So the FTA does this thing to cities that haven't had a rail project where the first project is not given a rail bias. We know a bias exists and is about 34-43% according to a TRB report by Ed Tennyson. So in cities like Portland and Denver where they are extending their lines, they were able to use their bias. However cities like Minneapolis and Charlotte weren't able to. In 2020, the Hiawatha line was supposed to get 24,000 riders a day. But here it is 2007, 13 years away from the goal and ridership is at 29,000.
So after a year's worth of ridership data, Charlotte planners will be able to use the bias that they weren't able to use on the first line, which if the FTA used current regulations, wouldn't even have been built. Charlotte got a medium low on their cost effectiveness rating, which now the FTA says you must have a medium to even get into Preliminary Engineering. But guess what they use to calculate cost effectiveness? Ridership! Which seems to be behind recently; Houston, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Denver have all opened lines recently and have had much higher ridership than predicted. So higher numbers lead to better CE measures, but new lines aren't allowed the bias. Does this mean that new lines aren't afforded the right numbers? Ask the folks in Columbus Ohio. Early indications say that ridership in Charlotte will be exceeded. 9,000 riders were expected and so far daily numbers have been around 12,000. I expect it will die down a little but as more development on the South Corridor comes online, more ridership will be added. What this tells me is that more cities are going to get the short end of the New Starts stick. Is anyone else ready for a new administration that cares about urban issues?