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March 18, 2014 > Oakland Airport Connector avoids traffic hassles

Oakland Airport Connector avoids traffic hassles

By Joe Gold

That spiny beast leaping over 880 at the Oakland Coliseum is coming to life. ItÕs stirring now, testing its wheels, grabbing hold of a cable that will haul it through its elevated guideway down Hegenberger Road at 4.5 miles per hour to the Oakland Airport. BART expects to give you a lift to your flight by Thanksgiving.

It wears a BART logo, but the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) is not your standard BART train. ItÕs a little railroad of its own, Òpeople moversÓ that run 3.2 miles from the BART Coliseum/Airport stop to the Oakland Airport terminal in eight minutes and 30 seconds. A three-car train leaves every four minutes. Built by Doppelmayr Cable Car of Wolfurt, Austria, the driverless trains are young cousins of San FranciscoÕs rolling landmarks, mostly automated and run from a central control room, with a very contemporary price tag of $484 millionÑwhich includes two stations and a maintenance yard. The company, which has installations in Quatar, Las Vegas, Toronto, and Venezuela, touts its simplicity, reliability and environmentally friendliness.

The elevated airport connector guideway follows the Hegenberger Road median, with a direct stairway from the BART Coliseum station on one end and a drop off location at the airport parking lot between the two terminals, so it's equally accessible to both.

The connectorÑand the absence of diesel-scented busses it replacesÑcuts down on vehicle traffic to, from, and within the airport. As Oakland Airport use grows, more people in a hurry darting in and out of airport traffic can be maddening. Passengers on foot tend to do less damage than impatient people with a steering wheel in their hands.

The connector in its current three-car train configuration can carry 3.2 million riders annually, and expand to accommodate more with four-car trains. The connector will replace AirBART, a shuttle bus that carries 750,000 people a year between the Coliseum BART station and the airport. The bus ride takes 20 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic. Given the frequent events attracting thousands of people to the Oakland Coliseum complex, traffic is often serious. Even at less frenetic times, the inconvenience of exiting BART, paying a separate $3 fare (not available on a BART or Clipper card), stowing luggage and wrestling with Hegenberger traffic, convinced BART officials that a more elegant solution was necessary.

BART officials anticipate fares that might run from $4 to $6. Actual fares will be announced before the connector opens for business, in time for holiday travel.

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