To help the Oakland Airport, right? After all, an easier transit connection will attract more passengers, right? Right?
Not according to BART.
In 2002, the City of Alameda submitted a comment on BART’s Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Oakland Airport Connector project, suggesting that the EIR would be improved if it examined the increase in airport passengers that would result from the enhanced connection:
However, no analysis is done to evaluate the number of passengers that may be attracted to OIA as a result of easier access to the airport. With improved access, it is reasonable to expect the percentage of the region’s air passengers using OIA will increase. The EIR/EIS should address the probable increase in the number of passengers and non-cargo flights above the MTC projections…
Sounds plausible enough. Here’s what BART has to say in response:
Airport capacity is based on runway capacity and is unrelated to the transportation facilities associated with getting passengers to the airport…Even if the Connector project improves passenger access and more patrons choose the Connector over other forms of transportation to OIA, there would be no overall increase in predicted passenger traffic through the Oakland Airport. An analysis of passenger levels above what the Airport System Plan projected is not provided because no such increase in passenger levels is anticipated. [emphasis added]
Now, some people say that an improved connection between the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport could actually be a really good thing for Oakland, if that connection featured intermediate stops, which would have the benefit of helping spur economic growth along the Hegenberger corridor, a feature that happens to be conspicously absent from BART’s current plans.
Every time anyone brings up the scrapped intermediate stops (which were added at the insistence of the City of Oakland when the Council resolved to support the project in 2000), BART just blows them off. Here’s what BART project manager Tom Dunscombe had to say about them at last Wednesday’s MTC Programming and Allocations Committee meeting:
It’s been implied that the purpose of the project and the intermediate stations was to connect local neighborhoods to businesses on Hegenberger Road. Of course, the purpose of the project is connect the greater Bay Area to the Oakland Airport. In fact, BART has gone out of its way not to duplicate local AC Transit bus service in the area, which is really, that’s really their purview.
Interestingly, this wasn’t what BART was saying back in 2002, when they adopted the project. In fact, the benefits added by the intermediate stops are listed repeatedly in the EIR as one of the reasons for the selection of this particular alternative. Here’s a sample:
Provides Opportunities for Economic Development. The prefered alternative with intermediate stations would further the economic development in the Hegenberger corridor (Evaluation Criteria 9 and 17), a specific goal of the Oakland General Plan, and would be consistent with BART’s expansion policies (Project Objective 7).
Similarly, the EIR’s ridership forecasts are heavily reliant on those all of a sudden not important intermediate stops:
Average weekday trips in 2020:
Air passenger trips on connector: 8,560
Employee trips on connector: 460
Total trips on connector: 13,450
Under the AGT Intermediate Stops Option, approximately 2,410 (2005) and 4,520 (2020) average daily passengers would enter and exit the AGT system at the intermediate stops.
In spite of this, BART keeps insisting that the EIR’s ridership projections are still valid. They claim that their new ridership forecast, which predicts a fraction of the EIR’s promised riders, is not reliable because it’s “investment grade,” and that the 13,000+ daily riders forecast in the EIR will materialize in 2020, no matter what anyone or anything says. I don’t really get how that works – I guess those thousands of people will just go to the airport instead of work? Seems weird to me.
And what about the project’s supporters? Did they care about the intermediate stops? Let’s take a look at the comments BART received on the Draft EIR and find out.
From the City of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency, Redevelopment Division:
Furthermore, a bus route to the airport would not allow for the intermediate stops serving major developments and activity centers along the Hegenberger corridor, which are crucial to the businesses and families populating these areas.
Crucial? Really? Here’s one from Jamie Henderson, no affiliation noted:
Further, a bus route to the airport would not allow for the intermediate stops serving major developments and activity centers along the Hegenberger corridor which are crucial to the businesses and families populating these areas.
Gee, that makes it sound like the intermediate stops are kind of a big deal. Here’s another, the Coliseum Neighborhood Council:
Furthermore, a bus route to the airport would not allow for the immediate stops serving major developments and activity centers along the Hegenberger corridor that are crucial to the businesses and families populating these areas.
Are you noticing a pattern yet? Here’s another, from the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce:
Furthermore, a bus route to the airport would not allow for the intermediate stops serving major developments and activity centers along the Hegenberger corridor which are crucial to the businesses and families populating these areas.
Don’t worry, they aren’t all identical. From SIMEON Commercial Properties:
Furthermore, the bus route to the airport would effectively curtail the potential for economic redevelopment along the Hegenberger Corridor as the opportunities for transit oriented developments, such as Metroport, would be eliminated. in an area that could benefit greatly from economic development and a reduction in vehicle traffic, the AGT Alternative provides the perfect solution to both those problems through the benefits provided by the proposed intermediate stations.
And finally, the Airport Area Business Association:
The Quality Bus alternative will not allow for stops serving major developments and activity centers along the Hegenberger corridor.
BART’s response to all these letters is a curt “comment noted.” I think it might be a good time for them to go back and look at their notes.
Anyway, here’s what I’m having trouble figuring out. If the purpose of the Oakland Airport Connector is not to help spur growth along Hegenberger, and it isn’t to increase passengers at the Oakland Airport, then just what is it that we’re spending over a half a billion dollars for?