Background

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The New Start project profiles presented in this Appendix provide background information supporting the Department of Transportation's New Start funding recommendations for FY 2000. The Department's funding recommendations are being provided to the Congress pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 5309(o)(1) (formerly Section 3(j) of the Federal Transit Act). The funding recommendations are based in part on the decision criteria defined in 49 U.S.C. 5309(e) (formerly Section 3(i)(1) of the Federal Transit Act).

Under 49 U.S.C. 5309(e), discretionary capital grants and loans for the construction of a new fixed guideway system or the extension of an existing system may be made only if the Secretary determines that the proposed project is:

  • (A) based on the results of an alternatives analysis and preliminary engineering;
  • (B) justified based on a comprehensive review of its mobility improvements, environmental benefits, cost effectiveness, and operating efficiencies; and
  • (C) supported by an acceptable degree of local financial commitment, including evidence of stable and dependable funding sources to construct, maintain, and operate the system or extension.

The 49 U.S.C. 5309(e) criteria provide a basis for selecting, from among the eligible projects, those which are the most worthy of Federal funds. To this end, the New Start project profiles describe the fixed guideway projects that are most advanced, and evaluate them in terms of the 5309(e) criteria.

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) leaves prior Federal law and policy largely intact, including the new starts criteria and the multiple-measure method of project evaluation. Perhaps the most significant change to the project evaluation process introduced by TEA-21 is the requirement to establish summary ratings for each proposed project. Consistent with Section 5309(e)(6), summary ratings of "highly recommended," "recommended," or "not recommended" are assigned to each proposed project, based on the results of the review and evaluation of each of the criteria for project justification and local financial commitment.

This Annual Report on New Starts includes profiles for each proposed project or study undergoing Final Design and Preliminary Engineering. In addition, profiles have been prepared for projects that are under construction if additional funds are needed in FY 1999 to fulfill Full Funding Grant Agreements.

In general, the profiles for projects in Final Design and Preliminary Engineering include five sections. These include:

  • (1) Description: The description section briefly describes a project's physical characteristics and presents the latest estimates of cost and ridership. Unless otherwise noted, cost estimates are expressed in escalated (year of construction) dollars. This section includes a summary description of key project elements. This section also includes the summary rating of "highly recommended," "recommended," or "not recommended" assigned to the proposed project, as well as the overall rating for project justification and local financial commitment.
  • (2) Status: This section identifies where the project is in the major investment planning and project development process. It indicates, for example, whether alternatives analysis (or a major investment study) and preliminary engineering have been completed. If not, it indicates when current studies are expected to be completed. This section also cites relevant statutory requirements.
  • (3) Evaluation: This section presents an evaluation of the project's merit based on the criteria cited in 49 U.S.C. 5309(e), and updated in Federal Register Notices on December 19, 1996 and November 12, 1997 (documented in Appendix C). Ratings and data are reported for the following criteria: mobility improvements; environmental benefits, operating efficiencies, cost effectiveness. This section also includes FTA's rating of the project in terms of transit-supportive existing land use and future patterns.
  • (4) Local Financial Commitment: This section reports the proposed non-Section 5309 share of total project capital costs, and provides FTA's ratings of the following: the stability and reliability of the capital financing plan; and, the stability and reliability of the operating financing plan.
  • (5) Other Factors (Optional): Other rating factors which may be useful in identifying the most meritorious projects are described in this section. This optional section highlights projects where local officials have demonstrated community support for transit by means of commitments to supportive land use, economic development, and transportation policies.

The profiles for projects covered by Full Funding Grant Agreements include the description and status sections only, since a decision to fund the project has already been reached.

How the Ratings were Developed

As part of the normal system planning and project development process, local agencies develop the information that FTA uses to assess projects in terms of project evaluation and local financial commitment. The specific information used for these evaluations is outlined below.

Project Evaluation and Ratings

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) greatly broadened the criteria to evaluate new start projects. The Section 5309 New Starts criteria were updated in Federal Register Notices on December 19, 1996 and November 12, 1997. TEA-21 leaves prior Federal law and policy largely intact, including the new starts criteria and the multiple-measure method of project evaluation. This year's evaluations and ratings address the full range of New Starts criteria, including: mobility improvements; environmental benefits, operating efficiencies, cost effectiveness, transit-supportive existing land use and future patterns, local financial commitment, and other factors.

