Report: FTA should help with rising LRT costs

Posted on November 21, 2005

A report produced by the Region 2 University Transportation Research Center (UTRC) asserts that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) should help transit agencies get costs of light rail transit projects under control.

The report, “Analysis of Capital Cost Elements and Their Effect on Operating Costs,” contains recommendations to alleviate high project costs, including regulatory relief, increased competition among suppliers and the development of in-house expertise at agencies.

“Rising costs mean projects get funded at a lower level or they don’t get funded at all,” said UTRC Director Robert Paaswell. “This delays or eliminates the benefits that a new system might provide and adversely impacts transit usage at a time that people are increasingly looking for alternatives to driving.”

The study states that, even though unit costs for transit project components have been relatively stable over the last decade, overall costs continue to rise due to myriad factors, such as better technology, bigger safety and security concerns, heavier reliance on consultants and an increase in unforeseen delays.

A peer review process of the planning phase and FTA research and policy guidelines, for example, are some of the actions that could help contain capital project costs, according to the report.

The report was based on “in-depth interviews with industry experts and transit agency officials, a review of literature on cost drivers and an analysis of unit costs and project characteristics for 25 projects from 1984 forward in the following locations: Sacramento (Calif.), Portland (Ore.), Pittsburgh, San Jose (Calif.), Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Hudson County (N.J.), St. Louis, Denver, Minneapolis, southern New Jersey, San Diego, Baltimore, Charlotte, Seattle and Phoenix.”

For a copy of the report, contact the UTRC. Contact information can be found at www.utrc2.org/index.php.

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