More Things that are not Why New York’s Construction Costs are High

The most annoying person I regularly deal with on social media is Walkable Princeton/YIMBY Princeton, a biology professor at Rutgers who constantly criticizes my writings on comparative construction costs, and usually raises good points. Dealing with zombie arguments (China, anything Elon Musk says, etc.) is so much easier. A few days ago, he put up a post summarizing 20 potential reasons why subway construction costs in New York (and in the US in general) are high. He’s also repeatedly made a separate argument on social media, not mentioned in the post, expressing skepticism that the construction cost differences are real, rather than just statistical artifacts.

In this post, I am going to purposely not talk about the two biggest criticisms – the claim about the statistical differences, and the argument from local expertise (points #7 and #8 in his post). Those require dedicated posts, and the argument from local expertise should really be tackled in two separate posts, one about project size (comparing cities that build long subway lines with ones that build many short subway extensions) and one about the undisputed negative correlation between construction costs and the extent of construction across cities. I will deal with this in the next few weeks or months, depending on publishing schedules elsewhere. In this post I’m instead going to deal with the weaker criticisms.

The first five points made in the post come from arguments I discussed here, saying that they are not real reasons why US construction costs are high. The sixth point concerns project size. Since the seventh and eighth point will be a dedicated post, I will start with the ninth point.

Of note, many of the explanations offered are serious and relevant, just not to the specific problem of high construction costs of urban rail. They are relevant to some construction costs problems for high-speed rail, and operating costs, and rolling stock procurement costs. But the explanation for expensive urban tunneling is most likely elsewhere. Only one point below, #13, begins to address that specific issue, and even it seems to me to be at most a partial explanation.

9. ‘Buy America’ provisions – Regulations requiring transit agencies to purchase equipment built in the US may drive up costs, as overseas manufacturers have to build a factory in the US to produce the needed kit. Other nations buy transit equipment more regularly, so have ready access to an efficient supply chain.

Buy America provisions indeed raise American costs for small orders – but only for rolling stock. Dedicated factories, often built in-state for added protectionism, make trains for $3-5 million per car (for example, compare Muni Metro’s $4 million/car order for 23-meter cars with Strasbourg’s $4 million/car order for 45-meter cars). Only the biggest orders, such as those for the New York City Subway, the LIRR, and Metro-North, have enough scale to control costs.

However, this is not an issue for infrastructure construction. The bulk of the cost of civil infrastructure is not specialized machinery, which American cities import anyway (the tunnel-boring machine for the 7 extension was made in Germany). It’s local labor and materials, and less specialized machinery for digging earthworks for stations.

10. Bad attitude – Call it a ‘New York state of mind’ – MTA old dogs may prefer to see a project fail than to be proven wrong or see praise go to an agency rival. Not clear that New Yorkers have a worse attitude than people from other big cities, but certainly worth considering.

11. Chaotic political environment – Transit projects must be agreed by too many agencies and personalities, some of whom may have conflicting priorities. For example, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t seem to get on with Mayor Bill DiBlasio, and the less said about Governor Christie the better. Personality clashes and inter-state squabbling at the Port Authority board have frustrated long-term planning. Donald Trump controls federal funds that may be needed to fund new transit projects.

These are really the same criticism: agency turf battles. Those can make cities build the wrong project, or overbuild a tunnel in order to avoid sharing facilities with another agency. The bulk of the construction costs of high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor, and a large fraction of those of California HSR, come from this. Readers who are familiar with debates about California HSR will know about the Altamont vs. Pacheco Pass controversy and about avoidable tunnels like Millbrae.

However, this isn’t really what’s happening in urban subways. The Gateway project has unnecessary scope like Penn Station South, but even the bare tunnel is estimated at $11 billion.

12. Lack of stable long-term funding – Long-term funding for transit projects is uncertain, and even part-built projects can be canceled at any moment (see Governor Christie, ARC tunnels). New York has a long track record of abandoning transit projects, and the Second Avenue Subway project took nearly 100 years to do.

