Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Record's Math Problem

Today's Bergen Record has a report on the cancellation of the ARC tunnel and a contract that was signed in anticipation of the ARC project that would purchase 35 of the diesel-electric locomotives (DMUs) from Bombardier. The article claims that the contract costs $408 million.

That's just flat out wrong.
The engines, about double the cost of a diesel locomotive, are another example of the costs that linger when a project of this size is canceled. Also paid for are land deals on each side of the Hudson River totaling more than $100 million – including $95 million paid upfront by the Port Authority for a 10-year lease on a Manhattan waterfront parcel deemed critical to the project.

And the locomotives, at $8.5 million to $10.2 million a pop, have some questioning why the agency isn’t cutting its losses.

“The last nine have not been built yet. That’s why we’re hoping they would cancel them,” said Jack May, vice-president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, which advocates for stable fares and transit use. “These locomotives cost an awful lot of money.”

NJ Transit officials, however, made it clear at Wednesday’s board meeting that all 35 locomotives will be delivered.

NJ Transit Spokesman John Durso said the first 26 locomotives cost $10.2 million each, while the last nine cost $8.5 million each. A diesel locomotive is about $5.3 million, he said.

The 35 locomotives were capital budget purchases paid for with a mix of funds from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund and federal dollars, Durso said. Those figures do not include an additional $13.8 million in engineering assistance on the locomotive order.
The cost is $341.7 million, not $408 million, based on $10.2 million for the first 26 cars (which have already been purchased and cost $265.2 million) and the 9 additional units at $8.5 million ($76.5 million). The option to purchase the remainder of the order has been made, so the total value is $341.7 million. The Record has chosen to conflate land acquisition costs with the locomotive purchase, though even then the figures don't add up.

Critics of Gov. Christie and the NJ Transit seem to think that these trains would go to waste or are otherwise unneeded.

They're just flat out wrong.

DMUs give NJ Transit flexibility that they've never had before, plus they have the potential to improve the air quality surrounding the Hoboken terminal and other routes. Heck, even critics of the cancellation of ARC are not going after NJ Transit for fulfilling the contract for DMUs because there is utility to be gained from their procurement. Quite a few locomotives in the NJ Transit fleet are old and outdated, despite refurbishments. New equipment would help improve on-time performance and reliability and eliminate some of the oldest equipment in use.

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