New York Rolling Stock Costs are Skyrocketing

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has just released its capital plan for 2020-4. The cost is very high and the benefits substantial but limited, and I urge people to look over criticism by Henry Grabar at Slate about elevators and Ben Kabak’s overview at Second Avenue Sagas. Here I am going to focus on one worrying element: the cost of the trains themselves, on both the subway and commuter rail.

I started comparing subway construction costs nearly ten years ago. Here’s an early post on Second Avenue Sagas, hoisting something I wrote in comments. Over here I started writing about this in 2011. Early on, I was asked about the costs of the trains themselves rather than the tunnels, and said that no, there’s no New York premium there. At the time the most recent rolling stock order for the subway was the R160, for which the base order cost was $1.25 billion for 620 cars (source, PDF-p. 34), or about $110,000 per meter of length. Commuter rail was similar, about $2 million per 25-meter-long M7 in the early 2000s and $760 million for 300 M8s of the same length in the mid-2000s. London’s then-current order, the S Stock, cost £1.5 billion for 191 trains and 1,395 cars, around $90,000 per meter of length for narrower trains; Paris’s MP 05, a driverless rubber-tired train, cost €474 million for 49 trainsets, around $140,000 per meter.

But since then, costs have rapidly risen. The gap is still far smaller than that for infrastructure, which New York builds for an order of magnitude higher cost than the rest-of-world median. But it’s no longer a rounding error. Subway rolling stock costs are rising, and commuter rail rolling stock are rising even faster. The latest subway order, the R211, costs $1.45 billion for 535 cars, or $150,000 per meter, for the base order, and $3.69 billion for 1,612 cars, or $130,000 per meter, including options. Commuter rail equipment costs, once about $100,000 per meter of train length, inched up to $2.7 million per car in 2013, or $110,000 per meter, and then rose to $150,000 per meter for the M9 order.

Construction costs: subway trains

The 2020-4 capital plan has showcased even further rolling stock cost escalation. Go to the link for the MTA capital plan again. On PDF-p. 23 there’s a breakdown of different items on the subway, and rolling stock is $6.057 billion for a total of 1,977 cars, of which 900 are 15 meters long and the rest (I believe) 18, for a total of $185,000 per linear meter.

I’ve blogged before about comparative costs of light rail and regional rail rolling stock. In Europe, both still cluster around $100,000 per linear meter for single-level, non-high-speed equipment. There is no apparent premium over early- and mid-2000s cost even without adjusting for inflation, which is not surprising, as the real prices of manufactured goods tend to fall over time. But what about metros? Here, too, we can look at first-world world comparisons.

In London, a recent Piccadilly line order is, in exchange rate terms, $190,000/meter (the trains are 103 m long) – but it includes 40 years of maintenance and spare parts. In Singapore, a recent order is S$2.1 million per car, which is about $70,000 per meter in exchange rate terms. Grand Paris Express’s first tranche of orders costs €1.3 billion for 183 trains totaling 948 cars, each (I believe) 15 meters long, around $120,000 per meter. Metro Report states Busan’s recent order as 55.6 billion for 48 trainsets (replacing 140-meter long trains), which is almost certainly an error; assuming the actual cost is 556 billion, this is $70,000/meter in exchange rate terms and $90,000/meter in PPP terms (PPP is relevant as this is an entirely domestic order).

In Berlin, the situation is the diciest, with the highest costs outside New York (not counting London’s maintenance-heavy contracts). An emergency order of 20 52-meter trains, tendered because cracks were discovered in the existing trains, cost €120 million, around $150,000 per linear meter. A longer-term contract to supply 1,500 cars (some 13 meters long, most 16.5 meters long) for €3 billion by 2035 is on hold due to litigation: Siemens had already sued over the emergency order of Stadler cars, but now Alstom made its own challenge. But even here, costs are well below the levels of New York, even before we adjust for inflation since Berlin’s future contract is in 2020-35 prices and New York’s is in in 2020-24 prices.

Construction costs: New York-area commuter rail

Commuter rail is faring even worse. On PDF-p. 27 the LIRR is listed as spending $242 million on 17 coaches and 12 locomotives, and on PDF-p. 29 Metro-North is listed as spending $853 million on 80 EMU cars and 30 locomotives.

