Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Media love for Houston, rail, Chicago, city vs. suburbs, and more

Another stack of smaller misc items, including a lot of love for Houston from the media:
"Texas powers past the tough times on the strength of its economy — top-ranked in our "Economy" category four years in a row. The Texas economy is the 15th largest in the world, according to government figures; larger, for example, than that of all the Scandinavian nations combined. The Lone Star State is home to 64 Fortune 500 companies, more than any other state, in a wide variety of industries. So while the state's last win in 2008 came with oil at a record $145 a barrel — a natural tailwind for the largest industry in Texas — the state managed to do even better this year despite the fact that oil is trading at roughly half that price.
Texas has also managed to avoid the worst of the real estate crisis, according to reporter Ashanti Blaize of KXAS-TV."
As Wikipedia points out, when planned in 2000, Charlotte’s light-rail line was supposed to cost $225 million. The final cost turned out to be $467 million. Even after adjusting for inflation, that’s close to a 100 percent cost overrun. (Actually, considering inflation from 2000 to 2007, that’s about a 75 percent cost overrun.)
In 2008, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) reported less than 12,000 average weekday trips on its light-rail line. The Houston and Hudson-Bergen light-rail lines, both about the same length, each carried more than 40,000 weekday riders (and can hardly be considered successes) (Tory: I disagree on the Houston Main St line not being a success).
Given the high capital costs plus nearly $10 million in annual operating costs, the annualized cost of Charlotte’s light-rail works out to more than $3.60 per passenger mile (compared with less than $1 for a typical bus and less than $0.25 for driving, including highway subsidies which, in North Carolina, average less than half a penny per passenger mile). Of course, most of that $3.60 is subsidized; transit users paid an average of just $0.12 per passenger mile to ride it, leaving a subsidy of nearly $3.50 per passenger mile. That also works out to a subsidy of more than $20 per ride (!!), making Charlotte more expensive than almost any light-rail system outside of Buffalo and San Jose.

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At 2:38 PM, July 21, 2010, Blogger Michael said...

Austin's rail system does not make any sense. Neither does the Grand Parkway extension. Stupidity has no bounds when it comes to designing transportation infrastructure.

At 2:29 PM, July 22, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I wonder if O'Toole would think it fair to cite the factor-of-four real cost escalation in the Interstate Highway System as evidence that future road construction is futile.

At 3:26 PM, July 22, 2010, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I think he would if the subsidy worked out to $20 per ride.

At 10:38 AM, July 23, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The operating expense of Charlotte's LRT is $4.20 per passenger trip. Check it out. Depreciation adds a lot, but a) depreciation is always very high for brand new systems, and b) O'Toole's numbers for highway subsidies exclude depreciation.


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