THE OAKLAND AIRPORT APM CONNECTOR
Michele Jacobson, AICP* and William H. Leder**
*Project Manager, BART-Oakland Airport Connector Project, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid
Transit District, BART-1KB-6, P.O. Box 12688, Oakland, CA 94604; PH (510) 464-6148;
**Principal, Lea+Elliott, Inc. 785 Market Street – 12th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103; PH
(415) 357-6888; email@example.com
Over forty years after the original planning for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system
occurred, steps are now underway to serve the region’s three air carrier airports. This paper
focuses on the BART-Oakland Airport Connector Project. There is a long history of studies of
connecting the terminal at the Oakland Metropolitan International Airport with BART’s
Coliseum Station, a distance of 4.8 kilometers (3 miles). The most recent initiative stems from
Alameda County’s successful transportation sales tax referendum, approved by 81% of the
Currently, AirBART shuttle bus service, operating in mixed traffic, links the airport and BART.
Trip times range from 14 minutes to over one hour. Normal peak hour traffic congestion and
events at the Oakland Coliseum contribute to low schedule reliability and what is often an
unacceptable level of service.
Planning for the Connector has included consideration of an automated people mover that would
provide a much higher level of service.
An APM with stations at BART and the airport, as well as two intermediate stations in the
Hegenberger corridor, would accomplish dual missions of improving airport access and acting as
a catalyst for transit oriented urban development. It would be the first APM in the United States
linking an airport with a regional transit service.
This paper discusses key planning, environmental, and conceptual engineering aspects of the
Linking the BART system to the region’s three main airports has been a goal since BART’s
inception in the 1950s. However, in 1962, after much political wrangling, the BART District
included only three of the nine originally contemplated counties, and only one airport was within
easy reach - the Oakland International Airport (OAK).
Forty years later, San Mateo County will finally have full BART service, with a BART station in
San Francisco International Airport. And it now appears that BART may extend into Santa Clara
County with a potential link to the San Jose Airport. Plans in San Jose include possibly two
connector APMs: one between the airport and the North First Street Station of the VTA light rail
system, and a second between the airport and the Santa Clara Multi-Modal Station that offers
three commuter rail services (Altamont Commuter Express, Capitol Corridor, and Caltrain), with
the possibility of BART in the future.
BART SYSTEM MAP
Figure 1 illustrates the existing BART system. BART currently serves 330,000 people per
weekday on 153 kilometers (95 miles) of track with 39 stations in 20 cities. Train headways are
as low as 5 minutes in the peak and 15 to 20 minutes in the non-peak. BART’s station parking
inventory consists of 41,666 spaces at 29 stations. Public buses, private shuttles and taxis also
offer vehicular access to BART stations. Use of bicycles in conjunction with BART is permitted
Aligning BART to provide direct service to OAK was originally considered but rejected in favor
of an existing rail corridor roughly three miles away. The station nearest OAK is the
Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART Station. Figure 2 shows the BART system in relation to OAK.
PROPOSED APM ALIGNMENT
An express shuttle bus service called AirBART was established in 1977 to carry airline passengers, employees, and
meeters/well wishers between BART and OAK. The service has grown with increases in airport activity. Today,
AirBART carries around 60,000 passengers per month, or 6% of the airport’s annual passengers for a fare of $2 each
way. Figure 3 is a photo of the AirBART service.
AirBART EXPRESS SHUTTLE BUS
PROJECT PURPOSE AND NEED
The airport will continue to grow, as will traffic congestion both at the airport and on the roads
leading to it. In the 1998 Regional Airport System Plan Update the Regional Airport Planning
Committee (RAPC) forecast that OAK would grow from 9.2 million annual passengers in 1999
to 24.7 million annual passengers by 2020. RAPC also forecast that in 2020 OAK would serve a
higher percentage of the Bay Area air travelers than it did in 1999, increasing from 16% to 22%.
OAK growth forecasts are shown in Figure 4.
