UMTA Could Take Steps To Reduce Costs in the Development of Light Rail Projects

B-211567: Published: Apr 26, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1983.

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GAO conducted a review of the development of the Pittsburgh light rail system to identify what actions were taken to hold down the costs of the system and to ensure that the most effective use is being made of Federal funds.

GAO found that the decision to upgrade the existing streetcar system and other actions have held down the costs of the Pittsburgh system. However, several additional steps could be taken to further reduce costs and could also be applicable to other systems. The Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) has been using a peer review technique on selected capital projects that has been successful in reducing costs. However, a recent GAO report has pointed out that costs could be further reduced through the use of value engineering. GAO found that the planned stations in the Pittsburgh system have not been subjected to either peer review or value engineering. GAO hopes that a new UMTA cost-control guideline concerning value engineering will be issued in time to achieve savings. GAO also found that UMTA had not developed any guidance as to when the additional expense of constructing high-level platforms is justified, and the Pittsburgh system decision to use such platforms at many stops seems arbitrary. Finally, GAO found that UMTA does not question or review grantee ridership projections, although several systems have found that actual ridership did not support their projections. UMTA did not question the reasonableness of Pittsburgh's ridership figures although few other new systems have experienced the large increase that the Pittsburgh system has projected. If Pittsburgh does not realize its projected 70 percent increase in ridership, it will not be fully utilizing all of its 55 new vehicles.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Transportation has not acted quickly enough to achieve the full benefits that might result from value engineering the light rail stations identified in the report.

    Recommendation: UMTA should have the Pittsburgh light rail stations not yet under construction value engineered as soon as possible so that any potential savings could still be realized.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Transportation does not intend to implement this recommendation because it believes that high-level platform decisions are more appropriately made at the local levels.

    Recommendation: UMTA should provide guidance on the level of usage needed to justify the selection of high-level platforms when ridership is the only criterion affecting the decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Transportation agreed with this recommendation but has not taken all steps to implement it. GAO will examine the actions taken in preparation for the capping report on mass transit.

    Recommendation: UMTA should review and question ridership projections used by transit systems as the basis for selecting various options in designing new rail systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Urban Mass Transportation Administration

 

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