In anticipation of the extra traffic that comes with the holiday season, last week Oakland North posed a question: what’s the fastest way to get to Oakland International Airport? To find the answer, on November 18 we pitted four of our most daring reporters against each other in a contest we call the Race to the Airport. By sending each contestant out on a different form of transit—car, BART, bus, and bike—we hoped to help our readers make informed choices as they set out to catch their flights.
Our racers met at Bakesale Betty’s on 51st and Telegraph, and when Betty herself waved the checkered flag at 8 am, they scrambled to their vehicles and headed for the race finish point—the baggage claim carousel at Terminal 1. As an additional challenge, each racer had to make the trip carrying a pumpkin pie. The results are as follows:
4th Place: Bike
Final time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Condition of pie: Surprisingly unscathed
Despite transportation reporter Ted Trautman’s highest hopes, his bike “The News Cycle” was no match for mechanized transportation. It took him just under an hour and a half to get from Temescal to the airport, and on the way he saw whole swaths of Oakland he never knew existed. He and navigator Dara Kerr accidentally crossed the Fruitvale Bridge into Alameda about 45 minutes into the race, but decided to follow the edge of the island across the San Leandro Bay back to Oakland.
Though his journey was the longest, Ted says it was also the most scenic. But the home stretch, a road innocuously called “Airport Drive,” nearly brought Team Bike to an untimely end. “We’re basically biking down the freeway,” Ted said. “I don’t think it’s the safest thing I’ve ever done.”
For those who were wondering: Yes, the Oakland Airport does indeed provide bike racks at the edge of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
3rd Place: Bus
Final time: 1 hour, 13 minutes
Condition of pie: Just fine
“If this was Hollywood,” said Joseph Jackson, a passenger Roberto Daza met on the 1R bus line along International Boulevard, “the bike would win.” But this isn’t Hollywood, it’s Oakland, and even Roberto, despite significant cuts in AC Transit service this year, beat Ted by 12 minutes.
Roberto’s trip started at 50th Street and Telegraph, where he boarded a 1R bus he was able to ride ten miles to Hegenberger Boulevard. There he transferred to the 73, which took him the rest of the way to the airport.
A few miles from the finish, Roberto’s bus was passed by an AirBART shuttle bus, which he suspected was carrying Team BART ahead of him to victory. But here Roberto received help from an unexpected ally: bus driver Sandra Santos—to whom Roberto had explained the race after she asked about the camera crew following him around—pressed the pedal just a little harder, and overtook the shuttle.
2nd Place: BART
Final time: 1 hour
Cost: $5 ($2 for BART, $3 for the AirBART shuttle)
Condition of pie: Pristine
Santos’ surprise assist on the AirBART shuttle bus turned out to be for naught. With an average speed of 33 miles per hour, the BART gave Shirley Lau enough of a lead that while Roberto was racing past the AirBART, she was already comfortably waiting for him at the airport.
Although the AirBART will be replaced in the next several years by the Oakland Airport Connector tramline, for which ground was just broken last month, Shirley found the existing shuttle to be speedy and efficient. “Overall,” she said, “I think BART is the most time-friendly and cost-efficient way to travel.”
1st Place: Car
Final time: 39 minutes
Cost: $15 ($6 for gas; $9 for parking)
Condition of pie: Nibbled around the edges
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Alyssa Fetini, driving her 1998 Volkswagen Jetta, won the race. Traffic on the I-880 will likely be thicker this week than during our race, as Oaklanders actually take to the highways to meet friends and family for the holiday, and as others’ loved ones come into the city. Still, Alyssa proved that the car is still a viable means of getting to the airport, even in the public transit-friendly Bay Area.
Alyssa celebrated beating the rest of the competition to the finish point with an impromptu rendition of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and a dance around the baggage claim. As the other racers joined her at the end, the racers broke into their pies with the help of the Oakland airport staff.
- Team Bike
- Racer: Ted Trautman
- Camera and crew: Nicole Jones, Ye Tian, Dara Kerr, Lilly Mongeau
- Team Bus
- Racer: Roberto Daza
- Camera and crew: Evan Wagstaff, Laura Hautala
- Team BART
- Racer: Shirley Lau
- Camera and crew: Carl Nasman, Kevin Fixler
- Team Car
- Racer: Alyssa Fetini
- Camera and crew: Karmah Elmusa, Whitney Pennington
- Team Finish Line
- Camera and crew: Kate McLean, Abby Baird
- Video editing
- Carl Nasman, Roberto Daza, Alyssa Fetini, Ted Trautman
- Shirley Lau, Roberto Daza
- Laura Hautala, Teresa Chin
- “Dropping out of School” by Kotzintos , “Carchase” by La Banda Del Gobbo
Thanks to the Oakland International Airport and Bakesale Betty for their cooperation!