A Growing Body of Work on Infrastructure Costs Sets the Stage for Meaningful Change
October 2, 2020|Paul Lewis
Whether or not more federal aid comes to transit agencies, budget constraints will persist into the future. Reduced fare revenue and lower tax receipts will increase pressure on agencies to deliver service and projects more efficiently.
Meanwhile, investments in public transit remain important for addressing environmental sustainability and social equity. When the current setbacks from COVID-19 inevitably subside, successful regions will still need high performing transit in the future.
This is all the more reason why Eno’s ongoing project analyzing cost and timeline drivers affecting delivery of public transit projects is so important. Eno has launched a new webpage as part of our effort to make our project’s goals and work products accessible. In the coming weeks, we will post more information on our construction cost data collection and case studies.
Eno is not the only organization currently exploring ways to rationalize the timelines and budgets of important transit investments. In fact, several projects currently underway around the world are aiming to answer similar questions. Eno’s project webpage links to many of these relevant resources, media stories, and other initiatives that we are coordinating with to answer our research questions. For example:
- The NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management is leading a team of researchers examining transit costs and timelines globally.
- The Transport Politic published a highly-detailed, interactive map of current and planned transit infrastructure, along with rich detail on costs and timelines.
- Berkeley Law has launched a project analyzing construction costs and delays in California that would help inform massive investments like high speed rail and other urban transit projects in the state.
- SPUR just released a new paper this week examining challenges in delivering transit projects in the Bay Area and proposing an alternative delivery model for the region.
- The Federal Transit Administration is piloting an expedited project delivery approach to see if paring back select New Starts requirements can shorten timelines.
The myriad ongoing studies provide a few high level insights. The first is that the problem of high costs and long timelines for transit projects in the United States is systemic and needs to be addressed. The issue has been of growing concern for years but has now reached a tipping point, sparking a concerted effort to find solutions.
While these efforts are all loosely coordinated, they are operating mostly independently and each have slightly different scopes. As researchers publish papers and disseminate their recommendations, we suspect there will be many similar conclusions. Several independent groups echoing similar findings can make a powerful case for meaningful change.
The last important takeaway from these efforts is that each group believes that these problems have real solutions. If researchers assumed that nothing could be done to address high costs and long timelines, few resources would be invested in addressing them. Instead, the hours invested in research can now will yield actionable results given the magnitude of these issues and the real potential for change.