Why Conservatives Hate Trains

Debates over high-speed rail and federal transit funding have inspired a number of writers asking why conservatives hate passenger trains. Most of them get it wrong.

The real answer is: they don’t. They just hate subsidies, at least if they are fiscal conservatives (as opposed to social conservatives like the late Paul Weyrich).

Case in point: San Francisco’s Central Subway, which, as the Wall Street Journal points out, is going to cost at least $1.6 billion for 1.7 miles of rail that (as the Antiplanner’s faithful ally, Tom Rubin, points out) will actually be slower than the buses it replaces (because it will require people to make more transfers). If you don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription, which I don’t, you can read about it here, here, and here, among other places.

Something I haven’t seen in any of these recent reports is that, back in 2003 when the project was first being planned, it was supposed to cost only $763.9 million. That means it has more than doubled in cost in just eight years. Of course, even $764 million is outrageously expensive, but it is one more reason not to trust anything rail transit advocates say.

The Central Subway project is so bad that even many Bay Area transit advocates oppose it, just as they oppose BART to San Jose. But these projects aren’t about transit; they are about pork barrel. If San Francisco Bay Area transit ridership is considerably lower today than it was 20 years ago because the region has focused on expensive rail lines instead of maintaining its bus systems, that’s just too bad for transit riders.

Then there is the report that Amtrak is spending $4.5 million for every second it is saving for the Acela between Trenton and New Brunswick, NJ ($450 million to save 1 minute and 40 seconds). In Amtrak’s defense, that is 1 minute and 40 seconds for every Acela passenger, and there are about 3 million of those per year (though not all of them ride that stretch of track).

Still, the article goes on to say that the Amtrak project will “create 12,000 jobs.” Now, there’s a lie. As I’ve noted before, these claims of jobs created by transit and intercity trains are highly exaggerated: first, by calling a job that employes someone for ten year ten different jobs and second by using inappropriate multipliers for secondary jobs.

Then there is this report from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about how the city of Honolulu lied to people to gain support for that city’s ridiculous $5.3 billion (as of now, but the real cost will probably be much more) 21-mile elevated rail line. As the report notes, an early analysis by Parsons Brinckerhoff compared bus-rapid transit and rail and concluded the former would work just as well at a far lower cost. When asked to do the analysis again, and knowing it stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars helping to build rail, Parsons Brinckerhoff mysteriously deleted the bus alternative. (Actually, not so mysterious: it was probably told to do so by the pro-rail mayor.)

Honolulu has one of the highest per-capita transit ridership records in the country, not to mention the highest rate of transit commuting after the “big six” transit regions (NY, SF, DC, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia), all with a bus-only system. Building rail will probably force Honolulu to cannibalize its bus system as so many other cities have done.

Then there is the good news from Norfolk: that city’s light-rail line cost $20 million less than the project’s revised budget. Of course, that’s still $108 million more than the project’s original budget. Norfolk’s train was involved in a traffic accident even before it opened–of course, it is always the auto driver’s fault, not the fault of the planner who put a 100,000-pound vehicle in the same street as 3,000-pound cars. Not to worry: planners expect to have a rash of accidents when it opens, so since it was expected, it should be okay.

Finally, Chicago’s rail system is on the verge of collapse, so the city is considering a bus-rapid transit network. This is an excellent idea, and the city should really go further and talk about replacing its decrepit elevated rail lines with buses.

Of course, some train nut comments that, “LRT has lower operating costs, and if you amortize the construction costs over, say, a 50-year period, it can come out as the more affordable option.” Yes, that might be true if the initial cost of constructing LRT is something under $20 million a mile rather than the $50 million to $200 million cities are spending today and you pretend that you won’t have to rehabilitate the rail lines when they wear out after 30 years. Washington DC is pretending it doesn’t have to rehab its MetroRail system and it is getting more rickety every day.

The rail nut goes on to say that LRT “is also better at encouraging TOD.” Okay, first of all, why encourage TOD? It is not as if Chicago doesn’t already have enough dense housing. Second, rail is “better” at encouraging it only in the sense that, if you don’t build rail, you’ll have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing TODs, whereas if you build rail, you’ll still have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing TODs but you will have an easier time justifying it (“we need to support the rail system”).

Instead of asking why conservatives hate trains, maybe writers should ask what it is about trains that so mesmerizes people that they lose all their analytical skills? Sadly, the answer might be that many people lack analytical skills so they are just too easily mesmerized.

