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OCR for page 21
Shared-Track: Laying the Foundation--Policy and Strategy 21 project, a gap analysis, and the expected risks. Consideration also should be given to the option of doing nothing, including the costs and risks of inaction. The result of a review may be justifi- cation, termination, or amendment of the project. Using a good business case in a complex environment requires assumptions, arbitrary judgments, and the development of new data--new information unique to the particular undertaking-- that goes beyond existing budgets and business plans to address less tangible or more ambigu- ous issues. Shared-Track--A Practical Business Case Structure There is a strong national business case for shared-track operations. There are valuable and cost-effective "projects of opportunity" available in some suburbs and medium to high-density cities in the United States. Consequently, an appropriate national business case leading to adop- tion of a routine method and standardized American approach to concurrent shared-track is useful. The practical business case for shared-track operations using non-FRA-compliant public tran- sit rail vehicles and conventional railroad equipment identifies the costs and benefits to the freight railroad, public transit agency, and others associated with establishing new or enhanced rail transit service and regional goods movement. The business case for a shared-track system generally requires three separate components. Presence of appropriate business drivers suggesting a shared-track solution. Agreement among three major classes of stakeholders that benefits are fairly shared and costs equitably apportioned, producing a win-win-win scenario. Site-specific alternatives analysis demonstrating best economic return-on-investment for a shared-track approach. The process for concurrent shared-track operations starts with negotiation between a pub- lic transit agency and a private freight railroad to share the target freight line for a combination of transit and freight applications. Conditions likely to lead planners to a shared-track solution include: 1. A suitable route, origin-destination linkages, and traffic level on the freight branch line; 2. A desire for a start-up transit service; 3. A desire for sections of street-running or a core section shared with an existing light-rail system; 4. A paucity of good parallel alternatives; constrained right-of-way width; and 5. A willingness to convey the rail right-of-way to a public entity. Shared-track projects are feasible once these conditions are met. Valuable and cost-effective projects of opportunity are available in many of the larger urban and suburban areas in the United States. There are three main groups of stakeholders in any shared-track project. The freight branch line owner will be concerned about operating costs, freight service quality, ease of operations, perpetual and exclusive rights of access, and safety. The transit agency will be concerned about service quality, ease of operations and manage- ment, and capital and operating costs. The main concerns of the government regulators and sponsors are to ensure safety and cost- effectiveness.

OCR for page 21
22 Shared Use of Railroad Infrastructure with Noncompliant Public Transit Rail Vehicles: A Practitioner's Guide Within the framework of the business model, it is clearly possible to balance the interests of all stakeholders to produce a win-win-win situation among the stakeholders. Three of the four key business case issues are: Key business drivers: these prerequisites should be met; National business case: the standardized "American approach to concurrent shared-track" should be understood and accepted by federal authorities; and Stakeholder analysis: all must reach agreement on cost and benefit sharing to produce a "win- win-win" scenario. Where the first three conditions are present, the fourth and final step is to determine whether shared-track makes sense for a specific site or proposed operation by explicitly enumerating all of the costs and benefits trade-offs in an alternatives analysis. The four main classes of possible conceptual alternatives are: 1. Non-rail alternatives; 2. Shared-corridor options with minimum freight-passenger interactions (e.g., Parallel track operations); 3. Compliant commuter rail alternatives; and 4. Temporally-separated or concurrent operating regimes in shared-track scenarios. When contemplating a new shared-track operation, whether it is a conversion of an existing low-density branch line freight railroad, or a `concurrent upgrade' to an existing temporally sep- arated line, building the business case typically follows the format of an alternatives analysis that considers other options to satisfy the business needs. Typically a four-step process is employed. 1. Identify service needs; 2. Define alternatives; 3. Choose shared-track operating regime; and 4. Analyze cost effectiveness. All four steps are necessary to form a complete practical business case for a specific shared- track proposal. Practitioners wishing to build a business case for a concurrent operation should carefully study the difference in costs and benefits between the temporally separated and the con- current alternatives. One point common to any business case is that freight operator must con- cur with the plan. Since they become tenants and the transit operator becomes the host, the nature of that relationship will be reflected in the business case. Planners should be aware that although the freight operation benefits from improved infrastruc- ture and technology, the business case might not be as strong. Freight adapts more slowly because costs have to show a return on investment. Freight operators also may be reluctant to adopt new technology because of its limited benefit to them and unanticipated interoperability issues. The next section provides a template that will guide the user through specific steps. A unique practical business case can be built by substituting the appropriate geography and local variables. However, while the business case is necessary to justify a project, it is not sufficient. The safety case also must be made. The team's research indicates that shared-track methods may reduce the capital costs to develop a new rail transit system by 40% to 66% when compared to a new separate light rail system. Con- current shared-track light rail operations provide a mechanism to offer a higher level of service than commuter rail, while keeping the capital costs affordable and enhancing urban freight rail service. Indeed, there are a number of operating examples (San Diego Trolley, NJ Transit River LINE, and Newark City Subway, Utah TRAX) of substantial shared-track in North America where stakeholders have been able to reach agreement and the transit systems are in operation.