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Crazy Train II: This time, it’s personal

Brushing aside misgivings and the federal Transportation Administration’s reneging on a promise of some $70 million in funding, politicians and transit bureaucrats gathered in Oakland Wednesday to break ground on a half billion dollar, 3.2 mile automated people-mover linking a San Francisco area commuter rail station with Oakland’s airport, reports Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Oakland Airport Connector, as it’s called, has long been pushed by local officials, but the project was nearly derailed when the Federal Transit Administration ruled that planning officials and public agencies failed to consider the project’s impact on minority communities and pulled $70 million committed to it a year ago.

When sold to voters, the project was to include a station at an office and industrial park between the station and the airport, to cost far less and to deliver passengers to the airport considerably faster than the current bus service.

The intermediate station has been dropped, the total cost has ballooned, the proposed fare has jumped to $6 each way and the new high tech monorail will only go 23 miles an hour and leave suitcase carrying passengers far from the departure gates, according to a report by critics advocating for a cheaper alternative.

If the comments on the Chronicle’s web page are any indication, the project has far from universal public support. Locals have long complained that the area’s regional rail agency, BART, gobbles up so much federal and state transit funding that the region’s 27 other transit operators are perpetually on the brink of financial collapse and unable to maintain, let alone improve, service. Meanwhile, local transit wags have laid out the various sources of funding knitted together for the project and make some pretty compelling arguments for using scarce funds more wisely.

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