Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Three Primary Flawed Assumptions in the LRT Proposal

  1. That maximum bus capacity is 2000 people per hour - current capacity is higher and can be much higher
  2. That the travel time for Westshore to Humbolt St Downtown on the bus is 60 minutes - current travel time is 45-53 minutes, very few trips are at the longest time
  3. That the status quo requires investment of $250,000,000 - looking at what they have suggested for the status quo, there is no needed investment at all.

If we correct the reports to use the correct numbers, the evaluation of the options looks very, very different.

Full lifecycle costs adjusted for a business as usual using no initial capital costs
  • Business as Usual - $427,000,000
  • Bus Rapid Transit - $747,000,000
  • LRT $1,227,000,000
The LRT is argued to be better than business usual because of the multiple account evaluation.   When apply the corrected assumptions, those benefits go away.  Almost all of the benefits for BRT and LRT are from transportation benefits, in the case of the full LRT, $1,237,000,000.   Of this $792,000,000 is from time saved by drivers and less wear and tear on cars of people that choose to change to transit.   

The growth of ridership is based on the LRT being faster, which it really is not much faster at all.   If growth in transit use from the Westshore is only slightly increased due to the LRT, the $792,000,000 benefit quickly disappears.

The next largest area of benefit from the LRT is that there will be fewer accidents.   The data they used is based on US information, they did not use the BC Transit record for Victoria as a baseline.   My understanding is that we have a system that has very accidents and is actually pretty good.   The assumption is that the LRT would safe $425,000,000 through fewer accidents.

All in all, $1,217,000,000 of the benefit of the LRT flows to people driving private cars or operating vehicles for business.   All the other benefits are estimated to be $224,000,000.   The poor bastards that are transit users will only see a net benefit of $19,000,000.   

The value of the LRT benefit to car drivers is vastly overstated.   At best, I can not make the math get much past $500,000,000 and that assumes the local bus drivers are not actually better than American bus drivers.

The report assumes property value increases of $182,00,000.   They rely on a whole series of reports that come up with a vast array of results - I have read almost all the same reports and all I can say out of them is that there is a probable small increase in single family homes near a station, but there is little no evidence to show any benefit to commercial development.   Most of the reports look at systems that have a significant increase in traffic on a route.

The report assumes an increase in traffic because of flawed initial assumptions.  The Victoria LRT will not be able to carry more people that the buses currently can do at peak hours.  On this basis, it would only be prudent to assume there will be no measurable increase in commercial property values due to the LRT.   The residential increase is $64,000,000, I have no reason to doubt that number.

OK, so where are we at for LRT benefits?   At most $600,000,000 though much more likely to be $300,000,000 or less.   This is balanced with a full lifecycle cost of $1,227,000,000. 
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