Is the Oakland Airport Connector “too costly to stop,” as Matier & Ross wrote at the Chronicle? BART director Robert Raburn, who was elected in part on an anti-OAC campaign in the very same district hosting the OAC, at least made an inquiry and tried to do something to stop it — but then immediately retreated upon discovering $95 million had already been spent, and that an estimated $30-150 million more would have to be spent to pay off contractors if the project were halted. Director Keller opined that “[i]t would be a huge waste of public funds to stop at this point.” But by any worthwhile metric, the OAC will provide effectively no benefit over a less extravagant alternative bus project that could have been built for a fraction of the price. So the dilemma should perhaps be framed thus: Do we cut our losses, having spent $125-245 million with nothing tangible to show for it — or do we go ahead, plunder the full $484 million and deliver the project, but still have very little to show for it? And the answer is unequivocally … the latter! Why stop short when you can go for the gold?
The actual balance sheet is worse, of course, as the $484 million figure does not include operating costs. Despite charging $6 fares to pay off a $100 million federal loan, an additional subsidy — on the order of $9.85 per ride, compared to $1.95 for a bus rapid transit project — would be required given current passenger traffic levels at the airport. In short, public dollars are being “invested” in a way that pointlessly maximizes future costs. The fact that $95 million has already been consumed, while certainly interesting given how little there is to show for it, is immaterial when evaluating whether that additional ongoing cost is a worthwhile one to bear. (Comments)