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37 thoughts on “Why Conservatives Hate Trains

  1. Andrew

    Randall:

    Why build rail? One can see the long term results in terms of needing less roads and therefore having less traffic in cities with long-standing dense networks of grade seperated rail lines – compare Boston or Philadelphia with fully automotive cities in terms of widths of arterial roads and number of expressways. In the Pennsylvania side of Philadelphia there are three 6 lane roads – the PA Turnpike, a stretch of I476, and a stretch of US 202 in the King of Prussia area – in the four suburban counties. In the city of Philadelphia there are just five 6 lane roads – Broad Street, I-95, Schuylkill Expressway/Vine St. Expressway, the Roosevelt Blvd, and the short Ben Franklin Parkway. Most Philadelphia downtown streets are two lanes wide one-way, and most suburban arterial roads are two lanes wide and carry less than 20,000 vehicles per day. Those widths would be choked 24-7 in a city without a comprehensive rail network.

    I don’t think there is any question rail can lessen dependence on the auto and oil by getting drivers to choose to get out of their cars.

    I agree that rail should be generally seperated from traffic. In-street trackage really only works with bus-scale trolleys and works best with reserved medians completely seperated from the roadway. PCC trolleys were 50 ft. long and 42,000 pounds in the largest models and similar modern non-articulated cars are 50 ft. long and 48,000 pounds (with airconditioning and modern control systems) – in other words smaller than a tractor trailer and therefore not the biggest thing on the road. The Portland Streetcar at 66 ft. long and 54,000 pounds probably represents the outer limits of this technology. The push towards massive articulated vehicles run in trains of 2 or 3 is really a productivity/efficiency measure to cut down on employees, but comes at the cost of headways and an enormous vehicle size and very ugly and overbuilt catenary power systems, thus placing efficiency before convenience, aesthetics, and private vehicle drivers.

    I’m not here to try to defend retrofitting a city like Houston or Phoenix or Seattle with rail. I don’t live there and have no desire to, and really don’t care what their citizens want to do, other than my belief that if they want to try to build rail lines instead of more roads, they should be able to get federal transportation assistance to do so on the same terms it is offered to the big six. I do think that most cities and their suburbs have a very unfortunate situation of have a wholly inadequate number of rail rights of way available for use by rail systems, and hollowed out downtowns that do not form a real destination, and a complete inability to walk anywhere from potential rail stations. It will take many decades to affect some sort of economic and structural reorientation of such cities, and obviously the national party they supprt appears opposed to such efforts. Therefore, they had better pray for cheap oil to last forever, or for Obama CAFE standards to really work. Its perfectly clear to anyone with eyes that Business-As-Usual isn’t going to work anymore.

  2. LazyReader

    A friend of mine has been to Chicago, surprisingly he told me so much about the “EL” and how rusted and poor shape it’s in. I can just see the future pop up on Yahoo! news of a collapse of one of it’s elevated sections while a train ran over it. I also would imagine the planners will assume lack of financing as a reason and quickly bolster to provide emergency injections of funding to polish the reputation of rail. Maybe Disney Imagineering can replace it with a monorail.

  3. LazyReader

    @Andrew: “I don’t think there is any question rail can lessen dependence on the auto and oil by getting drivers to choose to get out of their cars.”

    You’re not serious. Just the fact the rails are such piss poor shape suggests that it’s not working to get people out of cars. Why would they when, for most people it does not take them where they need/want to go. And the user fares are not compensating for the costs of maintenance.

    “Its perfectly clear to anyone with eyes that Business-As-Usual isn’t going to work anymore.” That’s true…..the rail business. Why push forward for agendas regarding rail, especially in the coming decades when new technologies will render it even more unnecessary. Driverless cars or electric cars or just more efficient cars overall.

    The future of transit will probably be more like this.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/New_York_City_Access-A-Ride_paratransit_van.jpg

    Small, cost effective, possibly privatized systems that’s flexible enough to respond to the immediate demands of passengers and not run when it’s not needed. As opposed to other transit schemes which run 18-24 hours a day regardless of passenger volume.

  4. paulmcl

    If you don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription, which I don’t, you can…

    here’s a trick I learned (I forget where). Follow the link and you’ll get the headline and the first few lines of the article, but you can’t read the whole thing. Copy the headline. Go to Google and paste the headline as your search (maybe add wsj if it seems like it might be too common). Usually the first item in the search is a link to the article. Follow the link. Google has a deal with Wall Street Journal that you can see the whole article if you come to it via Google search. So now you can read it.

