Beyond Cost Alone: Evaluating LRT & BRT Options in Australian & NZ cities


Published on

Published in: Engineering, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Beyond Cost Alone: Evaluating LRT & BRT Options in Australian & NZ cities

  1. 1. Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 MOVING BEYOND COST: EVALUATING LRT AND BRT OPTIONS FOR AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND CITIES Scott Martin BA (USyd) MUP (Melb), CMILT - University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia SUMMARY Long-running debates over the superiority of light rail transit (LRT) or bus rapid transit (BRT) for medium-capacity urban public transport tasks hampers development of effective transport policies and hinders objective project evaluation to ensures transport technologies with the highest overall benefit are chosen for a given corridor or network. While there cost-benefit analysis of BRT and LRT options for transport projects is extensively conducted, performance-based evaluation of BRT and LRT are less so. If such evaluations are undertaken, they often fail to produce unequivocal findings since definitions of BRT and LRT are highly elastic. Additionally, comparisons using cost-benefit analysis alone can be complicated by the absence of common evaluation criteria for construction, operation, and maintenance costs. The paper aims to outlines some simple performance-based evaluation criteria to evaluate the adoption of LRT or BRT as appropriate medium-capacity public transport technologies in Australian and New Zealand (NZ) cities. This topic is relevant as a number of Australian and New Zealand cities have spent over A$7 billion building new or expanded LRT and BRT networks since the late 1980s, while other Australian and New Zealand cities are planning or building LRT and BRT systems for completion by the end of the current decade. INTRODUCTION Spending on public transport infrastructure in Australian and New Zealand (NZ) cities has accelerated during the 21 st Century. The cities of Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney have invested over A$5 billion (2013 dollars) in new or extended bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail transit (LRT) networks between 2000 and 2010 alone. In this decade, several billion dollars of projects extending existing BRT and LRT networks in Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney are either proposed or underway; while new BRT and LRT systems are either under construction on the Gold Coast, being planned in Australia’s national capital (Canberra), smaller state capitals (Hobart and Perth), capital city sub-regions (Western Sydney) and large regional cities (Newcastle). New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington is also evaluating BRT and LRT to augment the city’s heavy rail and bus networks. This paper examines how evaluation3 processes for road-based public transport projects are influenced by factors other than the capital costs of project delivery. It tests a hypothesis challenging the conventional wisdom where BRT is significantly less expensive to construct than LRT. If the differences in capital costs between BRT and LRT are more closely aligned than previously considered, factors other than cost will become increasingly important in the minds of decision-makers. WHY BRT AND LRT? Debates over the suitability of BRT or LRT as appropriate transport technologies for cities have been contentious in recent decades, particularly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. These debates are also important in an Australasian context, with Australian and NZ cities investing over A$7 billion (2013 dollars) on BRT and LRT projects since the late 1980s. BRT and LRT technologies remain popular choices for transport planners and policy makers, offering medium-capacity (between 5,000 and 20,000 passengers per hour) public transport solutions, at levels of capital expenditure between street transport and heavy rail technologies. BRT and LRT are often seen as effective solutions to mitigate urban road congestion, improve accessibility to Central Business Districts (CBDs) and suburban activity centres, and provide opportunities to alter land-use patterns along transport corridors and at stations. In North America and Australia, BRT and LRT are often viewed as competitors for funding and patronage with other public transport technologies such as heavy rail rather than complementary transport technologies, competing primarily against private cars for ridership. Both technologies provide on-road public transport system ‘packages’ with higher speed, reliability and passenger capacity street tramways and buses; often at generally lower capital and
  2. 2. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 operating costs than heavy rail technologies and utilising existing road and rail corridors. Despite this complementarity, proponents of BRT and LRT claim each system provides the most appropriate solutions for urban transport problems. Supporters of BRT promote the technology as offering almost all the benefits of LRT, but delivered faster with lower capital and operating costs. LRT proponents claim it provides higher quality of service, is more attractive to existing and potential users, and can deliver stronger, more permanent impacts on urban form. In environments where different transport technologies compete for capital funding and patronage, robust and impartial project evaluation methodologies are required for evaluating claims of BRT and LRT proponents to ensure the appropriate technology with the highest overall benefit is chosen for a given corridor or network. The following sections define BRT and LRT systems, why they are important on-road public transport technologies and what factors influence their selection as appropriate urban transport systems for cities. DEFINING BRT & LRT The definition of ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ (BRT) and ‘Light Rail Transit’ (LRT) has been debated for many years with little consensus. Proponents of each technology claim a wide range of potential costs, benefits and performance standards, allowing LRT and BRT to mean different things to different people. Such elasticity in defining both BRT and LRT is both a strength and weakness. The literature indicates precise definitions of BRT and LRT are difficult. BRT is often described as encompassing a spectrum of bus-based infrastructure