By Ted Goldberg
The BART Board of Directors has begun considering how much the agency will charge riders to use its new rail line to the Oakland International Airport.
Agency officials say work on the $484 million Oakland Airport Connector project is almost complete. They hope to have service up and running by the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The connector is set to replace the AirBART bus service that costs $3 to go from the Coliseum/Oakland Airport station to Oakland International.
The board at its Thursday meeting began looking at fare options for the new service. Its members are considering charging passengers at least $4 to ride the new driverless rail connector. BART officials are considering $5 and $6 fares as well.
BART Spokeswoman Alicia Trost told KQED she thinks people will pay the more expensive fare because the new service will be more convenient than the bus shuttles.
“It’s a seamless ride,” Trost said. “It uses Clipper. You’re going to get off at a BART train and get on a very quick-moving people mover. It’s going to arrive every four minutes. The entire trip total, including the walking from the train to getting on the new people mover, is going to only be about 12 to 15 minutes.”
The project has come under criticism from transit advocacy and social justice organizations.
Jeff Hobson, with the Oakland-based group TransForm, told the San Francisco Chronicle the project is proving to be a poor investment that will take money away from much-needed projects.
Trost said if the board chooses a higher fare, there’s less of a chance the cost of running the service would weigh heavily on the agency’s other priorities.
BART officials expect the service will carry 2,800 passengers a day after it first opens. Currently, the AirBART bus service carries around 2,000 passengers.
The BART board plans to look again at the fare proposals on May 8. It has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for May 22 and plans to vote on the fare on June 12.
Meantime, on Monday BART plans to start testing the new vehicles under automatic train control between the Coliseum station and the airport.