How much will it cost?

An effort was made to determine a cost for the SPURTS pilot system proposed here. It was quickly apparent that more details were needed to do this. The SPURTS pilot plan on this site was prepared several years ago and was conceptual. As time permits, it will be revised to reflect developments, including the university's latest plans for its Arts District. The cost discussion below reflects the Arts District plans that were public as of April 2012

A major development was a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) that the university signed with the 2 towns. That not only funded a transit study but also provided a replacement ROW from the proposed location of the new dinky station westward to Alexander Street. This is now commonly referred to as the dog-leg configuration as the northernmost 460 ft of the existing dinky ROW will cease to exist when the new dinky station is built. The driving force was that the university did not want a train (either light or heavy rail) operating through the proposed pedestrian plaza. There are people in town who think that somehow the straight shot rail ROW approximating that portion to be abandoned can be extracted from the university; that unlikely. However, the issue of whether or not a straight shot PRT ROW can be obtained has never been explored with the university. An elevated PRT ROW may well be attainable. A grade level PRT ROW would not be acceptable to them using the same logic as above. An underground PRT ROW is also unlikely because the university's plan is to service all the arts district buildings with underground utilities and delivery passageways from the east

The present description of the PRT ROW is as follows (this does not match the graphic plan on this site):

Starting at the Turning Basin (TB) Station the PRT leaves at grade and goes over the canal on the existing historic "rotary drawbridge" and stays at grade until it shifts to overhead at Faculty Road. The grade level ROW is fenced to preclude pedestrian access. It remains overhead through the Arts District until it dives underground near the present terminus of the dinky line. It then stays underground all the way to the Joseph Henry (JH) station where it emerges at grade. After the northern end of that station it again dives underground and remains until it rises along Chambers St. to become elevated in order to cross Paul Robeson Place. This is where the Central Business (CB) station would be located. The plan is for the PRT to be double tracked for the complete distance.

The biggest obstacle to the potential ROW for SPURTS has now been removed. The ROW outlined for the SPURTS pilot plan is now almost totally controlled by the university, the town, and NJT. All that is needed for the SPURTS Pilot Plan is three easements and a small portion of a property that would make the JH Station more open in the front. This illustrates perfectly how easily PRT can fit into a built up area. The ROW for the 30 year plan is similarly available at the present time with only several additional easements needed. Therefore there are no ROW acquisition costs in the estimate.

To arrive at cost estimates for stations and construction several local architects helped gratis, some of whom need to remain anonymous. A medium sized contractor who has recently completed several large projects in Princeton also contributed. Ed Anderson helped with the PRT related costs and they were checked against the Viability of PRT in NJ report. This was done in early 2011.

A PRT system powered from the guideway was chosen. Each PRT supplier has a different scheme and system design so costs might be shifted from category to category but the total PRT equipment cost should be similar. All costs are in millions of dollars. A 1.25 multiplier will appear in many of the estimates; it is a contingency factor. The guideway costs are for at grade or elevated installations; the costs for undergrounding are estimated separately. For the underground portion it is envisioned that precast tunnel sections 10 ft high by 14 ft wide will be used and dropped into place using cut and fill techniques. There are of course utilities that will need to be relocated but there are actually surprisingly few in the chosen ROW. This is because the university feeds utilities to the various buildings from inside the campus rather than from the street. There are water, gas, storm sewer and some electric and telephone lines involved. The undergrounding cost includes lighting and ventilation as well.

A maintenance facility is needed for any transportation system. PRT requires a much, much smaller facility than that for rail or bus options. Further, massive lifting and material handling equipment are not needed either. Although not shown on any of the graphic plans, the presently underutilized 2 story stone barn at the back of the old U store parking lot would be ideal. Taking inspiration from the cable car powering station in San Francisco, the whole first floor could be for maintenance activities and the second floor could contain the command and control center as well as a visitors' gallery describing and explaining PRT and its importance for a sustainable future. The gallery would allow visitors to view both the maintenance area below and the control center through glass windows.

The Turning Basin (TB) station would act as a transfer point from a shortened dinky line and perhaps from BRT lines anticipated in the future which would run along Route 1. One might ask why not just take the PRT all the way to West Windsor and eliminate the dinky train altogether. Indeed this makes the most sense, but there are enormous political forces that don't want to see the dinky change. Reaching further would involve West Windsor more heavily and reduce the chance of making any progress at all. Part of the TB station idea is that it would shift all of the commuter automobile traffic and parking outside of town and provide 3 different roads to access the station instead of sending everyone down University Place or up Alexander as is presently the case. This is achieved by the proposed access road on the South side of Lake Carnegie connecting Harrison St., Washington Rd. and Alexander. Those lands are university owned and sometime in the distant future they will need that road when they develop them. Therefore, no estimate is included to construct that road. The TB station is envisioned to be about 3000 sf and would include restrooms, waiting rooms, and several small shops in conditioned space because people would have to wait for the dinky and for busses - but not for PRT. Includes are 300 parking spaces (up from the 166 at the present dinky station), 30 lights, site work, drainage, some outdoor canopies, and bike storage.