  5. msetty

    I’m always amused when some ideologue or opinionated commenter gets facts wildly wrong. In this case, I refer to “Lazy Reader” who seems to live up to his name also as doing “lazy research.”

    Regarding driverless cars as Randal pushes, whether they’ll work or be accepted by the U.S. public remains to be seen, and adoption will take decades, if they ever are adopted.

    As for electric cars, battery technology is still far too expensive to make electric cars truly cost- and performance-competitive with fossil-fueled vehicles. The reduction in carbon emissions from electric vehicles is also marginal at best compared to existing vehicles, at least as long as coal and natural gas make up a huge percentage of U.S. electric generating capacity.

    Lazy Reader also states:
    The future of transit will probably be more like this.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/New_York_City_Access-A-Ride_paratransit_van.jpg.

    Well, no…

    The fundamental problem with paratransit–AND carpooling, AND taxis, for that matter (except in places like Manhattan)–is (1) the dispatch time and wait time for pickup; (2) additional travel times as vehicles deviate to pick up other passengers; and (3) low productivity thanks to (1) and (2) compared to almost any fixed route alternative.

    For routine transit riders, fixed route service is still the best solution where sufficient frequencies can be provided, e.g., at least every 30 minutes. In many low density areas, this is still competitive even if one has to walk 3-5 minutes to a bus stop, and then wait another 5-10 minutes; in such areas, taxis often take a while to arrive, and taxi fares are still much higher than even the fully allocated cost of fixed route buses per trip.

    In my view, expansion of “parataxi” subsidized and ridesharing will gradually replace the “big van” approach to ADA paratransit, mainly due to cost. In most cases, ADA paratransit costs $30-$40 per ride, versus the taxi-based approach, which cuts costs by 40%-50% in most cases.

    As for rail transit, I again refer to several papers on this topic posted on my website at http://www.publictransit.us.

    In the U.S., we SHOULD be able to build double-track rail lines on existing surface rights of way for $20 million per mile, but seemingly cannot due to several reasons–NONE OF WHICH has to do with the fact that such projects are RAIL, per se.

    First, virtually every new rail line here is a CUSTOM project, similar projects few and far between compared to the pretty much STANDARDIZED construction of roads. In such circumstances, true expertise is also rare, compared to say, Europe or Japan.

    Second, since true rail expertise is a rare commodity in the U.S., the engineering firms offering such services can price them accordingly. This also leads to such absurd situations as the California High Speed Rail Commission designing its project in the most expensive way imaginable, costing three to four times what it would if best practices from France and Europe were being followed (or if various consortiums were allowed to prepare their own plans and approach). For example, see my paper on more logical HSR routing at http://www.publictransit.us/ptlibrary/CaliforniaNetworkedTransit.pdf.

    Finally, there is the pork-barrel aspect of new rail systems, such as San Francisco’s Central Subway. As anyone here who is intellectually honest knows, the pork barrel problem is hardly limited to rail transit.

    I also find it interesting that many “conservatives,” unlike the more consistent libertarians, deviate from consistent beliefs in terms of markets. For example, there is this: http://roadpricing.blogspot.com/2011/08/uk-conservative-party-torn-on.html.

  6. msetty

    As for the “why” of conservatives and libertarians “hating” trains, I don’t think it has ANYTHING to do with “subsidies,” or the free market, for that matter.

    Remember, most conservatives and libertarians are in complete denial regarding the structural subsidies to driving built into our economy, such as the several hundred billion per year spent on parking including in every private house mortgage, apartment rents and commercial real estate (a “path dependent” (sic) result of a century of government favoritism towards motor vehicles), let alone the costs of accidents NOT covered by auto insurance, and a hundred and one other hidden costs built into every aspect of the economy.

    Randal may deny it, but most conservatives and libertarians seem to believe in the tooth ferry on this topic, as does Michele Bachmann, who thinks she could get the price of gasoline back to $2.00/gallon…never mind burgeoning demand for gasoline from China, India and other “devleoping” countries, let alone the limited ability of the U.S. oil industry to expand production, even if all the untapped sources alleged to exist by Bachmann and her ilk actually existed…

    Of course, transit and Amtrak suffer the political misfortune of having all their costs visible and readily apparent in government budgets, as opposed to the largely well-hidden structural subsidies to driving mentioned above. But I digress.

