>WMATA’s Economic Stimulus "Wish List"


There’s been a lot of discussion recently about "shovel-ready" projects for economic stimulus.  A lot of the discussion has centered around the idea that highway and road projects are inherently "shovel-ready", while transit projects like new light rail systems would happen too slow for the stimulus to do any good (doesn’t mean light rail isn’t a good investment, you just might not get the win-win of economic stimulus as well as public investment).

Well, WMATA has got the "shovel-ready" projects covered, from their end.  At the WMATA Board meeting yesterday, WMATA’s General Manager, John Catoe, presented a list of $529 million in economic stimulus projects that meet the American Public Transit Association’s recommended guidelines.  According to APTA, projects should be implementable within 90 days, should be eligible for Federal funding, and should be projects that would not happen during the current fiscal year without funding help.

The requests are categorized as follows:

Vehicles and parts: WMATA wants $120M for buses, railcar truck parts, and miscellaneous parts. WMATA states that the purchases will support the American auto industry, especially through the purchase of bus parts (seats, windows, doors, transmissions).

Maintenance Facilities: $177M for repairing, replacing or expanding bus garages and railcar maintenance facilities. WMATA says that the improvements will help employ workers in the construction industry that has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Passenger Facilities: $167M for replacing platforms, installing station canopies, improving credit card readers, etc. Just like with the maintenance facilities, local construction companies would get some business.

Safety and security: $4.2M for emergency tunnel evacuation cars, and expanding the "chemical sensors detection system".

Maintenance and repair equipment: $43M for cranes, cars for carrying rails and equipment, de-icing equipment.

Operations Systems: $11M for fare collection equipment, signage and "grout pads", which are an installation method used to improve the strength and stability of vertical columns installed on concrete surfaces. By eliminating warping of the base plate, a grout pad stiffens a column installed by bolting a flange plate to studs embedded in concrete. See this UF research paper (big PDF) conducted for the Florida DOT for more on grout pads.

Information Technology:  $12M for hardware and software to improve maintenance efficiency, monitor network traffic and provide disaster recovery.

Looks like a lot of good stuff on that list.  My only criticism is that as usual, WMATA failed to prioritize the list.  What about the likely case where not all of the requested funds are available?  What would be the highest priority, and what can wait?  As it stands now, none of these projects will be completed this year without external funding, so they can’t just take the position that "it’s all important".

What do you think?  What appeals to you from this list?


About perkinsms

I'm an engineer and father interested in transit, parking and economics.
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4 Responses to >WMATA’s Economic Stimulus "Wish List"

  1. Mark says:

    >80% of their justification seems to be “it will give other people jobs”.I didn’t realize their mission was to support inefficient industries such as construction and US auto makers. I thought they were supposed to safely, efficiently, and quickly transport people from place to place at a reasonable price.Shouldn’t they buy things based on what they need or will get a +EV from, not from what will support random unrelated groups?

  2. Michael says:

    >That’s their justification to the Federales. These items are already on the WMATA wish list internally, and no additional justification is needed for the WMATA Board to agree that the items are worth funding for WMATA’s sake. The justification that it will give other people jobs is something that is likely appealing to the people that the list will be communicated to; namely, Congressional approprators, Congressional staffers, and legislators.We can debate around in circles whether government support of “inefficient industries” during a down economy is a good idea. I’ll just point out that good idea or not, it looks like we’re going to do about $800B worth of it before spring is over.The US auto industry probably meets the definition of “inefficient”, the construction industry has low enough barriers to entry and is close enough to a competitive industry that I’d probably rank them closer to “efficient”. The reason they’re doing so poorly is that demand dropped off a cliff once people stopped borrowing and building like mad.

  3. thm says:

    >Admittedly I don’t know the APTA criteria or what, in engineering terms, the 90 days actually refers to (some items look like they’d take longer than 90 days) but it’s a shame that the Farragut North-West pedestrian tunnel, and the Gallery Place–Metro center pedestrian tunnel, aren’t “shovel-ready.”

  4. K says:

    >I vote for security and cranes.I’ve done way too much work lately with cranes that have collapsed. The term “shovel ready” is so over used. Can’t they come up with a better catch phase?

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