Sticking to Story

In his ENR Viewpoint article "don't Believe Maglev's Critics" (ENR 8/19 p. 59), Chris Brady of Transrapid International-USA reports that I "erroneously claimed last year that ‘there are no manufacturers of maglev components or spare parts,'" (ENR 2/26/01 p. 99). Brady also reports that he "can definitively state that the Transrapid companies are the only ones in the world that currently provide maglev technology for very high-speed travel." Given this high level of support, I cannot help but stick to my story.

Once Transrapid's Shanghai Airport Shuttle is complete, the firm may yet qualify as a manufacturer of maglev systems and a supplier of spare parts. From the perspective of potential owners, however, Transrapid will qualify if and when they make a little money at the activity. Until then, they remain a high-risk supplier in a marginal market.

Transrapid's management should risk their firm's business resources anyway, their judgment dictates. In the mean time, I hope we manage to keep the special interest hands of train advocates (cross country, floating, light rail, high-speed or otherwise) out of the public coffers.

Bursting Bubbles

I see the industry now has cost Estimate Validation Process (CEVP) as our potential "new method" for the early estimating process because there is an "urgent need to validate the costs of public projects," (ENR 7/1 p. 15). The trouble is, this sounds a lot like an old estimator technique called range estimating with some extra hoopla thrown in for good measure. Except for the outside experts participating in a "concentrated workshop," the article could have been talking about range estimating.

With range estimating, at least in the manner I have seen it successfully work, the estimator identifies risky and/or items with a minimal amount of information that could have a major impact upon costs. The estimator then creates a probable range of costs based upon this information. This is done in conjunction with a project team that typically includes the design professionals and the owner/client.

I hate to burst anyone's hopes but it is a major fallacy to expect this "new" process to yield any substantial benefit. The true cure for the ill is only as good as 1) the abilities of the estimator, 2) the abilities of the other team members and 3) the ability of the decision makers to base their decisions on facts, not hopes.

It is a bit difficult to see how public projects are going to benefit from this "new and improved" method.