Figuring out exact comparisons is not easy, because locomotives do cost more than multiple-units and unpowered coaches, and there is a range of locomotive costs, with uncertainty due to currency conversions, as most information I can find about European locomotives is in Eastern Europe with its weak currencies, since Western Europe mostly uses multiple-units. Railway Gazette’s pages on the world rolling stock market suggest that a European locomotive is around €5 million (e.g. the PKP Vectron order), or $6.5 million; PKP’s domestic order (including some dual-modes) is around $4.2 million per unit measured in exchange rate terms, but twice as much in PPP terms; Bombardier has a sale to an undisclosed customer for about $4.8 million. Siemens claims the Vectron costs €2.5 million per unit, although all the contracts for which I can find prices are substantially more expensive.

For what it’s worth, in the US dual-mode locomotives for New Jersey Transit cost around $9.5 million apiece, which is still evidently lower than what the LIRR and Metro-North plan on spending. 242 – 9.5*12 = 128, and 128/17 = 7.5, or $300,000 per linear meter of unpowered coach; similarly, 853 – 9.5*30 = 568, and 568/80 = 7.1, or $280,000 per linear meter of new Metro-North EMU. If we take the normal-world cost of a locomotive at $6 million and that of an EMU or coach at $2.5 million per US-length car, then the LIRR has a factor-of-2.1 cost premium and Metro-North a factor-of-2.2 premium.

The equipment is conservative

The FRA recently realigned its regulations to permit lightly-modified European mainline trains to run on American tracks. Nonetheless, no American commuter rail operator has taken advantage of the new rules – the only ones buying European equipment had plans to do so even before the revision, going through costly waiver process that increased costs. At a public meeting last month, Metro-North’s vice president of engineering did not even know FRA rules had changed. The LIRR and Metro-North are buying the same equipment, to the same standards, as they have for decades.

The subway, likewise, is conservative. It is a laggard in adopting open gangways: the R211 order is the first one to include any, but that is just two test trainsets, the rest having doors between cars like all other older New York trainsets. It is not buying any of the modular products of the global vendors, like Bombardier’s Movia platform or the Alstom Metropolis. It is buying largely the same kind of equipment it has bought since the 1990s.

Despite this conservatism, costs are very high, consistent with a factor somewhat higher than 2 on commuter rail and somewhat lower than 2 on the subway.

But perhaps the conservatism is what increases costs in the first place? Perhaps the reason costs are high is that the world market has moved on and the MTA and some other American operators have not noticed. In Chicago, Metra found itself trying to order a type of gallery car that nobody makes any longer, using parts that are no longer available. Perhaps the same kind of outmoded thinking is present at the MTA, and this is why costs have exploded in the last 10 years.

A secular increase in costs of infrastructure construction is nearly universal. No such trend can be seen in rolling stock: nominal costs in Paris are 15% lower than they were 15 years ago, and real costs are about 30% lower, whereas in New York nominal costs are 70% higher than 10 years ago and real costs about 40% higher. Paris keeps innovating – M1 and M14 have the highest frequency of any metro system in the world, a train every 85 seconds at the peak, and M1 is the first driverless line converted from earlier manual operations rather than built from scratch. In contrast, New York is stuck in the 1990s, but far from keeping a lid on costs, it has seen rolling stock cost explosion.

Update 9/24: I just saw a new commuter rail coach order in Boston. These are bilevels so some cost premium is to be expected, but $345 million for 80 unpowered coaches, or $170,000 per meter, is excessive, and TransitMatters tried hard to fight against this order, arguing in favor of EMUs on the already-electrified Providence Line.

94 comments

  1. Max Wyss

    The € 2.5 million Vectron is called “Smartron”, and comes along with somewhat reduced power rating, 16.7 Hz AC only equipment, and signalling (and other equipment) limited to Germany. I am not sure whether it actually comes with HEP, which means that it is a plain freight locomotive (actually, the target market).

    Keep in mind that for Vectrons, or TRAXXes, the price of the signalling equipment only can be beyond € 1million.

    A quick search did not bring up a price tag of the Stadler Eurodual 4001, which is rated at 7 MW electric, and 2.6 MW diesel. This would be the most comparable type to the NJ Transit units.

  2. Benjamin Recchie

    The cost per linear meter is an interesting way of comparing rolling stock, but I’m impressed by how robust it seems. I did quick calculations for the latest series of cars ordered in Chicago: the 7000 series ‘L’ cars come out to aboyt $108,000 per meter, and the newest Highliner EMUs for Metra come out to $139,000. Which seems to make sense: the ‘L’ cars are unusually short (and so need more couplers, controls, etc. per meter) compared to other cities’ rolling stock, and the Highliners are, well, overbuilt and built to old-fashioned standards.

