Friday, May 8, 2015

Finger Pointing the Wrong Folks AT HART Board Meeting

There was quite a bit of finger pointing going on at Monday's HART board meeting. I was there.

What caused all the brouhaha? A presentation made about the proposed six future MetroRapid corridors that is and has been part of HART's Vision 10 year Transportation Development Plan (TDP). The Vision Plan is not yet funded but it has been vetted and it gets updated every year.

The first MetroRapid North-South route was implemented in 2013 for $26 million, under budget, and is a longer route than the 2010 proposed $1.2 Billion light rail corridor along the same route. 

Six proposed MetroRapid BRT's in HART's Vision Transportation Development Plan (TDP) which are not yet funded were presented at the HART board meeting. Their construction costs, which includes right of way costs, are: 
  • East - West: 17.7  miles from Temple Terrace to the airport, cost is $21.5 million
  • Kennedy Blvd/TIA: 8.3 miles from downtown to the airport, cost is $18.2 million
  • New Tampa: 11.5 miles from SR54 to USF, cost is $14.6 million
  • Brandon:  17.2 miles from Dover to downtown, cost is $20 million
  • Dale Mabry:  22 miles from Lutz to MacDill, cost is $38.8 million
  • Gunn Highway/Busch Blvd:  18 miles from Citrus Park to Temple Terrace, $30.2 million
The total costs to build all the MetroRapid routes is about $143.3 million for almost 95 miles of new transit corridors.
Proposed MetroRapid routes in HART's Vision Plan TDP
(click to enlarge)

This information is not new information as it has been in HART's TDP. HART's TDP has been around much longer than the GoHillsborough effort. However, it was stated at the HART board meeting Monday that this information was never presented to the Transportation Policy Leadership Group (PLG). That started some of the finger pointing going back and forth at the meeting about HART's Vision Plan TDP vs the GoHillsborough effort. 

The chart that caused some of the angst was the one below citing the differences in the cost per mile for the shared lane MetroRapid BRT with traffic signalization and the fixed guideway dedicated lane gold standard BRT. There is a HUGE cost difference.

HART MetroRapid BRT costs vs GoHillsborough gold standard BRT costs
(click to enlarge)
Ironically it was mostly the county commissioners who sit on the Transportation Policy Leadership Group, who hired Parsons Brinckerhoff and are directly responsible for creating the GoHillsborough campaign pointing the fingers. Commissioner Murman stated that she was contacting County Administrator Mike Merrill to get this presentation at the next PLG meeting. 

The GoHillsborough public engagement campaign ends in 2 weeks and Parsons Brinckerhoff supposedly will be presenting their proposed plans at the June 11 PLG meeting. NOW the county commissioners on HART are complaining or wondering why HART's TDP information was never publicly presented to the Policy Leadership Group. Better late than never. 

HART's CEO Katherine Egan is part of the Policy Leadership Group's Management team led by County Administrator Mike Merrill.  We know Merrill and Parsons Brinckerhoff have this information. 

As the prime consultant on the million dollar taxpayer funded GoHillsborough effort, it is Parsons Brinckerhoff's responsibility, not HART's to ensure all stakeholders, including HART, participate. It is Parsons Brinckerhoff's responsibility, not HART's, to bring together all the data the stakeholders provide. That is what consultants are paid to do and Parsons is getting a boat load of our tax dollars to do it. 

We presume HART's TDP information ended up where last years AEComm transit assessment ended up - hidden in the background out of general public view.

The breakdown of the costs associated with HART's proposed MetroRapid corridors is important because the latest GoHillsborough meetings have charts with some estimated transit costs per mile. These charts can also be found on their website here. However GoHillsborough does not compare the costs of HART's shared lane MetroRapid BRT corridors the same as the costs for fixed guideway dedicated lane BRT and fixed guideway rail. 
GoHillsborough provided transit costs (click to enlarge) 
GoHillsborough cites fixed guideway dedicated lane BRT costs $54 million per mile and fixed guideway rail costs about $88 million per mile. Neither of these costs include right of way, which can cause huge delays and cost increases. (Note rail costs for many new projects today are about $100 million per mile.)  

The Ferry service cites costs of $31 million. However, the Ferry project started BEFORE GoHillsborough and has already received a federal grant for work to be done. It should be worked separately from GoHillsborough.

Go Hillsborough cites HART's 10 year TDP Vision Plan as a total cost of $1.5 Billion. That cost includes HART's current services of their Status Quo TDP Plan, plus the proposed MetroRapid corridors stated above plus other enhancements. GoHillsborough just lumped it all together as a total cost of $1.5 Billion.

How does the public accurately compare a $1.5 billion plan to other transit options that cite cost per mile? They can't. It is not an "apples to apples" comparison of costs. It is disingenuous and does not enable the public to fairly comprehend the various transit mode costs.

As the chart above creating anxiety depicts, when HART's costs are broken down, the cost per mile to build out the 6 MetroRapid transit corridors range from approximately $1.2 to $2.2 million per mile, far less expensive than any fixed guideway. In addition, GoHillsborough failed to cite the shortfall for the Vision Plan which is what actually requires a funding source. That shortfall over 10 years is about $464 million in capital costs and $215 million in operating expenses. 

We get it that there needs to be a review of the TDP, as is done every year for some changes, especially with regards to adding service in fast growing south county.  However, compare  HART's Vision Plan TDP which doubles the bus service in Hillsborough County with 9 miles of a fixed guideway dedicated lane BRT recently built for $570 million. No wonder there was heartburn at that meeting.

The costs of HART's TDP Vision Plan must be comparably reflected. The cost chart below is out on the Hillsborough County Transportation and Economic Development website that led to launching the GoHillsborough campaign.
Transit Cost Comparisons from TED website
This chart is also missing in the GoHillsborough campaign. Why? Is it because it was part of the AEComm transit assessment done last year that was never publicly presented to the PLG? That transit assessment states Hillsborough County does not have the ridership to get federal grants for high cost fixed guideway transit options and that Hillsborough should invest in transit cautiously and prudently. 

So why is GoHillsborough only providing cost per mile information for high cost fixed guideway transit options?  Why not include cost information for the option of adding road and transit capacity with managed bus toll lanes? Where is the cost per trip or cost per passenger data? 
Proposed MetroRapid costs in HART's Vision Plan TDP
(click to enlarge)
It's very late in the game for the county commissioners on the HART board to be pointing fingers at HART Monday for presenting an approved TDP they know about and some of them voted to approve. 

But the brouhaha highlights some issues. Merrill should have ensured HART's TDP and the pertinent unfunded costs associated with the plan were publicly presented to the Policy Leadership Group. Parsons Brinckerhoff should fairly and transparently include comparable transit cost information regarding HART's TDP in the GoHillsborough campaign.

The finger pointing at Monday's HART board meeting was directed at the wrong folks.

No comments:

Post a Comment