New Database Quantifies the Costs of Transit Construction in the United States

The Eno Center for Transportation launched the first institutional investigation of the cost of transit projects earlier this year and recently released its initial findings, with promises for more in-depth case studies to come.

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December 15, 2020, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Purple Line Extension Construction

Tunneling costs extra if you're a U.S. transit agency, according to the Eno Center for Transportation's new transit capital construction database. | Walter Cicchetti / Shutterstock

The Eno Center for Transportation released the first product of an initiative launched in late 2019 to study the high cost of public transit projects in the United States, building on the momentum of new public and media attention to the problems of transit construction.

The initial public offering is a database of transit capital construction projects, including "construction cost and timeline data for a total of 171 domestic and international rail transit projects completed over the past 20 years," according to an article on the Eno website that shares insights into the database. "For each project, factors such as number of stations, grade alignment, station spacing, and mode allow for deeper comparisons."

The article lists five key takeaways from the new database:

  • Light rail is not necessarily cheaper than heavy rail. Grade alignment, rather than mode, is the major determinant of cost.
  • Many rail projects in the United States are relatively inexpensive
  • The United States pays a premium for tunneled projects
  • Cost variability increases significantly for tunneled projects
  • Stations are expensive, but international projects include more of them

More details for each of those takeaways are included in the source article, as well as promises for further research.

Monday, December 14, 2020 in Eno Center for Transportation

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