Archive for Transit

Honolulu rail transit capital budget at about a 19% higher cost

Once budgeted at a capital cost of $5.26 billion, the project engineers now estimate a 19% over run. That is above and beyond whatever contingency percentage they had built into the project bid. Contingencies typically range from 5% to 12% at the final engineering bid stage. The total cost overrun is cumulatively close to a one-third range.

Would the project had been approved by the legislators and government administrations if they foresaw tis kind of project cost change?  Maybe not.

The project construction problems have added another year of delay.   2020 will now be the earliest completion date for the entire system.

At over $6 billion, the Honolulu system is about the same capital cost of the upgraded Panama Canal project due to open sometime in 2016. Sent from my iPad

Uber as the urban transit market new competition

Adapted from a Bloomberg, Jun 23, 2015 report.

there arevInbelive huge economic implications as the UBER urban transportation model.  That model threatens competition from Limos to Taxis and even buses.

The Bloomberg report talks about the politics of urban transportation in Portland Oregon. But beyond that lies huge implications for urban transit in general.

Uber’s made a name for itself by barging into cities and forcing politicians to respond. It started in 2010, providing swanky rides at the tap of “an app”. A customer pushed a button on their smart phone, and a car showed up

The company has since expanded to take on lower-cost taxi service in more than 300 cities across six continents. The company value of Uber is now an astonishing ~ $40 billion.

uber is an economic ride sharing model with custom features. It is a new class of urban transit provider called “transportation network companies.”

Almost no regulations exist to oversee this exact new transit service model. The state of Colorado passed the first USA “ride-sharing legislation” about a year ago. Bloomberg reports that since then, about 50 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted ordinances recognizing Uber. The regulations try to secure ground rules for these new “transportation network companies.”

Each government, whether municipal or state, goes through its own process to craft rules. The officials generally codify the insurance coverage, background-check policies, and inspection protocols. But often, Uber already has in place rules that reflect a vast international commerce model that they wrote well before local jurisdictions could react.

To protect its membership, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the USA. “With a presence in almost every US statehouse, Uber has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation That is “at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores” have. That doesn’t count municipal lobbyists. City officials in Portland Oregon “say they’d never seen anything on this scale.”

The City of Portland’s has a very progressive transit services mixture. “People can bike in protected lanes, ride the bus or MAX trains (one of the nation’s busiest light-rail systems), or tool around in Smart cars from car-sharing company Car2Go.”

But there are holes, especially for residents living far from downtown, the disabled, and late-night partyers. The city’s taxis have been known to fall short of demand. Portland has fewer cabs per resident than most comparable cities, and drivers take home just $6.22 an hour, according to a 2012 survey.

The taxi companies didn’t hold traditional political power as major campaign donors or lobbying forces, but their furor succeeded in resisting, or at least delaying, change. It took a nasty four-year battle for a group of largely immigrant drivers to get permits in 2012 to start Union Cab, a driver-owned cooperative.”

“Uber first targeted Portland in 2013, when it wanted to introduce its luxury car service, UberBlack. It couldn’t legally operate because a city ordinance required black-car trips to be reserved an hour in advance, the legacy of a 2009 agreement that carved out separate markets for hire cars and taxis.”

The Uber model threatens some part of that Portland structure. Even a segment of the subsidized bus riders can be drawn to an Uber service segment with a much more reliable Phone App call service.

Bloomberg reports the following as some of the market segment descriptions of Uber services. Uber’s policy group has its own team of data scientists. They show: — in San Diego, 30 percent of uberX rides start or end near a transit station. — in Chicago found wait times were consistent across the city, regardless of area income. — Uber drivers make livable wages, as in more than $16 an hour.


Uber is clearly a new competitive force in the urban markets. How will this all “shake out”?

To read the entire article, go to Sent from my iPad

Los Angeles Metrolink Goes “live” With PTC Train Safety

Los Angeles administrators early on embraced the mission to convert to higher safety PTC systems and now in mid year 2015 have gone “live”.

Meanwhile, many other US commuter railroads complain that they might need more than a thousands extra days to make their legislatively mandated train safety upgrade fully operational ( by this year’s) end.

See more discussion at:

LOS ANGELES Metrolink has launched its Positive Train Control (PTC) in Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD) across the entire 341-mile network the agency owns.  They did so earlier this month.

Metrolink thus becomes the first commuter railroad in the USA to have PTC running during regular service on all of its hosted lines and remains on track to become the nation’s first passenger rail system to have a fully operational, interoperable, and certified PTC system in place.

Metrolink began operating PTC RSD on the last of Metrolink’s hosted rail system on June 14. RSD simply means trains in revenue service or in Metrolinks case, with passengers on board.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) set a federally mandated deadline of December 31, 2015 for PTC implementation. PTC involves a Global Positioning System (GPS)-based technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones and train movement through switches left in the wrong position.

The NTSB has consistently included PTC in its lists of most wanted safety technologies for more than 40 years.