from low-cost improvements to street bus routes to ‘full’ BRT in exclusive Rights- of-Way (ROW) that rival rail-based systems in performance and capital costs. Equally, ‘LRT’ encompasses a range of capabilities and performance from street tramways or streetcars operating in mixed traffic to full LRT systems running on segregated ROWs. While obvious differences exist between BRT and LRT based on different propulsion and guidance systems, they also share many similarities. Both BRT and LRT combine vehicles, rights of way, control systems, passenger facilities and service quality into a ‘package’ of public transport technology marketed to present and potential users with a strongly branded image and identity. Since the appearance of the earliest railways in the 19th Century, transport systems are recognized as representing a ‘machine ensemble’. The BRT and LRT machine ensemble consists of three key elements:  Rights of Way;  System Technologies, and;  Service Types. The machine ensemble of road-based public transport produces a range of possible performance when measured against criteria such as speed, travel time, carrying capacity and reliability. Manipulating the elements of the road- based public transport machine ensemble can improve (or retard) performance. The following sections outline ways in which all three functional elements of the public transport machine ensemble exhibit themselves in both BRT and LRT systems. 1. Rights of Way Rights of Way (ROW) are the corridors in which transport systems operate. The literature identifies three basic categories of ROW (A, B & C) based on their level of interaction with other road traffic, as shown in Figure 1 below (1). Some propose further segmentation of ROWs into ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ sub-categories through the presence or absence of control systems segregating road-based public transport from other road traffic (1). Figure 1 – Definition of Right of Way (ROW) categories for BRT and LRT systems. In Australian and New Zealand cities, as elsewhere in the world, BRT and LRT systems can often operate across all three ROW types, with outer suburban portions of a system in Category C, line-haul portions in a segregated Category A or B ROW and CBD access utilizing Category C (and occasionally Category A) ROWs. 2. System Technologies ‘System technologies’ are defined as comprising four key areas: ‘support’, ‘guidance’, ‘propulsion’ and ‘control’ systems.(2) ‘Support’ technology for BRT and LRT is the vertical interface between vehicles and road surfaces. BRT uses rubber-
  3. 3. Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 tires on a concrete or asphalt roadway or guideway. LRT uses steel wheels on steel rails (either embedded in the roadway or laid on ballast like a conventional railway). ‘Guidance’ systems refer to the means by which vehicles are guided along the ROW. Most BRT systems use buses manually steered by the driver, while LRT systems utilise wheel/rail interaction for guidance. Some BRT systems (most notably Adelaide’s O-Bahn) are ‘guided busways’, with buses steered on the guideway by additional sets of wheels. ‘Propulsion’ most commonly describes the means of providing traction power to buses or LRVs. BRT systems tend to use internal combustion engines (ICE) powered by diesel, gas or petrol fuels: while LRT systems mostly use electric motors drawing current from overhead wires. ‘Control’ systems monitor and manage operation of BRT and LRT systems. Most BRT and LRT systems use visual control to maintain separation between vehicles on the ROW, while interaction with other road users at intersections is managed by traffic signals. Other control systems include Intelligent Transportation Systems monitoring the locations of buses and LRVs, ensuring traffic signal priority at intersections and providing passengers with real-time information on vehicle locations and arrival times. 3. Service type ‘Service type’ describes the range of services and operating strategies offered to existing and potential users. Service types generally display four main characteristics: types of routes, stop spacing, stopping patterns and span of operating hours. Many BRT and LRT systems are constructed to serve regional or metropolitan travel markets, often from inner and middle suburbs to Central Business Districts (CBD). Most BRT and LRT systems run to ‘all stations’ stopping patterns, but some systems run additional services to ‘limited stop’ or ‘express patterns’. Most BRT and LRT systems operate ‘all stops’ service levels across a broad span of operating hours, often augmented with additional CBD-focused commuter or peak-hour services in the AM and PM peaks (2). The types of vehicles used to provide services are also important to the capacity and function of BRT and LRT systems. Both buses and light rail vehicles (LRVs) offer roughly similar ranges of passenger capacities ranging from single unit buses and trams carrying between 50-70 passengers, to articulated buses and coupled or articulated LRVs carrying between 130-150 passengers.(3) Increasingly, larger buses and LRVs with multiple articulations provide high capacity (270-300 passengers) vehicles for BRT and LRT systems. Most manufacturers of buses and LRVs now offer low-floor or semi low-floor options to improve accessibility to vehicles for a diverse range of public transport users, complementing improved stop infrastructure that provides level, ‘no-step’ boarding and alighting. 4. A definition of BRT and LRT In order to provide consistent and comparable definitions of BRT and LRT in this paper, the following parameters will be used:  BRT is generally powered by ICE; LRT is generally powered by electricity;  BRT technology uses rubber tires on asphalt or concrete roadways, with steering usually provided by the driver; LRT uses steel wheel on steel rail, steered by wheel/rail interaction;  BRT is capable of line capacities between 4,000-20,000 spaces per hour, although some high capacity BRT systems have capacities of up to 40,000 spaces per hour. LRT is capable of line capacities of between 5,000-24,000 spaces per hour;  BRT & LRT vehicles run to distinctive stops or stations with good passenger facilities, with average stop spacing of between 300-600m apart in CBDs and between 600-1000m in suburban areas;  Operates predominantly in dedicated (Category B) ROWs separated from other road users (i.e. taxis, high-occupancy vehicles). BRT/LRT can also operate in fully segregated elevated or tunnelled (Category A) ROWs. Only limited sections should be in shared on-road (Category C) ROWs. These parameters show both the unique and shared attributes of BRT and LRT and allows analysis of Australian and NZ systems to occur on a ‘like for like’ basis, rather than attempting to sweep up a range of bus-based and tram-based systems under all-encompassing definitions of ‘LRT’ and ‘BRT’. This is particularly important in comparing capital costs of BRT and LRT systems, but also in comparing the performance parameters of both transport technologies. CAPITAL, OPERATING AND MAINTENANCE COSTS OF BRT & LRT Better knowledge of public transport infrastructure project and operating costs can assist governments, transport agencies, contractors and consultants in developing more robust business cases that accurately estimate project costs and benefits. More accurate data can give political
