The big news from the day: even though BART and FTA have been working the past couple weeks on a plan to correct the Title VI deficiencies in BART’s Oakland Airport Connector project, today Peter Rogoff sent a letter (PDF) to BART and MTC announcing that BART’s corrective action plan for the OAC has been soundly rejected:
Since my letter of January 15, FTA staff and BART have worked diligently but unsuccessfully on the development of a corrective action plan that might be acceptable. I am require to now inform you that your plan is rejected. I ask that you immediately get in contact with Region IX Administrator Leslie Rogers for the purpose of pursuing alternative projects for the Bay area that can be obligated prior to the March 5 deadline.
Rogoff goes on to explain that the $70 million of ARRA stimulus funds cannot be disbursed to the Oakland Airport Connector. In order to receive that funding, BART would have to bring its practices into compliance with Title VI before September 30, 2010, and it was clear to both BART and FTA that there was simply not sufficient time to do so:
I am required to reject your plan for the following reasons. Based on the timelines submitted by BART, there is no way the agency can come into full compliance with Title VI by September 30, 2010. The requirements of ARRA dictate that any funds not disbursed by September 30, 2010, must be lapsed back to the Treasury. And since I cannot allow BART to draw any funds for the OAC project prior to coming into full compliance, it is clear that pursuit of the OAC project would result in the funds either being reallocated out of the Bay Area or lapsed. Both scenarios are unacceptable to me as I am sure they are to you. Let me say that, based on FTA’s experience in other cities, BART is being realistic in admitting that the process of coming into full compliance will take considerably longer than the 8+ months that remain before the September 30 deadline. I appreciate and respect your honesty in this regard.
The announcement means that the Oakland Airport Connector is not eligible for critical federal funding that BART needs in order to construct the project. MTC had previously planned to evaluate BART’s proposed Title VI action plan at a special meeting on February 17, but now that the FTA has rejected BART’s plan, even the Commissioners will finally have to consider alternative uses for the $70 million of ARRA funding. It is critical that this stimulus funding remain in the Bay Area. Rogoff’s letter implies that there will be time to do so, if MTC acts now to approve an alternative funding plan:
Given this sitaution, and the fact that we are now only 3 weeks away from the March 5 deadline, I must bring these discussions to a close so that we can work together to ensure that the ARRA funds can create and preserve jobs in the Bay area.
The alternative funding plan (PDF) is the same plan that transit advocates have heartily supported for the entire past year, namely, to distribute the $70 million to transit agencies for system preservation and preventive maintenance purposes. The funding includes almost $17 million for BART, $17.5 million for Muni, $6.7 million for AC Transit, $12.3 million for VTA, $2.7 million for Caltrain, $2.4 million for Golden Gate, and about $2 million for SamTrans, as well as funding for small operators.
We have yet to hear an official response from BART about Rogoff’s letter. My sincere hope is that BART, upon seeing that a large hole has been opened in the OAC’s capital budget, will finally be willing to take public comment seriously and cooperate with the community — by scrapping this ineffective, bloated elevated Connector and replacing it with a more cost-effective enhanced bus. Should BART choose to do so, a considerable amount of local money that has been reserved for the OAC could then be reprogrammed to other, more useful Bay Area projects.
It is extremely gratifying that FTA was receptive, not only in hearing the concerns of transit advocates about the troubling social justice implications of the OAC, but also in acting swiftly and definitively on this matter. And when MTC officially reprograms the funding, it will also be gratifying to see our region’s cash-strapped transit agencies — reeling as they are from a death spiral induced by the State’s theft of transit monies — get some relief.
Congratulations to everyone who worked on this! I’m happily impressed by the FTA.
Oh happy day!
What happens to the rest of the $$$ that were funding this project?
Could BART/MTC scrounge up the $70m elsewhere?
Are we popping the the champagne earlier?
I don’t quite understand why BRT is getting the continuous nod over a street car solution. BRT has its role in the transit mix (when volumes are lower or there are many alternative destinations- think Van Ness BRT), but buses have serious disadvantages over rail solutions. The in vehicle ride is simply not as good, and their layout delays passengers exiting and entering. Also, their impact at street level is hardly inducive people oriented streets (perhaps not an issue on Hegenberger!) Yes, BRT is less costly, but that is because elements such as electrification, better longer lasting vehicles and a smooth right of way have been removed.
That said, the greatest advantages of either BRT or light-rail will be the addition of intermediate stops, for those unfortunate work in this bit of transported suburbia; and hopefully the replacement of a lane of traffic.
Andy K, the answers to your questions are embedded in my second-to-last paragraph, which I tried to word carefully in anticipation of this exact question.
What exactly happens the money depends on the nature of each funding source, but a lot of the funding is local and state money that can be used for other projects in the Bay Area generally, or even specifically within Alameda County.
Is the OAC dead? While I’d love to say “yes,” in good conscience I can only say the answer here is “no” — or, at the least, “not yet.” Is FTA’s announcement a major setback? Certainly, but it’s also one of many setbacks in the past several years, and BART has managed to squirm around those. Until BART commits to putting some measure of investment into a rapid bus alternative, and until a good chunk of the funding reserved for the OAC gets reallocated to other projects, one cannot safely say that the OAC is dead. It’s not clear exactly when replacement funding would be found, though probably not in the near term — but that doesn’t mean it won’t be found. They will certainly search.
Mike Jones, I agree with much of what you said — in general, on principle. The issue here is really numerous details that stand in the way of applying that general principle to the OAC, as this isn’t a standard case of a bus route being upgraded to a rail route.
