Peter Lewis/Flickr

A twitter thread, since deleted, questioned which dollars the new Center City Connector cost estimates were expressed in. If the study counts year of expenditure (YOE) dollars, then simply deferring the project balloons the cost.

Absolutely obsessed with questions about YOE vs. constant dollars during the ST3 campaign, I was embarrassed not to think of this question myself. The Mayor’s Office responded like this:

Capital costs are estimated in current (2018) dollars with escalation included through mid-point of construction at 5% per year.  The mid-point of construction was estimated to be in September 2020.  KPMG used a 4% annual growth rate (real + nominal) to get to Opex figures, which are reflected in the increases.

Although the wording is unclear, it describes YOE dollars. The CCC is a relatively short project, so YOE doesn’t transform the numbers. The study summary is actually quite specific that delaying completion to 2022 accounts for $8m of the $54.8m capital cost increase. This is roughly in line with construction costs delayed for two years at 5% inflation ending up at $83m.

In the ST3 debate, these questions mattered a lot. Thanks to the long timeline, different units resulted in huge differences in headline figures in the context of a campaign. For the CCC, I’m not sure it matters. Apportioning blame is a fun parlor game. But most of the funding streams are fixed, so regardless of the cause, supporters will have to find the money somewhere.

25 Replies to “Streetcar Dollars”

  1. :Apportioning blame is a fun parlor game.”

    Has anybody nowadays ever been in a parlor? Maybe when touring the historical castles and mansions in England. Although I suppose “living-room game” doesn’t have the cache, and actually people are more likely to play Monopoly in a family room than a living room. Or on the dining-room table.

  2. How can 1.2 miles of downtown streetcar line cost more than 4.3 miles of Link light rail through Rainier Valley? Especially considering all the utility undergrounding, street widening, traffic signal systems, and amenities ST paid for down there?

    1. Probably because working downtown is more expensive than working in Rainier Valley. Everything is older, more dense, etc.

      1. Fair response, if each was the same or similar technology. But Link is light rail with 400-foot-long stations, and total street expansion and reconstruction. And CCC is a streetcar, with 70-foot stations, no street reconstruction, and limited utility work — and less than 1/3rd the length. Something is fishy with the numbers.

  3. This seems like a bit of a red herring, honestly. Whether it’s YOE or constant dollars, the $250 million number is wrong because it doesn’t take into account the $50 million in utility work that would need to happen anyway or the $75 million in federal funds allocated specifically for this project. Where’s the post on that?

    1. No. the $252m is the new capital cost estimate. the water main work was funded by SPU and is separate. about $31m has already been spent. the FTA grant is not on the cost side but part of how it would be paid for. 252 less 31 less 75 is $146m or the local share of the new capital cost. the revsions to the Harrison Street base would be on top of that. both the local capital and the 1st Avenue right of way could be used better.
      Nice work by Martin.

      1. Re: the FTA grant – obviously it’s not a cost. The point is it’s $75 million that could ONLY be applied to this project. Hence when you’re considering the cost (especially vs. other alternatives) that should be taken into account. It’s like if you buy a house for $500K and the seller offers to give you $100K back in cash – effectively the cost is $400K.

    2. The utility work would not have happened anyway, as evidenced by how SPU intends to cancel any utility work not already in progress if the streetcar doesn’t go ahead.

      1. Good to know – I heard this stated as a fact but didn’t actually look it up. My bad. I still stand behind the fact that the $75 million in federal funds allocated only for this project should be considered when evaluating the cost when considering alternatives (including building this in the future without guarantee of Federal funds).

  4. When will someone discuss the common a Seattle-area practice of low contingencies? FTA recommends 30 percent for planning and even 15 percent at drafting of bid documents. Our agencies begin with 10 percent at the planning stage — then cry about the evils of cost escalation.

    In other words, it’s mostly their own fault. Give us a break!

  5. Stranded on a train because some idiot is holding us hostage. Over an hour now. Take his ass and drag him across the tracks.

      1. Can’t do it with mine, Engineer. Need it to tape my paper All Day pass to so I can ride LINK all day, use every elevator in the system for a stairmaster, and, what I like most, only Tap On, which is all the posted rule mention.

        Besides- since plastic is usually made out of oil, all those drowned polar bears are your fault. Typical of all these lies blaming Global Warming. Really sad. And unfair. And fake. Just for that, you’ve got a date to be on FOX News when Kellyanne Conway, Ann Coulter, and Steve Bannon get into FAKE transit. (Gotta be capitalized.)


      2. I’ve never heard of a balance refund. But when I’ve been double-charged I’ve gotten a free ride ticket from customer service. They can’t credit mischarges for some reason.

  6. I wonder how many relatives Durkan has living in Ballard. I’m also curious to what the cost of the 1-2 northern most stations of Ballard Link add to the cost. I would also be interested in projected ridership and distance.

    I bet were spending +1 billion for this section with a projection of maybe 10,000 riders max and only carrying them 2 miles. I don’t see Durkan screaming about this.

    1. The 65th and 85th Street stations will never be built unless the Green Line is extended on farther north. You are right that the cost/benefit ratio is too low unless neighborhood resistance can be eliminated and urban centers built at each node.

      But you are wrong to say “were spending +1 billion for this section” [sic], because it wasn’t included in ST3 and the likelihood of an ST4 without repeal of districtwide voting and taxation is less than zero. The ‘burbs got their in ST3 and have no discernible interest in more buffet.

    2. The major cost is the Ship Canal crossing. And that serves all of northwest Seattle, which is furthest from a Link station. Not having Link there contradicts the efforts to build a dense urban village and discourage people from driving and developers from building 1:1 parking. I lived in Ballard, and the distance from downtown and the U-District adds a half-hour overhead every time you you go to the rest of the city or region. Ballard is one of the areas with consistently high ridership and support for high-capacity transit, so we shouldn’t just throw that away like we did to the entire city between 1945 and 1995.

    3. In case you didn’t know, Ballard-Fremont is almost a designated urban center. If it were, then ST would have to prioritize it. The only reason it isn’t is that it doesn’t quite meet the county’s formula, which is based on the number of raw jobs zoned for. Ballard has a more even balance of jobs to housing than most urban centers so it can’t quite meet the job numbers. But that’s what you want in an urban village: a balance of jobs and housing so that people can potentially both live and work in the neighborhood. Some people including me are trying to get the county to reform the formula or give Ballard-Fremont and Lake City an exception.

    1. Would you rather skip the station? The bus between Bellevue, Bothell, and Lynnwood will still be needed, and this is the station closest to downtown Kirkland. And 25,000 additional riders is not something to sneeze at. That’s probably the population of downtown Kirkland right there.

      1. I think the reference to 25,000 riders was re the streetcar. Ridership at the Kirkland station starts at 250-300 in 2024, moving up to less than 1,000 by 2040.

    2. The problem is that this is a highway upgrade masquerading as a transit stop. They are building the stop as an excuse to redo the interchange with transit money.

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