In September 2009, Public Advocates filed a successful civil rights and Environmental Justice administrative complaint with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on behalf of our partners Urban Habitat, Genesis, and TransForm. The complaint challenged Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART’s) controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project, alleging that in BART’s rush to build the OAC, the agency violated federal rules implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — rules that require transit agencies to analyze whether their projects have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income and minority populations.

For a copy of the complaint, see here.

Why We Advocated Against the OAC

The $492 million OAC was conceived as a three-mile elevated tramway connection from the BART Coliseum station to the Oakland International Airport, and would eliminate the existing cost-effective AirBART shuttle service.

It would provide little, if any, transit mobility benefits to the area’s overwhelmingly low-income and minority residents due to its prohibitive $12 roundtrip fare and its lack of intermediate stops along the job-rich Hegenberger corridor. BART’s own analysis predicts that less than 3 percent of the OAC riders will come from the immediate East Oakland neighborhoods surrounding the project.

Victory! The FTA Acts to Enforce Civil Rights

In response to our complaint, in October 2009 the FTA began conducting a sweeping on-site compliance review of BART, finding many civil rights deficiencies (as covered on KALW Radio).

Based on BART’s failure to conduct an equity analysis of the OAC, in February 2010 the FTA pulled $70 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the project — the first action of its kind in the nation. The strong action underscored a promise made in President Obama’s State of the Union address to continue “prosecuting civil rights violations.”

The federal stimulus funds were recaptured by Bay Area transit agencies, including AC Transit, and used to maintain existing transit service and jobs. To remedy the many civil rights deficiencies identified by the FTA, BART was also required to implement a corrective action plan, which we and our allies have been monitoring, and which we responded to in May 2010.

Latest Updates

Continued Changes at BART

July 28, 2011— Dorothy Dugger, BART’s General Manager and a staunch supporter of the OAC project, resigned her post in April 2011 after significant pressure from the BART Board of Directors. She received a severance package of nearly $1 million.

Our Title VI enforcement efforts continue to change BART’s behavior. For a success story on how BART is now using equity analyses to influence its service change policies, see our blog post “BART Late Night Plan Not Fair.”

Public Advocates will continue to monitor BART’s compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Voters Hold BART Officials Accountable

November 1, 2010— BART Director Carole Ward Allen, the primary backer of the OAC project, was removed from office by Oakland and Alameda residents. Her opponent, Robert Rayburn, ran on a platform calling attention to Ward Allen’s staunch support of the half-billion dollar tramway. Despite strong public dissatisfaction, BART held a ground breaking ceremony for the project last November after it was able, with much help and backroom dealing by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, to secure alternative funding to replace the $70 million it lost stimulus funds. Construction of the OAC is anticipated to begin sometime in 2011.

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