So let's check out the presentation the City Council will receive Wednesday for the Bus Rapid Transit system and beyond. This is really exciting stuff.
For most of 2009, a consortium of people including representatives from the City Manager’s Office, Community Development, Public Works, RDA, and RTC have been meeting, and meeting, and meeting some more, about transportation option along the South Virginia Transit Corridor. Five sub-groups have been formed (Planning, Engineering, Finance, Public Relations, and Operations/Maintenance) to focus on this project and the mass amounts of work to be done concurrently.
Here's the details thus far:
Station Requirements – This code amendment has been added to the program of Reno Municipal Code amendments to be processed in FY 2009/2010.
Regional Road Impact Fee – The proposed option was presented at the September RTC TAC meeting. Additionally, staff has been discussing the option of creating a different benefit district for each TOD with a different, or no, Regional Road Impact Fee.
Complete Streets Project (a.k.a., Streetscape Standards) – This Redevelopment Agency project will be completed in conjunction with the lane, parking and sidewalk reconfiguration project to be completed by City staff and the RTC BRT stations project in FY 2009/2010.
Virginia Street Bridge – The Public Works Department is including the requirement for the new bridge to support a light rail train in the design specifications.
Multimodal Center – It is intended to create the region’s major transportation hub by connecting Virginia Street (current Sierra Spirit circulator and future streetcar line) with the Amtrak Station (intercity rail) and Fourth Street Transit Center (local bus, bus rapid transit and possible future light rail lines with connections to the Reno Tahoe International Airport and Reno Stead Airport). One of the possible funding sources that may be utilized is the ReTRAC enhancement funds from the Federal government. This funding source exceeds $500,000. Specific improvements that could be funded, depending on cost, are pedestrian amenities, signage and a bridge over the ReTRAC south of the new Fourth Street Transit Station.
Based on some hardcore research by working groups it is estimated that capital costs for the first phase of the streetcar system (Phase 2 of overall concept) will be $45 million for northbound and southbound tracks spanning 1.5 miles on Virginia Street, between Lawlor Events Center and California Avenue. This includes the cost for rails, electrification, streetcars, and transit stations. There is also an additional $22 million required for a maintenance/storage facility and one mile of track that would carry streetcars back and forth to the facility. If the entire capital cost for Phase 2 of the overall concept ($67 million) is financed by a thirty year bond issued at a 6% interest rate, the total annual capital cost for the first phase of the streetcar project is expected to be $4.8 million.
According to city staff reports, It is estimated that capital costs for the second phase (Phase 3 of the overall concept) of the streetcar system will be $84 million for approximately 3.5 miles of northbound and southbound track on Virginia Street from California Avenue to the Convention Center. As with Phase one of the streetcars, this includes the cost for rails, electrification, and additional streetcars. If the entire capital cost for Phase 3 of the overall concept ($84 million) is financed by a thirty year bond issued at a 6% interest rate, the total annual capital cost for the second phase of the streetcar project is expected to be $6.1 million.
For the entire five-mile (10 track-miles) system connecting the Convention Center, the South Virginia resort hotels, Downtown and the University of Nevada, plus the additional one-mile “service track” and maintenance/storage facility (Phases 2 and 3 of the overall concept), the estimated capital cost is $151 million. If the entire capital cost for both Phase 2 and 3 of the overall concept ($151 million) is financed by a thirty year bond issued at a 6% interest rate, the total annual capital cost for the entire streetcar project, as currently proposed, is expected to be $10.9 million.
The estimated average annual operations and maintenance costs for the entire system (Phases 2 and 3 of the overall concept) is $3 million, depending upon the number of streetcars, operating hours, etc. The current annual passenger volume for RTC Route 1 (Virginia Street Corridor) is approximately 1,720,000 riders. For fiscal year 2008/2009, RTC reported that the average fare was 88 cents per rider; therefore, RTC collected approximately $1.5 million dollars for this route. If all of these riders began riding the streetcar; which is unlikely as many of them will continue to ride on buses until they no longer operate on Virginia Street, the streetcar fares will have to be set well above the average bus fare on this route and/or be subsidized with other funding to cover annual operating/maintenance costs. Hence, the $3 million annual maintenance and operation cost is included in determining total new funding needs.
Finally, the establishment of an annual sinking fund is recommended for replacement of that portion of the system that may be deteriorated beyond repair (i.e., vehicles, electronic equipment, etc.) on a thirty year cycle; which, based on preliminary costs of approximately $50 million for replacement needs throughout the entire system, equals $1.7 million per year.
The annual funding could be reduced once the construction costs are paid (i.e., only sinking fund and operation operations and maintenance funds would be required). Other options include continuing construction funding to expand the system (e.g., East Fourth Street or Mill Street to the Airport), or deciding at some point in the future if the construction funding should be maintained and the system expanded.
At this point, staff recommends that the funding needs also be limited to Phase 2 of the overall concept (i.e., between Lawlor Events Center and California Avenue plus the required maintenance/storage facility and “service track”). This will provide an interconnection between the streetcar and BRT systems (Phase 1 of the overall concept) in the California Avenue area. The streetcar would essentially replace Sierra Spirit.
A comprehensive funding package for this project will be proposed by the finance sub-group. The potential sources of funding include a property tax, a sales tax, some sort of tax on tourists, tax increment funds, Federal funds, etc. A countywide transit sales tax failed on the last ballot and there are limited tax increment funds available, so staff does not view these as viable alternatives at this point. Two of the initial recommendations are a City of Reno property tax increase, in the form of a property tax override, and pursuit of Federal funds for a streetcar/light rail transit “start up” project. The property tax could be placed before the voters in November 2010. If approved by the voters, legislation would be pursued in 2011 with construction being initiated in 2012 and completed in 2013. Of course, any Federal funds or other funding source would offset the amount needed from property taxes. Before a final decision on placing this property tax on the ballot is made by the City Council, this proposal should be evaluated in the context of other potential City property tax ballot issues (e.g., police facilities, parks and recreation facilities), and the state of the economy.
Currently a one cent increase in property taxes yields approximately $850,000 per year. The current tax rate is 0.9456 ($0.95 per $100 of assessed value). The following table identifies the projected annual costs (capital, operations and maintenance, and sinking funds) of the proposed project, by phase, and projected total annual 30-year property tax rate increase, based on the percentage of the project that would be funded through a ballot initiative.