I comment on Ben Wear's story here. (http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/archives/000386.html)
Interesting article, thought I would go ahead and copy it here. Put a nice financial perspective on it ...
BEN WEAR: GETTING THERE
Ding, ding, ding goes the commuter train
Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen
Monday, February 05, 2007
It's still possible, even after 3 1/2 years on this transportation beat, to have one of those "Ding!" moments.
No, I haven't subscribed to that infernal Southwest Airlines alert thing. What I mean are those moments when you learn something new and fundamental on a subject or suddenly see clearly what was there all along.
I had one of those last month, when Capital Metro officials called me and agency board member Fred Harless in for a briefing on the progress of the 32-mile commuter rail line project from Leander to downtown Austin.
Just to let you know briefly how that stands, assembly has begun in Switzerland on the first of six diesel-powered rail cars that the agency ordered.
Construction is moving along on the Leander station and has begun on a rail overpass that will carry the Capital Metro line over the intersecting Union Pacific line in Northwest Austin.
The "ding" occurred when Harless asked project managers what would happen if, happily, customer interest was huge when the line opened in late 2008. Wouldn't it take awhile to get more cars delivered?
Well, yes, it would. The $5 million babies are not bought off the shelf; they are built to customized specifications, and dozens of subcontractors are involved. So, doubling the capacity might take two or three years and an additional $30 million or more.
And that's when the bell went off.
Those cars carry about 200 people, including standees, and Capital Metro plans to run just five routes in from Leander in the morning on 30-minute intervals and five back in the evening, with a handful of midday inbound and return routes.
That means, if all goes perfectly, about 1,000 commuters in the morning could use this service that we're paying $90 million or more to build. And if Capital Metro spends a bunch more money and time to have twice the cars, well, that number could "soar" to 2,000 people. This, in a Northwest Metro corridor with a couple hundred thousand people.
Capital Metro, when they were asking voters to approve the project back in 2004, predicted about 2,000 rides a day at first.
What I hadn't realized is that modest number wasn't a conservative prediction, but virtually the full initial capacity.
What that points to, something we don't tend to think about, is how railroads have finite carrying capacity, just like a highway.
Yes, you can buy more cars, and run them more frequently, and hook them together to carry more on each run. But that's wildly expensive. And more trains mean more times that gates will come down on the 50 or so streets intersecting the railroad, including big ones like Parmer Lane, Lamar Boulevard, U.S. 290 and the frontage roads of Interstate 35.
Go to 10-minute intervals with three-car trains, and you could bring in about 10,000 people in the morning. And need about 50 train cars.
All this math applies to the other passenger lines being discussed as well.
So, $90 million to give 1,000 people a nice commute.
Feb 7, 2007, 3:31 AM
Sorry I doubted your malcontent, M1EK.
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