Norfolk Light Rail: Expensive Rising Tide

The Virginian Pilot reports that the cost of the Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach-Norfolk metropolitan area) “Tide” light rail line has now escalated to nearly $340 million. This is up nearly one-half from the estimates made when the project was approved by the Federal Transit Administration. According to federal documentation, the line will carry 7,100 daily passengers in 2030. This means that the capital cost alone will amount to an annual subsidy of approximately $6,500 per daily passenger (using Office of Management and Budget discount rates), plus an unknown additional operating subsidy. This is enough to lease every daily commuter a new Ford Taurus for the life of the project (assumes a new car every 5 years and includes future car price inflation).

The light rail line cannot be expected to do much for transportation. Even if the line reaches its projected ridership (many do not) by 2030, it will carry only 0.1% of the travel in the metropolitan area (one out of every 1,000 trips).

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This line is a joke

As a Virginia taxpayer, I'm concerned about how many toy rail projects and union pension benefits we're going to wind up paying for. The Hampton Roads line is a joke.

In Northern Virginia, Metro is cutting service and raising fares, due to a budget gap created in part by increases in pension contributions for transit workers. As a result of higher fares, ridership is likely to drop further, creating a pricing death spiral that will go on until the pension fund has a good year.

As taxpayers who have to subsidize this thing, we are being asked to roll the dice on the transit pension. The first step to providing modern transport is a modern compensation structure, one that doesn't give workers 1950's style pension benefits.

clear cut profiteering

from the article;

"HRT's financial review shows that "soft costs," such as design work, consultant fees and real estate, are coming in at more than double the original estimates and that they account for 45 percent of the new project price tag."

Numerous aspects of this article indicate it's not a "Rail problem" but a cronyism/lack of governance/estimate padding issue.

Contractors should be reviewed closely, there is either deliberate underbidding, then padding, or just plain padding going on. Fire the existing managers immediately, fine them for costs that have already been spent. Resubmit for proposals, with proper adherence guidelines.

You missed the point of the article completely, and exploited this apparent failure of oversight, for your own agenda.