Midway cancellations are really a symptom of high costs rather than a cause. At cancellation, ARC was projected to cost $10-13 billion, up from $3 billion in the major investment study from 2003. This is not unique to the United States: high costs and construction impact for Stuttgart 21 led to widespread opposition to the project from within Stuttgart, leading to the election of Germany’s first Green-led state government; the Green Party opposed Stuttgart 21 and proposed a cheaper, lower-impact project without tunneling. It did not cancel the project, but put it up to referendum, which failed – the majority of state voters, and even of Stuttgart voters, wanted the project to keep going. Going to a second referendum on canceling a project, rather than canceling it by executive fiat as in New Jersey, is not unique to Germany: in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush put a second referendum on the ballot in 2004, successfully killing high-speed rail.

13. Project bloat – Planners may over-do transit infrastructure, for example by hiring a superstar architect like Santiago Calatrava to design the Port Authority PATH station instead of ‘Joe Goodenough’. Cavernous two-level stations in the new Second Avenue Subway stations may not contribute substantially to function, and drive costs up a lot.

This is indeed a serious problem! New York has been overbuilding stations since the 1930s, when the IND subways had full-length mezzanines. I encourage the New York-based readers to compare the size of the stations on the IND, such as West 4th Street or 145th Street on the A/B/C/D, and that of the stations on the IRT and BMT, such as Union Square. The Calatrava-designed PATH terminal was massively expensive more recently, and Second Avenue Subway is expensive in part because of the large stations.

And yet. Even relatively utilitarian American projects aren’t always cheap – again, the bare Gateway tunnel. Moreover, some of the project bloat is not really about overdesign, but about wrong political choices. Second Avenue Subway had no cut-and-cover construction except at 96th Street to stage the tunnel boring. Second Avenue is wide and the entire line could be built cut-and-cover. Cut-and-cover is highly disruptive to street merchants, but a hybrid solution, with cut-and-cover stations and bored tunnels between them, is possible and widespread in several low- and medium-cost cities, such as Madrid and Copenhagen. But even the stations were bored, which limited surface disruption at each station to a few cross streets, but made construction take much longer; the corner of 72nd and 2nd was unpleasant to walk around for most of the duration of the ten-year project.

14. Fire safety regulations – Modern standards for smoke clearance and emergency evacuation may require larger two-level stations that appear bloated.

15. Environmental regulations – Disruption to fragile ecosystems may not be as tolerated in the New York area as in some other countries, driving up costs.

16. ADA standards – Transit stations in New York must comply with federal accessibility requirements, meaning many elevators that drive up costs.

These issues exist throughout the developed world. New subways are step-free even in cities that make no effort to retrofit the rest of the system for wheelchair accessibility, such as Paris. We also know how much it costs to add elevators to stations, and it is a rounding error: during construction, making five more Crossrail stations accessible costs £19 million. Even retrofitting an old subway station for accessibility after construction is $25-40 million in the US (source: article about New York, interview with an accessibility planner in Boston). And as for environmental regulations, I doubt there are endangered species on the Upper East Side under Second Avenue.

17. Americans don’t care about transit – Other nations may take pride in their fancy rail systems, but we’ve got aircraft carriers and don’t care if the subway looks pretty worn.

18. High levels of sprawl – Whereas NYC is dense at the core, the surrounding metro area is not very dense. The Los Angeles metro area is in fact denser than the New York metro area. Low housing density, especially in the areas where rich folks live, makes transit less efficient and undermines public support for expensive transit investments.

Suburban drivers may not want to spend money on subways, but that should not make subways more expensive to build. It should reduce cost per rider, in the sense of lowering the maximum cost per rider that the political system is willing to build; but the effect on cost per km should be neutral.

19. Corruption – Is the Mob siphoning off loads of the money that is supposed to go to build transit??

It probably is. And yet, corruption levels in Italy are far higher than in the United States, and yet costs are pretty low. Corruption levels in Spain and South Korea aren’t especially low. And Singapore, renowned for its clean government (below the level of the prime minister, at least, but he doesn’t decide on subway alignments), is a serious contender for most expensive subway outside the United States.

