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BART Unveils Driverless Train for Oakland Airport Connecter

The new driverless BART train for the soon-to-be-completed Oakland airport connector line had its public debut Tuesday. Trains will depart the Oakland Coliseum station every four minutes, BART said.

BART unveiled a test train for the new Oakland airport connector line on Jan. 21, 2014. Photo courtesy of BART
BART unveiled a test train for the new Oakland airport connector line on Jan. 21, 2014. Photo courtesy of BART

By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News Service

BART officials on Tuesday excitedly unveiled a test train for the 3.2-mile connector from the Oakland Coliseum station to the Oakland airport that's scheduled to begin service in the fall.

Speaking at the wheelhouse which houses the motors that will run the driverless trains on the elevated tramway, BART General Manager Grace Crunican said, "We're here to celebrate a milestone in the Oakland airport connector project, which will change the way people think about getting to the airport."

Fares from the Coliseum to the airport haven't yet been determined, but BART officials said they are expected to be roughly equivalent to the current $3 AirBART buses.

The idea of having an elevated connector from the Coliseum station to the airport was first proposed in 1970 but it wasn't approved and funded until 2010, with construction beginning in October of that year.

The connector, which will travel at about 30 mph, will run above the Hegenberger Road business corridor and replace the current AirBART buses, which drive through nine intersections on local streets.

Crunican said the current travel time between the Coliseum station and the airport is 20 to 25 minute when traffic is good but with the elevated tramway the trip will only take about 9 minutes.

"There will be a guarantee of the time that will be involved," Crunican said.

Four three-car trains will operate on the connector, with each train able to carry up to 150 passengers. The vehicles will depart every 4 minutes.

Tom Dunscombe, the project manager for the connector, said the trains will be light and "elegant" because they won't have motors, as the motors are in the wheelhouse.

Dunscombe said the connector will be "really reliable," with a projected on-time performance of 99.5 percent, because there will be redundant motors and gearboxes.

He said if the trains become crowded, BART will have the option of adding a fourth car to the trains in the future.

BART officials said the project is expected to cost $484 million and it is on time and on budget so far.

They said the local hiring program for the project is exceeding its goals because 934 of the 1,058 on-site workers are local residents, including 271 people from Oakland.

BART Director Robert Raburn, who represents the district where the connector is located, said, "This project has been moving at a very rapid clip."

Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid, who represents the area where the connector will run, said, "It will be great watching this train go to the most convenient airport in the Bay Area."

Reid added, "I wish it were operating today."

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. – Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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