Why We Can’t Have Nice Trains

Mass transit in the U.S. sucks. One reason: It’s incredibly expensive to build here, and senselessly. Some facts from a pretty much INFURIATING Bloomberg piece:

• “[Amtrak’s] $151 billion master plan for basic high-speed rail service in the Northeast corridor is more expensive than Japan’s planned magnetic levitating train line between Tokyo and Osaka, most of which is to be buried deep underground, with tunnels through the Japan Alps and beneath its densest cities.”

• “San Francisco can barely build underground light rail for the price that Tokyo pays for high-capacity subways.”

• “If New York could build subways at the prices that Paris and Tokyo pay, $3.8 billion would be enough to build the entire Second Avenue subway, from Harlem to the Financial District.” (When they open, the first two miles will have cost $5 billion.)

WHAT IS GOING ON?! Bureaucracy FAIL, basically.

In the U.S., contracts go to the lowest bidder, full stop. In Spain, for instance, contracting decisions are weighted 30% for cost, 20% for speed, and 50% for technical merit. The result of the weighted is system is affordable results. The result of our system is that bad contractors who don’t meet deadlines keep getting contracts.

Because of this mess, we have to live with shitty mass transit. AND BEST OF ALL: We have to pay for it anyway. (You know, because taxe$$$).

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