Total daily vehicle trips to OAK are forecast to increase by 151%, from the 22,000 experienced
in 1998 to 56,000 by 2020. Distribution of trips to the airport varies by geographic area. The
highest rate of growth in daily vehicle trips (256% between 1998 and 2020) is expected to come
from the North Bay, but the largest numerical increase (an additional 19,500 daily vehicle trips)
is expected to come from the East Bay. Growth in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is shown in
Like many other airports that trace their roots to the 1920s, OAK began in an area of low
intensity land use but now is imbedded in a densely populated urban region. The population of
the San Francisco Bay Area is expected to increase another 14% by 2020. The regional VMT is
expected to increase 28% by 2020. Congestion is expected to increase despite planned
improvements. More efficient use of existing transit systems is one of the few remedies
available. Our challenge is to enable transit use to major trip generator sites such as Oakland
This project has been studied many times over the past 30 years. Alameda County’s one-half
percent transportation sales tax and the Airport’s current expansion plans caused the most recent
resurgence in interest. The recent vote to renew the transportation sales tax presented the
opportunity of a partial, but major, funding source for the project, and the redesign and
expansion of the airport’s terminal and ground access facilities offer a rare chance for proactive
design coordination. Obviously, optimum integration of an APM connection can be
accomplished if the terminal is designed with the APM as a strategic component. Hence, there is
an element of urgency as the partners work to coordinate the two project schedules.
To travel the 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) between the Coliseum BART Station and OAK, AirBART
and the local bus service run in mixed traffic that is highly susceptible to delay. The delays
come from traffic from events at the Coliseum (a major regional sports and entertainment
facility), from commute peaks, from heavy air travel periods, and from normal interruptions
along the route. So even if an air traveler or employee may be willing and able to take BART to
the Coliseum Station, the final 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) to the airport has an unacceptably low
level of reliability – taking anywhere from 14 minutes to over an hour. For many it is what tips
the balance towards not choosing transit. The reliability problems can be solved only by
somehow separating the transit connection from street traffic.
Even if the reliability problem is solved, not everyone will want to take BART and the
Connector to OAK. Large parties or people with large quantities of luggage will be less likely to
use transit to an airport due to several factors inherent to BART. Primarily an urban rail service
with a high commuter ridership component, BART does not readily accommodate luggage.
There are no luggage racks, and luggage carts will not be allowed on the BART trains. Also, as
an urban rail service, the trains can be very crowded during commute peaks especially in the
commute directions. Getting a large group or large quantity of luggage onto the same train can
be problematic. While an airport express service that could cater to the air traveler is currently
not possible for BART due to track limitations, it is an idea that is being considered in BART’s
long range plans.
Despite the drawbacks, there are several factors that make transit access to OAK an attractive
option. Due to its flight offerings and reputation for on-time performance, Oakland Airport is
very attractive to business travelers and passengers making relatively short trips. Both groups
tend to carry less luggage and are often traveling in small groups if not individually.
Trip times between representative downtown BART stations and the OAK terminal via BART
and the APM Connector are shown in Table 1.
ORIGIN (BART STATION)
City Center Downtown Montgomery Dublin/ Walnut
Oakland Berkeley Street Pleasanton Creek
New Terminal at 19.5 31.5 29.5 32.5 43.5
OAK minutes minutes minutes minutes minutes
Note: Trip times do not include the average wait time at the origin station, which ranges
from five to ten minutes. The average wait time varies due to the location of the
traveler's origination, the day of the week and time of day. APM trip time is based on a
dual lane pinched loop configuration with two intermediate stations and trains operating
on 3. 8-minute headways. Intermediate stations increase trip time by 1.7 minutes.
The trip times in the table above are short when compared to the experience of an auto in
freeway commute traffic along the same routes. Using public transit for airport access can work
well for business travelers, especially if it results in getting to the airport in a predictable amount
of time. In many ways, Oakland Airport’s location in a congested urban area and its high
percentage of business travelers makes OAK very similar to Washington’s National Airport
where the percentage of passengers using rail as their access mode is the highest in the country at
13.8% of all non-connecting air passengers and airport employees.