  4. 4. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 leaders, gateway agencies (such as state and federal treasuries) and decision-makers greater confidence in the likelihood of public transport projects to be delivered on time and on budget. There is a growing body of literature examining methods of costing capital and operational expenditure on major transport and other infrastructure projects, placing these elements of project selection and development on more sound footings. The literature outlines tools for analysing large-scale infrastructure projects, which are increasingly relevant to projects with metropolitan or regional level size and scope such as BRT and LRT projects. These tools offer improved capital and operating cost forecasting, but are also important in looking at political and other factors that guide project selection and development. A common claim in favour of BRT as a transport technology is its lower capital and operating costs and lower frequency of cost overruns compared to similar LRT systems. This argument is frequently heard in North American debates on selection of BRT and LRT as appropriate urban public transport technologies, however such claims often highly contentious and emotionally charged. Large-scale meta-analyses of BRT and LRT projects in North America (4, 5), the United Kingdom (6, 7) and Europe (8) provide more nuanced views of the differences between capital and operational costs. These meta-analyses allow assembly of a ‘reference class’ of completed BRT and LRT projects that Flyvbjerg (9) views as permitting more accurate forecasting of future project costs. While some efforts have been made at compiling reference classes of BRT (10, 11) and LRT projects (12) in Australia and New Zealand, the paper’s research is, to the author’s knowledge, the first effort at developing such a reference class of Australian and NZ BRT and LRT projects. Low knowledge levels of project capital costs for public transport and its impacts (such as escalating capital costs) have not gone unnoticed in various Australian jurisdictions, with inquiries made by Parliamentary Committees into project costs; along with ex-post facto inquiries into completed LRT and BRT projects. Understanding capital costs for public transport projects has also been of interest to other bodies scrutinising the executive arms of Australian government, particularly Auditor-General’s offices in Victoria and New South Wales. Operating costs are another factor decision- makers must examine when evaluating full-life costs of transport projects. While US operating cost data exists from meta-analyses of US (5) and UK (7) BRT and LRT systems, reporting inconsistencies by individual transport operators and possible bias in data sources makes it hard to provide consistent analysis of operating costs in Australia and NZ. The absence of detailed system operating cost data for new BRT and LRT systems in Australia and NZ is concerning. Such systems, whether operated by public sector authorities, private sector contractors or franchisees tend to report operational data (where it is available) at a system-wide level, with aggregate figures for operating costs, as well as service kilometres operated, subsidies paid and passengers carried. Finding detailed operational cost data through open sources is often complicated by it often being viewed as ‘commercial-in-confidence’ information. Disaggregating such operating cost data for BRT and LRT systems in Australia and NZ is extremely challenging. The author was unable to hypothecate or ‘reverse engineer’ operating costs to sufficiently robust levels of confidence to warrant their inclusion in this paper. A ‘REFERENCE CLASS’ OF BRT AND LRT PROJECTS IN AUSTRALIA AND NZ Development of a ‘reference class’ of BRT and LRT projects in Australian and NZ cities is desirable to achieve accurate estimates of capital costs for future BRT and LRT projects based on past delivery costs for similar projects. Flyvbjerg (9) concludes reference class forecasting is particularly useful, especially for calculating estimates of project costs and better predicting final costs after accounting for optimism bias, especially in patronage estimates. In an Australian context, reference class forecasting is viewed as a useful addition to the practice of Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) for public sector projects (13). Knowledge of project costs is important, not merely for forecasting the financial performance of future projects, but also as part of broader performance-based evaluation processes for road-based public transport. Later in this paper, BRT and LRT project costs developed in the reference class will be used alongside operational data to produce a tentative set of performance- based evaluation measures for proposed BRT and LRT projects in Australia and NZ. 1. Project definition and filtering In developing a reference class of projects, an initial long list was identified using open source material including government documents, transport industry trade press and academic literature An initial list of approximately 50 BRT and LRT projects was developed, with projects either being completed or underway during the 25-year period from 1987 to 2012. After the long list of candidate projects was developed, filters were applied to remove certain project types. Projects that did not comply with the earlier