    I think the love that conservatives and libertarians have for the “flexibility” of buses is a big clue regarding their animus against all forms of rail transit. Culturally speaking, there is no doubt that automobiles and driving represent “freedom.” And many if not most people, particularly conservatives and libertarians, don’t want to directly pay the costs imposed on society and the environment by such “freedom” even if it results in the best outcome for both individuals and society as a whole.

    Indeed, many conservatives, and libertarians in particular, don’t even admit there is such a thing as “society,” reiterating the absolutely dumbest thing ever said by Lady Thatcher. Well, if there is not such thing, then WHO gets to decide what society’s (oh, there’s that word again!) rules are going to be, on WHAT BASIS, and with WHAT LEGITIMACY? Even in the most libertarian society, SOMEONE has to decide what the rules are, hopefully not on the basis of who has the most guns. But I digress, again.

    it is also clear that most conservatives (not like Weyrich) and libertarians disdain the idea of place, I guess because it undermines the idea of automobility-based “freedom”–and causes local residents to place more importance on such things as a safe community as opposed to speeding traffic through as quickly as possible.

    Of course, the “inflexible” nature of all forms of rail transit can be a catalyst for reinforcing place, particularly if proper supporting policies are in place, such as parking pricing a la Don Shoup and road pricing in general. This inflexibility would also explain much of the disdain for rail by conservatives and libertarians, and in my view, is also the strongest argument FOR rail, at least to those of us who care about the uniqueness and value of “place” (I guess as a resident of the Napa Valley, I can only feel this way…)

  7. Sandy Teal

    Sometimes people portray “conservatives” as being against progress and for a retrogression to a previous time.

    The issues about rail transit cut entirely the other way. Rail transit is a throwback to 19th century technology and lifestyle. Ancient cities in Europe and eastern US might be able to argue for the benefits of rail transit, but the concept of retrofitting modern cities like Phoenix or LA is a great example of planning a meme and not reality.

  8. msetty

    Sandy Teal:
    The issues about rail transit cut entirely the other way. Rail transit is a throwback to 19th century technology and lifestyle.

    So what?

    Actually, rail transit is a “throwback” to the traditional urban lifestyle established over many thousands of years and proven to be healthy and successful, as opposed to the extremely mixed bag brought to us by motor vehicles and highways. What exactly is wrong with balancing the needs of creating walkable, bikable, and transit-friendly places against the incursions of motor vehicles, particularly when local residents desire it that way?

    The “19th Century technology is obsolete” argument is a crock of bullshit and brain dead.

    Well, shoe leather was created many millenia ago; the Romans invented concrete and steel-making, among many other “ancient” (sic) technologies.

    “Modern” cities find shoe leather and concrete still to be very usable technologies, so why not rail in cases where it carries sufficient riders to justify its high up-front costs? Yes, even in “modern cities” like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Calgary, etc.? In my view, the choice between bus and rail is a financial and technical issue, not a metaphysical/religious choice––the apparently preferred approach of many conservatives and libertarians.

  9. msetty

    While I’m stoking the argumentative fires:

    I’d say many commentators here suffer from what one blogger calls “Panglossian Disorder.”

    http://paganmetaphysics.blogspot.com/2011/06/panglossian-disorders.html.

    Religious Subtypes:
    “Religiosity: “God/The Planet/Mother Nature loves humans. He/She/It would never permit massive die-off.” Or “If that happens, I just put my faith in my Savior.”
    Neoliberal Econo-manic Tendencies: “The market will sort it out.” A belief that market forces control all— including geological realities.
    Nascarian Features: “People love their automobiles. A solution will have to be found to keep us driving.”

  10. FrancisKing

    “Still, the article goes on to say that the Amtrak project will “create 12,000 jobs.” ”

    Yes, this happens all over the place. In the UK, we are told that giving planning permission for a supermarket will create lots of jobs. Well, unless people are really buying more groceries, where do the extra jobs come from? In reality, the ‘extra jobs’ at the supermarket come from the other small businesses which have been put out of business.

    There may be good reasons for having supermarkets, but creating jobs isn’t one of them.

  11. FrancisKing

    “The future of transit will probably be more like this.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/New_York_City_Access-A-Ride_paratransit_van.jpg
    Small, cost effective, possibly privatized systems that’s flexible enough to respond to the immediate demands of passengers and not run when it’s not needed. As opposed to other transit schemes which run 18-24 hours a day regardless of passenger volume.”