Also, OAK is a hub for the fare-conscious Southwest Airlines. Southwest passengers often are
willing to make a greater effort to avoid high charges for long-term airport parking or private taxi
or shuttle services. Finally, the Bay Area has a high percentage of transit-dependent travelers
(i.e. university students, the elderly, etc.) who are more likely to choose BART and the
Connector than the other options.
If airport growth proceeds at the rates expected by RAPC, ridership levels forecast for the APM
are as high as 5.7 million annual riders by 2020, assuming construction of the two intermediate
stations. Without the intermediate stations, ridership is forecast to be approximately 4.2 million
annual passengers by 2020. This compares to the 1.2 million annual passengers forecast by 2020
if the AirBART shuttle bus service is retained.
DUAL PURPOSE APM
The proposed BART-Oakland Airport Connector is a dual purpose APM. The conceptual design
of the Connector enables it to serve as both a link between a regional rail system and a major
regional airport and also as an extension of the reach of the BART system. Coordination with
the City of Oakland has been a crucial element of the APM planning process. As an off-airport
system, integration with the aesthetics and function of the street corridor is essential. The
Hegenberger Road corridor, considered to be an important “Gateway” into the City of Oakland,
is currently characterized by a collection of high intensity uses that lack design consistency. The
City and Port of Oakland have jointly invested $7 million in streetscape improvements that are
underway right now as depicted by Figure 6.
HEGENBERGER GATEWAY DESIGN PLAN
The City modified their street improvement plans to accommodate the APM in the Hegenberger
Road median. The palm trees and light fixtures were placed on the sides of the road and the
three permanent banner structures were located in portions of the median where the APM is not
expected to run. Additionally, median landscaping was selected that was compatible with the
An important aspect of any transit extension is the potential economic development within
walking distance -- 0.8 kilometer (½ mile) -- of transit stations. The City of Oakland recognized
that creating station sites along the route of the APM would support their development plans for
the corridor and could provide the catalyst for a higher quality of urban renewal.
Assuming an APM with a cruise speed of 72 kph (45 mph), it was determined that two
intermediate stations could be added without compromising the main purpose of the Connector,
which is to link the regional rail system with the airport. At this speed, two station stops could
be added and the trip time is still less than the average trip time in an auto. Moreover, the APM
will provide a much higher level of schedule reliability than any roadway based mode in mixed
Merely the possibility of an APM Connector system has generated tangible results as shown by
the Coliseum BART Station Area Plan in Figure 7.
COLISEUM BART STATION AREA PLAN
HOPE VI DENSITY
In late 2000, the City of Oakland, BART and the Oakland Housing Authority co-sponsored the
production of a land use/circulation plan for the area around the Coliseum/Oakland Airport
BART Station. While the plan could have been prepared with or without the APM project, the
enthusiasm surrounding the APM project helped to expedite the process. The construction of the
Capitol Corridor Amtrak passenger rail station and the new Alameda County Transit bus
intermodal facility also contributed to the conclusion that the time was right to properly plan for
the future of this area as an important regional transportation hub.
The prospect of intermediate APM stations generated their own enthusiasm. One proposed
development, Metroport, is depicted in Figure 8.
METROPORT WITH POTENTIAL INTERMEDIATE APM STATION
Simeon Commercial Properties
Near the center of the alignment, the Port of Oakland was in the process of selling a 23-acre
parcel at I-880 and Hegenberger Road which fell within the area that the City of Oakland had
identified as a desirable intermediate APM station site. The prospective buyer, Simeon
Commercial Properties, created the Metroport Development concept and tested the waters with
potential investors and tenants. They found that having a potential APM station on the site sets
their development apart from others and is very appealing to their various clienteles. The fact
that the station will function like any other BART station and will provide access to the full
reach of the BART system was a point that was not lost on future tenants. The plan for this site
now envisions 0.12 million square kilometers (1.3 million square feet) of Class A office space, a
300-room full service hotel with conference facilities, and retail shops and restaurants.