  5. 5. Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 definition of BRT and LRT were excluded, on grounds including:  Network level or spot bus and light rail priority treatments (e.g. peak-period lanes and traffic signal priority);  New and upgraded bus and light rail services on existing corridors, and;  Infrastructure projects that support improved urban bus and light rail operations (e.g. depots, workshops). By applying these filters, a core list of 28 BRT and LRT infrastructure projects remained within scope for consideration. The short-listed projects were investigated further to develop more detailed profiles of project scope, size and cost, with the final list consisting of three project categories:  Construction of new BRT and LRT routes;  Extensions to existing BRT and LRT routes, and;  Conversion of heavy rail routes to LRT or BRT routes. 2. Refinement of included projects and methodology The capital costs of the 28 candidate projects based on the reported final outturn cost were initially developed, with data obtained using ‘open source’ (that is, publicly available) data from annual reports, budget papers, media releases, newspaper articles and the transport trade press. Where information was available, each project was further refined to strip out operating cost items, the costs of ‘fixed’ infrastructure (ROW acquisition, stations), ‘movable’ infrastructure (rolling stock) and costs of ‘enabling’ or ‘network- wide’ infrastructure works (relocation of utilities, depots and control systems) to provide a final per- kilometre construction cost for rights-of way, stations and system technologies. An attempt to screen the capital costs of the 28 candidate projects further to develop a ‘basic’ per route-kilometre cost for rights-of-way only was considered, but this was not pursued due to difficulties encountered in collecting such detailed information through open source methods. The success or otherwise of this methodology and the level to which costs can be isolated depends on levels of quality and transparency in the data published by consultants, infrastructure delivery organisations and governments in annual reports, budget papers and other material. The quality and quantity of this material varies between jurisdictions and has differed over time. Once the basic capital cost profile was developed, there was a need to normalise all project costs across the 25-year time horizon from dollars of the day into constant dollars. As these projects either commenced or were completed between 1987 and 2012, a method was sought that escalated each project’s final outturn capital cost at the time of completion into constant dollars. Three methodologies for were examined for developing projects costs in constant dollars for the reference set of project costs. The first method involved simple escalation from dollars of the day into constant (2013) dollars utilising the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures. While useful for cost escalation into constant dollars, CPI is limited by its basis in the price movements of a basket of goods and services. The second method mirrors that used in a comparative, trans-national study of rail project costs in Europe and the US, based on movements of the OECD’s Construction Cost Index or CCI (14). The Australian and New Zealand components of the CCI utilises the ABS Producer Price Index (PPI) data for road and bridge construction projects (15) and Statistics NZ’s PPI data on heavy and civil engineering construction (16). Discussions with a range of stakeholders indicated using PPI instead of CPI to would provide more accurate results. The third methodology was a hybrid method used only for Australian projects completed prior to the start of the ABS’ PPI (road and bridge construction) data set in the September 1997 quarter. This method uses Australian CPI data to escalate project costs to September quarter 1997 levels and then utilises Australian PPI data to escalate costs to June quarter 2013 levels. Project costs at the time of completion were multiplied using PPI (and CPI where appropriate) price inflators to June 2013 Australian dollars. For the single NZ project, the project costs in NZ dollars was converted into Australian dollars using the average interbank exchange rate for the year the project was completed then escalated using the NZ PPI price inflator. EVALUATING COSTS OF BRT & LRT PROJECTS IN AUSTRALIA & NZ The capital costs for all 28 BRT and LRT projects in Australian and NZ cities examined in this article are shown in Table 1 below and are ranked by per-kilometre capital cost. Sorting the reference class this way illustrates the wide range of per- kilometre capital costs, ranging from $450 million/km for Stage 1 of Brisbane’s Eastern Busway to the Port Melbourne Light Rail conversion at $5.8 million/km. Capital costs are shown both in Australian dollars at the year of completion and also escalated to (June 2013) Australian dollars. Table 1 shows the significant public sector investment in BRT & LRT projects in Australia and NZ (mostly by state and
  6. 6. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 Table 1: Australian and NZ BRT & LRT projects ranked by per kilometre capital cost in constant (2013 $A). Sources: Federal/State government budget papers (Australia); National/Regional government budget papers (NZ). regional governments) since 1987 of just over $7 billion (2013 $A). This amount pales in comparison to over $55 billion of public funds spent by national, state, territory and local governments on Australia’s road network between 1987 and 2009. The 13 BRT projects in the reference class range from $450 million/km (Brisbane’s Eastern Busway Stage 1) to $11.4 million/km (Perth’s Kwinana Freeway Busway). The 15 LRT projects range from $99.7 million/km (Gold Coast Light Rail) to $5.8 million/km for the Port Melbourne Light Rail conversion. The wide span of per-kilometre capital costs shows the diversity of environments and methods in which BRT and LRT projects are delivered in Australia and New Zealand. The five most expensive projects on a per- kilometre basis (bar one) are all BRT projects in Brisbane (Eastern Busway Stage 1 [EB1], Inner Northern Busway Stage 2 [INB2], Boggo Road Busway [BRB] and Northern Busway Stage 2 [BNB2]). These four are among the most Project Name State Length (km) Stations /Stops Opened Cost $M (2013) Cost per km $M (2013) Eastern Busway Stage 1 (Buranda-Coorparoo) QLD 1.1 2 2011 $494.9 $449.9 Inner Northern Busway Stage 2 (KG Square - Roma St) QLD 1.3 2 2008 $395.1 $316.1 Boggo Road Busway (UQ Lakes-Buranda) QLD 1.5 4 2009 $257.6 $171.7 Northern Busway Stage 2 (Windsor-Kedron) QLD 3.0 10 2012 $453.6 $151.2 Gold Coast Light Rail QLD 13.0 16 2014 $1,296.0 $99.7 Northern Busway Stage 1 (Herston - Windsor) QLD 2.4 8 2009 $225.7 $94.0 Inner Northern Busway Stage 1 (Roma St - Herston) QLD 2.8 3 2005 $218.2 $77.9 South-East Busway QLD 16.5 11 2001 $1,097.2 $66.5 Sydney Inner West Light Rail Extension NSW 5.6 9 2014 $214.0 $38.2 Auckland Northern Busway NZ 8.7 5 2008 $295.5 $34.0 Sydney Light Rail NSW 3.6 10 1997 $118.8 $33.0 M2 Motorway Busway NSW 7.0 2 1997 $201.1 $28.7 North West Transitway NSW 24.0 30 2007 $672.0 $28.0 Port Road Tram extension SA 2.8 4 2010 $53.0 $18.9 Liverpool-Parramatta Transitway NSW 30.0 31 2003 $532.8 $17.8 Adelaide O-Bahn SA 12.0 3 1989 $197.6 $16.5 Box Hill tram extension VIC 2.2 5 2003 $35.2 $16.0 Adelaide CBD tram extension SA 2.1 5 2008 $33.6 $16.0 Vermont South tram extension VIC 3.0 5 2005 $36.5 $12.2 Kwinana Freeway Bus Transitway WA 5.9 1 2002 $67.0 $11.4 Plenty Road Tram Extension Stage 4 (McLeans Road - McKimmies Road) VIC 2.1 4 1995 $23.5 $11.2 Docklands Drive tram extension VIC 1.0 5 2005 $9.0 $9.0 Sydney Light Rail Extension NSW 3.6 4 2000 $32.3 $9.0 Plenty Road Tram Extension Stage 3 (La Trobe University - McLeans Road) VIC 3.2 7 1987 $26.3 $8.2 Airport West Tram Extension VIC 1.2 3 1992 $9.1 $7.6 St Kilda Light Rail VIC 4.4 8 1987 $29.9 $6.8 East Burwood Tram VIC 2.0 4 1993 $12.9 $6.5 Port Melbourne Light Rail VIC 2.8 6 1987 $16.1 $5.8 TOTAL ALL PROJECTS (2013 $A Million) $7054.5
  7. 7. Scott Martin Moving Beyond Cost: Evaluating BRT & LRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 expensive urban public transport projects constructed in Australia over the last decade. They reflect the choice of extensively tunnelled engineering solutions to deal with access through the Brisbane CBD or transitioning from elevated to tunnelled ROWs for grade-separated crossings with rail and road corridors (17). On a per-kilometre basis the cost of the first two BRT projects exceeds Australia’s most expensive urban rail project (Sydney’s Epping-Chatswood line costing $208 million/km), while the next two BRT projects cost more than Australia’s second most expensive urban rail project, Sydney’s Airport Rail Link, costing $125 million/km (18). The fifth most expensive is the Gold Coast Light Rail project. Its per-kilometre cost reflects the high cost of retrofitting a completely new on-road LRT system into a mature urban environment, and includes aggregated one-off network set up costs for vehicles, depots, traction power and control systems. Where good quality ROWs are available, capital costs can be relatively low for either BRT or LRT projects. Re-use of an abandoned freeway corridor played a major role in keeping the costs of Adelaide’s O-Bahn busway to a modest $16.5 million/km, while partial usage of a water pipeline corridor kept the cost of the Liverpool-Parramatta T-Way at $17.8 million/km. Constructing BRT corridors in freeway medians has also kept capital costs low, with busways constructed in Perth’s Kwinana Freeway and Sydney’s M2 tollway costing $11.4 million/km and $28.7 million/km respectively (19, 20). Disused rail corridors have also provided low-cost ROWs for LRT, with minimal land acquisition, straightforward conversion of electrical systems and track to LRT and using existing rolling stock. Examples include the mid-1980s conversion of the Port Melbourne and St Kilda heavy rail lines into LRT and the conversion of an abandoned freight line into the first two stages of Sydney’s single LRT line a decade later (21-23). COMPARISONS WITH INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKS As discussed previously, many BRT promoters claim it is cheaper than LRT on a capital cost per- kilometre basis by a wide margin. Meta-analyses of reference classes of BRT and LRT projects in North America (4, 5, 8), the UK and Europe (7, 8) indicate capital costs of LRT are approximately 2.6 times that of BRT. These results should be viewed with caution as they compare LRT systems to the full range of bus-based public transport projects ranging from improved street bus operations in dedicated bus lanes up to full BRT. Differences in data collection and quality of data used in these meta-analyses can lead to perpetuating the ‘apples and oranges error’ of drawing erroneous conclusions from uneven and dissimilar data. By comparing ‘apples with apples’ using a methodology that more rigorously defines the set of reference class projects, BRT proponents’ claims can be more rigorously tested. Using the reference set of projects and author’s previous research into capital construction costs of public transport projects in Australia and NZ, only a small sample size of six new BRT and LRT projects is available for comparison to overseas meta-analyses. Since 1997, only two new LRT projects were completed (Sydney Light Rail) or under construction (Gold Coast Light Rail), with an average capital cost of A$57 million/km, compared to four new BRT projects completed in the same period with an average capital cost of A$32.8 million/km (17). A surprising result of testing the data is that the ratio of capital cost difference for Australian and New Zealand BRT and LRT projects is 1 to 1.7, a ratio smaller than the overseas meta-analyses would suggest. The comparison of results is shown in Figure 2 below. The finding in Figure 2 is significant as it reflects efforts to create greater acceptance of BRT as a ‘rail-like’ technology in Australia and NZ: either by designing them to higher, LRT-like standards (11, 24), or by future- proofing the ability to convert BRT into LRT or heavy rail technology (25-27). Figure 2: Per-kilometre capital cost ratios of US, UK, European, Australian and NZ BRT & LRT projects. Further research that better separates out the component costs for BRT and LRT projects could narrow the gap between LRT and ‘rail-like’ BRT infrastructure closer to the 1 to 1.5 ratio identified in a case study comparing capital costs of BRT, Guided BRT and LRT options in the UK (6). EVALUATING ROAD-BASED PUBLIC TRANSPORT PROJECTS ON PERFORMANCE AND COST Comparison of different transport modes or technologies on capital costs alone is critiqued as a false comparison, failing to fully consider other values such as capacity, productivity and performance levels (3). A range of non-cost criteria are available to measure performance of
