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OCR for page 56
56 Shared Use of Railroad Infrastructure with Noncompliant Public Transit Rail Vehicles: A Practitioner's Guide Alternatives Analysis While the focus of the research is shared use of track (i.e., concurrent operations by light passenger rail cars and freight equipment), the nonconcurrent alternatives must be analyzed. Therefore, a component of the business case is completion of an "Alternatives Analysis that Accompanies a Major Investment Study" (MIS) and as a justification for the choice of shared- track. The MIS will evaluate the costs and benefits of shared-track compared to other alterna- tives, in order to reflect trade-offs between the shared-track and other investment options that could equally serve mass-transit needs. At a planning level, four distinct types of alternatives can be compared. Nonrail alternative: Likely scenarios range from the status quo to nonrail investments includ- ing carpooling facilities, bus route rationalization, transit priority lanes, or bus rapid transit investments. The FTA often requires a null alternative in the application process for federal funding. Separate System alternative requires construction of dedicated track for non-compliant rail vehicles. The service uses a new right-of-way, shares a right-of-way (but not track) with con- ventional trains, or uses the median of a highway. Compliant Vehicle alternative would establish commuter rail service on a railroad using FRA-compliant rolling stock. Modernization of signal systems and infrastructure, and new passenger facilities are required. Compliant equipment can share track without restrictions. However, high platforms could cause clearance issues for freight equipment and potential ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance issues. Downtown street running also may be precluded. Shared-track alternative entails seeking special regulatory approval to allow light rail vehicles to share track with conventional railway equipment. The infrastructure requirement can be similar to the compliant alternative, but the resulting service would be more flexible. Light rail passenger vehicles can continue off the railway alignment onto city streets. Low floor light rail passenger vehicles also avoid conflicts between freight and passenger operations, whereas high floor cars (and platforms) pose a new clearance constraint for freight operations. Costs for developing a transit service should be compared for the different operating regimes under consideration. The cost and investigation of those alternatives are outside the scope of this research, but planners should be acquainted with the analytical effort. For each operating regime the required plant, equipment, and operating plan must be described. This business case study template guides the analysis and development of capital and operating cost estimates based on physical characteristics. Subsequently, a risk analysis is necessary to show that safety requirements can be achieved for each alternative. Data collection for the cost analysis falls under a number of categories. Physical characteristics of the existing and proposed corridor. Planned service characteristics of the rail transit service. Operating plan and structures. Service comparison of different operations. Cost analysis for signal system alternatives. System capital cost assessment. Ridership impacts. Alternatives evaluation-ridership and cost estimates are used as output measures. Risk analyses & modeling; model inputs. Each of these topics is described in some detail. Worksheet templates can be used to record the results.