20. Terrible leadership – Ronnie Hakim, the current MTA Director, is supposedly seen as incompetent by many of her staff. Joe Lhota, the MTA Chair, doesn’t even work full-time at the job. The Port Authority Board is stuffed with Chris Christie stooges, some of whom may know nothing about transit.

Hakim is incompetent and I have sources within the MTA who are exasperated with her indifference to one of the most fundamental goals of rapid transit (namely, being rapid). Much like explanation #9, there is a serious problem here, but it doesn’t affect tunneling costs. It affects operating costs, which appear to be higher in New York than in any other city participating in CoMET (see PDF-p. 7 here: the highest-cost system on the right is in fact New York). But it is not about tunneling. Unlike Hakim, long-time MTA Capital Construction chief Michael Horodinceanu is not hated by the junior and mid-level planners who leak to the press, and unlike Lhota, he works the job full-time worked the job full-time until retiring earlier this year.

56 comments

  1. Alex

    The city on the right in that CoMET chart is not New York. According to CoMET numbers, NYCT is middle of the pack in operating costs.

    • Alon Levy

      It’s a city in the Americas and the operating costs match what the National Transit Database says New York’s subway operating costs are.

  2. Untangled

    I’ll add another reason why I think subway construction per km is so expensive in New York, station spacing. Underground stations are the most expensive part of any subway construction these days, at half a billion per station, the cost of tunnelling and steel rail combined can sometimes cost less than all the stations combined. I can’t answer for why commuter rail tunnels are so expensive but I suspect that huge underground terminals are part of it, the cost of construction underground stations is steep. The fewer stations there are or the shorter that station platform is (Platform length comparison is important if you’re comparing NY subway cost to light metros like Copenhagen), the less the new subway will cost because the cost of digging and installation of station infrastructure, like platforms or air conditioning, will be reduced.

    SAS station spacing is 750m between 96th and 86th and just over 1km between 86th and 72nd. Compare this to the Paris Metro expansion Grand Paris Express, it’s 200km with only 68 stations, works out to station spacing of just under 3km. London Crossrail has 22km of tunnels and 8 new underground stations, working out station spacing of also slightly under 3km in the tunnelled section but the platforms here are super long and there are passageways to the tube in Central London so there’s extra cost in building stations there. London Jubilee Line extension has 11 stations in 16 km, that’s spacing of 1.5km.

    Of course, station spacing isn’t the only problem in terms of cost but it is a significant one. Considering how expensive stations are, you can’t simply compare overseas projects to New York in terms of cost per km without controlling for station spacing or platform length. That doesn’t excuse the outrageously expensive cost of New York subway construction but it does explain a big part of it.

    • adirondacker12800

      most places in the world a tram or bus has enough capacity for what the local subway tracks are serving in New York.

    • Max Wyss

      Note that Grand Paris Express lines are mainly in the outskirts and suburbs of Paris; not in the city center.

      • Untangled

        A lot of places in the world do indeed use trams or buses to do the job NY local track subways do but their trams or buses are a lot efficient than anything in NYC, including the SBS. Having surface transport is also a lot easier if you’re only travelling a short distance, it’s a massive inconvenience to go down and come back up to the surface instead of just hopping on and hopping off. A good example would be Hong Kong between Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.

        Paris suburbs aren’t really suburbs at all compared to New York, they’re more like the boroughs of New York, especially within the Petite Couronne. It is not the city centre but not the suburbs as an American would imagine it. For the Grand Paris Express, only Line 18 goes a long way outside of the Petite Couronne.