    Yeah, we’ve got them in the UK, too. They are massively subsidised – one man got through £10,000 of subsidy on his own.

    Regular buses are a better buy. Trolleybus on hills, and diesel-electric on the flat routes. Extend and recall on traffic lights, and possibly (although I don’t know of it being done), metering on roundabouts triggered by the approach of the buses.

    As far as the profile of trips go, it’s worth remembering that viable bus routes have a minimum flow of customers throughout the day. It would make more sense for the council to provide bus drivers at peak hours, who can then work in the offices during the remainder of their working hours.

  12. Andrew

    Sandy Teal:

    Rail transit is a throwback to 19th century technology and lifestyle.

    Paved roads are a throwback to the Roman Empire. That would make rail about 20 centuries further advanced in technology.

    Wake me up when the Jetson’s age arrives.

  13. Andrew

    Sandy Teal:

    the concept of retrofitting modern cities like Phoenix or LA is a great example of planning a meme and not reality

    It can be done if the citizenry is truly interested. Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton all show how viable transit systems with heavily used rail components can be retrofit to modern auto-oriented cities. Many European cities were first retrofit for auto’s via aerial destruction by B-17’s and Stuka’s, and have more recently been re-retrofit for rail by a fed-up citizenry that has forced the restoration of streetcars and expansion of metro’s and U-bahn’s. It certainly costs a lot of money too, but the end result is a place people want to be instead of a place people want to flea.

  14. Andrew

    msetty:

    it is also clear that most conservatives (not like Weyrich) and libertarians disdain the idea of place

    I find that I as a traditionalist have much more in common with Marxists on this concept, while conservatives and liberals seem perfectly happy in the middle with the lack of a sense of place in most of America – or rather maybe the boring identical sameness of place of much of America: “Oh look, there’s the Target and Home Depot. The Outback Steakhouse will be just around the corner next to the Applebees.”

  15. irandom

    Warning *nix Joke:
    rm -f /dev/msetty

    When I see downtime society, I want nothing to do with it. All I see are students, smokers, pan handlers, tattoo parlors and pawn shops. Mysteriously, the food isn’t cheaper downtime (thanks Larry G.) with the government parking. Yes, when the population increases, unless you want gridlock indoors, there needs to be more supermarkets.

  16. Andrew

    msetty:

    What exactly is wrong with balancing the needs of creating walkable, bikable, and transit-friendly places against the incursions of motor vehicles, particularly when local residents desire it that way?

    Such places, along with transit, allow people to interact with neighbors and strangers and form and pass on dangerous independent ideas and thoughts via open discussions apart from the control of the corporate media and government. Walking and biking permits people to clear their minds and consider ideas and thoughts on their own long enough to come to understanding and independent conclusions. All these places permit the study of nature and humanity. Certainly you understand how dangerous all that might be!

    We need to keep people in their cars and zoned out on rock music and talk radio while they are away from their TV screens and computers.

  17. metrosucks

    Give it up Andrew. Your bias is clear, and your disregard for the facts that frown on your favored rail transit modality is obvious.

    Btw, irandom’s thoughts mirror those of many Americans. I avoid downtown Seattle if at all possible. The only reason I ever go there is to pass thru on my way to somewhere else. The congestion, the expensive gas/food/parking shortage, this is what planners want to foist on all of us.

  18. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    Debates over high-speed rail and federal transit funding have inspired a number of writers asking why conservatives hate passenger trains. Most of them get it wrong.

    The real answer is: they don’t. They just hate subsidies, at least if they are fiscal conservatives (as opposed to social conservatives like the late Paul Weyrich).

    Case in point: San Francisco’s Central Subway, which, as the Wall Street Journal points out, is going to cost at least $1.6 billion for 1.7 miles of rail that (as the Antiplanner’s faithful ally, Tom Rubin, points out) will actually be slower than the buses it replaces (because it will require people to make more transfers). If you don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription, which I don’t, you can read about it here, here, and here, among other places.

    This liberal loves trains.

    This liberal does not love ineffective passenger train lines that consume enormous amounts of federal and local taxpayer and tollpayer money which is invariably collected from motorists.

    This liberal does not love the enormous capital cost overruns that seem to come with most passenger rail projects.