  8. 8. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 public transport systems, including ‘Workrate’ (measuring frequencies) which, along with vehicle and ROW characteristics generate ‘Capacity’ that measures the maximum amount of units moving past fixed points in set periods of time. (2) The most common unit of capacity is ‘person capacity’, being the number of people that can reliably move past a fixed point during a set period of time without unreasonable delay, hazard or discomfort. (28). ‘Space capacity’ (both seats and standing room) further modifies person capacity to provide a better measure of ‘offered capacity’ from the number of passenger spaces moving past a fixed point over an hour. Offered capacity measures have the advantage of being determined largely using open source data such as operator’s public timetables and known vehicle capacities, rather than requiring patronage data or direct observation and counting of passengers. Levels of Service (LOS) measures are also useful when assessing existing or planned transport infrastructure’s ability to satisfy present and future demand. LOS measures include service frequency, span of operating hours, service coverage, passenger loadings, on-time performance, headway adherence and average speeds (29). LOS measures add information on congestion, as high (spaces per hour) capacity on a route is often only possible with unacceptable levels of congestion and degraded LOS (28). While LOS measures are useful for comparing options between technologies (such as BRT and LRT), operating strategies and service standards, are less useful in determining factors such as passenger comfort, overcrowding and ride quality. For this analytical exercise, average operating speeds will be utilised as a proxy measure of LOS. When combined with offered capacity it creates a measure of ‘productive’ capacity, providing good composite representation of both operator-focused (capacity) and passenger- focused (speed) public transport performance (2). Of the 28 reference class projects, 18 were selected for performance evaluation. Ten projects were removed from consideration, including all seven LRT-like extensions to Melbourne’s predominantly on-street tram network and the removal of the Kwinana Freeway busway after its conversion to heavy rail in 2006. Other projects were modified, with Sydney’s North-West T-Way project split into its constituent parts (the Parramatta-Rouse Hill and Blacktown-Parklea busways), while the LRT lines in Sydney and Adelaide were amalgamated to form ‘Sydney Light Rail’ and ‘Adelaide Light Rail’ lines for evaluation. Due to Brisbane’s busway network structure of frequent branching from main trunks, each section of the Northern and Eastern busways along with the outer section of the Southeast busway were examined separately. To evaluate productive capacities of Australian and NZ BRT and LRT systems, data was collected to determine average speeds and offered AM peak (07.30-08.30) capacity on each corridor. Offered capacity was determined using public timetables of each operator and data on vehicle capacities. Cordon points on each corridor or corridor section were chosen to ensure accurate counting of offered capacity. Detailed tabulation of cordon points, vehicle numbers, offered capacity and productive capacity for each project is provided at Appendix One. Offered capacity on BRT is conservatively estimated, as many systems use a mix of standard, long-wheelbase and articulated buses. For this analysis, all buses are assumed to be standard buses with 70 spaces (seated and standing) per bus (2). In practice, BRT offered capacity is significantly higher on most systems with the use of long wheelbase rigid and articulated buses. LRT projects use capacities for LRVs in service on each line (12, 30). Performance parameters for ‘street’ transit (buses and trams), ‘semi-rapid’ transit (BRT and LRT) and ‘rapid’ transit are also overlaid to locate the projects within these generally accepted performance parameters (2). This data is plotted in graphical form and is displayed in Figure 3 below. Key findings include:  The majority (14 from 18) of BRT and LRT projects have offered capacities closer to (and often below) accepted parameters for street transit than those of semi-rapid transit;  Most BRT and LRT projects use separated ROWs to operate at higher average speeds than street transit, and;  Only three projects (Adelaide’s O-Bahn, Brisbane’s Southeast Busway and Inner Northern Busway Stage 2) operate at levels of offered capacity and speed that can be considered as truly semi-rapid transit, while a fourth (Sydney’s M2 Tollway Busway) approaches semi-rapid transit performance levels. When per-kilometre capital cost data for the 18 projects are plotted along with data on productive capacity derived from Figure 3, relationships showing each project’s relative effectiveness as transportation systems can be developed. Figure 4 plots this relationship with performance values for different classes of transit overlaid as a comparative benchmark. Note also the vertical axis (capital costs) is displayed in a logarithmic rather than linear scale for easier readability.
  9. 9. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 AOB SEB ANB INB2 BNB1 BNB2 ANB LPB RHB BPB M2B BRB BEB1 ADL SKL PML SYL GCL 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 AverageOperatingSpeed(km/h) Peak hour/peak direction offered capacity (Spaces per hour) Street transit Semirapid transit Figure 3: Measuring productive capacity of Australian and NZ BRT & LRT systems Figure 4: Relationship between productive capacity and per-kilometre construction costs for Australian and NZ BRT and LRT systems AOB SEBINB1 INB2 BNB2 BNB2 ANB LPB RHB BPB M2B BRB BEB1 ADL SKL PML SYL GCL $1 $10 $100 $1,000 0 100 200 300 400 500 Capitalcostperkm(2013A$Millions) Productive capacity (offered spaces x average operating speed) '000s Street transit Semirapid transit Rapid transit Key: ADL: Adelaide Light Rail; ANB - Auckland Northern Busway; AOB – Adelaide O-Bahn; BEB1 – Brisbane Eastern Busway Stage 1; BNB1 – Brisbane Northern Busway Stage 1; BNB2 – Brisbane Northern Busway Stage 2; BPB - Blacktown to Parklea Busway; BRB – Boggo Road Busway; GCL – Gold Coast Light Rail; LPB – Liverpool to Parramatta Busway; M2B – M2 Tollway Busway; PML – Port Melbourne Light Rail; RHB - Parramatta to Rouse Hill Busway; SEB - Brisbane Southeast Busway; SKL – St Kilda Light Rail; SYL – Sydney Light Rail.
