Performance vs. Peers
Sound Transit's Light Rail Money Grab
Sound Transit's core competency is getting huge sums of money from the public coffers. Far more than transit agencies of our closest peer cities, Vancouver, BC and Portland.
References & Calculations
a. Sound Transit Central Link Light Rail voter approved promised performance data,
Table 1. Costs: Electric Light Rail $1.8 billion (1995$) (includes Tacoma)
Debt service for Table 1 projects is $171 million of $3.914 billion total proposed spending..
Assigning debt service to Light Rail 1.8 billion *(171/3,914) = $79 million
$1.8 billion + $79 million = $1.879 billion (1996$) for Light Rail
Sound Move includes 25-miles of a starter light rail system (p. 15)
25-miles total - 1.6 miles Tacoma = 23.4 miles Seattle + 26 Stations
21-miles minimum for Seattle
b. CPI Inflation Calculator $1 in 1995$ = $1.55 in 2014$
c. $1.879 billion (1995$) * 1.55 (2014$/1996$) = $2.912 billion (2014$)
d. HistoryLink.org, Sound Transit's Tacoma Link light rail system begins operation on August 22, 2003 from Tacoma Light Rail initial estimated cost $50 million (1996$)
e. Sound Transit voter approved Seattle Light Rail cost
1.879 billion (1995$) - 50 million (1995$) (Tacoma estimated cost) = 1.829 billion (1995$)
1.829 billion (1995$) * 1.55 (2014$/(1995$) = 2.835 billion (2014$)
f. Sound Transit Seattle Central Link Actual Light Rail Costs converted to 2014$
Sound Transit, Table 2-2: Project Costs in 2009 $ 2.665 billion 15.6 miles built (2009)
2.665 billion (2009$)*1.10 (2014$/2009$) = 2.9315 billion (2014$)
page A-5 Year of Expenditure Dollars (2009-2023) 11.821 billion Link Light Rail Capitol Costs out of 13.418 total capitol costs, 1.871 billion O&M, 1.835 billion Debt Service for all projects
Link Light Rail Debt Service = $1.835 billion * (11.821/13.418) = $1.617 billion
h. Debt Service cost as fraction of Capitol Construction = 1.617 (debt service))/ 11.821 (capitol cost) = 0.1368
i. ST2 Light Rail estimated cost 11.821 (capitol) + 1.617 (debt service) = $11.821 billion for 36 miles of track, stations, and rolling stock in Year of Expenditure (YOE) $. Need to convert YOE to 2014$ to compare spending to peer cities
j. Sound Transit 2: Benefit-Cost Analysis Methodology Report, APPENDIX B — BENEFIT-COST ANALYSIS RESULTS, adopted by the Sound Transit Board on July 24, 2008. $8.6 Billion (2007$) Sound Transit Capitol Cost Estimate for ST2 Light Rail Expansion, p B-3, for 36 miles of light rail.
k. Add debt service and convert ref l) costs to 2014$
$8.6 Billion (2007$)* (1+0.137)*1.14 (2014$)/(2007$) = $11.147 Billion (2014$)
l. $11.147 Billion (2014$) for 36 miles of rail = $310 million(2014$)/mile
m. Sound Transit Website, ST2 Plan and project list.
n. 2.9315 + 11.147 = $14.082 billion (2014$) spent and/or approved by taxpayers for Seattle Light Rail by 2008 before any lines were running and citizens could assess performance
o. email Sent: Wed 4/06/16 2:03 PM from Q’Deene Nagasawa of SoundTransit, "In response to your request, Light Rail capital spending as included in the DRAFT ST3 plan total $34.3 billion in YOE dollars, and $17.7 billion in 2014 dollars"
Seattle Funding vs. Peers
To provide a perspective on the size and timing of such large funding requests it helps to look at our closest peer cities building light rail systems, Vancouver, BC and Portland, Oregon.
Vancouver is a higher density higher cost city with a light rail system similar to a heavy rail system due to extensive tunneling and 100% separation from vehicle traffic. Shorter stations, however, prevent it from obtaining the higher capacities of a heavy rail system. Light rail stands for light capacity. Some have referred to Vancouver's Skytrain as an intermediate rail system.
Portland, Oregon is a lower cost lower density city with a more typical lower cost light rail system. It shares the road for much of the routing limiting capacity and speed, similar to Seattle's Central Link.
References & Calculations
a. from Sound Transit Light Rail Extreme Costs chart, Sound Transit Voter Approved Light Rail Taxpayer Funding , ref f) 2.9315 billion + ref. k) billion 11.145 = $14.08 billion(2014$) spent and/or approved by taxpayers for Seattle Light Rail by 2008 before any lines were running and citizens could assess performance.
b. South Frasier Blog, Tuesday, March 20, 2012, Cost of Skytrain from, "On Track: The SkyTrain Story," calculated values in bold italics.
c. Sound Transit, Sound Transit Quarterly Ridership Report
e. National Transportation Database Histrorical Data Files, TS2.1TimeSeriesOpExpSvcModeTOS-3 transit ridership numbers.xls, spreadsheet UPT (Portland boardings)
Construction Costs per Passenger Moved
Sound Transit spent 4 to 5 times as much on light rail construction per passenger carried than similar lines in peer cities.
References & Calculations
j. from Light Rail, SOUND TRANSIT Seattle Light Rail Key Facts & Data ref.g) Seattle Central Link Light Rail cost $97,714 (2014$/daily ride)
k. Vancouver Canada Line Costs: 2.200 billion (2014$) / 110,260 daily boarding (2014) = $19,956 per daily boarding (5 years after Entry in Service)
l. Vancouver Skytrain (Expo lines) 1.939 billion (2014$) / 79,245 daily boarding (1991) = $24,476 per daily boarding (5 years after Entry in Service)
m. Portland 1st Trimax Line: 426 million (2014$) / 18,796 daily boarding (1991) = $22,270 per daily boarding (5 years after Entry in Service)
n. 2014 Daily Round trip Riders per $1 million (2014$) Non-recurring Cost
Seattle Central Link = 1 /(2*97,714) = 5.117 daily roundtrip riders/ $1 million
o. Vancouver Canada Line = 1/(2*19,956) = 25.4
Vancouver Skytrain (Expo lines) = 1/(2*24,476) = 21.2
p. Portland 1st Trimax Line = 1/(2*22,270) = 22.2