Across its 512 route-mile network, Metrolink also operates on track owned and dispatched by the Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway and the North County Transit District (NCTD) in San Diego County.

Metrolink provides nearly one million passenger boardings a month throughout its system.

The FRA has authorized Metrolink to operate PTC RSD using Wabtec’s ™ Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS)

Parsons Transportation Group, Inc., a business unit of Parsons Corporation, is the primary contractor managing Metrolink’s ™ PTC program.

The current cost for developing, installing and deploying PTC on the Metrolink system is estimated at about $216 million. Approximately 85 percent of the funds come from state and local dollars.

Among the metrics for the Metrolink PTC program are these:

the design and installation and then testing of a full deployment with a back-office server (BOS) system and new PTC-compatible computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.

— installed on-board PTC equipment on 57 cab cars and 52 locomotives

— Out on track, they installed signal communication devices at 168 wayside locations, and implementing a six-county specialized communication network to link the wayside signals, trains and a new central train dispatch center.

The Metrolink Dispatch and Operations Center (DOC) is located in Pomona California.

Rail transit agencies and states will have to pay more to maintain the NEC rail infrastructure

Will the federal government pay up also? No one is sure.

But from the small states like DELAWARE and RI to the larger ones like PENN and Mass, the local will have to pay a lot more then they had been used to.

Major points by Paul NUSSBAUM in The Inquirer June 18, 2015 report include these:

Northeast states and transit agencies – including SEPTA and NJ Transit and DELAWARE – are being asked to pay more to maintain the rail corridor between Washington and Boston that they share with Amtrak.

The new cost-sharing plan for the Northeast Corridor is due to take effect Oct. 1

The states had 6 years to get ready for this change.

The state’s actually move more people on commuter trains each day then Amtrak does.

The 457-mile NEC corridor sees 710,000 commuter-rail passengers and only 40,000 Amtrak passengers each day.

The majority of the 2,000 daily trains are local state run commuters.

In 2008, congress ordered the multiple rail corridor users to devise a formula for sharing costs that historically have been divvied up in more than 50 separate contracts. “There hasn’t been any uniformity to how those costs are shared. Some are overpaying and some are underpaying,” says Toby Fauver, a Pennsylvania deputy secretary of transportation who co-chaired the committee that created the new cost-sharing plan.

That committee is part of the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission. The commission is composed of one member from each of the NEC states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland) and the District of Columbia, four members from Amtrak, and five members from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Hard to believe that 18 can agree unanimously on anything!

In December 2014″, the commission voted, 17-1, to approve a new cost-sharing policy, designed to spread the burden for spending $425 million a year over the next three years for maintenance and some limited upgrades on the corridor.

These costs would rise to $530 million a year.

NOTE: The NEC Commission has no way to compel the states to pay more.

Payment disputes might be taken to the federal Surface Transportation Board.

Under the formula, SEPTA payments to Amtrak will increase from $38.4 million this year to $52 million next year.

For NJ Transit, the cost would be more than $100 million a year.

Massachusetts is upset at its bill of $32.6 million for a 38-mile section of the NEC that it, not Amtrak, owns.

Massachusetts is also skeptical that the federal government will uphold its obligation to add $125 million in new funding for the corridor annually for the next three years, then boost its contribution to at least $400 million a year above current levels.

Massachusetts’ fears might be well-founded as the U.S. House approved a proposed budget for Amtrak this month that will cut Amtrak’s funding by 17% (or $242 million).


The corridor’s infrastructure improvement needs are expected to cost about $18 billion over the next five years  Only about $7.5 billion is funded under current plans.

Collectively, the NEC states contend that “it has been the longstanding position that the federal government has primary responsibility for eliminating the backlog of deferred maintenance to restore the infrastructure to a state of good repair”.

Will Senators from Wyoming and Idaho and others states with no direct NEC benefits agree?


Selective comments:

One associate Ted observes that the NEC States tried to roll back this PRIIA provision, assumed they would succeed and then did nothing of consequence reference a strategic plan as to the possible increase in their rates.

Another friend observed that “The crunch time is approaching. Politicians have to face up to the true costs of commuter service, just like they have to face up to true costs of Interstates, bad bridges, and regular highways. Everyone wants something for nothing.

Can UBER service replace some commuter rail/transit efficiently?

The most popular growing urban transportation people mover service is the taxi alternative called Uber.
Currently operating in over 70 cities in 35 countries, you can simply select your ride by using their mobile app. Uber works like a taxi service — but you pay ahead of time.  Money changes hands only between passenger and driver.  There is little to no capital cost to tax payers and no operating subsidies.
Drivers are entrepreneurs and own their own vehicles.
Uber does a background check on the drivers.  Uber offers an insurance plan.  Uber has created all with out government help (and often government resistance) the grand network in which the drivers do business.  Controversial? — Yes.
But growing like crazy with no subsidy.
Can it replace transit services?  We do not know yet.  A small transit customized uber bus service might play just that role.  How?  By eliminating the bus stop & the  train station “walk to and wait” hassle because it can run pretty much door to door..