  10. 10. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 The key findings from Figure 4 include:  The majority of BRT and LRT projects in the reference class offer street transit- levels of productive capacity, but at high per-kilometre capital costs;  Five BRT and LRT projects offer semi rapid transit levels of productive capacity and capital costs, with another BRT project offering similar productive capacity at higher capital costs, and;  One BRT project (Adelaide’s O-Bahn) has productive capacity approaching the threshold of rapid transit performance. FINDINGS AND FURTHER RESEARCH A significant finding of this paper was the closer alignment between BRT and LRT capital costs in Australia and NZ than in Europe, North America and the UK. Reasons may include the higher costs of designing BRT to be more ‘rail-like’, with high-quality, high-capacity bus infrastructure segregated from other road users along with constraints faced by BRT routes in finding corridors through inner city areas. This merits further investigation as part of a longer-term research program on BRT and LRT. The use of capital cost data alongside operational data produced worthwhile findings on the operational performance of the reference class of projects. Most surprising was the lower offered capacity of the majority of the reference class of BRT and LRT projects compared to high average operating speeds of BRT and LRT. Effectively, performance of most BRT and LRT projects are closer to street transit (bus and tram) than semi- rapid transit. Another important finding was that where Australian and NZ BRT and LRT projects did deliver semi-rapid transit performance levels, it was often at higher per-kilometre capital costs than UK, European and North American projects. The literature review also identified a range of factors other than capital cost and transport performance that influence decision-making on the transport project development and selection of transport technology. These factors occur throughout project evaluation and development processes and influence transport systems at strategic and operational levels. These factors fall into the following broad categories:  Project selection and evaluation mechanisms;  Political, ideological and financial imperatives;  What comparable ‘peer cities’ are doing;  Availability and selection of appropriate corridors;  Land use planning environment;  Road management policies and strategies;  Levels of integration with existing public transport networks; These qualititative factors would benefit from further examination as part of a wider research program into selection and development of BRT and LRT projects. Such findings prompt the question as to whether transport policy in Australian cities should focus on ensuring all options for improving and upgrading productive capacities of existing bus or tram-based street transit systems are examined, implemented and evaluated, before investigating options for investment in new, high capital cost BRT and LRT projects. These factors also require further examination as part of a wider research program. CONCLUSION In conclusion, defining cost and performance parameters of semi rapid transit technology represented by BRT and LRT is important to ensure less-capable substitute technologies (such as ‘improved bus’ and ‘improved tram’) are not marketed as BRT and LRT systems. The core definition of BRT and LRT provided in this paper represents irreducible minimums for truthfully labelling transport systems BRT or LRT. Misrepresentation (intentionally or unintentionally) of the costs and benefits of BRT and LRT diminishes the capabilities of both. Articulating definitions for BRT and LRT as transport technologies enabled development of capital cost profiles for Australian and NZ projects that compares ‘apples with apples’ (possibly red apples with green apples!) providing consistency in estimating likely costs for new projects. Based on the findings of the analysis of capital costs, a set of performance-based criteria were developed to better evaluate BRT and LRT projects in Australia and NZ. Analysing costs of investment against transport performance criteria has a potentially important role to play in providing easily understood evaluation tools for non-technical decision-makers. By using performance-based evaluation of previously completed projects, many Australian and NZ BRT and LRT systems were found to be operating at sub-optimal performance levels. This may have implications for the ways in which government agencies evaluate and prioritise investment in new transport technology options against upgrading existing systems to higher levels of performance. These findings suggest the most rational transport planning option may be foregoing investment in new systems to invest in upgrading existing road-based public transport systems to improve efficiency and performance.
