BART’s Oakland Airport Connector Isn’t A Big Money Maker Yet

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — BART will meet Thursday to discuss raising fares and possibly cutting service.

Ridership is down, even on the new Oakland airport connector, which was supposed to be a big money maker.

“It was more than we expected. Next year we’re projecting that it will grow by 500-riders [per day],” said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost two years ago.

Trost could not have been more upbeat two years ago when BART’s new $500 million driver-less tram began swishing passengers in and out of Oakland international. And why not, early ridership numbers showed that at $6 a ride, the line might even turn into a money maker.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said, “Instead in fiscal year 2016 we lost $260,000.”

And the year before?

“The year before it was $600,000,” Allison said.

Allison said, “So total, it would be $860,000.”

The culprit appears to be the new ride share’s like Uber and Lyft that can when you add in the cost of a regular BART ticket, can offer door to door service sometimes at a competitive cost and often, more conveniently.

Allison said, “It is something that has really burst onto the scene and something we didn’t anticipate.”

The resulting loss in ridership and money is the latest chapter in the connector’s costly history.

Even before work had begun in 2010, the estimated cost of the three-mile line had ballooned from $134 million to $500 million.

But as the costs rose, so did the behind the-scenes pressure to keep it going.

Allison said, “This was built during the recession and it was an important part of putting people back to work The Obama administration was firmly behind it, and that is one of the reason that it was built.”

BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman says the connector losses are now part of BART’s bigger money troubles that could lead to fare hikes or service cuts.

“When ridership drops that has a big impact on our budgets,” Saltzman said.

But Saltzman said she never threw her support behind the connector project.

Saltzman said, “Well I can tell you that I was never in support of it, but that decision has already been made.”

More from Phil Matier
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