  3. Benjamin Recchie

    The cost per linear meter is an interesting way of comparing rolling stock, but I’m impressed by how robust it seems. I did quick calculations for the latest series of cars ordered in Chicago: the 7000 series ‘L’ cars come out to aboyt $108,000 per meter, and the newest Highliner EMUs for Metra come out to $139,000. Which seems to make sense: the ‘L’ cars are unusually short (and so need more couplers, controls, etc. per meter) compared to other cities’ rolling stock, and the Highliners are, well, overbuilt and built to old-fashioned standards.

    • yuuka

      I’m skeptical about the 7000 series given that the low price may be due to Beijing-backed low balling, and there’s also the lifecycle aspect to consider, given the risk of some unforeseen terrible thing happening just as the warranty period runs out.

      The 5000 series cost a similar amount, though, but at 2006 dollars. Adjusted for inflation its still about $125k/metre, which I guess is quite reasonable compared to NYC?

    • oevans82

      Floor area seems like it would be the be a good metric to use, if it’s available, although sometimes you have to go with what data is available, even if it isn’t perfect. Cost per linear meter penalizes wider trains and bi-levels. (Perhaps penalizing bilevels is by design?)

      • Mikel

        Cost per linear meter penalizes wider trains

        Does it? IIRC British trains are somewhat more expensive because they have to cram the same systems in a narrower profile. Perhaps simplicity offsets a bigger size so cost-per-meter stays more or less constant?

        • Alon Levy

          That, and American regional EMUs did not have a cost premium per meter of length over European ones 15 years ago despite being a foot wider.

  4. Herbert

    Correction on your claim about Paris M1. Paris M1 has been automated since 2012. Nuremberg U2 (last new station opened 1999) has been automated since 2010.

    By the way, Nuremberg has recently made a large rolling stock order for the U-Bahn, the G1 (G is for Gliederzug). Supplier is to be Siemens.

  5. Steven Harrell

    This morning there was an article in the Washington Post titled “Amtrak has a new strategy to help you board your train at Union Station.” I eagerly clicked on the link, hoping to read the words “on the platform” somewhere in the article. Instead, I learned that Amtrak had hired a former executive at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who recommended “lin[ing riders] up in queues [at the gate] similar to those at an airport security checkpoint.” To this end, Amtrak spent $250,000 on a “line consultant” who developed a new “line system.” Presumably head-to-rear.

    Amtrak also “cleaned the floors” and added signs so that travelers knew which line they were actually standing in at any given time. To be fair, this has been a problem at Union Station for as long as I can remember: Just last month I saw a woman with three kids break down in the concourse because she had been standing in line for a train to New Orleans thinking that it was for the train to Norfolk, which was one gate over. She missed her train. (The joke was on her, because all of the gates lead to all of the tracks. Because f- you, Norfolk Lady!)

    Special needs passengers will also be able to pre-board all trains 30 minutes prior to departure. In other words, trains will continue to linger at Union Station for 30 minutes as non-special needs passengers stand in lines upstairs. Of course, that’s already what happens now, so….

    Finally, Amtrak has considered (but has not yet decided to implement) assigned seats for passengers departing Union Station. Of course, they already do that on some southbound trains, so I assume they mean that they’ll add seat assignments for NEC and Carolinian travelers as well. For our friends in Europe and Japan, when Amtrak says “seat assignments” what they mean is that a conductor stands at the door of the train and hands out slips of paper with handwritten seat numbers on them. This advanced ticketing system was not included in the new $250,000 “line system.”

    At this point in the article I was like: let’s just fire the whole country and start over from scratch.

    • Herbert

      How on earth do you board a train with any other system than “open the doors, let passengers get in” which should take you roughly five to ten minutes at the maximum?

      • wiesmann

        French TGVs now also have airline style boarding with a gate a boarding passes. This is particularly bad because passengers have their luggage…

        • Herbert

          WHY ON EARTH?

          What is it that they could POSSIBLY hope from that besides slower door to door journey times and longer turnarounds at stations, I.e. Giving up two components of the HSR speed advantage…

          • Herbert

            I thought airline execs are obsessed with short turnarounds? Did they measure whether the new system makes for longer or shorter turnarounds?

          • michaelrjames

            How do you know that?
            And if there are, are they any different to the ‘queue’ for a ticket validation machine (which are fewer than the number of gates at big stations). It just requires a quick swipe while walking thru just like at most Metro systems, which handle much higher pax numbers in shorter periods.
            Would any queue be any different to the ‘queue’ to boarding the train itself?
            Seems to be making mountains out of mole-hills.
            Seriously.

          • Alon Levy

            Because I had to use these gates when I moved here.

            EDIT: the quick swipe isn’t really quick. TGV riders are rarely regular riders, unlike Métro and RER riders, so they’re unlikely to have a convenient means of tapping and going. They’re also quite likely to be carrying luggage; I was moving with two suitcases.