    This liberal does not love the huge taxpayer subsidies that are needed (on top of the capital costs) to prop up every passenger train system in the United States.

    This liberal does not love train lines staffed by militantly unionized public employees.

  19. prk166

    “Remember, most conservatives and libertarians are in complete denial regarding the structural subsidies to driving built into our economy, such as the several hundred billion per year spent on parking including in every private house mortgage, apartment rents and commercial real estate (a “path dependent” (sic) result of a century of government favoritism towards motor vehicles), let alone the costs of accidents NOT covered by auto insurance, and a hundred and one other hidden costs built into every aspect of the economy.”-msetty

    Most of them are in denial of this? What research do you have to back up the claim that most of them deny these costs???

  20. the highwayman

    prk166; “Remember, most conservatives and libertarians are in complete denial regarding the structural subsidies to driving built into our economy, such as the several hundred billion per year spent on parking including in every private house mortgage, apartment rents and commercial real estate (a “path dependent” (sic) result of a century of government favoritism towards motor vehicles), let alone the costs of accidents NOT covered by auto insurance, and a hundred and one other hidden costs built into every aspect of the economy.”-msetty

    Most of them are in denial of this? What research do you have to back up the claim that most of them deny these costs???

    THWM: Mr.Setty, it’s not just that they are in denial or well paid liars for auto makers & big oil like O’Toole & Cox.

    There are a lot of people that take things at face value and are not even aware of how politically/economically distorted things are today.

    The USA has 100,000+ miles of rail line missing FOR NOTHING!

    CPZ mentions the 2nd Ave subway in NYC as if it’s a new line, but it’s really just a restoration of service.

  21. metrosucks

    That’s funny, I don’t remember them tearing it out in the first place. Though why am I wasting my time talking to you? That’s time I’ll never get back.

  22. Andrew

    metrosucks:

    That’s funny, I don’t remember them tearing it out in the first place.

    There used to be a 2nd and 3rd Ave. El. that ran from the Bronx to the Battery. The 2nd was melted down for scrap metal in WWII with the promise of a post-war replacement with a subway. The 3rd closed in the 1950’s when it was suposedly immanent for construction of the subway due to approval of a bond issue for that purpose in 1951. After the proceeds from that were diverted, another bond issue was approved in 1967 and construction began in Harlem above 96th Street, but the city almost went bankrupt due to spiralling out of control welfare costs and the bond money was diverted again.

  23. Andrew

    metrosucks:

    The NYCT 456 line on Lexington carries 1.3 million customers per day on a 2 minute headway and the bus lines on 1st/2nd/3rd are among the busiest in the country. The east side of Manhattan has most of the residents (212K vs. 138K from 59th to 97th, 141K vs. 77K from 14th to 59th) but just 1/3 of the north-south subway lines. Note the east side has York, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th (8 residential avenues). The West side has Central Park West, Columbus, Amsterdam, Broadway, 11th (5 residential avenues). The east side could probably support two more subway lines. The Second Avenue line being built is a 2 track local stops only line where all the other north-south lines are 4 track local/express lines.

    Anyone who has ever lived on the east side and ridden the subway or bus knows there is no question this subway line is desperately needed.

  24. Andrew

    metrosucks:

    Yet the reasoning is specious. Much of the NYC subway system is elevated and at grade lines, not subways. They would not cost $1B per mile to build. And new roads do not pay for themselves because the gas taxes produced by vehicle miles driven on the new roads are nowhere close to covering their costs.

    Its not a matter of if we would build Manhattan today, but that Manhattan actually exists today, is the economic engine that drives the country via Wall Street, and what does it need to function properly. Anyone who has lived or worked on the east side knows the 2nd Ave. line is needed.

  25. metrosucks

    Anyone who has lived or worked on the east side knows the 2nd Ave. line is needed.

    That isn’t enough of a reason to spend billions of dollars. I’d say a more reasoned analysis is in order. Yet the transit agency’s own papers admit there will be few new trips generated by this project. So what’s the benefit? Less crowded subways? Like the Antiplanner said, crowding is going to happen when so many people get crammed together.

  26. Streetcarsuburb

    I’m still awaiting Dagny Taggart to build a new high speed rail system across the USA.

    My Grandpa was a fisherman out of Gloucester Mass, and said he used to see Mermaids on his trips to Georgia’s Banks.

    Every day I go down to the shore, and I know that someday, those Mermaids will show their faces.

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