In September 1997, the Federal Transit Administration's Office of Planning and the Office of Budget and Policy released the Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. In October 1998, FTA issued an Addendum to the Technical Guidance to further support local agencies in the completion of the criteria. In addition, these offices have offered national workshops throughout 1997 and 1998 to offer technical assistance.

As noted above, FTA evaluates proposed new start projects against the full range of criteria for both project justification and local financial commitment, using a multiple-measure method. In reporting project profiles for this FY 2000 report, some local agencies were not able to report all of the new starts criteria at this time. In some cases, previous planning analyses may not have included estimation of data for the proposed New Start, the No-Build, and the TSM alternative which are required as inputs to calculate measures of mobility improvements, environmental benefits, operating efficiencies, and cost effectiveness. Each of these cases is discussed in the specific project profiles, and an N/A is reported to indicate that data are not available at this time.

For each of the project justification criteria (mobility improvements; environmental benefits, operating efficiencies, cost effectiveness, land use), the proposed project is evaluated against both a No-Build and TSM alternative. For each proposed project, FTA assigns a rating of "high," "medium-high," "medium," "low-medium," or "low" for each of the five criteria, with "other factors" considered as appropriate. Similar ratings are assigned for the three factors used to evaluate local financial commitment, including the non-Section 5309 share, the capital financing plan, and the operating financing plan. Consistent with Section 5309(e)(6), summary ratings of "highly recommended," "recommended," or "not recommended" are assigned to each proposed project, based on the results of the review and evaluation of each of the criteria for project justification and local financial commitment. To assign these summary ratings, the individual ratings for each of the project justification criteria and financial rating factors are combined into overall "project justification" and "finance" ratings, which in turn are combined to produce the summary rating for the project.

In evaluating the project justification criteria, FTA gives primary consideration to the measures of transit supportive land use, cost effectiveness, and mobility improvements to arrive at the combined "project justification" rating. For local financial commitment, the measures of the proposed non-Section 5309 share of capital costs and the strength of the capital and operating financing plans are the primary factors in determining the combined "finance" rating.

For a proposed project to be rated as "recommended," it must be rated at least "medium" in terms of both project justification and finance. To be "highly recommended," a proposed project must be rated higher than "medium" for both project justification and finance. Proposed projects not rated at least "medium" in both project justification and finance will be rated as "not recommended."

It is important to note that project evaluation is an ongoing process. The project ratings contained in this report are based on project information available through November 1998. As proposed new starts proceed through the project development process, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations currently under development will specify FTA’s approach to project evaluation and assignment of summary ratings. In the absence of a Final Rule, however, FTA must still use the principles established by TEA-21 to evaluate proposed new starts and assign project ratings for FY 2000. Therefore, the project ratings contained in this report reflect an application of FTA’s existing project evaluation process, as published in the Federal Register on December 19, 1996 and amended on November 12, 1997 (61 FR 67093-106 and 62 FT 60756-58), and modified to account for the changes made by TEA-21.

Section 5309 New Starts Criteria

A brief description of the Section 5309 New Starts criteria applied in project evaluation follows.

Mobility Improvements

The first measure, "Annual Travel Time Savings," is defined as the projected aggregate travel time savings in the forecast year anticipated from the New Start compared to both the No-Build and TSM alternatives. The measure is expressed as the annual hours of projected travel time savings for the study area.

The second measure reflects the Absolute Number of Low-Income Households Located Within ½ Mile of "Boarding Points" Associated with the New Investment or System. "Low income" is defined as the number or households below the poverty level. This measure is reported for stations or stops directly related to the proposed fixed guideway project or system.

Environmental Benefits

The first measure is the Change in Criteria Pollutant Emissions and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Forecast Year, comparing the New Start to the No-Build and TSM alternatives. The measure will be expressed as the change in the number of tons of emissions for carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC) or hydrocarbons (HC), particulate matter (PM10), and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Energy consumption is measured as the Net Change in the Forecast Year in the Regional Consumption of British Thermal Units (BTU), comparing the New Start to the no-build and TSM alternatives.

The third measure includes the Current Regional Designation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Operating Efficiencies

The sole measure for this criterion reports the Change in Operating Cost per Passenger-Mile in the Forecast Year, comparing the New Start to the No-Build and TSM alternatives. This measure, expressed in terms of absolute dollar value, is to address the impact on operating efficiencies for the entire regional transit system.

