I came across this excellent analysis from the Transport Politic showing an apples to apples comparison of dozens of premium transit capital expansion projects.  As we already know, heavy rail comes in at the top of the most expensive projects, but  light rail and commuter rail are much cheaper than some believe. These costs are comparable, and in some cases cheaper per mile of construction, than a BRT alternative. (And remember these technologies carry more passengers at the same cost of operations and maintenance over time).

Could this be a little motivation to take a second look at implementing parts of the People’s Transportation Plan with some combination of heavy rail/light rail/ and commuter rail? It’s not too late….

Public Transit Capital Projects (via the Transport Politic)
Place Technology Cost ’09 (millions in US$) Length (mi) Cost/Mile (million US$) Date
San Juan Metro Rail 2630 10.7 246 2004
Seattle Light Rail 2400 15.6 154 2009
New Jersey (Northern) Light Rail 2200 20.6 107 2006
Vancouver Metro Rail 2000 11.8 169 2009
Los Angeles Metro Rail 1880 3.0 627 2000
San Francisco Metro Rail 1730 8.7 199 2003
Phoenix Light Rail 1410 20.0 71 2008
Seattle Commuter Rail 1390 82.0 17 2000/ 2003
Philadelphia Metro Rail 1310 12.9 102 2009
New Jersey (Central) Diesel Light Rail 1260 34.0 37 2004
Washington Metro Rail 1100 6.5 169 2001
Toronto Metro Rail 1080 3.4 318 2002
Los Angeles Light Rail 1010 13.7 74 2003
Denver Light Rail 943 19.1 49 2006
Los Angeles Light Rail 900 6.0 150 2009
Vancouver Advanced Rapid Transit 861 12.6 68 2002
Minneapolis Light Rail 819 12.0 68 2004
New York City Metro Rail 788 0.3 2627 2001
Montréal Metro Rail 731 3.2 228 2007
San Francisco Light Rail 696 5.6 124 2007
Washington Metro Rail 695 3.2 217 2004
Dallas Light Rail 622 12.5 50 2002
Salt Lake City Commuter Rail 614 44.0 14 2008
Atlanta Metro Rail 582 1.9 306 2000
Portland Light Rail 575 8.3 69 2009
New York City Metro Rail 573 2.1 273 2004
Chicago Metro Rail 530 11.4 46 2009
San Jose Light Rail 496 8.3 60 2004
Charlotte Light Rail 483 9.6 50 2007
Oceanside/ Escondido Diesel Light Rail 479 22.0 22 2008
San Diego Light Rail 477 5.9 81 2005
Boston Bus Rapid Transit 473 1.5 315 2002/ 2004
St. Louis Light Rail 461 7.5 61 2006
Pittsburgh Light Rail 442 10.7 41 2004
St. Louis Light Rail 414 17.4 24 2001
Las Vegas Monorail 405 3.9 104 2004
New Mexico Commuter Rail 396 97.0 4 2006/ 2008
San Jose Light Rail 379 6.8 56 2005
Houston Light Rail 371 7.5 49 2004
Portland Light Rail 366 5.8 63 2004
Los Angeles Bus Rapid Transit 359 14.0 26 2005
Minneapolis Commuter Rail 265 40.0 7 2009
Boston Commuter Rail 263 18.0 15 2007
Sacramento Light Rail 261 6.3 41 2003
Salt Lake City Light Rail 234 7.3 32 2001/ 2003
Newark Light Rail 223 1.0 223 2006
Denver Light Rail 222 8.7 26 2000
Edmonton Light Rail 222 1.8 123 2006/ 2009
New Jersey (Northern) Commuter Rail 213 2.3 93 2009
New Orleans Streetcar 180 5.5 33 2004
Calgary Light Rail 176 1.7 104 2007
Cleveland Bus Rapid Transit 169 6.8 25 2008
Portland Diesel Light Rail 166 14.7 11 2009
Baltimore Light Rail 161 9.4 17 2006
Portland Light Rail 153 5.5 28 2001
Washington Metro Rail 126 2004
Calgary Light Rail 109 2003/ 2009
Miami Metro Rail 103 1.4 74 2003
Portland Streetcar 96 3.9 25 2001/ 2005/ 2007
Tacoma Light Rail 94 1.6 59 2003
St. Louis Light Rail 88 3.5 25 2003
Dallas Light Rail 67 3.1 22 2001/ 2002
Memphis Streetcar 64 2.0 32 2004
Denver Light Rail 58 1.8 32 2002
Seattle Streetcar 53 1.3 41 2007
New Orleans Streetcar 47 6.3 7 2008
Calgary Light Rail 47 2004
Nashville Commuter Rail 44 32.0 1 2006
Tampa Streetcar 38 2.3 17 2002
Little Rock Streetcar 31 3.4 9 2004/ 2007
Eugene Bus Rapid Transit 26 4.0 7 2007
Ottawa Diesel Light Rail 24 5.0 5 2001
San Pedro Streetcar 11 1.5 7 2003
Kenosha Streetcar 5 2.0 3 2000

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5 Responses to Transit 101: Capital Cost Comparison

  1. Juan Navarro says:

    Wait…where’s the column for corrupt pay offs to all the bureaucratic middle men? Or the column for jerk off “community Leaders” rob form it for individual projects? Or gross amounts of overtime given to Union labor?

    I’m trying to be humorous, but I think i’m too close to the point.

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  2. TransitDave says:

    The real comparison is not light rail vs heavy rail, it is those where right of way acquisistion cost are involved……..Compare the last completed metrorail addition in Miami, with one station and 1.4 miles of guideway at 74 mil per mile, with the current 2.4 miles for the earlington heights project at about 200 Mil per mile, where a lot of right of way costs were involved, as well as a large expense for the station at the miami intermodal center….ROW cost would be the same no matter which mode of transit is chose, and I think you’ll find that a lot of the light and commuter rail projects used existing ROW that did not have to be assembled piecemeal…….That is a big reason for the obscenely high price tag for the north and west extensions of the orange line, and why the cost for taking metrorail south along us 1 would be lower………and why it actually makes sense to go underground to serve areas like South Beach, which will not allow an elevated system, and where ROW acquisition would be cost prohibitive anyway, with disruption and utility and business relocation costs. Back when the east-west line included the underground section from the Orange bowl to the port of Miami, Miami beach officials petitioned FDOT and the county to bring it to Fifth street……It was actually part of the record of decision for that project…….

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  3. Tony Garcia says:

    Td, where can we get a copy of that

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  4. UDB says:

    From this chart, it sure seems like we need more commuter rail, diesel LRT and streetcar projects here in South Florida. But instead, our dummy elected officials will keep pushing for the Cadillac metrorail or oversold BRT as our only options. And remember, FDOT loves BRT b/c it’s pavement and allows the “flexibility” to hand it over to cars in the future.

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  5. Tony Garcia says:

    PS. LRT is electric…not diesel

    ….and I’m not saying metrorail is a wrong option either…it should just be used sparingly (for high density areas).

    …agreed about FDOT….they love their pavement

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