BART's Oakland Airport Connector Now in Service

Depending upon which Bay Area newspaper you read, the new 3.2-mile Oakland Airport connector, an elevated, driverless tram that takes eight minutes and costs $6, is either a huge success or a $484 million boondoggle. It began service on November 22.
December 1, 2014, 7am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The new tram might be a big improvement from the bus shuttle it replaced, but it still has critics," writes Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez of the San Francisco Examiner on the new airport connector running between the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District's Oakland Coliseum Station and Oakland Airport

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (JPG)

Image by Doppelmayr

TransForm, a transportation advocacy group, says the new connector is a boondoggle -- too costly with little potential for heavy ridership, and constructed at a time when nearly $5 billion in funding is needed for major systemwide improvements to the BART network.

"This is frankly going to serve 1 percent of the daily ridership," said Joël Ramos, a community planner with TransForm and also a board member of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Projected ridership is 2,745 daily passengers.

As a result of a successful Title VI (civil rights) complaint filed by TransForm and other critics in 2009, the project lost some federal funding, writes Rodriguez.

For a far more flattering review of BART's nearly half a billion dollar investment (plus $3 million annual operating budget), Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that notwithstanding a rare Bay Area downpour, "nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of its jubilant first-day riders."

A San Francisco State student summed-up the difference between bus and rail by saying that "old Air BART shuttle was slow and the ride bumpy," writes Van Derbeken. “This ride is way smooth and nice," he said.

Apparently the ride was so nice that the student wasn't irritated by the $6 fare, twice the cost of the bus shuttle that the connector replaced.

"BART defends (the cost) as reasonable when compared to the cost of parking at the airport or hiring a taxi, van or limousine," writes Dennis Cuff for the Contra Costa Times.

As we noted earlier, the connector was built by Doppelmayr/Garaventa, a Swiss and Austrian company perhaps better known for funicular railways than modern airport connectors. They will also operate the connector.

BART has an instructional (and promotional) video (YouTube) on the webpage for its new service geared to those flying into Oakland Airport who plan to use the connector that additionally provides helpful information on how to use BART. The local CBS news story also provides a helpful "how to" guide.

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Published on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 in San Francisco Examiner
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