To fully understand how public transit projects are delivered, this report includes detailed case studies of nine regions in the United States, Canada, and Europe. These studies not only yield facts and details of the specific projects within those regions, but also uncover elements that may not otherwise be captured in the data, literature, or popular reporting. While each region is uniquely different, there are clear commonalities in project delivery across regions that determine cost and timeline drivers, and impact project outcomes. This report includes the following case study regions, detailed in Section 5:
- Domestic: Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle
- International: Copenhagen, Paris, Madrid, Toronto
- Highway case: I-495 HOT Lanes in Virginia
The case studies also help determine whether projects in the United States are being built to higher technical and safety standards than elsewhere, and to what extent factors like governance, institutional experience and staff capacity, project management, and contracting practices influence project outcomes. By identifying specific drivers as well as best practices in project delivery, the case studies inform the policy and practice recommendations in Section 6.
For this research, a case study is defined as a project or several projects delivered by an agency or agencies in a region, opened to the public between 2000 and 2020.5 This timeframe ensures that a project has a clear final cost and is also recent enough in interviewees’ memories that they can recall important details. For each of these cases, the lead agency in each region has completed at least two projects in the past 20 years. This allowed the research team to learn from an agency’s experience delivering multiple projects in a single region. Since this work is intended to inform transit project delivery in the United States, the international cases are limited to regions with comparable development patterns, economies, and governmental and legal structures.
The final cases also highlight comparable transit modes to what is typically constructed in the United States, specifically light rail. In particular, Paris and Madrid invested heavily in their regional tram systems, which provides direct comparisons to U.S. light rail projects. Domestic cases avoid outliers such as extremely expensive projects (like in New York City) that are unlikely to provide comparable lessons for other regions in the United States.6
A key part of the case study research was conducting interviews with stakeholders and experts in regions. The not-for-attribution interviews were not limited to organizations building rail transit, but also included other groups that have direct and indirect input to the governance, planning, and execution of capital projects. Specifically, interviewees included senior level representatives from the following types of organizations:
- Transit operators
- Transit oversight agencies, where applicable
- Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs)
- City governments, including planning departments and officials in select cities
- State government, including officials from state departments of transportation
- The Federal Transit Administration and regional offices
- Academics with specialized knowledge in transportation and an understanding of the region
- Advocacy organizations and think-tanks, including riders’ unions, business groups, chambers of commerce, and other nonprofits
- Labor unions
- Former transit and government officials with specialized knowledge in transportation and an understanding of the region
The findings included in this report are almost entirely based on consistent information from multiple sources and interviewees.
As part of this project, the Eno team interviewed 117 individuals at 72 organizations.
While this methodology generated a set of findings that is inherently subjective, it also provided a level of insight not often found in the existing literature. Much of the agency-specific detail in the background and case studies is publicly available on the agencies’ websites, unless otherwise indicated.
Woven throughout the data analysis, background research, and case studies is consistent engagement with a high level, 22-person project advisory panel, consisting of experts from academia, industry, transit agencies, as well as state, local, and federal government. Eno consulted with the advisory panel before and during each major stage of this project, including case study selection, creation and release of Eno’s construction cost database, and development of our policy recommendations. Eno also convened separate sub-panels of representatives from labor unions and major design and engineering consultancies to gain further insight into various phases of project delivery and receive input on preliminary findings.
Insights and consistent themes that emerged from the research formed the basis of the takeaways and recommendations in Section 6. The recommendations also incorporate best practices that emerged from the literature review, case studies, Advisory Panel meetings, and discussions and feedback from additional interviews with experts and practitioners in various elements of project delivery such as environmental review, permitting, engineering, and labor, among others.