"Our study..... Major challenges ..., were that not only is there no standard, consistent process for evaluating how well these projects meet their goals, but in fact crucial data elements are either obscured or unavailable for convenient public access."
If there are no standard, consistent processes for evaluating the projects, why would anyone place any credence in the author's conclusions?
"Data for DMU light railway projects were also a problem......, reliable data for only one such project—North County Transportation District's Sprinter line linking Oceanside and Escondido, California."
The cost of Capital Metro's Red line from Leander to downtown Austin, although not central Austin, which is a DMU line, is very well known. The data has been published in numerous sources. In addition, the annual operating costs for the Red Line are available in Austin's annual budgeting and financial statements. This guy was an analyst for Capital Metro, and he does know the cost numbers that have been cited by several sources?
The capital costs to upgrade the Austin and Western for the Red Line commuter service are debatable. The debate centers around Capital Metro claiming that some of the upgrades would have been made irrespective of the planned operation of commuter trains on the railroad. They allocated these costs to freight operations. I don't know of anyone who believes them.
"These results suggest that BRT projects do not have any particular advantage when very heavy installation (tunnels, elevated structure, etc.) is involved."
Agreed! But the BRT projects planned for Texas don't involve extensive capital expenditures. The buses will run along existing roadways, i.e. Preston Road in Dallas, Lamar Blvd. in Austin, etc. The capital improvements for Austin's 37.5 mile BRT system are estimated to be $1.3 million per mile. They include pullover zones, new stations, traffic signal upgrades, etc. Similar numbers have been projected for Dallas and San Antonio. They do not include the cost of the buses.
The estimated cost of a proposed light rail system from Austin's airport to downtown and on to the University of Texas campus is approximately $48 to $50 million per mile. This does not include the equipment. These numbers square with the estimated cost to construct the light rail lines in Dallas.
For FY11 the average subsidy for light rail passengers in Dallas was $4.82. The average for bus riders was $5.82. The subsidy for RBT riders probably would be between the two, suggesting that it would take a lot of riders and a long time for the spread to cover the capital cost variances. This is especially true after factoring in the financing costs.
What is the best solution to urban transportation problems is the key question. In some areas it may be light rail; in others it could be BRT. The notion that one size fits all does not sit well with me. Neither does this study.