  3. SC

    In response to #20: Ronnie Hakim is a lawyer; she began her career at the MTA in construction law, and her specialty is risk management. She is not a strong numbers person, unlike the transit engineers pushing for better headway reliability, or the transit planners pushing for better on-time performance. Because she’s a lawyer who doesn’t truly speak numbers, there’s a communications gap between her and the engineers, which causes friction in that relationship; because she’s a lawyer who tends to raise legal objections, she’s disliked by the planners who want to hear “yes” and not “no”. She also personally has a rather easy-to-read personality which is distant and not particularly friendly, and not a people person, which puts her even further away from the mid-level and junior staff who are not in her inner circle. On the other hand, she does have a sharp intellect that grasps concepts and problems quickly, and she is very competent operationally and in managing operational change.

    On the other hand, Michael Horodniceanu is a power-centric construction engineer who likely came into conflict with Ronnie Hakim when she was a junior construction lawyer willing to stand up to him. It’s possible that Michael Horodniceanu was the one who blocked Ronnie Hakim’s ascent up the MTA corporate ladder, causing her career detour to New Jersey where she was regarded as one of a few Chris Christie stooges who was actually competent.

  4. Michael James

    I’m disappointed that my favourite culprit is not on any of these lists of what accounts for the sometimes ridiculously high costs. While several are on the edge of the issue, eg. #10 & #11 (bad attitude & political environment), #12 (lack of long-term funding) and #20 (terrible leadership) none of these are really it. It is a fundamental political difference between the Anglosphere and the rest of the world: the more extreme version of neo-conservative economics. The superficial aspects are their dislike of public transit and the small government mantra for preference for private funding and ownership of infrastructure. Their dishonest dislike of government debt (while they overspend on defence) means they like PPPs despite their poor record (and obviously higher long-term costs of commercial finance; no one can borrow as cheaply as sovereign governments). In turn this introduces a bias in chosen projects and long delay in public transit projects; Australia shows an extreme example where over almost two decades the big cities have mostly built expensive road-tunnels with toll periods of 40 to 50 years; a whole series of these have gone bust (taking government subsidies & investors money). Another prime example is the Thatcherite 12-year delay in building HS1, the link from Dover to London of the HSR servicing Eurostar, which was on the back of Thatcher personally cancelling British Rail’s HSR research (the APT whose IP was sold off to the Italians and ended up in Pendolino). Not to mention the half-century delays in building CrossRail and HS2 etc.

    More fundamentally it is the dismantling of expertise inside government in choosing, designing and managing such infrastructure projects. Or neutering it. Everything is outsourced so how can anyone have any confidence in all the masses of paperwork justifying these multiplying costs? I’m quite sure this doesn’t happen in European or those Asian countries that build excellent infrastructure. The very premise underlying political decisions are biased, for example by the dubious assumptions behind cost-benefit analyses that favour one project over another, because they are always outsourced to the very organisations and people who are part of the private sector/industry concerned. If there are any problems then an enquiry or “forensic audit” is also outsourced to the same usual suspects–and thus worthless. There is systematic abuse of “commercial in confidence” to hide critical facts. (The use of this get-out-of-jail-free card should be made illegal in all projects involving government funding.)

    Another notorious case in Australia revealed the emperor’s clothes. This was Melbourne’s East-West Link (EWL) a very expensive road-tunnel that had a terrible cost-benefit analysis despite being commissioned by the conservative government supporters. The government refused to release it but it was leaked. This government rejected all advice and rushed ahead to authorise the road (whose cost blew out to >$20bn) in the weeks prior to an election that all knew they would lose and which the Labor opposition (soon to be government) said they would rescind, and which opinion polls had supported (because the alternative project was the Melbourne Metro long-delayed attempt to free up the shared-tracks of the metro loop in the CBD). So the project was stopped by the incoming government as promised, but in those few weeks more than one billion flowed into the private sector contractors. No one can say where all this money went, except that not a bit of it went into any actual physical work on building, or even preparing, the road! As even a Murdoch reporter wrote of this debacle:

    John Durie, 4 March 2015.
    …the fee train has already started from financing costs, contractors, investment banking fees, equity underwriting fees, success fees, and establishment fees and on goes the list. The project debt is $3bn of which around $550m has been drawn down, but what use it has been put to is not known. … PPPs were meant to be an artifice to share risk between government and private enterprise but this effort highlights a fee grab, not much else and certainly no transparency.

