Monday, July 14, 2008

Rail Failures, Maintenance and Overhauls

Mufi Hannemann’s proposed rail system has an exorbitant construction cost. We will talk about this in the future. Today I want to address an overlooked cost: maintenance and overhaul. Rail cars run 20 or 24 hours per day, full or empty. Unlike a car or bus that it can simply be replaced (and a large part of the old one recycled,) rail systems need complete rehabilitation. As a result, after 35 years in operation the Bay Area BART needs no less than $11.6 billion for overhaul. I will keep this short by providing you with telling excerpts from the New York City subway and the Washington, D.C. Metro.

Note that I include heavy rail or rapid transit systems in this post because this is what Hannemann is proposing. “Light rail” is a verbal spin that is used only locally. Nowhere in Honolulu's official documents does the "light rail" word appear. Ask Hannemann to point you to at least one city that has built a 30 mile fully elevated "light rail" system.

A Transit System That Feels Its Age

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 14, 2008; Page A01

Four major Metro disruptions in 10 days underscore the strains facing the region's largest transit agency as the system ages. Its infrastructure is old and needs to be replaced. It is the nation's only major transit system without a significant source of dedicated funding. And its two-track design, comparable to a two-lane road instead of multi-lane superhighway, gives transit officials little flexibility when trains and other systems break down, as they are doing with greater frequency.

Two track fires yesterday in the heart of downtown Washington, on Metro's highest-ridership Red Line, and blackouts at several key downtown stations from a Pepco power failure ended a difficult week for Metro. The fires and blackouts yesterday followed a derailment and a heat-related track problem that caused disruptions and delays earlier in the week.

In the first passage she tells us that the Metro’s 2-track design is a problem. No express trains and no way to get around a broken down train. Hannemann is proposing the same 2-track design.

Fires, smoke, blackouts and derailments. Also add suicides, homelessness and drug trafficking. If you wish to read more of this Washington Post article please follow this link: We’ll talk about crime and other problems along rail lines in a future post.

$1 Billion Later, New York’s Subway Elevators Still Fail
New York Times, 5/19/08

New York City Transit has spent close to $1 billion to install more than 200 new elevators and escalators in the subway system since the early 1990s, and it plans to spend almost that much again for dozens more machines through the end of the next decade. It is an investment of historic dimensions, aimed at better serving millions of riders and opening more of the subway to the disabled.

These are the results:

One of every six elevators and escalators in the subway system was out of service for more than a month last year, according to the transit agency’s data.

The 169 escalators in the subway averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls each last year, with the worst machines logging more than double that number. And some of the least reliable escalators in the system are also some of the newest, accumulating thousands of hours out of service for what officials described as a litany of mechanical flaws.

Two-thirds of the subway elevators — many of which travel all of 15 feet — had at least one breakdown last year in which passengers were trapped inside.

A conservative estimate is that the proposed rail will require over $4,000 per resident in taxes and a 40% increase in property taxes in order to be built, and generous subsidies for routine maintenance.

At the end of a 30 year period, the system will require a multibillion dollar overhaul.
This is a guaranteed tax black hole.