  11. 11. Scott Martin Moving Beyond Cost: Evaluating BRT & LRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author thanks the RTSA and the conference organisers for the opportunity to present this paper. Particular thanks are due to my thesis supervisors (Dr Leigh Glover and Dr Chris Hale) and the anonymous referee for their extensive and constructive comments on the draft paper. The views expressed in this paper remain the author’s and are not those of his employer. REFERENCES 1. Walker J. Human Transit. Washington DC: Island Press; 2012. 2. Vuchic V. Urban Transit Systems and Technology. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons; 2007. 602 p. 3. Vuchic V. Urban Transit: Operations, Planning and Economics. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons; 2005. 4. Hess DB, Taylor, B. D. & Yoh, A. C. Light Rail Lite or Cost-Effective Improvements to Bus Service?: Evaluation Costs of Implementing Bus Rapid Transit. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2005;1927:22-30. 5. Zhang M. Bus Versus Rail: Meta-Analysis of Cost Characteristics, Carrying Capacities and Land Use Impacts. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2009(2110):87-95. 6. Hodgson P, Potter, S., Warren, J. & Gillingwater, D.,. Can bus really be the new tram? . Research in Transportation Economics. 2013;39:158-66. 7. Luke S. Public transport mode selection: a review of international practice. European Transport Conference 2006; Strasbourg, France2006. 8. Hass-Klau CC, G; Biereth, C & Deutsch, V. Bus or Light Rail: Making the Right Choice (2nd Edition). 2nd ed. Brighton: Environment and Transport Planning 2003. 9. Flyvbjerg B. Curbing Optimism Bias and Strategic Misrepresentation in Planning: Reference Class Forecasting in Practice. European Planning Studies. 2008;16(1):3-21. 10. Currie G, & Delbosc, A. Bus Rapid Transit in Australasia: An Update on Progress. Built Environment. 2010;36(3):328-43. 11. Currie G. Bus Rapid Transit in Australia: Performance, Lessons Learned and Futures. Journal of Public Transportation. 2006;9(3):1-22. 12. Currie G, & Burke, M. Light Rail in Australia – Performance and Prospects. Australasian Transport Research Forum. Brisbane, Australia2013. 13. Dobes L. A Century of Australian Cost- Benefit Analysis. Canberra: Office of Best Practice Regulation, 2008 Contract No.: 2008-01. 14. Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development. Sources and Methods. Construction Price Indices. Paris: OECD - Eurostat, 1997. 15. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 6401.0 Consumer Price Index, Australia, September 2013. 2013; Available from: 1.0. 16. Statistics New Zealand. Producers Price Index: June 2013 Quarter. Wellington2013 [14 September 2013]; Available from: mic_indicators/prices_indexes/ProducersPriceInd ex_HOTPJun13qtr.aspx. 17. Martin S. Reviewing the last decade of public transport infrastructure projects in Australasia. 34th Australasian Transport Research Forum; Adelaide, South Australia2011. 18. Martin S. Passenger Rail Infrastructure Projects in Australia 2000-2012: How much did we pay and what did we get? Conference on Railway Excellence; Brisbane2012. 19. WA Parliament. Southern Rail Link, Dedicated Railway. In: Hansard, editor. Legislative Assembly25 February 2003. p. 4647. 20. Macdonald L. Growing demands to cancel Sydney's tollway 1995 [2 November 2013]; Available from: https:// 21. Hoyle J. Sydney's new light rail system. Railway Digest September 1997:14. 22. McLean AVD, P. A.,. Conversion of Conventional Railway to Light Rail Transit in Melbourne. Australian Transport Research Forum 1986. p. 179-95. 23. Rogers D. Sydney's Tram Extension Opens Railway Digest September 2000. 24. Golotta KH, D.A.,. Why is the Brisbane Bus Rapid Transit System deemed a success? Road and Transport Research. 2008;17(4):3-16. 25. Office NA. Auditor-General's Performance Audit: Liverpool to Parramatta Bus Transitway. Sydney: NSW Audit Office, 2005. 26. Public Works Committee. The South East Transit Project. Brisbane: Queensland Legislative Assembly, 1997 Contract No.: 39. 27. Public Works Committee. A re-evaluation of the South East Transit Project. Brisbane: Queensland Legislative Council 1997 Contract No.: 42. 28. Lakshmanan TRA, W. P, . Infrastructure Capacity. In: Button KJH, D. A., editor. Handbook of Transport Systems and Traffic Control. 3 ed. London: Pergamon; 2001. p. 209-28. 29. Transportation Research Board. Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual. Washington DC: 2003. 30. Public Transport Victoria. Yarra Trams Load Standard Survey Report. Melbourne2013.
  12. 12. Scott Martin Moving beyond cost: Evaluating LRT and BRT University of Melbourne options for Australian and New Zealand cities Conference On Railway Excellence Adelaide, 5 – 7 May 2014 APPENDIX ONE – BRT & LRT CAPACITY DATA BRT/LRT corridor Cordon point Vehicles per hour Average operating speed (km/h) Offered Capacity (Spaces per hour) Productive Capacity Adelaide O-Bahn Paradise Interchange 70 80 4900 392000 Adelaide Light Rail Greenhill Road 7 33 1267 41811 Auckland Northern Busway Albany Station 20 31 1400 43400 Southeast Busway Greenslopes Station 67 57 4690 267330 Inner Northern Busway Stage 1 QUT Kelvin Grove 38 31 2660 82460 Inner Northern Busway Stage 2 Roma Street Station 77 34 5390 183260 Northern Busway Stage 1 Lutwyche Road, Windsor 38 18 2660 47880 Northern Busway Stage 2 Lutwyche Station 25 36 1750 63000 Boggo Road Busway PA Hospital Station 17 20 1890 37800 Eastern Busway Stage 1 Stones Corner Station 32 20 2240 44800 Gold Coast Light Rail Cavill Avenue Station 8 21 2472 51912 Port Melbourne Light Rail Southbank Station 12 31 1920 59520 St Kilda Light Rail South Melbourne Station 12 36 2040 73440 Liverpool to Parramatta Busway Bonnyrigg Station 12 32 840 26880 Parramatta to Rouse Hill Busway Abbot Station 23 29 1610 46690 Blacktown to Parklea Busway James Cook Station 15 18 1050 18900 M2 Tollway Busway Oakes Road Interchange 54 38 3780 143640 Sydney Light Rail The Star Station 6 34 1302 44268