    It took months before the $550m turned out to be “more than $1bn” so that reveals a big part of the problematic nature of such big projects. If there is to be any audit of this scam, it will almost certainly be done by the likes of KPMG etc. (in a project of this size it is impossible to find an accountancy or financial firm not involved).

    My point is, to adopt that great leader Donald Trump or is it the Brexiteers: We need to get our country back. That is, we need to bring much of this (control, management, assessment, CBAs, audits) back inside government with long-term public servants (“lifers”) with appropriate expertise and no conflicts of interest (and, hah, another Trumpism: blocked from leaving to work for the private sector in the same area they worked in in the public service, thus the need for “lifers”). The systematic perverting and undermining of the public service is also another aim of neo-conservatives and came out in the report into the EWL fiasco:

    “Some public officials involved in this audit indicated that providing frank and fearless advice when they believe a government does not want to receive it will negatively impact their influence or career opportunities,” Dr Frost wrote.

    • Michael James

      I forgot to include this from Matthew Yglesias on the issue of government undermined from within:

      https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/24/15681560/gao-report-transit-construction-costs
      Someone killed a congressional inquiry into America’s sky-high transit construction costs The life and death of great American GAO reports.
      Matthew Yglesias, 24 May 2017.
      Looking at the final omnibus document to see what Congress was doing with the DC area’s mass transit system, I found this curious line:

      “FTA is no longer directed to allocate no more than $100,000,000 per project for core capacity, small starts, and expedited delivery projects. Furthermore, GAO (Government Accountability Office) is no longer directed to report on the construction costs of transit capital projects in the United States.

      Poking around got me to the Senate’s original text contained this language calling for a GAO study of transit construction costs:
      “Increasing Costs of Transit Projects. — Not later than 6 months after the enactment of this act, the GAO shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations regarding the construction costs of transit capital projects in the United States in comparison to other developed G-20 nations, such as South Korea, Japan, Spain, France, Italy and Germany. The GAO shall examine potential cost drivers, including: contracting and procurement, project and station design, routing, regulatory barriers, interagency cooperation and legal systems. The report shall compare practices both between various cities in the United States as well as to practices in other nations. The report should, if appropriate, make recommendations to DOT on steps it can take to address the issues identified by the reports to help bring best practices in the United States in line with international standards within the boundaries of current U.S. law. These recommendations may take the form of changes to funding guidelines or prioritization, regulatory changes, contracting practices, or intergovernmental technical assistance.”

      Whenever there is such gross asymmetry between one side (the side that is paying, ie. government, us) and the side that finds finances, builds and then profits (sometimes with 50 year schemes) there can be no surprise in the outcome. It is exactly what neo-conservatives want (a government small enough to drown in a bathtub) and in the Anglosphere have largely achieved.

      • Michael James

        Dratit. Messed up formatting in my last comment: The last para beginning “Whenever” are my words not Yglesias.

    • Untangled

      Speaking of the Melbourne Metro and kind of related to this topic on construction cost, I would like to raise the point that the Melbourne Metro is expensive, way too expensive. At AUD 10.9 billion for 9km of tunnel, that’s AUD 1.21 billion per km. Compared that to Sydney Metro City and South West Tunnel at the upper estimate of AUD 12.5 billion for 15.5km of tunnel, that’s AUD 806 million per km. Sydney’s one is also getting fully driverless trains and the 12.5 billion cost also includes money for upgrading the Bankstown Line commuter rail to rapid transit. Melbourne’s 10.9 billion cost does not include driverless trains and the government is spending any extra AUD 1.6 billion to upgrade the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line. Sydney also has more new stations, particularly in the densest areas of Sydney and North Sydney CBD, where construction is bound to be more expensive. Sydney also has a very expensive underwater bit under Sydney Harbour and will require as special TBM for that part, Melbourne only has the narrow and shallow Yarra River and Moonee Ponds Creek to cross, Melbourne’s waterways don’t need a special TBM to cross the river and it doesn’t have have a station at South Yarra for interchange.

