Dept. of Remembrance:
•Story of the day: Marketplace asks why subways in the United States are so expensive to build. The nine-mile Purple Line Extension to Westwood, for example, has a budget of $9.4 billion. That, as Tony Soprano might say, is a lot of boxes of ziti — but it’s not out of whack with other recent subway projects in the U.S.
So what gives? Why do subways cost two to three times higher than subways other countries? Here’s the frustrating part: no one can really say for certain, including journalists and those who study these kind of issues. Excerpt:
Transit experts like Levy and Gordon have suspicions about what could truly be driving U.S. costs above other nations. Neither of them is the first to note that any given project may require a tangle of local, state and federal agencies to sign off on it, or fund it, potentially creating excessive bureaucracy.
Due to the objections of a few vocal constituents, individual local officials or lawmakers may also have more power to impede a project or change its course. The bidding or planning processes typically used by U.S. cities may contain flaws that other countries don’t have — for instance, a reliance on formulas that award the lowest-bidding contractor the work, even if that contractor has a history of coming in over budget, ultimately.
Where other countries generally build smaller subway stations, where riders walk down directly to the track level, subways in the U.S. almost always include huge, multi-level stations with mezzanines.
But those are just theories/suspicions. Readers: have any theories of your own? Comment please.
One tiny thought: it’s totally fair, of course, to compare subway costs around the world and ask about the differences. No objections with that. That said, I do think it’s also fair to point out that the Purp Line is hardly the only piece of pricey public infrastructure. Here’s a Scientific American article about a $14 billion upgrade to New Orleans’ levees — and the levees are sinking. The F-35 fighter jet can cost $80 million to $100 million per plane, so says the NYT. Widening the 5 freeway between the 605 and The OC line? That’s $1.9 billion, according to Caltrans. The Mars Rover Curiosity mission? $2.5 billion, according to NASA.
All these things may be worth every last cent. Bottom line: things ain’t cheap.
Listen to the Marketplace segment here:
Very related: check out our new video on the building of the Purple Line Extension.
•With Uber soon to go public, the NYT takes a look at one of the drivers who has worked for Uber since the beginning in 2012. He makes about $40,000 annually and is having trouble keeping up with the mounting bills to keep the car running. To put it lightly, the article offers some pointed words toward the ride-sharing giant:
Mr. Ashlock illustrates the hollow promise of the so-called gig economy, which billed itself as being superior to the usual manager-employee relationship. It promised to harness the power of technology to liberate the struggling millions.
“Uber is a new way of working: It’s about people having the freedom to start and stop work when they want, at the push of a button,” Mr. Kalanick said in 2016.
Uber pointed to the old-style taxis as the villain and itself as the liberator. Not so fast, says its driver, telling the NYT: “That was Uber’s big innovation — make the drivers absorb the overhead.” The NYT also pointed out another difference between taxis and Ubers: less murders but more vomit. ?
It may be an apples and orange comparison, but Metro is hiring bus operators — the pay may not be sky high but there are plenty of hours available and you don’t have to pay to maintain or repair the bus! From the Metro Careers page:
Metro offers competitive benefits
- All part-time Operators start at $15.82 per hour. Pay rate increases incrementally according to the union contract. Top wage is $24.34 after 48 months.
- Part-time flexible hours
- Medical, dental and vision plan
- Tuition reimbursements
- Paid trainings
- Retirement plan options
•The LAT article’s headline neatly sums up what the article is about: “O.C. tollway agency won’t renew contract with consultants who billed $185 an hour to read news.” Tollway Corridor officials told the LAT that the LAT is blowing the reading-the-news bit out of proportion and the consultants’ pay includes other tasks such as calling journalists to correct them. Not to be all judgey, but that might not be the best response.
•Things to read whilst transiting: great article in the LAT about the tensions over finally providing public access to the beaches at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara. Will the beaches remain pristine? Or will the place get trashed once open to the public? Good story because both sides are well articulated.
Categories: Transportation Headlines