            The correct way to do this is how France worked until recent airhead reforms to the TGV, or how things still work here. (Remember how back before the financial crisis the TGV had more ridership than the entirety of DB Fernverkehr? It no longer does.) Anyone can walk up to the platform and board the train. Ideally the train should also have two door pairs per car rather than just one, to enable people to board very quickly, but I understand why France, whose big-city stations are terminals, would not think it’s as important as Germany and Japan do.

          • michaelrjames

            Then explain the difference between passing thru these gates and validating your ticket?

          • Alon Levy

            Normally you validate your ticket on the train. The iDTGV was an exception – you showed the ticket at the station, but then the train would not have conductors collecting tickets.

          • michaelrjames

            Normally you validate your ticket on the train.

            Really? I can’t remember (I think I remember the opposite but can’t quite visualise) except that I remember only validating tickets on the platform, at pretty much the same position the new electronic turnstiles are. I would also say that if you validate on the train, presumably upon boarding, that that is more likely to cause a backed-up queue than all those separate turnstiles at the platform.
            And why would you imagine SNCF hasn’t analysed this?

          • Alon Levy

            You don’t validate upon boarding, you board the train with a printed ticket and then a conductor asks you to produce the ticket after the train has departed.

          • michaelrjames

            You’re saying it is different for TGV versus non-TGV trains? With the latter you need to validate your ticket on the platform plus it is usually checked on-board by an attendant (but not always I suppose; even if the ticket is correctly paid for you can be fined if you didn’t validate it). You’re saying TGV tickets don’t need the platform validation (prior to this new system of digital validation)? I cannot remember.

          • Alon Levy

            I don’t know about non-TGVs, I know that if you print a ticket at a TVM it is already valid.

            On TERs you need to validate single-use tickets, sure, but that’s something different.

          • michaelrjames

            Sure, but in this age you can print your ticket at home, or just have it on your smartphone, so it is hardly onerous to be asked to wave it over a reader as you enter the platform?
            I have no idea why people are getting their knickers in a twist over this.

          • Alon Levy

            It is kind of onerous to ask people to queue and produce the ticket at the gate, esp. when they also have luggage. This is not some smartcard that they hold in their wallets and can tap at the transponder without even taking it out of their wallets. Evidently, Germany (and Sweden, etc.) works without any of this nonsense and until very recently so did France.

          • Herbert

            Just board the train at any door and have conductors check tickets on board. It’s not like there’s stops every five minutes…

          • michaelrjames

            It might also be related to non-SNCF operators due to begin using the TGV lines.

          • Herbert

            You create a single chokepoint where previously you have multiple doors of the train.

          • michaelrjames

            You create a single chokepoint where previously you have multiple doors of the train.

            ? Haven’t you seen the large arrays of these gates? (there’s pics in that link I provided). Only if you got a last-minute rush would there be any serious backup. That’s another reason why the analogy to airline boarding is false–because that does have a single chokepoint (one queue and usually one person checking tickets).

            And no, I don’t think it is such a big chore to have your ticket handy when you come to board a train. (Combined with MRJ’s Rule #2 of Travel: only have as much luggage as you can handle yourself and still have at least one, if not both, hands free!)

            Is there any evidence that this is a real world problem, or just some uninformed whingeing?

          • michaelrjames

            Counter question: what’s the benefit of this system?

            Ask why such systems are used for city Metro systems, and between Metro-RER transfers? And the validation system for non-TGV trains in France. Also, remember every seat on a TGV has to be booked (I can’t remember if other Euro long-distance trains have this, except the Spanish AVE which also require pre-booking. That pathetic story I linked to earlier, of the London-to-Edinburgh train being apparently over-booked is just one reason why I won’t listen passively to any Anglosphere types giving advice.)
            For TGV, I suspect it might be to reduce reliance on on-board conductors. Eventually they might reduce conductors and perhaps do what I always whinge about: run later trains (the major cost of running them has to be labour). The Metro and RER systems have very few staff at night and weekends.
            And keeping track of all users when the private operators begin.

          • wiesmann

            I don’t know, this was at Aix-en-Provence TGV, and having luggage, a pram, and a toddler, and having understood this only late, I was not amused…

          • michaelrjames

            Why? And what was there to understand? How could it possibly delay you anymore than the previous system which always required train travellers to ‘validate’ their ticket (ie. stamp by machine) as you pass on to the platform? There are even extra-wide gates for people with extra large luggage or baby strollers etc.
            And please point out what it is about it that at all resembles airline check-in or boarding?

