Friday, September 05, 2008

Transportation and Politicians wanting to getting elected in on the Westshore

Federal Conservative hopeful Troy Desouza is saying his number one priority will he Mackenzie/Hwy #1 interchange.

Provincial Liberal hopeful Jody Twa says commuter rail will be his priority.

I like the fact that both of them are running for offices that are not responsible for the changes they are suggesting. Troy's idea is at least not wildly capital intensive and should not cost a lot to maintain over time. It is Jody Twa's idea that worries me.

I have yet to see anyone come up with a business plan for commuter rail that addresses the following issues:

Where will it run?
What will it cost to build?
How many people would actually use it?
What would it cost to operate?
Who will have to pay for the cost of operation?

I have seen a few things out there claiming to be some sort of plan or idea, but they are half baked amateur hour works of overly optomistic fantasy. The worst was that one that suggested something could be started for $16 000 000 in capital and $2 000 000 in operating costs with no data to back up any of their ideas.

The best estimates I can find for simply doing the needed maintenance on the existing track is in the range of $1 000 000 to $2 000 000 per km. Just the cost of fixing the rails out to Langford will be in the tens of millions of dollars. It also makes me wonder how the Island Corridor Foundation thinks the whole like could be fixed for only one hundred million. I expect that the project will cost closer to half a billion dollars when all is said and done. The studies done by Bent Flyvbjerg show that projects like this are likely to underestimate costs, over estimate benefits and over estimate use.

This is a quote from the Economist of June 9th 2005:
A study published this year in the Journal of the American Planning Association examined 210 big rail and road projects in 14 different countries, and found their forecasts of future passengers to be wildly optimistic: for the rail projects, they were, on average, an astounding 106% higher than eventually turned out to be the case, with one in eight out by over 400%; the road projects' miscalculations were more modest, by over 20% in more than half the cases. The article's authors, led by Bent Flyvbjerg, a professor at Denmark's Aalborg University, claim that the forecasts on such projects are no more accurate now than they were 30 years ago.

IF we are to go ahead with any commuter rail projects or a revival of the E&N up island, I would like to see serious weight given to the worst case senarios, for the capital portion of the estimates to be above the average, for ridership numbers to shown by some formal opt in by potential users. The last thing we need is a white elephant rail line on the island that sucks up all the transit dollars to keep it running. Last time I checked, Greyhound does a great job of moving people up and down the island and make a profit doing it, leave them to it.
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