      Just to make it clear to other readers:
      Sydney Metro = 633 USD per km (includes money for upgrades of existing lines and arguably the more complex project)
      Melbourne Metro = 943 USD per km (yet somehow doesn’t include money for upgrades of existing connecting lines)

      Given how much of a joke Melbourne Metro is costing, I do wish that East-West Stage One was built, if not the other stages, money has already been spent on it and gives the government something to open which they investigate why the hell Melbourne Metro is so bloody expensive compared to Sydney Metro. I have no confidence in the left-wing “Labor” government bringing value for money for taxpayers in terms of Melbourne Metro, in contrast, the conservative “Liberal” government is doing a much better job in terms of value for money for big public rail projects. I usually agree with the left side of politics, but god, the Labor government really botched this one up although their hands were kind of tied but they still could have made the best of the situation. Now, Melbourne’s paid lots of money for a mythical road and only new train line in 2026. Sydney’s getting a new train line in 2019 (Metro North West), 2024 (Metro City and South West) and another one by the “late 2020s” (Metro West) along with new roads. Go figure!

      Anyway, I don’t wish to focus on politics here so I’ll leave my comments on politics at that. Would like to know what you think about construction costs though.

      • Untangled

        *which should be while.

        Comparison of construction costs from Alon’s earlier post. https://pedestrianobservations.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-construction-costs/

        Also, since Alon mentioned Singapore as having high construction costs, let’s look at the new Thomson East Coast Line. The first part of the line from Woodlands North to Gardens by the Bay is SGD 18 billion for 30km. That works out to SGD 600 million per km or 440 million USD per km.

        • Alon Levy

          The PPP conversion rate is supposedly 1:1. I’m not sure how correct that is, but my one datapoint (tenure-track professor wages) supports this: NUS supposedly pays S$100,000 a year at start, but without pension benefits, which I imagine roughly washes out with Canadian universities’ C$100,000 and US universities’ $80,000-ish (these unis are roughly comparable in prestige).

      • Michael James

        I don’t disagree about the craziness in the costs of different projects. It only reinforces what this article is about. I don’t know enough about the Melbourne Metro project except that it involves the central loop that encircles the CBD but which has the unfortunate legacy of many routes and trains sharing track. It has long needed separation and disentangling, and such work is usually complex, especially to maintain existing services, and thus expensive. It is why successive governments have procrastinated on doing it–for decades, and of course why its cost keeps escalating (the real visible opportunity cost, in Australia this is in tens of billions if not 100bn). The same is true for many projects including NYC subway & regional commuter rail that he writes of.

        But I don’t agree with your characterisation of “left wing Labor” governments as my point was that all Anglosphere governments have been neo-liberal in persuasion for the past almost 4 decades. It is also incorrect to characterise prioritising public transit over roads as “left wing”. It is merely sensible urban planning for large cities, especially those like Melbourne & Sydney with projected populations of 8+ million later this century. Transport planners before and during the disastrous Victorian conservative government (confusingly for everyone else, called “Liberals”) recommended Melbourne Metro above EWL, which again just shows how in the Anglosphere such advice is buried or blatantly ignored. Sorting out Melbourne’s public transit is vastly more important and relevant than just building another bloody road, especially as its much-revered tram network is actually less and less functional in a big city (it likes to boast of its trams but they have the slowest average speed of any tram network in the world–because of road congestion of course). You’ve also neglected to compare the cost of the road project versus the Metro project: the auditor of the EWL debacle reported that its real cost was likely to be $22+ billion, approximately double the “expensive” Metro.

