Unions oppose BART to Oakland Airport extension

And they seem to have a point, so I’m posting this press release. The current AirBART works great and only costs $3. Why mess with a good thing?

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, representing the 900 front line workers for the Bay Area Transit system (BART), support any development in Bay Area transit that improves service, increases safety, lowers cost for riders and saves money for the BART system. The proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line to the Oakland Airport appears to do just that.

BART’s proposed Oakland Airport Connector will do just the oppositie: it will go just three miles, have no intervening stops and cost BART riders at least $12 roundtrip on top of the price of their BART ticket. The original cost of this project was estimated at $130 million. It has now skyrocketed to the current estimate of $538 million. Who knows where it will stop?

We don’t think this is the way to go. At a time when BART is considering fare increases and service cuts to the existing system, it is fiscally irresponsible to commit to a half-billion-dollar projectd to save two minutes. According to TransForm, the Bus Rapid Transit line could be put in place for as little as $40 million and cost riders nothing.  We believe this is a critical contribution towards the long-term sustainabilit of BART’s finances.

Matt Artz


  1. Unless there is a proposal to expand oakland airport, this may not be useful. But generally speaking, bart to a airport is more convenient than a bus

  2. Oakland Airport has seen the number of flights cut and has lost several airlines, Continental being one. This seems like a complete waste.

  3. BART is supported by Alameda County, San Mateo county is not part of the system except getting to the SFO airport.
    I think transit riders who support BART both in there taxes and ridership deserve Bart to the Oakland Airport.
    As far as the Union getting involved they better spend there time figuring out how to do more with less.
    There wages and pensions are unreasonable high. Think of the the skill set needed for there job and then look at the pay.

  4. 65k on average as of 2005. 30k in benefits.

    Though, they do get you to the city for about 125% of what it would cost to drive.

  5. Marty, are you a bean counter by profession? You are certainly enamored by the numbers. The problem with bean counters is they are extremely cold blooded with no empathy whatsoever for anything other than the bottom line.
    Re: BART and the numbers involved in getting to the city. The cost has to be weighed by the individual. Some prefer the privacy of their personal auto. Some prefer to not fighting the Bay Bridge toll plaza and the search for parking once there. Some prefer to pay the 125% for that convenience. It’s more than numbers.

  6. I was on the Measure B committee which decided which projects were to be in the measure. BART to the Oakland Airport was proposed by the City of Oakland, not BART. Their argument for it was not so much for the air traveler, but for the thousands of employees which have to get to the airport every day. For the record, I opposed it anyway, figuring even at the original price, it was too expensive.

    Once it was included in Measure B and approved, the project was assigned to BART to be the responsible agency for constructing and operating it. So, any blame ought not be assigned to BART. They have enough problems already. There will probably come a time when the total cost will outweigh the value and the project will be shelved.

  7. “And they seem to have a point, so I’m posting this press release. The current AirBART works great and only costs $3. Why mess with a good thing?”

    Seriously Matt, do you even the stuff you post? The proposal the union supports is NOT the current AirBART system. It’s a modification called “Bus Rapid Transit.” It says so in the article. It’s actually an improvement to AirBart. Read about it here:


    It provides that the buses themselves would turn lights green to make the bus get to the airport and back quicker and also have a right hand queue lane only for the rapid bus to bypass traffic.

    So it’s even better than AirBART, and won’t cost $12/person on top of a bart ticket (absolutely ridiculous!)

  8. And if you read the proposal on the link I gave, it suggested the Rapid Bus system would be FREE to customers. Fast and free is great!

  9. “It’s more than numbers.”

    If the money it takes to pay your salary has to be earned as opposed to obtained by fleecing the public, then it is just numbers, Doug. That is how the normal world works. It’s how the overwhelming majority of Americans obtain their pay.

    It’s about adding value to your knowledge base and obtaining skills that set you apart from the crowd, and in effect forcing that crowd to exceed your efforts. We all win when this happens.

    Instead, Bart starting pay to man a ticket booth is more than the pay of a post doctoral scientist. What’s the incentive to not be a total retard? It’s bullshit, and I’m calling them on it (unapologetically).