          • wiesmann

            The station has some glass doors that separate the hall from the track, and the machines to obliterate the tickets were spread between doors which were distributed along the track. Now all the passengers had to go with luggage through 2 or 3 gates at an edge of the quai with luggage. Contrary to airlines there was no special gate for people with kids.

          • Richard Mlynarik

            You can place the anglophone in the francosphere, but what you nearly always get is a fracophile anglo.

            Try even explaining barrier-free “proof of payment” transit fare systems to anybody who grew up in the UK or Australia/NZ. Madness!

          • Herbert

            On long distance trains you’ll need conductors anyway. Might as well make them check tickets…

          • Yom Sen

            In the traditional SNCF validation system, not everybody needs to validate just before boarding the train. People with a pass, a previous connection don’t need it and people who arrive early at the station and want to have a coffee, buy food or stay with their family, etc. can validate their tickets before. You can (could?) also board the train without validating (machine broken, last minute arrival…), you just need in this case to go and see the conductor “spontaneously”, so you can’t really compare with the turnstiles you have now.
            And yes, you had also many “composteurs” available in the station, not only those at the entrance of the platform.

            In Switzerland (and many other countries), the validation is done only by the conductor, but tickets are valid only 1 day so the risk of having them used more than once is quite low even though they are not controlled at 100%. In France, classic tickets (bought at the station without booking) are valid 2 months.

          • wiesmann

            Also in Switzerland , a significant proportion of the passenger have some form pass (like the Generalabonnement), so checks are less significant.

    • Max Wyss

      At least some years ago, it was easy to circumvent that kindergarten in Union Station.

      In general, I can not remember anything “air travel” or “airline” being useful for rail operation (including managers); it is all poison…

      • Herbert

        There’s very little rail travel can “learn” from airlines.

        They can however draw inspiration from railroads elsewhere…

        Intercity bus operators can learn more from airlines than railways can

  6. Herbert

    https://www.nordbayern.de/region/nuernberg/vom-typ-g1-erste-neue-u-bahn-in-nurnberg-eingetroffen-1.8876371

    The local paper quotes the order of 34 trains of 76 meters each as “above 260 million €”. The first delivery is to be this year. Unlike all prior generations of trains used on the Nuremberg subway, passengers are to be able to walk the entire length of the train on its interior. The train is to be used on the non automated U1 but comes with equipment for the automated U2 and U3 and the driver cabin is designed “removable” just in case U1 gets automated before the end of life of those trains…

    If we graciously round up to 270 million €, the cost per meter of the order is about 105 000€ in 2019 nominal euros.

    • Alon Levy

      Huh. Maybe I’m relying on too few datapoints, but isn’t it interesting that in metro rolling stock costs Germany has a ~30% premium over Paris whereas in regional rail rolling stock it’s the opposite?

      • Max Wyss

        Not quite serious, but there is a semi-official nickname of the manufacturer of those trains: Sienehmens…

        OTOH, if you compare with the MP05 mentioned in the article, the premium is on the Paris side.

        • michaelrjames

          MP05 have the rubber-wheel system so no surprise if they cost more. Possibly part of the reason why it manages headways of 85 seconds, because of faster acceleration and faster deceleration? And possibly faster operation on its track which has some quite severe curves (IIRC, Bastille and Concorde are both serious wheel-screechers). There must be some advantages because they stick with this system even if it is quite complex: the rubber wheels are in addition to the steel wheels and it has horizontal guide wheels too. They must also cost more in maintenance. Though it is notable how they managed the changeover to the driverless trains (and platform-aligned station doors) without any break in service. The first fully-driverless metro in Lille (1983) used it too, and that was kept when the Paris line M14, after Lille, was built (1998).

          • Alon Levy

            No, the acceleration and deceleration rates nowadays are the same as on high-performance steel-wheeled trains. 21st-century steel-wheel technology is capable of accelerating at 1.2 m/s^2 even with only about half the train’s mass on driven axles. The reason acceleration rates don’t go higher is passenger comfort, not technological limitations.

          • Herbert

            We could in theory launch all trains out of the station with linear induction motors like we do for rollercoasters. But the elderly lady standing in the aisle won’t appreciate that… Nor will the business person with the coffee next to the laptop

          • michaelrjames

            Well, yes they can be made that way but are they? The MP05 is listed as having acceleration of 1.35 m/s2 but the Siemens VAG_Class_G1 doesn’t list it. The majority of the world’s metro lines don’t have just huge demands.