Figure 9 shows the planned intermediate APM station near Doolittle Road and a conceptual
drawing of possible development. The APM alignment was designed to allow for a future station
on the site that could accommodate a major hotel as envisioned by the City. This second site has
not moved as fast – possibly because there are multiple property owners. Ideally, this
development would occur before or during construction of the APM.
DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT WITH POTENTIAL INTERMEDIATE APM STATION
APM DESIGN ASSUMPTIONS AND CRITERIA
Several studies conducted over the years determined that the most appropriate technology for the
Connector was an APM. It provided a suitable level of capacity and flexibility with the highest
level of reliability. The capacity afforded by a heavy rail system such as BART is greater than
will be required and is space intensive compared to an APM. And any mode that runs in a non-
exclusive right-of-way will be subject to traffic delays. During 2000 and early 2001, sufficient
conceptual engineering was accomplished to describe the APM in order to support the then
ongoing environmental analysis and establish a basis for refined planning level cost estimates.
One of the early tasks was to establish an APM alignment in the Hegenberger corridor and on the
airport. Challenges of an urban nature included crossing the Union Pacific Railroad tracks;
crossing Interstate 880; and minimizing impacts, including property takings, along Hegenberger
Road. Challenges on the airport included remaining beneath the FAA-mandated obstacle free
precision approach zones for the north field runways; avoiding impacts to the Lew Galbraith
Golf Course; crossing Section 404 jurisdictional and mitigation wetlands; and maintaining
compatibility with landside projects planned or under construction by the Port of Oakland as part
of its major airport development project.
Most of the APM alignment is aerial. A short tunnel will be constructed under Doolittle Drive,
and there will be an at-grade section adjacent to Airport Drive to avoid airspace conflicts. Care
was used in establishing horizontal and vertical curve geometry with the goal of minimizing civil
Based on the results of initial APM system performance studies, it was concluded that a dual
lane pinched loop configuration would best meet the level of service goals established for the
Connector. Based on 72 kph (45 mph) maximum design speed, round trip time with two stations
(one at each end of the alignment) will be 12.4 minutes. With four operating trains, headway will
be 3.1 minutes. Round trip time with four stations (one at each end of the alignment plus the
Metroport and Doolittle intermediate stations) will increase slightly to 15.2 minutes, and
headway to 3.8 minutes.
The Coliseum and Airport APM Stations are being planned to permit the Connector to function
in as seamless a manner as practical. At the Coliseum end, the APM station will span San
Leandro Street. The APM platform will be one level above and immediately adjacent to the
existing BART platform. There will be no fare barrier at this station. Figure10 is a computer
simulation of the conceptual APM/BART Station.
COMPUTER SIMULATION OF APM STATION AT COLISEUM BART STATION
The Airport Station will be integrated into the landside facilities and will include standard BART
fare collection equipment and a staffed station agent booth. Intermediate stations also will be
equipped with fare collection equipment and will be staffed by station agents. These features
will enable passengers to experience the Connector as a logical extension of BART, albeit with a
The guideway will cross the BART tracks at the Coliseum Station, leading to the APM
maintenance facility site in the BART parking lot. Because of the aerial configuration, the loss
of parking spaces will be minimal. It is anticipated at this time that APM central control will be
located in the maintenance facility. There likely will be a systems interface between the APM
central control and BART Operations Center in order to share certain system wide data. PA
announcements and CCTV images are examples.
Conceptual engineering studies of the guideway structure have included seismic and
geotechnical considerations. The Connector will be located in an active earthquake zone several
miles from the Hayward Fault. Preliminary investigations indicate that ground motion
acceleration as a maximum credible seismic event may exceed 0.5g. Much of the Connector
alignment follows the historic San Francisco Bay shoreline and is characterized by unclassified
fill underlain by young bay mud. Most of the airport has been built on hydraulically placed fill
subject to liquefaction in an earthquake. It is expected that large drilled shaft or CIDH
foundations will be needed to mobilize adequate lateral resistance. Minimizing aerial guideway
mass will be an important design objective. Detailed guideway design criteria will be developed
later, in the preliminary engineering phase of the project.