  10. Gus, was this committee post- or pre- election? What’s your opinion how much of that which was promised in Measure B being delivered? I see a hodgepodge of transportation projects around the bay that just scream “we had to spend the money somehow”.

  11. Measure B, the half cent sales tax measure was originally passed in 1986 and then later renewed in 2000 (with 81.5% of the vote.) Each measure had very specific projects for which the funds could be used.

    I served on the allocation committee drafting the renewal measure. We took projects submitted by sponsors and selected them based on a whole series of criteria. One of these was to assure that no region of the county got more or less than their fair share based on population and sales tax revenue expected.

    There is an agency responsible for administering the measure. Google ACTIA for a good description of the agency and the projects. There is a very complete 20 year transportation plan for Alameda County which is prepared by the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency, which also has a good web site. The plan deals with the various sources of funding ranging from funds we are certain of to funds we wish we would get. All funds coming to the county are allocated to each region of the county by population. The county is divided into four regions, North (Oakland and north), mid county (south of Oakland to Union City north border), tri cities (us), and the valley. We used to get about 20%. They do a good job of meeting the goals. Beside the big capital projects, measure B funds transit, bike and pedestrian projects, paratransit, and maintenance of local streets and roads.

    In my opinion, transportation funding is one of the things that this county does well. The staffs of the county agencies and of the cities all are committed to their mission and the results show. If you want to argue with a project pick on the governing board for that project, not the staff people. Staff does a good job of following direction of the elected folks. Sometimes they ought to get better direction.

  12. More numbers…

    “UC Regents approve 9.3% increase in undergraduate fees” and “…also approved salaries of $450,000 and $400,000, and free housing, to new chancellors at UC San Francisco and UC Davis.”

    Makes you want to be a UC chancellor or just forgeddaboutit school and be a BART station agent.

  13. Oh, I see Doug. Since post-doctoral scientists actually have to obtain training at a university to earn their pay, as opposed to a Bart employee having to be able to breathe, you see a connection with exorbitant chancellor pay.

    Roller coaster logic, Doug.

    My point, and one I’ll keep making is that when an institution has a monopoly on a service, there is zero incentive to provide a value. And here in CA, it’s starting to cost you and I a good portion of our wages.

  14. Marty, how do you avoid a monopoly for rapid transit? The problems between management and the rank-and-file protected by unions will never go away, whether it’s fire fighters, transit workers, or any other union represented profession.

    I saw the news about college tuition rising yet again, while college chancellors get healthy pay increases. BART cuts service, increases fares and then the unions push for pay increases. It’s an endless cycle.

  15. Marty: I take exception to your comments.

    My wife was a train technician at BART for 15 years. She had to not only go to school but also had to learn a lot of specialized knowledge to do her job, which was to debug or rebuild electronics while working around 1KV high-amp motors and power supplies.

    I’m not familiar with the salary and working conditions of station agents, but a lot of BART staff have specialized training and work in conditions that are potentially fatal.

    Regarding the value of BART and other rapid transit, think about what your drive to SF would be like if BART was not there. Fortunately the people here in the Bay Area are smart enough to invest in rapid transit.

    Regarding the original point – It really does seem that bus rapid transit to the Oakland airport makes more sense than running a spur line from BART out there. BART cars are designed to go long distances at 70mph, they aren’t needed for the short jaunt from Coliseum to the Terminal. BRT (not BART) seems like a great fit to me.

  16. Bruce, I’m not talking about those highly trained in electrical systems, or technicians as a whole. The pay of those jobs have some resemblance to the market for electrical technicians. And, it seems like your wife deserved every dime she made, so no insult was intended.

    I am asserting that Bart as a whole overpay their staff relative to other transportation agencies, as reported by the Chronicle (link below). They can do this because one, they have a monopoly over the service they provide and two, their ridership are a voting minority who are easily fleeced.

    And, Doug, it is possible to avoid a monopoly of a transportation systems by inserting service contracts into the management. Our state does this with equally complex systems all the time, from infrastructure projects to the management of Lawrence Livermore.