            We’ve had this discussion before, and I believe you, but I’ve never heard an explanation of why they continue to use them on completely new lines, like M14 in the late 90s. I suppose by then there were already long-range plans to convert several lines in Paris to driverless. Would they have decided at the time the Lille system was being planned to stick with a system that was nominally outdated just to maintain enough of this type to support construction & maintenance? In any case you said that for metro cars Germany was at a premium cost compared to Paris.

            An additional fleet of 18 MP 05s was ordered for deployment on the line 14 by 2017 in order to improve service frequencies and to prepare for the line’s northern extension towards Mairie de Saint-Ouen, as well as provide service enhancements to Line 1.

            That strongly implies MP05 provides a significant improvement.

          • Seb

            It’s the the same answer why Paris built Translohr trams. Politics.

          • Yom Sen

            No, Caen had another rubber tyred tram system, GLT from Bombardier.
            The only remaining city with this GLT, Nancy, will switch to regular tram as well in 2020.

          • Max Wyss

            Probably the last city to get away from such rubber tyred tram systems would be Clermont-Ferrand.

            You have one guess why they got such a system to begin with (and no, it is not politicians).

          • Tonami Playman

            So riders would have to deal with a bumpy ride because Michelin is their backyard. With a fleet of 26 trains each with 5 axles and 2 tires per axle, that’s 10 tires per train and 260 for the entire fleet. Is it worth holding up an inferior system?

          • michaelrjames

            They were hoping it would go global. Well, actually it did go global, with ex-France: Medellín, Tianjin and Shanghai, Venice-Mestre and Padua. Obviously it was an experiment in making a system that would be cheaper than standard steel rails. Apparently road wear was the bug. Seems like they might have needed more wheels to spread that load. (Also, are those rubber wheels on fixed axles? That might explain the excess wear? Otherwise a bit hard to see why it would be worse than regular bus wear & tear on road surface?) Incidentally Clermont-Ferrand was a pioneer in this area as it was the first in France (and surely among first in Europe) to run electric trams in 1890. The current single-line tramways carries 24m pax pa so, hardly a failure if not a world-beating success.

            Anyway, you guys should try not being so conservative. Bombardier tried it too. Nothing wrong with such experimentation, especially in such a worthwhile area as transit. Note that they are also BEV, so like Alon wrote about a while back they can use in-motion charging yet can traverse zones without catenary.

          • Alon Levy

            Road wear is proportional to the fourth power of axle load. Buses are already pretty brutal to road surfaces. In at least one case (Tampa), a highway department required the transit agency to pay for concrete lanes as a precondition for permitting an increase in bus frequency and some bus stop upgrades. If rubber-tired trams have higher axle load than buses, they can destroy road surfaces.

          • michaelrjames

            I understand. But this issue has been well understood for a century. In fact it looks like most of them use a concrete road/rollway (makes sense with the central rail requiring it). It seems the complaint about road wear may be from the first system installed, the Bombardier GLT in Nancy in 2001, which had all sorts of problems.
            But the main thing is that it isn’t cheaper than modern tramways.

          • Herbert

            It has no upsides and the downsides of a bespoke single supplier system, so why buy it?

          • Herbert

            Have you ever seen the deep furrows the wheels leave at busy bus stops?

            Rubber tire on asphalt has a pretty proven track record of short useful service lives…

          • Alon Levy

            In the US one reason transit agencies switched from streetcars to buses is that buses were not required to pay for road maintenance and streetcars were.

          • adirondacker12800

            And they could pull into the curb to get out of the way of the very important people in their private cars.

          • Max Wyss

            They say that Michelin threatened to move their headquarters away from Clermont-Ferrand, if they had gone on the “reasonable” way.

          • Max Wyss

            In some places, they build a concrete slab at the bus stops, particularly if they are bays. At a stop, the biggest forces are transmitted from the tyres to the road, and the vehicles are always (within centimeters) at the same position.

            Concrete roadways do have their own issues, because it is not possible to use a very long slab because of thermal expansion; concrete is way more rigid than asphalt, which can deform plastically unter heat (or start to melt away…). This has as a consequence that concrete slabs are considerably more expensive (and that is also the reason why Busways (the roads used in serious BRT applications) are pretty much as expensive as light rail tracks.

          • michaelrjames

            Precisely.
            They often put a final layer of asphalt on top of concrete to reduce these problems but one often sees that peeling away or bubbling especially in hot climates where road surfaces easily exceed 50°C.
            The other thing that has changed, or is changing, is that tramways can be laid using factory-formed single-piece concrete roadbeds. This means that preparation and excavation of the road is shallower, which in turn means far less need to relocate below-ground services (the single most expensive operation in road building etc). As I understand it, this is what allowed the building of Paris’ T3 without any disruption of daytime traffic on the 30+ radial arterials crossing the future tramway (on circumferential boulevards des Maréchaux) to, or across, the Peripherique; apparently they could traverse such intersections with completed track in a single night’s work.

