The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will vote Wednesday on funding for an elevated rail extension from the Coliseum BART station to the Oakland Airport. Some transit advocates say the price tag is too high, and have proposed an alternative. We discuss the merits of the various proposals.
- James Fang, president of the board of BART
- John Knox White, program director for TransForm
- Michael Cabanatuan, transportation writer for The San Francisco Chronicle
Stuart Cohen, TransForm's executive director, said his group commissioned the $100,000 study because BART refused to study the bus rapid transit as an option even as the rail project costs escalated and its projected ridership dropped over the last decade.
"Now we have the numbers and facts to look at, and it shows the people mover doesn't stand up to scrutiny," Cohen said. "Building the tram is like shredding $500 million."
BART studied a bus option, then called the Quality Bus, in 2002, and determined that problems with reliability and traffic impact made it a poor choice. Since that time, though, rapid bus design and technology have improved significantly, says TransForm’s program director John Knox White.
“With an exclusive lane proposal like RapidBART you could do many different things,” he says. “You could have multiple bus lines use it. You could have an express bus to the airport and have locals that stop every quarter mile if you wanted to.”
Carli Paine, transportation director at TransForm, a nonprofit that advocates for public transit, said that money coming from state and local sales tax measures have dwindled and hurt AC Transit.
"We're at this point because were in this perfect storm of funding decimation from multiple sources," said Paine.
Robust public transportation options can yield significant savings for households, local governments, and the environment. However, the lack of stable funding for public transit threatens the long-term viability of transportation systems that offer alternatives to dependence on automobiles. This article looks at some possibilities for policy reform that can re-balance transportation priorities and spending to better support the development of walkable neighborhoods near high quality transit.
"The funding is very risky," said John Knox White of TransForm, a transit advocacy group that favors express buses over rail service to the airport.
“It’s important that the top BART priority should be sustaining its existing core system,” said Carli Paine, transportation program director for TransForm, a Bay Area transit advocacy group. “It’s really not good public policy and not good business to undercut the core ridership. Expansion projects could cannibalize the core system.”
In June the Oakland-based group TransForm challenged people to stay out of their cars for a week – and participants in this Car-Free Challenge were surprised to find how feasible it was.
John Knox White of TransForm, one of the primary critics of the connector project, said BART's planning shows it isn't taking the feds' concern seriously.
"They're basically doing an end run around this issue without doing this with federal funds," said Knox White.
Evans and her husband pledged to go carless from June 1 to today as part of the Car Free Challenge sponsored by TransForm, an Oakland-based transit advocacy group.
About 150 participants in the challenge set a low mileage goal for the week and tracked their progress online. This is the second year TransForm has challenged Bay Area residents in what they hope can be an annual - and eventually permanent - event.
The duration of the campaign was shortened from a month in 2009 to a week this year to encourage participation and make the challenge more realistic, said Marta Lindsey, the communications and development director for TransForm.
The pledge is intended to help people realize both the importance of public transportation and the extent to which they depend on their cars, she said.
"So many people are making those little trips on errands" with their car, Lindsey said. "They don't realize how they can add up."
During the public comment period for this agenda item, Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm and one of the people who filed the initial complaint with the FTA about the project, announced that his non-profit had secured funding from a national foundation to conduct an in-depth study of the Hegenberger corridor. TransForm has hired Kittelson & Associates (KAI), a national transportation consulting firm to conduct a more thorough study of alternatives to the Oakland Airport Connector and to provide more detailed analysis of bus rapid transit options instead of the elevated tramway design currently in favor with BART staff.
"What we had heard from many of you when we presented our RapidBART proposal was that it wasn't detailed enough, that it was a sketch-level analysis," Cohen told BART's board. "We're being supported by a national foundation to provide that level of detail that many of you asked for and were never given."
TransForm formally requested that BART participate as a partner in the study and turn over the data that was collected during the development of OAC as well as the data that was collected during the analysis of the RapidBART service. GM Dugger said after the meeting it was too early to decide whether they would participate.
After Cohen's presentation, BART Director Gail Murray, who represents Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, asked somewhat pointedly, "I just wanted to know if you are also bringing this forward to AC Transit because we are rail people, they're bus people. So why wouldn't you also involve them?"
Cohen said AC Transit and numerous other partners are invited, though he jumped on Murray's comment to illustrate what he considered the problem with the project. "I think the framing of the question is the problem we have here in the region. You are rail people and they are bus people and we didn't evaluate what's the best thing for that corridor, we evaluated what's the best rail project for that corridor," said Cohen.
The GreenTRIP (Traffic Reduction + Innovative Parking) program provides a good model for consideration of transport and parking management in building location and operation. This program certifies new residential and mixed use developments that incorporate traffic and parking reduction strategies, with standards tailored to specific land use types. It was developed by TransForm (formerly the Transportation and Land Use Coalition), a San Francisco Bay Area smart growth advocacy group, with funding from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, The Rockefeller Foundation and The Silicon Community Foundation.
In the good-news department, TransForm was named the highest impact non-profit in the Bay Area for combating climate change today by Philanthropedia, a foundation that researches and recommends non-profits for philanthropic donations.
"We're interested in helping donors give better and directing more money to the nonprofits that are having the most impact in their sector," said Erinn Andrews, Philanthropedia's Chief Operating Officer. Andrews said they had surveyed 97 climate change experts in the Bay Area who lauded TransForm's staff and Executive Director, Stuart Cohen, for their thorough research and dynamic advocacy. "They deserve our support so they can do even more," said Andrews.
"Transportation makes up 40 percent of greenhouse gases here in the Bay Area," said TransForm's Cohen. "That means to fight climate change we need to grow in a way that supports convenient communities where it is easier to walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation for more trips. Otherwise, we will not only fail to reduce emissions, but our cost of living will skyrocket."