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This research examines the cost-efficiencies of heavy rail and bus systems with regard to their per-vehicle and perpassenger- mile operating costs. By looking at how these costs differ between the modes and how they changed during the 1997-2006 period, both nationally and by region of the country, we seek to determine which mode is more economical on an operational basis. Overall, the study found that rail systems cost more to operate than bus systems on a per-vehicle basis, but cost less than bus systems when considering cost per-passenger-mile, a result explained by the higher carrying capacity of railcars as opposed to buses. Furthermore, using theoretical occupancy levels, a threshold occupancy was calculated for rail, beyond which it becomes the more cost-efficient of the two modes.


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