        Incidentally Sydney’s NW and SW Metro projects were long planned by Labor governments, even as they were over-building road tunnels, and still are: Sydney’s WestConnex road tunnel is heading towards $40bn and with the addition of NorthConnex it will exceed $60bn–which no urban planner expects can possibly solve, or even relieve, Sydney’s atrocious road congestion (in all likelihood it will make it worse–hence the perpetual need to keep adding to it, like NorthConnex to shift the congestion that will be created at WestConnex’s northern end to even further north.) The reason why the NSW conservatives are going ahead with the Metros is that the need had become overwhelming so they didn’t stop them (but they did order–again against all expert advice and provoking resignation of several transit public servants–the reduction in size of the tunnels so they could not take the same duplex train sets the rest of Sydney uses; this was to exclude unions and to semi-privatise these new lines, probably to completely privatise them later if they get the chance).

        • Eric

          “this was to exclude unions”

          Well, it’s true that unions (a left wing priority) are a major drag on the construction and operation of transit.

          If you would accept this, then I would accept the rest of your argument.

          • Michael James

            Anyone who makes statements like that doesn’t deserve the quality of life and liberty in most of the developed world. They appear to be ignorant of the role of organised labour in improving working people’s lives out of the misery and exploitation common only a century or so ago.
            They should also try living in a country in which unions are banned.
            Of course if you are American then you are partly regressed back to that situation. And it shows. Have you forgotten the old maxim that goes (approx.) “those who don’t learn their history will continue to repeat its errors”.
            But then I’m Australian which was founded by the oppressed underclass troublemakers shipped out by the British. This included the Tolpuddle Martyrs (the first proto-unionists) who had the effrontery to demand improved working conditions and the right to organize, all strictly illegal at the time. Later that century saw the first labour unions in the world formed in Australia and then the first Labor government in the world (a state government). We were the first to have the 8 hour working day, women’s vote, secret ballot voting in elections, holiday pay etc.
            By contrast America was founded by a bunch of religious fundamentalists so nutty that they first moved from Britain to Holland where the Calvinists didn’t appreciate them any better and they made their way to the new world (luckily your side, not ours).

            Do you want to take it all the way back to the founding fathers–a bunch of privileged rich white men who owned hundreds of ahem, non-union workers they didn’t pay at all!

            So, in answer to your question, that would be a very firm no. And good luck to trying to run a civilised society without organised labour or the fruit of their historic work. Never mind transit systems, you’d be lucky to have any kind of stable society.

  5. Untangled

    Just a point on the reduction in tunnel size to accommodate metro trains instead of double deckers in Sydney, while this decision was controversial at the time, I think the decision to have rapid transit has really made the project better. The new metro trains are faster and the new metro line has more capacity (although at the expense of seats), that capacity will be needed as the population grows to 8 million. Having rapid transit going out to the outskirts of Sydney is problematic and it still is but I think ultimately the benefits of the metro outweigh the benefits of a double decker line and as I said in an earlier comment, Paris Metro Line 18 also goes to the outskirts.

    The metro wasn’t actually the conservative government’s idea, it was Labor’s. The conservatives thought that Labor was unpopular so the metro was unpopular so they campaigned on a double decker north west line before they were convinced of the benefits of a metro by the same bureaucrats that convinced Labor and then adopted it as their policy. Some bureaucrats weren’t happy about this so they resigned and I have to say that was a good thing, they were stubborn and really held transport planning back and refused to adopt what other places in the world were doing, a bit like New York. The new public transport plans, while not without their flaws, are stronger, better and bolder than ever.

    As for privatisation, the new metro line will be operated by the MTR and the infrastructure is public. I don’t see it ever being fully privatised, the government is not expecting the line to be profitable. But the government is expecting the driverless metro line to have a much higher farebox recovery than the existing network, the money saved from the higher farebox recovery can be used to invest in new metro lines instead of having to pay drivers to operate trains. A big win for Sydney I say.

    • Michael James

      Untangled, you claim to not want to bring in politics but that is precisely what you have done at every turn. And in this post you are repeating patently false LNP (conservatives) spin that every bit of evidence refutes. I’ll just deal with the most egregious misleading claims.

      The new metro trains are faster and the new metro line has more capacity (although at the expense of seats), that capacity will be needed as the population grows to 8 million. Having rapid transit going out to the outskirts of Sydney is problematic and it still is but I think ultimately the benefits of the metro outweigh the benefits of a double decker line and as I said in an earlier comment, Paris Metro Line 18 also goes to the outskirts.

