BART’s board of directors has experienced little turnover in recent years, but former East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Robert Raburn shook it up in Tuesday’s election by comfortably beating three-term incumbent Carole Ward Allen of Oakland.
Raburn had 46.35 percent of the vote, according to ballots counted as of 4 p.m. today, while Ward Allen, who was first elected in 1998, had 35.15 percent of the vote for the District 4 seat, which represents much of Oakland and all of Alameda.
Monique Rivera, an engineering business manager, was third with 17.5 percent of the vote.
But across the bay in San Francisco, Director James Fang, who was first elected in 1990, easily won re-election to a sixth term by getting 49 percent of the vote. His District 8 seat covers the northern and western parts of San Francisco.
Bert Hill, a former project manager for Bechtel, finished second with 26.15 percent, and Brian Larkin, a former BART engineer, finished third with 24.46 percent.
Raburn said he believes the key issue in the District 4 race was Ward Allen’s strong support for the $484 million rail connector from the Coliseum BART station to Oakland International Airport, which he opposed and called “an unnecessary expense.”
Ward Allen, a long-time fixture on the Oakland political scene who teaches at Laney College in Oakland and formerly served as president of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners, couldn’t be reached for comment today.
Ground was broken for the airport connector project, which has been discussed for more than 20 years, at a ceremony two weeks ago. The project is scheduled to be completed in about 3.5 years.
Opponents of the project said BART could have saved hundreds of millions of dollars by developing a rapid bus service between the Coliseum station and the Oakland airport at a cost of between $83 million and $125 million.
“I will bring a new perspective to the BART board by focusing on the core system” instead of expensive extension projects, Raburn said.
He said he doesn’t think that extension projects that are already under way can be stopped and said, “I’m not an opponent to all things BART.”
But he said he thinks the transit agency should focus more on improving its basic service instead of reducing service, raising fares and eliminating jobs.
“BART’s been balancing its budget on the backs of its passengers,” Raburn said.
Fang, in contrast, said he would like BART to continue building extensions, specifically what he called “BART to the beach,” which would go underground from the Civic Center station west to Ocean Beach.
“We can move very fast,” he said, adding that said it could be built in seven or eight years.
Fang said skeptics thought BART’s extension to San Francisco International Airport “was a pipe dream,” and the transit agency’s long-discussed extension to San Jose is also moving along.
Fang said he believes he was re-elected because “the voters of San Francisco looked at BART’s 96 percent on-time performance and our $8 million surplus” and think that BART looks good compared to the San Francisco Municipal Railway, which has been plagued by service problems over the years.
He said he also thinks that BART is “a jobs and economic engine” because its expansion projects are projected to create 170,000 to 185,000 jobs over the next 10 to 12 years.
Raburn is scheduled to be sworn in at BART’s meeting on Dec. 16, when the board of directors will also elect its new president and vice president.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News