Cost Effectiveness

The previously applied "cost per new rider" index has been replaced by a revised measure, the Incremental Change in Total Capital and Operating Cost per Incremental Passenger in the Forecast Year. The index is based on the annualized total (including Federal and local) capital investment and operating cost divided by the forecast change in annual transit system ridership, comparing the New Start to the No-Build and TSM alternatives. The new cost-per-incremental rider measure has been revised from the previously applied index in that it no longer subtracts the value of travel time savings from annualized incremental costs (travel time savings are now reported separately under mobility improvements).

Transit Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Assessment of land use is a new criteria and measure, introduced in the spirit of ISTEA and consistent with FTA initiatives to encourage transit supportive land use and development. The measure, expressed in terms of a combined rating of "high," "medium/high," "medium," "low/medium," or "low," addresses the degree to which existing development patterns and local land use policies are likely to foster transit supportive land use. The combined rating considers each of the following factors: existing land use; containment of sprawl; transit-supportive corridor policies; supportive zoning regulations; tools to implement land use policies; and, performance of land use policies. The FY 2000 evaluations were supported by reviews conducted by FTA's contractors: Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., and Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

Local Financial Commitment

FTA's evaluation of the local financial commitment to a proposed project focuses on the proposed non-Section 5309 share of project costs, the strength of the proposed capital financing plan, and the stability and reliability of the operating financing plan. The FY 2000 evaluations were supported by reviews conducted by FTA's contractors: Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., KPMG Peat Marwick, Inc., and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Non-Section 5309 share refers to the percentage of capital costs to be met with non-Federal funding, particularly non-Section 5309 New Starts funding, and includes both the local match required by Federal law and any capital "overmatch." Overmatch is accounted for in the rating process because it reduces the required Federal commitment, thus leveraging limited Federal funds, and because it indicates a strong local commitment to the project. Previous non-Federal funding support for other significant fixed guideway systems implemented in the area is also considered. The use of flexible funds and innovative financing techniques is noted, where appropriate.

The evaluation of each project's proposed capital financing plan takes two principal forms. First, the plan is reviewed to determine the stability and reliability of each proposed source of local match. This includes a review of inter-governmental grants, tax sources, and debt obligations. Each revenue source is reviewed for availability within the project timetable. Second, the financing plan is evaluated to determine if adequate provisions have been made to cover unanticipated cost overruns. The strength of the capital finance plan is rated "high," "medium/high," "medium," "low/medium," or "low." The indicators used to assign these ratings are further explained in Table A-1.

The third component of the financial rating is an assessment of the ability of the local transit agency to fund operation of the system as planned once the guideway project is built. This rating focuses on the operating revenue base and its ability to expand to meet the incremental operating costs associated with a new fixed guideway investment and any other new services and facilities. The strength of the operating finance plan is rated "high," "medium/high," "medium," "low/medium," or "low." The indicators used to assign these ratings are further explained in Table A-2.

Other Factors (Optional)

This criterion has traditionally been included as an option to provide an opportunity to identify any additional factors which may be relevant to local and national priorities and relevant to the success of the project. These may include a variety of factors including: the degree to which local policies and institutions are in place (local planning, programming, parking policies; project management experience and capabilities; and, other local initiatives such as public-private partnerships, etc.). These additional factors may provide FTA with an added assessment of the likelihood of the feasibility of a successful transit investment, measured against regional considerations.

TABLE A-1

Financial Ratings: Capital Financing Commitments

Final Design High

FTA considers the applicant to be in sound financial condition based upon the reviews outlined in FTA's Financial Capacity Circular.

The applicant has committed or dedicated sufficient funds to cover the entire non-Federal share of the overall undertaking, including provision for contingent cost overruns.

Medium

FTA considers the applicant to be in reasonably sound financial condition, with some room for improvement.

The applicant has committed or dedicated a significant portion of funding to cover the non-Federal share of project costs, but must assume some local funding which either does not yet exist or exists but is not yet committed to the project.

Low

FTA does not consider the applicant to be in reasonably sound financial condition.

