Fortunately, help is on the way as work finally gets underway on the eBART line from Bay Point BART to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch, and construction restarts on the widening of Highway 4. Unfortunately, those projects aren’t scheduled to be completed until 2015, and motorists can expect a lot of inconvenience in the meantime.
It’s understandable that many East County residents, who have been paying BART taxes for decades, are angry that we don’t already have a BART line in place through East County all the way to Byron. This has been due to politics – East County lacks the clout of Silicon Valley – and economics: BART costs more than $200 million per mile. It would cost more than $2 billion to extend BART to Antioch, and reaching Byron might require $5 billion. As a result, with only $500 million in available funding, we’re getting eBART – a light-rail, diesel-powered version of BART – to Pittsburg and Antioch.
But it might be time for East County transportation planners to start thinking outside the expensive BART/eBART box. A private company, CyberTran International, is proposing an innovative mass-transit alternative that might cost as little as half of eBART, provide many more stations, run on clean electricity instead of diesel fuel, be more efficient and stimulate an economic boom in transit-oriented development around the stations.
CyberTran is partnering with eTranzUSA, an Antioch-based company headed by a former Press employee, to find the funding and governmental support to put together a demonstration system in the next year or two and launch a commercially viable project in three years.
With much of eBART still on the drawing board, the potential is there to replace it with CyberTran and extend mass transit to Oakley, Brentwood, Byron and possibly Discovery Bay for cost of extending eBART merely to Antioch. We encourage East County officials to study that possibility while the window of opportunity is open. It if turns out to not be viable to replace eBART at this point, CyberTran should be seriously considered for the future extension of the line from the Hillcrest eBART Station into far East County.
With government at all levels mired in an ongoing budget crisis, we need to rethink the expensive, one-size-fits-all approach and start forming public-private partnerships to explore innovative, inexpensive alternatives that will get people out of their cars and help save the planet.