The Employee (E) station would be a roofed but open air structure possibly framed with galvanized steel. It will be a totally overhead double sided station so there will need to be 2 elevators alongside the stairways in order to access both northbound and southbound guideways for ADA compliance. An alternative would be to have only 1 elevator a rotary "people exchanger" mechanism to move passengers from one side to the other coordinated with the PRT vehicle movements. Cost would probably be about the same. Each side would measure about 60 x 24 ft with and elevator and a stairway and a covered bike storage area below.

The Arts District (A) would be a PRT-oriented version of the new dinky station. The university has already budgeted a station building as part of their project, so no cost estimate was made. The building of course would be ADA compliant. It should be noted that the PRT would enter the station on the second floor so there would be plenty of space for the market and other amenities that have been proposed. An alternate vision would have skywalks accessing PRT form adjacent buildings and the lot 7 garage. Further, having elevated PRT connecting in this manner would blend in nicely with arts district architect Steven Holl's concept of "porosity".

The Old U Store (U) station presented some interesting challenges. It would be totally underground and consist of a space 48 ft wide x 210 ft long. The two PRT guideways are centered on the long axis which is in turn on the centerline of University Place; loading berths or sidings are on either side. Passenger access would be from the lower level of the old U Store thus using the ADA features that already exist. There would be an additional passenger access from the western side via a 3 sided set of monumental stairs descending from the parking lot. That could only be ADA compliant with an elevator in parallel or a very long ramp for which there is no room. This means that some sort of rotary "people exchanger" mechanism would be required here as well to allow handicapped people to access either northbound or southbound sides. The station space would not be conditioned except for ventilation so some sort of entry doors would have to be provided on the U Store side and on the other side as well.

The Joseph Henry Station (JH) is envisioned to be the principal anchor for the SPURTS system. It should be open and inviting and convey to passengers that they have arrived in both town and gown. A wall chronicling town history would be incorporated into the existing brick wall of the adjacent Palmer House. The French Market would be moved from across Nassau St. to the front portion of the site and there would be a small visitors information center (as Boro Hall will soon no longer function in that capacity). The Veterans Monument would also be incorporated into the space. There would be several small shops (food, newsstand) along the eastern wall of the site. Of course there would be public restrooms (a rarity in Princeton, and even rarer with the closing of Borough Hall), bicycle racks, and a small open-air public gathering/performance space. Since the PRT guideways will emerge from and return to underground there are no issues with passengers being able to pass from one side to the other; they simply walk to the nearest end and cross. There would be no ADA difficulties either. A new one way passenger drop off road would be built on the N end of the Palmer House property to connect to the end of Bank Street. Thus the station site would be open and accessible on both ends. No cost has been included for that road as creating it should be a municipal responsibility. The JH plan shows several other improvements related to the JH Station, namely moving one structure and totally reconfiguring the Mercer Street - Nassau Street intersection by moving it further to the west. This is clearly a responsibility involving 3 levels of government; no cost has been included for that. Also proposed and intertwined with the intersection reconfiguration is a 100 car underground parking garage that might be university only or part public located on the south side of Nassau. No cost has been included for that either. In order to clear the JH site the existing newly renovated structure would need to be moved across Nassau on top of the proposed underground garage. The old Town Topics building should be moved as well to create a more authentic streetscape. Cost for relocating these 2 structures is included.

The Central Business District CB station offered some unique challenges. Since the ROW will be elevated to cross the street it seemed best to straddle the Chambers / John Street intersection with Paul Robeson Place. There could be stairways on 2 diagonal corners and an elevator on one to give public and ADA compliant access. Since the PRT initially ends at this station crossing, ADA access to both guideways would not be an issue until future expansion occurred. This would be an open air but roofed station with no amenities.

The estimates for the stations and the undergrounding are further increased to allow for "soft costs" which include architecture, engineering, permits, zoning, and other items. No soft costs have been allowed for PRT equipment because it is assumed that they are included in the vendor's costs. To summarize:

Grand Total: $87.53 Million of which $16.94 Million is for stations.

This page last updated on April 23, 2012