At long last, people who don’t mind dragging their bags on and off of BART (or don’t have a car) will have to pay $3, starting March 1, to get from the Coliseum BART Station to Oakland International Airport. Senior citizen and airport employee fares will double as of March 1 to $1 and $2, respectively.
The current $2 charge for AirBART has been in effect since 1985, so one can’t be too shocked that the Oakland port authority decided today to raise it. At least it’s not going to $4 like the bridge tolls.
And consider that the extra $1 is for a good cause: Buying new natural gas buses. I’m guessing hydrogen fuel cell buses would require an extra dollar on every AC Transit fare.
Here’s and idea: Put up those spiffy overhead electric wires and run all-electric buses. Talk about clean!
But wait, I’m forgetting the ultra-groovy BART connector that the Port of Oakland, BART and developers want to build. Why spend a few hundred thousand when you can spend $377 million? Or so I’ve heard people say.
The thing the hike does for me is raise the question, how much is a trip to the airport’s front door worth? Will air passengers clutching their JetBlue vouchers (we’re talking years from now, of course) be willing to plunk down $6 for a one-way fare after they’ve already bought a BART fare?
There are two answers to this question, according to my crystal ball. The first is, of course they will! They took BART to the airport because they had no idea they were going to be paying more than a couple more bucks to travel that last three miles. The second is, never again. For that kind of money, they might as well dispense with the schlepping of the baggage and take the Super Shuttle or equal. The third, for those Kool-Aid drinkin’ transit devotees, will be to take BART, then wait a bit for AC Transit for the last leg. By then, BART should be taking TransLink, so you won’t even feel the extra cost as it’s sucked out of your bank account.
But then, my crystal ball’s something of a cynic.
But for now, we have trusty ol’ AirBART, a fleet of five 9-year-old buses, each with 500,000 or more miles on the odometer and a growing annual ridership of 1.3 million.
And here’s the second and related issue: That wonderful, mystical disagreement between the advocates of bus and rail (talk about your Kool-Aid!). The airport connector, it would seem, is the perfect issue for bus people to latch onto to prove their point. AirBART works. AirBART’s reasonable. AirBART should not be abandoned for some huge make-work project that nobody holding a Southwest ticket is going to use.
What does rail have? It has cachet, it has what the French call, I don’t know what. Hey, I use rail. I like rail. I ride airport connectors just for fun (provided they’re free). The question is, does the flying public want a deluxe connector, a tried-and-true bus every 10 minutes or the Super Shuttle?
Photo from www.flyoakland.com.