            The problem with the guided-buses concept was that the central guide-rail didn’t take any of the weight (to save on its structural support) which meant the roadway took the full brunt, and because the whole point of the system was to be inexpensive, the early schemes (Bombardier in Nancy, and perhaps the Translohr in Clermont-Ferrand?) didn’t particularly strengthen the road/rollway. It’s the ‘no free lunch’ syndrome. Another consequence of the central rail being only a guideway is that it is easier for these things to derail, especially in icy conditions, and that meant speed reductions on curves to as little as 10km/h. Another hidden cost.

          • Anthony

            Oakland is requiring AC transit to pay for concrete pads at bus stops on the International/E 14th BRT upgrades, and for thicker asphalt over the length of the route.

          • Eric

            So wait, utilities relocation for trams is not because the trams are heavier than road vehicles? It’s because you need to dig a couple feet underground to lay the tram bed, and there are utilities in that couple feet?

          • michaelrjames

            So wait, utilities relocation for trams is not because the trams are heavier than road vehicles? It’s because you need to dig a couple feet underground to lay the tram bed, and there are utilities in that couple feet?

            No, but steel rails need support that a regular road doesn’t. When it is constructed in situ then the structure apparently needs to be deeper than these prefab concrete beds need, and in some cases this requires relocation of utilities. Obviously the rails-in-concrete spreads the final weight of a tram much more evenly across the surface (or subsurface) of a road compared to rubber-wheeled heavy vehicles; and these prefab things have additional damping material between the steel rails and the supporting concrete so there is less vibration too).
            This seems to be the case of the lightrail being installed in George Street in the heart of Sydney CBD.

            “Acciona estimated at that time, it would result in a delay of 865 days… and an additional cost of $426 million, to the civil works only.” He described Ausgrid’s new guildlines as the “root cause” of the project’s delays. “The new pit sizes pushed the excavation works into areas which had not been investigated by the Government for utilities,” he said. Mr Noonan said the Government had “vastly misunderstood” the risk related to gas, electricity and sewerage utilities.
            ………
            The disputes between the Spanish contractor, Acciona, and the state government are running on multiple tracks. On one is a $1.1 billion misleading and deceptive conduct claim. In that matter, which returns to court next week, Acciona alleges that Transport for NSW painted a misleading picture of the work needed to win the agreement of utilities companies prior to moving underground cables along the route. Transport for NSW was particularly ill-informed about the task of relocating the hundreds of underground utilities that lay under George Street, and also about the difficulty of managing the traffic and pedestrian disruptions during construction.

            I don’t know enough about this debacle (and there has never been a clear explanation published) but note that while the trams will be Alstom, the major contractor is the Spanish Acciona. One suspects this ridiculous cost and time blowout is not totally by accident (Acciona was demanding an extra $1.1bn; in June the government settled for $576m) and could have been avoided by, for example, noting how Paris-T3 was built with minimal traffic disruption and by using the LR55 prefab system. (I’m going to guess that if such a tender was submitted it lost because it was a bit more expensive!) The 12km line has almost doubled in cost to A$2.7bn.

            [Saulwick, 30 June 2018]
            One theory about what went wrong relates to the way in which the project was contracted. Faruqi [Greens politician], who has a doctorate in engineering, has argued extensively there has been a hollowing out of technical know-how in the public service. The end result is more time and money trying to fix design changes. “I am hugely concerned about the deliberate de-engineering and politicisation of the public sector and the immense over-reliance on outsourcing,” says Faruqi. “This has led to a diminished capability to establish accurate scope and cost in the first place, followed by a lack of capacity to properly scrutinise design, procurement and delivery from private contractors and consultants.”

          • Sascha Claus

            Guided buses create excessive wear because the guiderail forces the rubber tires to always roll along the exact same centimetres of roadway width (it’s supposed to be a feature), whereas ordinary buses’ wheels always use a slightly different area within the lane. That road vehicles wiggle sideways is the reason trams are allowed to be wider while using a car lane.