There is a long-standing partnership between BART and the Port of Oakland on the project. The
current effort is being led by BART in as much as BART is the project sponsor for the sales tax
money and BART is the lead agency for the EIR. In the past, however, the Port has taken the
role as environmental lead and sponsored requests for available Federal funds. While this
partnership has served the project well, the location of the APM station relative to the terminal
has required especially close coordination.
BART has stressed the importance of fully embracing the Connector and its potential as a crucial
element of the airport’s overall functionality. The transit perspective is to maximize convenience
for transit users and minimize walking distances by assigning the highest priority to the station
location. That priority created just one of many challenges for the Port of Oakland’s landside
planners, who were responsible for achieving a balanced solution involving all the landside
elements such as parking, circulation roads, terminal and gate facilities, as well as the APM
Considering the number of requirements demanded of an airport terminal, it is difficult to
estimate the value of the perfect APM connection and weigh the tradeoffs. An important
element in the design process was establishing just how important transit would be to the
Airport’s future expansion plans. Given OAK’s location in the highly urbanized San Francisco
Bay region, access by car is expected to become increasingly difficult. In 25 years, when the
region’s freeways are as clogged as everyone predicts, it might be that getting people to and from
OAK limits the airport’s growth more than the availability of terminal space. The BART/APM
connection, with stations that are optimally sited, offers one way to reliably deliver high volumes
of people to and from OAK in the future even if the freeways are clogged.
The draft environmental document has been released to the public, which is a combined
Environmental Impact Report (to meet State of California requirements) and Environmental
Impact Statement (to meet Federal requirements). The BART Board of Directors will select a
locally preferred alternative from the three that were considered:
• No Action (continuing with the AirBART shuttle), and
• Quality Bus (improved transfer, pre-empted traffic signals, and dedicated travel lane at
the airport terminal)
Within the APM Alternative, there were six options that were considered. Two options
evaluated the results of shifting the APM alignment from the median to the side of Hegenberger
Road. Two others dealt with relatively minor alignment adjustments. And the final pair of
options investigated bus solutions that had varying degrees of exclusive rights-of-way. The
results of these considerations are discussed in the environmental document.
It is anticipated that later this year, the BART Board of Directors will make its final selection and
the more detailed engineering phase of the Connector Project will begin. Procurement of an
APM would be in accordance with AB 958, the new California state law that enables transit
agencies to use design-build contracts. Construction will be coordinated with OAK’s building
schedule. As of today, the Port of Oakland anticipates opening their new terminal in 2006/2007.
In the United States, construction is underway to link the APM at Newark International Airport
with the New Jersey Transit and Amtrak services operating along the Northeast Corridor rail
line. However, currently there are no examples of an operating APM system in the United States
with dual urban transit and airport access missions similar to the proposed Oakland Airport
Connector. According to the recently released TCRP Report #62, Improving Public
Transportation Access to Large Airports, there is only one application of people-mover
technology in the world being used to connect an airport with regional services off-airport. That
system runs for roughly 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) between Paris Orly Airport and the regional
RER Line B rail service.
Creating an improved transit link between BART and OAK has evolved into much more than a
transit project. By using an APM to connect these major transportation assets of strategic
importance, sufficient capacity, speed and permanence are provided so that two intermediate
stations can be added. By providing direct access to the regional BART system, the APM
stations increase property values and promote economic development along an important urban
corridor. In the end, the BART-Oakland International Airport Connector will improve airport
access, control VMT and resultant air pollution, act as a catalyst for development in the
Hegenberger Corridor, and help to create a new front door for the City of Oakland and the entire
San Francisco Bay region.