Image from kevincrumbs on Flickr Creative Commons
Only one day after the STM announced that the projected cost of replacing its ageing fleet of Metro cars will likely double, the AMT today made a similar confession.
The best case scenario for the AMT – for day-to-day maintenance and new investments – is that costs will be 30% higher than originally predicted. In the case of the Lucien L’Allier renovation, the real cost will likely be 400% higher than expected.
Of course, this situation is not new. The metro extension to Laval cost about four times as much as predicted. And these wild miscalculations are not limited to transit projects: the Auditor General estimated that the cost for the proposed Turcot reconstruction could go from $1.5 to $3 billion. (Although that project may be on ice for a while.)
What explains these astronomical increases? For the metro cars, I imagine it has a lot to do with the closed bidding process, which initially handed the contract to Bombardier, only adding Alstom as a partner in a consortium after intervention from the courts. But the AMT’s cost overruns also stem from regular operating costs, not just major new investments.
Certainly, the consistency with which transit project costs are underestimated hurts the credibility of these organizations, and makes arguing for new transit investments more difficult. However, this is a worldwide phenomenon: Danish researchers revealed that the average cost escalation for new rail projects is 45%; for new road projects, it’s 20%.
Should we just grin and bear it, and chuckle to ourselves? Is there anything to be gained from putting up a fight, when better suburban transit may be the city’s greatest need?