Who should pay for BART's Oakland Airport Connector?

Joël Ramos Headshot

BART's Oakland Airport Connector is slated to finish construction this fall.How do we make sure BART’s Oakland Airport Connector doesn’t hurt everyday riders?

BART’s $500 million Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) is under construction and slated to open this fall. If you’ve been on Hegenberger Road recently, you may have seen the tracks slowly coming together overhead. This March, BART is inviting the public to a series of outreach events to learn more about the extension to Oakland International Airport and provide comments – and we have a lot to say.

TransForm remembers the promises BART made when it decided to move forward with the OAC project. Before BART started construction, TransForm and several allies had strong critiques of the project, including filing a successful civil rights complaint about BART’s work on the project.

BART can’t undo its decision to move forward with the OAC project, but BART has made several positive moves to re-emphasize a commitment to keeping its core service safe, affordable, fast, and reliable for everyday riders by making good investments in its state of good repair. Now BART must make sure that airline passengers are the ones who pay the project’s price tag, and avoid pushing the construction price tag and operating costs onto the backs of everyday BART riders.

BART must keep its commitments to equity and cost.

It’s critical that BART service remain equitable and affordable for the majority of its riders. As it finishes construction of the OAC, BART must remember two commitments on cost and equity:

  • OAC operations will not impose new costs on the rest of the system, and
  • Low-income airport workers will not be subject to higher fares than they pay now.

BART is already spending $6.5 million per year to pay back debt for construction of the project. When it took on that responsibility, BART claimed it would pay it back from the operating revenues from the project. That means BART will have to maximize the fare revenues from airline passengers.

In this case, charging a higher fare for airline passengers is the fair thing to do.

Airline passengers have much higher average incomes than everyday BART riders as a whole. When BART approved the OAC project, they expected to charge a $6 one-way fare, twice as high as the current $3 fare on the AirBART bus. And since airport traffic has declined since the OAC project was approved, if anything the regular fare may need to be higher to make sure BART can recover its costs on the project.

Airport workers, on the other hand, have lower incomes and deserve a discount. As part of its response to our Title VI complaint, BART promised that airport workers would not face higher fares.

There hasn’t been any indication that the OAC’s construction and operating costs have gotten much cheaper than when the project was approved. So TransForm expects that BART should charge at least a $6 fare to regular airport travelers and offer at least a 50% discount to airport workers.

Charging more to low-income airport workers or less to relatively high-income airline passengers would leave BART open to more civil rights complaints. It could also mean an even larger burden on BART’s general fund that the project already puts on it, harming BART’s efforts to maintain a state of good repair.

Here’s what you can do to make sure BART stays affordable and equitable:

  1. Attend an outreach event in person at the BART Coliseum Station Concourse and Oakland International Airport AirBART Pick-up/Drop-off Area. See the BART to Oakland International Airport page for details. Dates and times appear below.
  • Monday, March 3, 2014: 7:00 am to 11:00 am                      
  • Tuesday, March 4, 2014: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
  • Thursday, March 6, 2014: 7:00 am to 11:00 am
  • Friday, March 7, 2014: 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
  1. Write a comment online.
  2. Sign up to receive email alerts and updates on our Save BART! campaign.

Learn more about our Save BART! campaign on our website.

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About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.