The advantanges one might cite to rail are missing here. As you mention, intermediate stops are a big advantage, and those aren’t planned. (BART has indicated it might build one stop in the future, but without money to finance it, that promise cannot be taken seriously.) The OAC connection doesn’t go directly into the terminal, as does the SFO extension; it would actually drop you farther from the terminal than a bus. The OAC service would be no faster than a bus, as it really amounts to a slow, elevated cable car. Also, automotive traffic in the area isn’t bad enough for reliability to be a big advantage (particularly if queue jumps are implemented, as they should be on an enhanced bus). Other than maybe a somewhat more comfortable trip (which could also be achieved for less money by investing in nicer, branded buses), the OAC doesn’t offer any improvement in the transportation experience. It certainly isn’t worth a $6 fare, as compared to the $3 AirBART fare. The OAC is maybe $5 million worth of bang for $500 million worth of buck. Even in the best of economic times, this is a pretty idiotic project. If you’re interested, I tried to delve fairly thoroughly into the project details in this post from last summer, and other posts following.
The OAC/AirBART corridor is also one whose ridership is intimately connected to the ebb and flow of Oakland Airport. For several reasons, that should raise questions about making large investments in airports at the direct expense of critical local transit service.
Agreed too. I’m not supporting the existing BART OAC proposal at all. Just BRT vs. an at-grade rail solution. I would expect any solution to have intermediate stops and service to the terminals. I do also favour premium pricing, but with some way that employees are not penalised.
The removal of traffic lanes on Hegenberger should also be a must. Then there will be an advantage in using transit! Perhaps, if enough extra airport travellers can be persuaded to use transit, some of the airport’s parking can be converted to a transit village for those commuting to LA.
You guys are a bunch of fools. You really think you won something by forcing the issue on the $70 million BART funding. The thing is we all lost on this one, but you don’t know it yet.
Why not talk transit consolidation now, not planning. AC Transit and MUNI recently received $15 million apiece in smart start funds for respective BRT projects. Continue competing or try collaborating. One of these projects has to succeed, break the ‘Bay Area Transit Paralysis’ – Roadkill
“The OAC service would be no faster than a bus, as it really amounts to a slow, elevated cable car.”
Why is this? With no other passenger stops and no stoplights or auto traffic to slow it down why is the OAC like a slow elevated cable car (cable cars in SF go max 8mph)? Wouldn’t a bus with intermediate stops/traffic actually take longer than a direct elevated link to the airport with no stops?
The trolls for the OAC (aka the foreign company that would build this disneyland ride) are out in force in the “comments” section of blogs, like it makes a difference.
Well news flash: your boondoggle is dead, and you can all go fuck yourselves. The taxpayers and the riders of transit won, and you losers who supported the OAC lost, and I am so glad you lost and I don’t give a damn about your stupid unions , who are running the government into the ground with your expensive pay and benefits and do nothing attitude.
Mr T. Sucks:
FYI, I am a taxpayer and a transit rider. I am not a union member. I am self employed. I am 61 and have lived in SF for over 40 years and all too familiar with transit and it’s problems. I frequently use both Oakland Airport and SFO. I don’t own a car. AirBART is ok, I’ve used it hundreds of times (but glad there are no intermediate stops). AC transit already has a couple of routes that are more leisurely and make stops along the way to Oakland airport. Sorry my question was so offensive to you or anyone else but the above quoted assertion before my question seemed illogical. Hope you’re feeling better.
I just hope that AirBART is replaced with something better, if it’s not the OAC as planned. I will keep driving to OAK as long as my other option is AirBART. We can call OAC a boondoggle, but we need something to improve our airport infrastructure.
Isn’t going from San Leandro station to OAK more direct than from Coliseum?
stevenj, I think you posted a reasonable question, so I’ll answer it to the best of my ability.
The reason that the OAC was going to be no faster is that the budget had balooned so far they had to stop the line before it actually reached the airport terminals, so although AirBART would be slower on the ground it gets riders closer to where they need to go.
Just for some history, the OAC was originally supposed to cost about $150 million, have an intermediate stop, connect directly to the terminal, be faster, and have the same ticket price. But it was so poorly thought out that costs skyrocketed and they had to cut out the intermediate station and terminate before it reached the terminals to just get it in at $500 million.
On the other hand, BRT would clearly improve speed (it would pretty much take the same route, but have a dedicated lane so no traffic delays) and get directly to the terminal, as well as be much cheaper than the OAC. Even better would be to build a new station at 98th AND do BRT, which would shorten the trip even further, provide better access to BART for local residents, and STILL be much cheaper than the OAC.
Dennis H, what did we lose?
The OAC was actually negative benefit, expensive, no improvement in transit, and double the fare price.
Jobs? first, why are bus operator & maintenance jobs more important than construction jobs? Second, even if they are more important, the MTC & BART could have long ago fixed the problems with the OAC, or come up with a backup project that would provided construction jobs.
What about funding for SMART?
The economy has diminished sales tax revenue, which opened a $155 million funding gap for the SMART project. SMART considered federal New Starts money to close the gap, which MTC did not agree to, but MTC is nonetheless working with the SMART board to figure out other substitute funding that may be available.
I understand about that part of SMART. I’ve been following it on my blog. Could this money be moved over to SMART?
Oh, I see, I misunderstood your question. In theory, it could have been used if SMART could have made the necessary deadlines for obligating and putting the funds to use. At this late point in the game (a couple weeks shy of the March 5 stimulus deadline), though, they couldn’t be moved over. Last February, MTC had already compiled a Tier 2 contingency project list if the OAC allocation didn’t work out. Since it hasn’t worked out, that Tier 2 list defines how the funds will be used. At this point, the region just needs to act fast to make sure we keep that $70 million in the nine counties.
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