          • michaelrjames

            Yes, thank you, but I think I and everyone understands that. What I pointed out is that if you look at the photos of the various systems that have been built, their rollways appear to be concrete and one piece with the guide-rail which of course is as you’d expect. It seems that the bad rep for road damage probably all originate from that first system, two decades ago, of Bombardier’s in eastern France, and it was done that way as a cheapo method to utilise the already-existing pantograph wires that had serviced electric trolley buses. (Unlike future systems it didn’t use the guide-rail for the earth because it had the two-wire trolley system in place.) It was a classic case of a false free lunch, which I also pointed out.
            Also I think you’ll find that any heavily-used bus route, gudeway or not, will have a concrete road for the same reasons. Certainly Curitiba’s looks like concrete. Anything else is just Fool’s Gold (and a version of the local politician’s NIMTOO, ie. the road degradation won’t happen in their term of office so ….).

      • Herbert

        Maybe features such as “entire length walkable” and “capable of automatic operation in the future and manual now” are cost drivers…

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, maybe. My guess is that in the early days of automation it was a cost driver, but now that it’s more standard it no longer is.

          • Herbert

            Automation on U3 opened in 2008 after severe delays (original plans called for opening ahead of the 2006 soccer world cup) so maybe there’s a premium for somewhat dated technology?

      • Herbert

        Quite a few cities in Germany, France and elsewhere have ordered new light rail rolling stock in the last three decades… Maybe that could get you more data points…

  7. Ralfffff

    PATH PA5 cars are 16M long according to Wikipedia. In 2008 they were ordered for $1.5M each http://www.panynj.gov/about/gtr/gtr-081110.html – this is not most of the order but if you look at the original purchasing breakdown, that is the price of the 2008 order per-car as well
    At the end of 2017, PATH ordered 50 more with an option of an additional 22 at $3M each.
    https://www.nj.com/traffic/2017/12/300m_shopping_spree_rolling_down_the_path_tracks.html

    Inflation-adjusted to 2018 the original order is about $100,000/linear meter. The recent order is $187,500/linear meter also made by Kawasaki, so NYCT is actually getting a great bargain compared to the dealmasters at the Port Authority

  8. Tonami Playman

    Alon, It looks like my comments are getting dropped. I haven’t been able to get a comment through in a while. Could you look into this? Thanks

    • Alon Levy

      Fuck. I just did a sweep and rescued 6 comments from the spamfilter. I don’t know why it’s so overzealous all of a sudden.

  9. adirondacker12800

    The FRA recently realigned its regulations to permit lightly-modified European mainline trains to run on American tracks.

    After the MTA placed the order for M9s. They need cars now, not sometime after regulations that still haven’t been determined may or may not be adopted, are adopted. It’s a pity it offends your sensibilities. People who need to get to work don’t give a shit about how heavy or light the train is. They care that they can actually get on one. They and the vendors can have discussions for the M10/M11 round.

    the only ones buying European equipment had plans to do so even before the revision, going through costly waiver process that increased costs

    That’s going sooooooo well isn’t it. Apparently the wundervendor can’t read egress regulations that are in English. People who need to get to work don’t give a shit about how heavy or light the train is. They care that they can actually get on one.

      • adirondacker12800

        They are still fooling around with options for more M8s. Mostly because people who need to get to work don’t give a shit about how heavy or light the train is. They care that they can actually get on one. They can get them relatively fast. Someday they will get around to releasing an RFI, which will result in an RFP. And a few lawsuits. 2027-ish. Or they can just order up some Bombardier Multilevel IIIbs for Penn Station Access. Though that isn’t going to happen until after East Side Access opens in 2034.

      • Herbert

        They also prefer more cars over less cars if the same amount of money is being spent

      • adirondacker12800

        and they like cars that are actually there instead of something that may or may not be delivered sometime in the indeterminate future.

        • Max Wyss

          If there is not much new development, and approval organs are reasonable, Stadler gets you a FLIRT or KISS fully operational within 2 years after the order has been finalized. New developments, and/or extensive type rating may extend that to 3 (at most).

          OK, it is not only the manufacturer’s fault because the customer ordered and was also forced to order (the disability lobby was very eager with lawsuits) changes wile production was already going on, but Bombardier took almost 5 years to deliver the first Class 502 trainset to SBB (and instead of paying a penalty in cash, they build 3 additional trains for free). We are now in the 7th year, and only a few trainsets have been accepted.

          • adirondacker12800

            California’s experience with Stadler is going sooooooooooo well.

  10. Mikel

    Update 9/24: I just saw a new commuter rail coach order in Boston. These are bilevels so some cost premium is to be expected, but $345 million for 80 unpowered coaches, or $170,000 per meter, is excessive

    Does that include maintenance? I hope it does, because otherwise they’re getting unpowered coaches for more than the price of 330km/h Talgo EMUs.

  11. Pingback: News Roundup: skyrocketing – Seattle Transit Blog
  12. Pingback: How Fast New York Regional Rail Could Be | Pedestrian Observations

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