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Conditions and Performance

Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
2002 Conditions and Performance Report

Chapter 9: Comparison of Spending and Investment Requirements
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Executive Summary
Part I: Description of Current System
Ch1: The Role of Highways and Transit
Ch2: System and Use Characteristics
Ch3: System Conditions
Ch4: Operational Performance
Ch5: Safety Performance
Ch6: Finance

Part II: Investment Performance Analyses
Ch7: Capital Investment Requirements
Ch8: Comparison of Spending and Investment Requirements
Ch9: Impacts of Investment
Ch10: Sensitivity Analysis

Part III: Bridges
Ch11: Federal Bridge Program Status of the Nation's Bridges

Part IV: Special Topics
Ch12: National Security
Ch13: Highway Transportation in Society
Ch14: The Importance of Public Transportation
Ch15: Macroeconomic Benefits of Highway Investment
Ch16: Pricing
Ch17: Transportation Asset Management
Ch18: Travel Model Improvement Program
Ch19: Air Quality
Ch20: Federal Safety Initiatives
Ch21: Operations Strategies
Ch22: Freight

Part V: Supplemental Analyses of System Components
Ch23: Interstate System
Ch24: National Highway System
Ch25: NHS Freight Connectors
Ch26: Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
Ch27: Transit Systems on Federal Lands

Appendix A: Changes in Highway Investment Requirements Methodology
Appendix B: Bridge Investment/Performance Methodology
Appendix C: Transit Investment Condition and Investment Requirements Methodology
List of Contacts

Transit Investment Impacts

Transit investment leads to improved transit access, an increase in transit ridership, a reduction in the number of cars on the road, improved air quality, and improved accessibility to jobs and other local resources. For example, transit investment of $10.5 billion in 21 New Starts projects as authorized by TEA-21 for Full Funding Grant Agreements are expected to:

  • Add over 550,000 average weekday boardings and carry an additional 162 million riders, of which about 75.5 million would have formerly driven to work.
  • Remove 62.5 million cars from the road annually.
  • Improve air quality by reducing 60 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
  • Remove 62,500 million cars from the road and save over 76 million hours of travel-time annually.
  • Provide transit access to an additional 920 thousand households, of which 87 thousand are low income.

Transit Investment, Historical Conditions, and Performance Trends

Historically and since 1993 (as shown in Chapter 8, Exhibit 8-12), actual investment in transit capital infrastructure has fallen below estimated investment requirements to Maintain Conditions and Performance and to Improve Conditions and Performance. As a result, asset conditions over the last years have not changed significantly while capacity has increased below the rate of increase in ridership.

Historical Condition Trends

FTA has historical information on average vehicle age, number of overage vehicles and average vehicle condition back to 1987. Historical trends, therefore, are analyzed over this period. As indicated in Chapter 3, Exhibit 3-38, the average condition of bus vehicles has been relatively constant over the last 13 years, with a very slight improvement since 1993, in spite of the spending and requirements gap. The average condition of rail vehicles, on the other hand, appears to be very gradually declining—from 3.91 in 1987 to 3.55 in 2000. [See Chapter 3, Exhibit 3-4]. While the average age of bus vehicles (including vans) has remained relatively constant, the average age of the rail fleet has increased from 15.6 years in 1987 to 20.4 years in 1997 and 21.8 years in 2000. The absolute number of overage vehicles, both bus and rail, has also increased. In 2000, there were about 16,000 overage buses—44 percent more than in 1987—and 6,770 overage rail vehicles—138 percent more than in 1987. Although the condition of the non-vehicle infrastructure appears to be similar to the condition in 1997, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 7, a significant percentage of this infrastructure is in less-than-adequate condition.

Historical Performance Trends

Historical performance trends between 1987 and 2000 are provided in Chapter 4, Exhibits 4-17 and 4-20. The performance of non-rail modes has been relatively constant. The average speed of non-rail vehicles in 2000 was the same as the 14-year average for the years between 1987 and 2000. The bus vehicle utilization rate was relatively low in 2000, compared to the rates that existed over this 14-year period, and in particular when compared with the rates between 1987 and 1991. The utilization rate of demand response vehicles in 2000 was slightly above the 14-year average, but lower than the utilization rates in 1997, 1998 and 1999. There is an indication that the performance of rail transit modes, as evidenced by speed and occupancy rates, may be very slightly declining. In 2000, the average rail speed was 24.9 miles per hour—its lowest rate since 1990 (average rail speeds were slightly lower between 1987 and 1989)—and rail vehicle utilization rates (an indicator of potential crowding) reached new highs in 2000, well above the utilization rates that existed in any of the previous years back to 1987. [See Chapter 4, Exhibit 4-17 and Exhibit 4-20].

Historical Transit Investment and Estimated Rehabilitation and Replacement Needs

As discussed in Chapter 8 previous C&P reports have estimated that then-current capital spending levels were well below the amount required to Maintain both Conditions and Performance. [See Exhibit 8-12]. As shown in Exhibit 9-9, these amounts have been equal to or slightly higher than the pure replacement and rehabilitation levels necessary to Maintain Conditions. Based on theinformation reported to FTA on transit agencies’ asset purchases, about half of current capital spending appears to have been allocated to rehabilitation and replacement expenditures. The remainder has gone to asset expansion, also contributing to higher average condition levels through the purchase of new assets.

Exhibit 9-9

Current Transit Capital Spending Levels vs Rehabilitation and Replacement Needs, 1993-2000
ANALYSIS YEAR (Billions of Current Dollars)
Sources: National Transit Database and Transit Economic Requirements Model.

Maintain Conditions—Past spending levels have resulted in maintained conditions for buses and almost maintained conditions for rail vehicles, even though the absolute number of overage bus and rail vehicles has increased considerably since the late eighties. The investment required to Maintain Conditions will continue to increase in line with increases in the size of the transit infrastructure base.

Maintain Performance—Over the past few years, funding levels have been sufficient to Maintain Performance for bus modes of public transport, but may not have been sufficient for rail modes, as evidenced by a slight decline in the average speed and slight increase in vehicle utilization rates of rail transit services.

Impact of Investment Levels on Future Transit Use (PMT Growth)

Assumed growth in passenger miles traveled (PMT) based on Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) forecasts is the primary factor in the estimation of transit investment needs. (See Chapter 10 for an analysis of the effect of variations in PMT growth on transit investment needs.) Estimated capital spending levels are those that would be required to assure that increases in demand, i.e., ridership, are accommodated without degrading overall performance, i.e., service quality. The Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM) does not yet permit an assessment of how the required investment levels estimated by TERM would affect transit ridership, user costs, and the potential for additional capital investment. The problem is that it is difficult to separate the effect of capital investment from the effect of other variables that impact ridership. This is an area for further FTA research.

Page last modified on November 7, 2014.
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