoted gang-style behavior amongst a bunch of mid western 13 year olds. And, it also became a one-stop shop for liquor and pot.

  32. Patrick

    Ralph:

    What was Shakespeare’s solution? The one that springs to my mind is Jonathan Swift’s.

  33. Navigator

    Paulette,

    At one time, many years ago, there WAS a roller rink in Oakland. Unfortunately, it closed because of rowdiness and violence. There were also many entertainment venues in Oakland which closed because the “kids” couldn’t control themselves. Two people were shot and killed at the “@17th” nightclub, one young woman was shot and killed at a parking lot near the former Mingles nightclub, and, Sweet Jimmie’s saw its fair share of violence and shootings.

    The “there’s nothing to do in Oakland” excuse is ridiculous. Oakland has a great ice skating rink downtown. Oakland has Lake Merritt where kids can go boating at reasonable rates. Oakland is surrounded by a greenbelt of regional parks which offers great hiking. Oakland has a free day a the Museum. The Oakland Zoo is a fun place to go. Oakland has movie theaters. The problem is, that many of the kids want to be disrespectful of their environment and destroy stuff. Many of the kids don’t want to bother with the boring wholesome stuff which I mentioned above. Now, the kids have found sideshows to entertain themselves with. How many people have been shot over the years during those sideshows? How many police chases which have resulted in deaths. These clowns even ran into a house in East Oakland and set it ablaze.

    Larry Reid is right about the curfew, and, he was right about getting that huge new dealership with 35 state-of the-art mechanics bays. Do you really think a brand new huge state-of-the-art dealership in that area will be vacant for long? Once the economy recovers, that location will once again be used as an auto dealership and bring tax revenue into Oakland’s coffers. You want to put a Bowling Alley in there? How long before one of the kids gets bored, or gets upset because he rolled a gutter ball, and puts a cap in someone’s ass?

    The kids need good parenting. That’s the problem. The City of Oakland didn’t have the courage to stand up to a bunch of screaming teenagers. That curfew would have helped parents by giving them another tool to keep their kids safe at home doing their homework, instead of running the streets in search of “something to do in Oakland.”

  34. Ralph

    What Navigator said. More than anything Oakland youth need parents who are parents. Larry Reid would not propose a curfew if 15 year olds were home at 10p.m. Probably everyone here can relate to a few simple rules one tell your parents where you are going and be home when the street lights come-on.

    Paulette, you have a number of recommendations, but you do not identify the means to fund them, and they tend to focus around activity centers. I don’t know if you have noticed this but Oakland teens have a bleak future because they lack the basic education and skills to perform at a level beyond 8th grade. And unlike Rudy Huxtable, they are not qualified to teach 7th grade. And few perform at grade level.

    In all honesty, if we could get students to perform at grade level, we actually give them a chance to compete for after school and summer internships that pay real money (or at least better than minimum wage). An activity center may get the students off the street but it does the students a disservice and perpetuates a downward spiral.