The applicant has not yet committed or dedicated sufficient funds to cover the entire non-Federal share of the overall undertaking, including provision for contingent cost overruns. For example, "low" rating would be given where significant events such as the renewal of expiring authorizing legislation, satisfactory resolution of conditions imposed by funding entities, the passage of new legislation, or a referendum still must occur to put adequate local funding in place.

Preliminary Engineering High

FTA considers the applicant to be in sound financial condition based upon the reviews outlined in FTA's Financial Capacity Circular.

The applicant has committed or dedicated sufficient funds to cover all or nearly all of the non-Federal share of the overall undertaking, including provision for contingent cost overruns.

Medium

FTA considers the applicant to be in reasonably sound financial condition based upon the reviews outlined in FTA's Financial Capacity Circular.

The applicant has adopted a realistic capital finance plan that adequately covers projected non-Federal capital costs. The plan may be vulnerable to economic downturns and other funding uncertainties, but these vulnerabilities can probably be managed without significant disruptions to capital programs and/or operations.

Low

FTA does not consider the applicant to be in reasonably sound financial condition based upon the reviews outlined in FTA's Financial Capacity Circular.

The applicant has not adopted a capital finance plan, or FTA considers the adopted finance plan to be inadequate or infeasible. The plan may be so vulnerable to economic downturns and other funding uncertainties that implementation of the project would put capital programs and operations at significant risk.

TABLE A-2

Finiancial Ratings: Stable and Reliable Operating Revenue

Final Design High

Dedicated transit funding sources are in place, or there has been a clear pattern of general appropriations from State or local governments, which regularly provide a balanced budget for the existing system.

Existing transit facilities have been well maintained and replaced through continuing reinvestment in the system.

Financial projections show that the applicant currently has the financial capacity to operate and maintain the locally preferred alternative, supporting feeder systems, other programmed projects, and other elements of its transit system, under reasonably conservative assumptions.

Medium

The applicant demonstrates that funding for operating an expanded transit system is reasonably secure, existing facilities are adequately maintained, and financial projections indicate adequate financial capacity to operate an expanded transit system.

Low

Sources of local transit funding have not kept pace with costs. Financial conditions have led to a pattern of service level cuts to reduce operating costs.

The applicant has a history of deferring capital replacement and/or routine maintenance.

Financial projections show that the applicant does not currently have the financial capacity to operate the proposed project, supporting feeder system, other programmed projects, and other elements of its transit system under reasonably conservative assumptions.

Preliminary Engineering High

Ample dedicated funding sources are in place, or there has been a clear pattern of general appropriations from State or local governments, which regularly provide a balanced budget for the existing system.

Existing transit facilities have been well maintained and improved through continuing reinvestment in the system.

Financial projections show that the applicant currently has ample financial capacity to operate and maintain the locally preferred alternative, supporting feeder systems, other programmed projects, and other elements of its transit system under reasonably conservative assumptions.

Medium

Dedicated transit funding sources are in place, or there has been a clear pattern of general appropriations from State or local governments, which regularly provide a balanced budget for the existing system.

Existing transit facilities have been adequately maintained and replaced through continuing reinvestment in the system. The applicant's funding plan demonstrates an ability to continue with an adequate maintenance and replacement program.

The applicant has adopted a realistic financial plan which, once implemented, would provide adequate financial capacity to operate and maintain the locally preferred alternative, supporting feeder systems, other programmed projects and other elements of its transit system under reasonably conservative assumptions.

Low

Sources of local transit funding have not kept pace with costs. Financial conditions have led to a pattern of service level cuts to reduce operating costs.

The applicant has a history of deferring capital replacement and/or routine maintenance. Or, implementation of the project would create deficiencies in the applicant's ability to provide timely maintenance and capital replacement.

The applicant has not yet adopted a finance plan, or has adopted a plan that is unrealistic or inadequate. For example, a "low" rating would be given where the region has demonstrated an unwillingness to adopt new funding sources with the required level of financial capacity, or where the operating plan is dependent upon unreasonable passenger revenue projections. A "low" rating would also be appropriate where financial projections show that, even if the adopted plan is fully implemented, the applicant would still not have the financial capacity to operate the proposed project, other programmed projects, and other elements of its transit system under reasonably conservative assumptions.

TABLE A-3

Land Use Assessment Ratings

1. Existing Land Use

Preliminary Engineering/Final Design High

Current levels of population in the corridor are sufficient to support a major transit investment.

