The ratings presented in the 2003 Annual Report on New Starts reflect a new measure of project benefits aimed at quantifying travel-time savings for all users of the proposed project (both existing riders and new riders). "Transportation System User Benefits" captures a broader set of benefits to transit riders – including reductions in walk times, wait times, ride times, and number of transfers – in terms of savings in travel time. This measure replaces two measures previously used: hours of travel time savings for existing transit trips in the calculation of mobility benefits; and the number of new transit trips in the calculation of cost-effectiveness. In addition, FTA has modified the application of the criteria for local financial commitment to reflect Congressional direction and the Administration’s desire to maximize the impact of available funds. These changes are discussed in more detail below.
Mobility improvements are evaluated based on two measures. The first is the transportation system user benefits per project passenger mile. It is derived by dividing the transportation system user benefits for all users of the transit system by passenger miles traveled on the New Starts project. The second measure has not changed from last year. It reflects the number of low-income households and total employment within one half mile of a station or stop of the New Starts project.
The revised measure of cost effectiveness is the incremental cost of the project divided by hours of travel-time savings (transportation system user benefits). It is reported in units of dollars per hour. Cost is defined as the estimated annualized capital cost (not including financing costs) plus annual operating and maintenance costs. Transportation system user benefit is defined as all annual travel-related benefits in terms of hours saved by all users of the transit system (both existing riders and new riders). For informational purposes, FTA has included the measure used for cost effectiveness last year, cost per new transit trip, in the profile of each project. FTA has considered only the new measure in the development of project ratings.
FTA continues to encourage project sponsors to request a Federal New Starts funding share that is as low as possible. The Conference Report that accompanied the FY 2002 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act instructs "FTA not to sign any new full funding grant agreements after September 30, 2002 that have a maximum Federal share of higher than 60 percent." Consistent with this Congressional direction, projects seeking a Federal New Starts share over 60 percent have been given a "low" rating for local financial commitment, which results in a "Not Recommended" rating. In addition, the Administration is seeking legislation that would limit the Federal New Starts share to no more than 50 percent beginning in FY 2004. None of the four new projects recommended for funding in the President’s FY 2004 budget and this report has a proposed Federal New Starts share greater than 50 percent.