Check-list for Comparatively Evaluating Alternative Transportation Technologies

The check-list (72 items) was developed by Craig Norsen and others at the Elevated Transportation Company in Seattle, Washington in September, 2001. It is intended to be used to comparatively evaluate alternative transportation technologies, some of which may not yet be fully developed and "proven" in public service. Mr. Norsen is a member of the Board of Directors of the Elevated Transportation Company and his brief bio is available at the ETC website. It has been slightly edited and generalized for use in any city.


Popular Support


Would this technology be likely to attract significant organized citizen support?


Would this technology be likely to attract support from political leaders/candidates/elected official support and endorsement?


Would this technology be likely to be well-received by the leaders and members of the business community?


Would this technology be likely to be viewed as being desirable and relatively easy to accommodate by persons in the various community business districts it would pass through and provide stations for?


Would this technology be likely to be viewed as desirable for and/or a reasonable fit for the various neighborhoods it will need to pass through - with acceptable impacts and benefits?


Would this technology be likely to be well-received by groups that influence public opinion such as newspapers and other media, political rating organizations, community organizations, etc.?


Would this technology tend to generate minimal organized opposition from organized groups?


Could this technology be viewed by the public as possibly having enough peak commute rider attractiveness and capacity to "make a difference" in future auto congestion levels?


Is this technology sufficiently attractive to obtain the support of a majority of the voters if put on a ballot?


Service Issues


Is it feasible for a system using this technology to have stations within a reasonable walking distance of a high percentage of the home and work locations of people who could use the system to commute to/from work? (Assume "reasonable" is 1/4th mile or 6 blocks or less)


Is it feasible from a cost and practical standpoint using this technology to be able to have stations at the locations of private employers and businesses that would generate a medium to large number of potential riders? (In many instances these locations would probably not be directly on the system route)


Is it practical and cost-effective to provide a  reasonably high level of service during night-time and other non-peak hours using this technology?


Does this technology generally deliver a faster average complete trip time from leaving the origin to arriving at the intended destination? (Note: this is not a station-to-station travel time)


Could this technology effectively deliver unattended or attended freight to the extent it could make a difference in reducing truck and courier traffic on the streets?


Is this technology more likely to be able to avoid heavy reliance on feeder bus routes and/or park-ride parking garages at the stations to get people to the system's stations?


Does this technology minimize the need for passengers to transfer from one vehicle (or mode) to another to get to their destination? (Assuming a similar level of capital investment)


Could this technology reasonably have the capacity, or be fairly easily expanded to have this capacity, to "have a significant impact" in providing transportation away from a stadium? ("Significant" might be something like 15,000 - 20,000 passengers per hour per direction)


How likely is this technology to provide nearly immediate service during all operating hours to a passenger after arriving at a stations? (Assume "immediate" is within 3 minutes, 90% of the time)


Would a majority of potential riders consider the system technology to be "comfortable"? (Considering likely factors such as whether passengers are seated or sometimes standing, ride quality, number of stops and starts, acceleration and deceleration, acrophobia, noise level, views, etc.)


Is the technology likely to be "reliable" for the users? (Considering predictability of service, ability of the system to accommodate component failure without or minimizing service disruption, etc.)


Can this technology conveniently accommodate bicycles or other bulky parcels, luggage, equipment, etc. that passengers are likely to take with them?


Is it likely that the technology could effectively serve tourists? (Connecting points with tourist interest - convenient, scenic, the ability to use the system to tour the city, etc.)


Social and Personal Safety Issues


Can this technology effectively accommodate people with disabilities, including those needing wheelchairs?


Can this technology reasonably provide safe transport for essentially all potential riders including children, women, etc.?


Can this technology likely be made to comply with applicable code and other safety standards?


Is it feasible to develop an effective approach to emergency response for this technology that would protect life safety in the event of a problem?


How likely is this technology to attract riders out of automobiles (as opposed to simply shifting from other modes of public transportation)?  (Requires comparable convenience, comfort and trip times - when traffic delays, parking issues and other disadvantages of automobile travel have been factored in).


Would this technology be more likely to make a real difference for elderly people and others with difficulty having sufficient transportation mobility within the community? (Could the system be a replacement for, or a significant supplement to, paratransit bus service, private vans for special transportation service to medical care, shopping, etc.)?


Relative Cost Comparison


Is this technology expected to have lower cost per passenger-mile? (Cost = annual debt service cost plus annual O&M cost. Passenger miles = number of annual passengers times average passenger trip length)


Is this technology expected to have lower incremental cost per new transit rider (FTA standard for evaluation)? (Cost = annual debt service cost plus annual O&M cost. New transit rider = forecast change in annual transit system ridership)


Is this technology expected to have lower first cost per system mile? (First cost = initial capital cost of all components ready to operate. System mile = total length of operating system used for passenger service.


Is the system like to be automated? (Implies lower O&M costs)


Financial Feasibility


Are fare box revenues and other system earned income likely to cover the ongoing O&M costs of a system using this technology?


