Oakland AirBART Connector Performing Poorly

The East Bay Times is reporting some depressing numbers from the two-year-old people-mover rail connection to the Oakland Airport from the BART station:

Rather than making a projected $2 million profit in its first two years, the service has cost the agency $860,000. And ridership dropped 4.5 percent during the three-month period ending Sept. 30 from the same period a year earlier, as ride-booking services tripled their numbers over the same span.

This performance comes as the airport has experienced 6% passenger growth, meaning the connection is failing to capture new travelers.

OAC1As I’ve written before, the $6 fare is just brutal for this ride. It makes any taxi or ride-hailing service cost competitive (and probably faster) if you have more than one person in your party.  The fact that the ride is a slow-moving cable car with a 20-second cable “transfer” in the middle doesn’t help matters either.

Still, I’m surprised to see this news given that the numbers looked better last year, with fares appearing to cover operating costs.  The ubiquity of these ride-hailing services must clearly be making a big impact.

Now that BART has sunk all this money into the connection, rather than the cheaper and comparable bus-only lane that many social justice and transportation advocates wanted, the agency has limited options.  They could experiment with cheaper fares (and promote them widely) to see if that might lure enough additional people to cover costs.  But that could be tough: if they cut fares to $3 each way, they’d have to attract at least one additional person for every existing rider just to cover the reduction, plus probably a second new rider to help cover the operating deficit.

Could be worth a try.  Otherwise it will go down as an expensive learning experience for BART and other transit operators.  Assuming they and the public are paying attention.


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