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And the winner of Oakland North’s Race to the Airport is…

on November 23, 2010

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
Cost: Free
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
Cost: $2
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
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!




  1. Felix on November 23, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Sad. I wish the bike had won ):

    One thing about the car though – it costs a lot to maintain a car in terms of repairs, insurance, initial purchase cost, etc.

    Great piece!

  2. […] Update: winner announced here! […]

  3. Jae J. B. on November 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Hilarious! I love it! I was rooting for Ted, but I think BART’s the way to go.

    Sure, driving cost $9 to park for one day, but what if you were actually flying somewhere? How much would it cost per day to leave your car?

  4. Dave C. on November 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    About what you’d expect, although the cyclist would have done a lot better were it not for the disastrous route. He would easily have beaten the bus, and might even have beaten the BART, if he had used a more direct route. Going around the north side of the lake was an odd choice, and crossing over 880 at 16th avenue for a detour along embarcadero added time, and then the trip through Alameda and on Doolittle Drive…oh well! I’m actually a big surprised that it only took 85 minutes, with all that meandering. 😉

    For future reference (not that I expect a lot of people to bike to the airport), there is a bicycle/pedestrian path along most of Airport Drive, on the southeast side. It doesn’t get you all the way to the terminal, but it gets you most of the way, and at least you avoid the scary freeway-style overpass which it looks like you rode over.

    Sounds like the bus rider had the most fun, recruiting the bus driver onto his team..

    • Dave C. on November 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      Typo alert: a “bit” surprised, that should read…

      • Cynthia on November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm

        Dave, using your bike route (which those pix of Ted on the waterfront makes me want to try), how close can you get to the airport terminal before you have to get on the big road with the harried drivers?

        Once I figure out how to get my computer & all travel necessities into my messenger bag, that is definitely how I’m going next time out!

        • susan f on November 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

          the thing to do is take the john glenn drive exit off of airport drive, so you don’t have to use the overpass as ted did. JGD is a more mellow access road with a bicycle lane. you can ride it right to the bike racks!

        • Dave C. on November 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

          You never have to share the big road with drivers if you care to avoid it. There’s a separated bike/walking path on the east side of Airport Drive from Doolittle toward the airport (basically adjacent to Airport Drive on the Golf Course side of the road). Then you can cross over to the other side of airport drive at the intersection with Ron Cowan Parkway using a Ped crossing with a traffic signal, and connect to John Glenn Drive, which as Susan F points out is a quieter access road with a bike lane. Or you can ride on the shoulder of the non-overpass part of Airport Drive and get off before the overpass, if you don’t want to make the slight detour to the bike/walking path next to the golf course.

          The only time I rode my bike and parked at airport was before they reconstructed 98th Ave/Airport Drive, so I haven’t actually biked that route, but I did recently walk from the airport to San Leandro after returning from a trip (I was working in SL at the time and I’d always rather walk if I can). I used that bike/walking path and it wasn’t unpleasant, with a nice buffer of grass between the path and the roadway keeping the fast traffic at a distance.

          For biking from central Oakland to the airport area, I’m pretty sure that the most direct way is down International to Fruitvale Ave, then jogging over a block or two to San Leandro Ave, which offers a straight shot to the coliseum and beyond. But I recommend a more scenic route, cutting over to the estuary near High Street, then finding one of the entrances to MLK regional shoreline, which has a scenic, quiet, uninterrupted bike path along the water. It takes you all the way to Hegenberger or Doolittle, depending which way you go. It’s a bit less fastt, I think, but far more pleasant than riding on the thoroughfares with speeding cars and trucks. I used to ride that way to work when I was commuting from Lake Merritt area to a job near the airport—the best 40 minutes of my day was often the commute along the water…

          Yay for cycling to the airport! It’s a good way to force yourself to pack light, too, which means no extra luggage to schlep around or check as baggage. 😉

  5. Steve on November 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I love it!!! I was on team bus with Roberto! Too bad we came in third 🙁

    Yes – live dangerously! But dear God, don’t live without wireless lavs!

  6. Mabi on November 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I bet with traffic BART wins.

  7. […] And the winner of Oakland North's Race to the Airport is … […]

  8. Rose on November 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    two things –

    1. a checkered flag should be used at the end of a race, not at the beginning

    2. maybe another article which covers which driving routes are the best? The hubby and I are always debating which route to take…would love to get some investigative research into this compelling issue 🙂

    • cynthia on November 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      thank you for the flag correction, rose. that flag was a paper picnic tablecloth scrounged from a broom closet and taped around a ski pole. checkered was what we had available, but the next time around….

  9. Lydia Chavez on November 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Great fun piece Oakland North! Bravo. Best, Lydia

  10. […] Hautala was the chef behind the hearty pumpkin pies our racers carried to the airport during their recent race. Have your own sturdy Thanksgiving dish to add to our Community Cookbook? Email […]

  11. Mimi Chakarova on November 24, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Not only fun to watch but full of useful information presented in an engaging way. Great job!

  12. scotty on November 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Redo! Redo!

    With realistic traffic and a proper bike route (as noted above), the real-world outcome is likely to be 1. BART 2. Car 3. Bike and 4. Bus.

    The bike could even potentially get #2, depending on cross-town traffic.

    I hear there are busy flying holidays coming up real soon…

  13. […] you all a safe and plentiful holiday, whether you are racing to the airport or cooking a turkey or already eating […]

  14. Heather Collaco Stark on November 28, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    This article is great! Thanks for running the “scientific” race.

    • wth on April 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      heather collaco! where you been?

  15. Marc on December 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    How about taxi and shuttle service? I bet taxi beats the car due to expert driving, and I’m curious how the cost compares (mileage more expensive, but don’t pay for parking).

  16. […] out the video clip. CatherineNo Comments » Posts […]

  17. Justin Eichenlaub on February 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    What would have been much cooler was a race to the train station. Its not surprising that the car won–airports are not integrate, well-connected zones in our urban infrastructure. If you did this race again, from Bakesale (or maybe a cooler place like Shangri-La nearby), car and bike would almost surely tie if the bike didn’t outright win. And the cyclist would be able to take his vehicle on the train with her :).

    • Justin Eichenlaub on February 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      Wow I really need to revise before posting — I meant to write “If you did this race again, but the destination as the train station (in Oakland Jack London or Emeryville)…

  18. […] 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. To read the results, click here. […]

  19. Oakland, CA Owl on November 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    This is a fun and timely item. And the racers are cute.

  20. Daaaaaamn hipsters on November 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Yall need ta re run this with a cyclist who is FROM THE BAY. Even muhfukkas from south city know not to go anywhere near the lake let alone the northside. . This was highly un scientific. I’d imagine it would go 1 – experienced car, 2 – bart, 3 – bike, 4 – bus. Those san p busses stop CONSTANTLY, even express ones, cars are always fastest around here. Even with 880 traffic you can take 12th or san leandro, or even take the latter portion of the bike route. bart would be fastest if airbart was better.

  21. Rafael Ebron on November 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    40 minutes in a car from Bakesale Betty? Did you use the freeway? Did you stop for gas? Did it take you 10 minutes to eat a cookie? You can get to the San Jose airport from Bakesale Betty in 40 minutes (w/out traffic). 25 minutes tops w/ traffic unless you’re driving deliberately slow.

  22. […] Oakland North’s Race to the Airport – Our not-so-scientific test of which mode of transport will get you from the Temescal to the Oakland Airport the fastest (and with the most intact pumpkin pie.) Our race pits bike rider against car driver, and the BART and AC Transit bus systems. Who will win? And what will happen to the pie? […]

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