Medium

Current levels of population and employment in the corridor are only marginally supportive of a major transit investment.

Projected levels of growth must be realized.

Low

Current and projected levels of population and employment are not sufficient to support a major transit investment.

Ratings are based on the following assessment:

  • Existing land use mix
  • Share of jobs located in Central Business District and employment centers served by project, and employment density within corridor
  • Existing high transit trip generators along project corridor
  • Existing pedestrian friendly development
  • Existing station area parking supply and policies

2. Containment of Sprawl

Preliminary Engineering/Final Design High

Adopted and enforceable urban containment and growth management policies are in place.

Medium

Significant progress has been made toward implementing urban containment and growth management policies.

Low

Limited consideration has been given to implementing urban containment and growth management policies.

Ratings are based on the following assessment:

  • Planned density and market trends for suburban and urban development
  • Growth management policies

3. Transit Supportive Corridor Policies

Preliminary Engineering/Final Design High

A detailed corridor plan and related policies which encourage and facilitate transit supportive development have been adapted in the proposed major transit investment corridor.

Medium

Significant progress has been made toward completing a corridor plan and implementing related policies which encourage and facilitate transit supportive development in the proposed majortransit investment corridor.

Low

Limited progress, to date, toward preparing and adopting a corridor plan and implementing related policies which encourage and facilitate transit supportive development in the proposed major transit investment corridor.

Ratings are based on the following assessment:

  • Policies encouraging transit friendly and transit oriented development
  • Process for development of corridor and station area plans
  • Promotion of mixed land use and high density land use
  • Promotion of pedestrian friendly design
  • Parking Management

4. Supportive Zoning Regulations Near Transit Stations

Final Design High

Detailed station area plans and related local zoning and land use regulations have been adopted.

Medium

Significant progress is being made toward preparing and adopting station area plans and related zoning.

Low

No more than initial efforts have begun to prepare station area plans and related zoning.

Preliminary Engineering High

Significant progress is being made toward preparing and adopting station area plans and related zoning.

Medium

Initial efforts have begun to prepare station area plans and related zoning.

Low

Limited consideration has been given to preparing station area plans and related zoning.

Ratings are based on the following assessment:

  • Zoning ordinances, that support increased development density in transit station areas (including recent accomplishments and initiatives to amend existing ordinances)
  • Zoning ordinances that enhance the transit-oriented character of station area development
  • Zoning allowances for reduced parking and traffic mitigation

5. Tools to Implement Land Use Policies

Final Design High

Infrastructure and other local investments are being made in station areas which implement the local land use policies and which leverage the Federal investment in the proposed major transit investment corridor.

Medium

Local capital improvement programs and development initiatives have been adopted to implement local land use policies and which leverage the Federal investment in the proposed major transit corridor.

Low

No more than initial efforts to prepare local capital improvement programs and development initiatives which support station area plans have begun.

Preliminary Engineering High

Local capital improvement programs and development initiatives have been adopted to implement local land use policies and which leverage the Federal investment in the proposed major transit corridor.

Medium

Efforts to prepare local capital improvement programs and development initiatives that support station area plans have begun.

Low

Limited consideration has been given to local capital improvement programs and development initiatives that support station area plans.

Ratings are based on the following assessment:

  • Tools and actions to promote transit-oriented development
  • Organizational participation in the development and planning process
  • Process for public and private sector involvement and corridor and station area planning
  • Level of jurisdictional endorsement for corridor and station area plans

6. Performance of Land Use Policies

Final Design High

Significant amount of transit supportive housing and employment development is occurring in the corridor.

Medium

Moderate amount of transit supportive housing and employment development is occurring in the corridor.

Low

Limited number of proposals for transit supportive housing and employment development in the corridor are being received, or. have recently begun to be developed.

Preliminary Engineering High

Moderate amount of transit supportive housing and employment development is occurring in the corridor.

Medium

Proposals for transit supportive housing and employment development in the corridor are being received.

Low

Limited progress, to date, toward achieving transit supportive development in the corridor.

Ratings are based on the following assessment:

  • Demonstrated cases of developments affected by transit-oriented policies
  • Joint development organizations, transportation management associations, tax increment financing and improvement districts, tax abatement programs, or downtown associations
  • Short-range and long-term development targets for the corridor
  • Station area development proposals and any joint development proposals received