  17. Bruce, I just want to , through you, thank your wife for her services to the BART system for 15 years. We all complain about BART (sometimes with good reason), but we also depend on it and depend on the people who keep it running. The people who keep the trains going don’t deserve to catch the fall-out from some of the questionable policy decisions made at the top.

    It seems that some commenters are pretty free about opining on the complexity, demands, stress, skill and education levels required to effectively perform in jobs which they have never themselves held. It is fortunate that it is the marketplace that sets compensation rates.

    Your point about BART being intended for long-distance runs makes sense to me. Sometimes a bus is a better option.

  18. “It is fortunate that it is the marketplace that sets compensation rates.”

    Wrong. It’s the collective bargaining agreement that sets compensation rates.

  19. What say we cut to the chase and call this what it is – envy.

    Via the Wiki:

    “Envy (also called invidiousness) may be defined as an emotion that “occurs when a person lacks another’s [perceived] superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.” It can also derive from a sense of low self-esteem that results from an upward social comparison threatening a person’s self image: another person has something that the envier considers to be important to have. If the other person is perceived to be similar to the envier, the aroused envy will be particularly intense, because it signals to the envier that it just as well could have been him or her who had the desired object.”

    No, I’m not a civil servant and never have been, though I do sometimes wish I’d gone that way. Governmental and quasi-governmental positions usually come with paid health plans, retirement plans, and other benefits that their unions have negotiated for over the years; things a lot of us have to do on our own.

    It reminds me of that old shampoo ad “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”. Don’t blame them because you think they’re getting a better deal. Go out and get your own good deal.

  20. Well, I don’t want to act like earning 65k working for Bart is the end all of success and having made it. So, it’s quite a different situation than firefighter’s executive earnings.

    But, Bart is unique in that these wages are directly transferred on to their riders with what appears to be little over-site. Fares and parking fees are jacked without input from voters. And I find this a unique situation since Bart infrastructure is funded with taxpayer revenue.
    Regarding “envy” – If it were about wages, I certainly don’t envy the guy making more money than me at the private widget company across the street. So what is it?

    I’d rather consider it contempt, especially in the context of a recent tax increase, income and sales, and the coming special election aimed at maintaining irrational revenue projections.

    If the state was able to pay their employees well with revenue that hovered somewhere in reality, then I’d probably have no problem with their good deal.

  21. One thing y’all might want to consider; if you think that the service levels at public institutions are unacceptable now, try paying these workers less. Not every civil servant makes over $100k a year. Many who provide critical service and support functions make far less than that. Also, if you decrease funding to public institutions, get used to standing in line, always getting voice-mail rather than a real person, and longer turn-arounds on service requests.

  22. Looks like Caltrain is feeling the pain as well. With a $10.1 million deficit, Caltrain is floating a $1 surcharge on bike riders and another fare increase.

    “…due to a combination of state budget cuts and minor ridership losses”


    It appears there is less of a demand for the service. Funny, because in the REAL world, when there’s a decrease in demand, there’s a decrease in price.

  23. Marty opines… It appears there is less of a demand for the service. Funny, because in the REAL world, when there’s a decrease in demand, there’s a decrease in price.

    But conversely, when there is an increase in demand the price goes up, right? After all, in your ‘real’ world (the one usually referred to as private sector) there is a need to create a profit. In the public services world (no less ‘real,’ by the way) prices are not based on gaining a profit but on covering the cost of providing the service, as it should be.

    Would you really rather that Washington Hospital jack up its flu shot charge in times of epidemic because there is increased demand? Should the emergency room double its rates in the aftermath of a major earthquake because the demand is greater?

    Currently, when a new commercial building is built on an unimproved street, the city assesses the cost of improving that portion of the roadway on which the building fronts. If lots of new construction is going up on that stretch of road, the cost to each building owner goes down, due to economy of scale. In this case, higher demand equals lower price. Are you really advocating the opposite?

  24. “In the public services world (no less ‘real,’ by the way) prices are not based on gaining a profit but on covering the cost of providing the service, as it should be.”

    Is that why bridge commuters support ferry commuters and LCD television purchasers support Bart commuters?

    I have know idea what you are trying to say with the other two points, so we’ll leave it at that.

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