Are fare box revenues and other system earned income like to cover a significant percentage of the initial capital costs of a system using this technology?


Is the cost of the first phase system (and eventually the cost of the full city-wide system) likely to be seen as something the city can reasonably and prudently afford as it balances its priorities?


Other Funding Issues


Could this technology eventually attract/ be eligible for Federal funds?


Could this technology attract/ be eligible for authorized local funding sources?


Could this technology attract significant private grant funding support?


Is this technology likely to attract private "at risk" investment in a way that would significantly reduce the amount of general public funding required or reduce the level of public financial risk?


If system ridership at any future time is less than predicted, is it feasible with this technology to significantly reduce O&M costs without degrading service for the people who do ride the system? (Recognizing that degrading service could cause ridership to continue to drop)


Environmental Impact


Would this technology be likely to have minimal visual impacts? (Shadow, light & air, appearance, view blockage, etc.)


Would this technology be likely to have minimal noise impacts?


Would this technology be likely to have minimal vibration impacts?


Would this technology be likely to have good energy efficiency characteristics? (Generally a function of average trip vehicle weight per passenger and number of accelerations per average passenger trip)


Would this technology be likely to have less impact on endangered species, particularly at water crossings? (In-water bridge pier construction impacts and long-term over-water shading).


Would this technology be likely to have less guideway and stations construction period impacts? (Traffic disruption, noise, dust/mud, space requirements, water & air impacts, etc.)


Would this technology be likely to be viewed as having less impact on existing neighborhood character, cultural heritage, cohesiveness, etc.?


Would this technology be likely to have less long-term air & water quality impacts?


Practical Issues


Is the technology likely to be flexible enough to allow it to be aligned mostly within existing street rights-of-way, and to  be able to weave through obstrcutions such as roadway overpasses?


Is it likely that guideway supports for this technology would fit into existing street rights-of-way without eliminating a traffic lane or a lane of on-street parking?


Is this technology able to handle the curves and uphill/downhill grades that would enable it to "fit into" a typical developed urban environment?


Can the technology be operated effectively in conditions of rain, snow and ice?


Does this system utilize modular construction techniques that would reduce construction time, costs and disruption?


It is likely that stations for this technology can be configured to fit within reasonably available locations without having to take or condemn or reconstruct large amounts of property? (Considering required train length, station crowd capacity, etc.)


Can a system using this technology be easily and flexibly extended from the first phase to serve other areas of the city? (Expandable as a system from a technical standpoint, ability to branch off in any direction, system components available in a reasonable time, etc.)


Is it easy to expand the system capacity using this technology on an hour by hour basis to reflect the peaks of demand?


Is it easy to expand the system capacity using this technology in the future to reflect increasing demand? (Different from extending the system).


Would this technology be likely to have fewer conflicts with existing utilities in the street rights-of-way?


Would this technology be more likely to attract interest and financial support for private property owners to have a station on their property? (To have the stations viewed as being desirable and practical)


Risk Issues


Is the technology "proven" in similar applications in one or more other locations? (In terms of a considerable period of successful mechanical operation and rider acceptance)


If "proven" does the technology have a long-term successful service history?


If not "proven" is the technology at least in a fairly high stage of development and nearly ready for deployment? (successful test track, demonstrated  control system, sufficient design and research effort, etc.)


If not "proven" is the technology recognized in the industry as having real potential for successful deployment in the near future?


Could the technology be deployed in the city in a reasonable period of time following a decision to proceed? (If "reasonable" = 5 years or less)


Is this technology likely to have a minimal risk of unforeseen capital cost increases?


Is this technology likely to have minimal risk of unforeseen O&M cost increases?

R-8 Is there less risk that the later failure of the vehicle equipment or control system manufacturer would cause a significant problem with ongoing operation and expansion of the system? ("Failure" meaning going out of business, discontinuance of the product line, other inability to deliver the product, or inability to reach agreement on the price or terms of the product in the future)

Procurement Issues

Pro-1 Is there more than one supplier of this technology, avoiding limited competition and increased costs in the future?
Pro-2 Is it likely that there would be (at the time of construction) good partnerships of equipment manufacturers and contractors prepared to undertake a full design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) delivery of the system?
Pro-3 Does this technology have any opportunity for creative partnerships with the manufacturer(s) that have the potential for a reduced system cost for the project, and/or the possibility for participation in financial returns from future systems developed out of a successful deployment experience (A "venture capital" model in return for public financial participation in the development of the system)
Pro-4 Is it likely with this technology that the purchaser (e.g. public agency) could negotiate guaranteed access to the detailed vehicle and control system design engineering that could be used by the purchaser as may be needed for future system expansion and service in the event the equipment supplier goes out of business, drops the product line or the parties are unable to agree on the price of the products?
Pro-5 Is there an opportunity for a significant portion of the vehicle and vehicle control systems to be manufactured locally? (Assumes that the guideway would be standard local construction in any option)


Last modified: September 15, 2001