Transit Advocates Rejoice as $70M Shunted From Airport Connector to Muni, BART, Others

Public transit advocates are all but dancing in the aisles of public transit following a ruling that yanked $70 million in federal funding away from the controversial Oakland Airport Connector and led to moribund local transit agencies being showered with manna from Washington. Transit activists SF Weekly spoke with portrayed the Friday decision by the Federal Transportation Authority to revoke funding to the much-maligned connector as the governmental equivalent of a double word score: Not only are starving local agencies receiving millions in much-needed funds, the airport connector — decried by many as an exorbitant farce — may have been dealt a fatal blow.

“We are thrilled,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm. “The truth is, this was going to be an enormous boondoggle. First off, it would have cost nearly half a billion in taxpayer money. And also, because it was going to be so slow and because it was going to drop you off in the parking lot and you'd have a long walk, we thought it'd have very low ridership.”

Added Supervisor Chris Daly, a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, “In terms of Muni, basically getting the same amount of money they needed in this round of cuts, that helps. That helps a lot.”

Because of the looming possibility that the feds would rescind stimulus dollars for the Oakland Airport Connector, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission last month set up a contingency plan in which that $70 million  would instead go to local transit agencies. Since the feds followed through on their threat, Muni will now benefit to the tune of $17.5 million; BART will receive $17 million; and AC Transit — an agency Daly describes as “on life-support” — picks up $6.7 million.

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