Railing Against Airport Connectors

Stephen Smith questions the reasoning behind this increasingly popular breed of capital project, arguing the real benefits of connectors rarely justify their hefty price tags.

Smith contends that because airport connectors are poorly integrated with existing transit systems and usually have only two stops-a local hub and the airport-they offer little or no secondary benefits or opportunities for transit-oriented development. He calls out the Bay Area's proposed Oakland Airport Connector as the most wasteful example, saying the project is simply a $500 million replacement of an existing a three-mile bus route that will cost riders double the fare.

Smith writes:

"Airport connectors are often little more than highly inefficient subsidies to the airline industry, wealthy frequent fliers, and construction unions – which, now that I think about it, might explain why legislators love them so much.

Full Story: The inanity of airport connectors

Comments

Comments

Oakland Airport: PRT beats APM

Oakland Airport Connector: Personal Rapid Transit beats expensive Automated People Mover:
More stations, faster, cheaper, more economic development, more jobs, not "blingfrastructure for the rich" - BART Director Radulovich, redevelops parking, higher BART ridership, helps OAK market position, enhances AC Transit bus service, not an eyesore, less construction hassle, and more extendible.

see: http://www.cities21.org/OAK_OAC.htm

Steve Raney, Cities21, Palo Alto, CA

Driving to the airport costs more than you think

I'm doing a study on airport area development right now. One thing I've learned is that ground transportation around the airport (cars, taxis, and freight) contributes hugely to local air pollution. That pollution has a human and economic price in terms of asthma, respiratory disease, and heart disease that results in lost time at school or work and mounting medical costs. An externality, as the economists would say.

These costs are in the millions of dollars at each airport, every year. And these costs are felt by our entire economy, whether through lost productivity or rising health insurance premiums. Not to mention the costs to air travelers in terms of gas and parking - not everyone who flies is wealthy. That's money that can't be spent elsewhere.

Taking a train to the airport is much more appealing than a bus - there is more space for luggage, a more reliable schedule, and a seamless way to board, e.g. no narrow doors, stairs, or running around to find the bus stop - which means that more people will substitute their driving trip for transit.

Oakland Airport Connector

In general, I agree and support rail connections to airports.

But the Oakland Airport Connector would not give you anything like a seamless way to board. You would have to go down to ground level to exit the BART station, then you would have to ascend back up to the level of the Airport Connector to board it.

A seamless connection at the same level is impossible, because the platform of the BART station is between the two BART tracks. You have to go down to ground level to get around the BART tracks.

It would be easier to board BRT or light rail at ground level, since you have to go down to that level anyway.

It is interesting to look at the people supporting and opposing this project. The supporters all talk about providing more jobs to Oakland, and the opponents all talk about providing better and more cost effective transportation to the airport.

Charles Siegel

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