Tuesday, March 22, 2011

North Carolina cashes in on rail

(via Environmental Economics)
John Whitehead does a quick cost-benefit analysis on North Carolina's new rail plan using $461 million of the federal money Florida turned down. Whitehead's comments in bold:
My name is King of Socks

We got us some stimulus funds
!

After months of wrangling with a reluctant freight railroad, the N.C. Department of Transportation says it has won the agreement it needed to secure $461 million in federal grants that will put faster, more frequent and more reliable passenger trains on the tracks between Charlotte and Raleigh. ...

The construction is expected to create 4,800 jobs over the next two years and cut the train time from Raleigh to Charlotte below three hours, including seven stops on the way. ...

DOT will spend the money to add 28 miles of double track between Greensboro and Charlotte, plus five miles of passing sidings between Raleigh and Greensboro.

Curves will be straightened so trains can run faster. A dozen new highway bridges will replace crossings where trains sometimes crash into cars; 21 private-road crossings will be closed. ...

The improvements will cut a projected 13 minutes from travel times between Raleigh and Charlotte because trains will be able to run faster in places where they now are required to slow down. The run time now is three hours 12 minutes.

With about 100,000 annual passengers who earn an average of $23 per hour and valuing travel time at 70% of the wage rate, the annual benefits of cutting 13 minutes of travel time are about $350,000. Valued in perpetuity at a discount rate of 3% yields a present value of $12 million. Compared to $461 million in costs the net benefits are about -$449 million and the benefit-cost ratio is 0.03 (which is less than 1).

Using another metric, the cost per job created is $96,000.



I will also note that Google estimates that the 169 mile trip takes 2 hours and 54 minutes by car. So if you are that time sensitive you should probably just drive.
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