Art of Transit: Some pics from the Crenshaw/LAX Line taken last week.
Feature: the case for the subway (NYT Magazine)
The first link is to a long investigate piece that found that the New York MTA was spending well over one billion dollars on building new rail lines under Manhattan — far more than the average cost of $500 million per mile across the world.
Deep into the article comes this nice comparison:
Across the Atlantic Ocean, Paris is working on a project that brings the inefficiency of New York into stark relief.
The project, called the Line 14 extension, is similar to the Second Avenue subway. Both projects extend decades-old lines in the hopes of reducing systemwide overcrowding. Both involved digging through moderately hard soil just north of the city center to make a few miles of tunnel and a few stations about 80 feet underground. Both used tunnel-boring machines made by Herrenknecht. Both faced strict regulations, high density and demands from neighbors, which limited some construction to 12 hours per day.
But while the Second Avenue Subway cost $2.5 billion a mile, the Line 14 extension is on track to cost $450 million a mile.
For those curious about our local subway projects, the first section of the Purple Line Extension subway that Metro is building is 3.9 miles long and has a budget of $2.82 billion with three new stations (stations add to the expense). The Regional Connector is 1.9 miles long and has a budget of $1.75 billion with three new stations.
The second NYT article is another long one — from this coming Sunday’s NYT magazine. It explains why the subway and life in New York (as well as the NYC economy) are inextricably linked. The article, too, argues that it would be wise to spend tens of billions of dollars fixing the subway.
I’ll cherrypick one sentence that I think says it all:
Most countries treat subway systems as national assets. They understand that their cities are their great wealth creators and equality enablers and that cities don’t work without subways.
The article also features some pretty amazing photographs by Damon Winter that show how decrepit parts of the Gotham system have become.
My takeaway: I think the NYT was a tad bit late realizing the problems facing the NYC subway but the paper has responded forcefully and it’s great that there are still media organizations that have the resources to do this kind of reporting.
Fun fact: Through the the first three quarters of 2017, there were about 7.2 billion boardings on transit in the United States. Of those, about 2.055 billion were on the New York Subway, meaning about 28 percent of all transit rides in the U.S. were on the NYC Subway.
Speaking of subways…
A Vermont Avenue subway should be a priority for Metro (Urbanize LA)
I’m of two minds on this post.
Part me of likes that writer Alon Levy is looking at transit on Vermont purely from a transportation planning perspective. He thinks given the density and ridership potential on Vermont, a subway makes more sense than the bus rapid transit project that Metro is proposing for Vermont from Hollywood Boulevard to 120th Street.
But part of me also cringes that the post doesn’t include words like “funding” or “dollars.” A subway would cost billions, whereas Metro has $425 million for the Vermont BRT project between Measure M and other sources. With funding always an issue, where does the money for a subway come from? Why weren’t advocates fighting for this in 2016 when Measure M was approved by the Metro Board and put on the ballot?
My two cents: I think Vermont is a good opportunity to show what bus rapid transit can do. A lot of the BRT projects built in the U.S. are BRT Lite, meaning they’re compromised in one way or the other (buses have to mix with general traffic). It doesn’t have to be this way and I hope the conversation with Vermont is about making BRT as good as it can be.
Twitter is, as we all know, a cauldron of hatred and contempt, where at any given time millions of people are hurling insults and anger every which way. In that context, one of the more fun bouts last month featured Elon Musk and transit planner Jarret Walker, a fight that was triggered after Musk’s negative comments about transit went public (specifically, Musk said transit was a likely place to bump into a serial killer).
That’s the set up for this post by USC planning professor Lisa Schweitzer, who finds Musk’s words contemptible but was also puzzled by the response from transit advocates and urbanists who unleashed a barrage of tweets about all the great things that happen on transit.
Her point: transit isn’t all rainbows. And pretending that buses and trains are rainbow making machines isn’t a great way of selling transit either. Rather, she’d prefer everyone be honest about transit’s benefits and flaws. Key excerpt:
“Transit is everything human beings in cities are, good and bad, because transit itself is public. And it has its problems as a mobility service that are taking us a very, very long time to resolve. (As I pointed out earlier, we hardly need Musk to inform us of them.) I think we have to be ready to embrace that reality even as we join Walker to clap back at Musk.”
Well said, Lisa.
Categories: Transportation Headlines