How cost-effective are new rail transit projects?

 By ALAN DAVIES: blogs.crikey.com.au – excerpt
Many newer rail-based transit projects aren’t cost-effective. Too often it’s assumed one transit project is as good as any other. More effort needs to go into building the right projects in the right places….
Transit projects with low capital costs look attractive but some also have low ridership. Some that cost a lot have correspondingly high patronage…
The first section of the Red Line in Los Angeles cost more to build per route-mile than any other investment but had below average costs per passenger-mile. Because of its low ridership, San Jose light rail had among the highest costs per passenger-mile despite low investment costs per route-mile...
However they find the density of neighbourhoods around the transit stations they studied is very low…
here’re the key things I take away from this paper. Density really does matter for rail-based transit, most especially employment density
It’s quite possible to provide an acceptable level of rail transit without any high density stations, but it might not be cost-effective. But density isn’t the whole story – there’re other important dimensions to providing and operating cost-effective public transport too e.g. connectivity, frequency, parking.
The size and nature of the “market” being served should determine the type and scale of the public transport “solution” that’s suitable. Guerra and Cervero’s findings on per passenger kilometre costs suggest that’s not always – or perhaps even often – the case.
Cost-effectiveness matters. I don’t know what’s a reasonable level of subsidy per passenger kilometre for the benefits of public transport. But the available financial and political capital is frustratingly finite and great care and attention should accordingly be given to maximising the cost-effectiveness of projects.
I think the key message (the authors are strong transit advocates) is precious financial and political capital shouldn’t be squandered on rail-based projects that don’t deliver, no matter how glamorous they might be. If a project doesn’t stack up, other options need to be considered …(more)

Some of our Central Subway Costs are here: Enclosure 2
What those dollars at work digging below sea level. 60 Feet down.

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