      The new trains are not faster and the actually carry fewer passengers than modern duplex trains (why do you think duplex trains exist?) and, more importantly, they allow for more seated pax than standing, which is an important issue for such long suburban lines. Here is the timeline of decisions (Barry O’F, conservative leader became the state Premier), as set out by Michael Stove

      • When in opposition, Barry O’Farrell committed to constructing the NWRL as a double-decker service.

      • While in government, former Premier, Barry O’Farrell confirmed that he would construct the NWRL as a double-decker service.

      • In April 2011, while announcing Rodd Staples appointment as the NWRL Project Director, Minister Gladys Berejiklian reaffirmed that the NWRL would be constructed as a state owned and operated double-decker service.

      • In June 2012, then Premier Barry O’Farrell and the Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian announced that they would construct the NWRL as privately run metro shuttle service which would not be integrated into the Sydney network.

      Then there are a series of reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s top newspaper, by Jacob Saulwick, their specialist transport reporter:

      http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/tunnel-vision-20130816-2s2az.html
      Tunnel vision Jacob Saulwick, August 17, 2013
      Experts and plenty of evidence suggest Transport for NSW is on the wrong track with its push for single-deck trains in Sydney.

      Keith Still is an expert on managing crowds, and consulted to RailCorp when it was planning what sorts of trains to run during the Sydney Olympics. As part of this work, he was asked to build models to show the relationship between how long trains spent at a station, their dwell time, and whether they were single deck or double deck. Professor Still, from Bucks New University in Britain, said he found double-deck trains more efficient, having better ‘‘dwell times, more seats, more comfort for longer distances,’’ on his modeling. It is ‘‘crazy that they are going to exclude the double-deckers if they build the tunnels for single-decker only,’’ he said.
      and:
      And even Berejiklian’s new head of Sydney Trains does not accept it is possible to run 20 only double-deck trains an hour. 
‘‘Let me be a little bit controversial here, because you’ve got to be a bit,’’ Howard Collins, the Londoner newly installed to run Sydney’s train system, told a business lunch last week. ‘‘Double-deck trains – go to Paris – see how the RER pounds those trains at 24 trains an hour,’’ he said.
.
… the double-deck trains it is making for the RER A Line – the one that takes people from the suburbs long distances through the city – carry 2600 people, with about 950 seated.

      Here is another expert (who works in government railways so posting anonymously because of feared retribution):

      I work in the NSW railways. It’s pretty much an unanimous opinion amongst the track, signalling, rolling stock and overhead power engineers (private sector and public) that this project is incredibly short sighted and an utter disaster for the state.

      There is a whole host of other issues.
      1) The single deck trains will have smaller wheel diameters, which means that significant work will be required at a platform at Chatswood to lower it.
      2) The single deck train will be going through the Epping-Chatswood tunnel (which will be converted). The fans in the tunnel were designed for double-deck trains. Since the single decks are lower, the fans will require modification to ‘push’ the air down further.
      3) A stand-alone depot will be required to maintain the single deck fleet. Single deck trains will not be able to be stored at current sidings or depots when they are not running.
      4) Existing wheel-turning and wash plants cannot be used for the single deck fleet and new facilities will have to be constructed.
      5) There is very little information on where passengers will go once they get off at Chatswood for interchange. It appears that there will be significant congestion at Chatswood.

      As to the truth about these competing claims, here is the independent ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission, like the BBC or US-PBS) which ran them thru their Fact Check unit (which has subsequently been closed down by the conservative federal government!):

      http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-11/barry-ofarrell-sydney-trains-claim-doubtful/5371446


      The verdict: that double-decker trains could potentially move more passengers per hour in more comfort than single deck trains. That single-deck trains deter passengers on long trips, such as Sydney’s north west, because people won’t want to stand. It encourages passengers to abandon the torture train and instead drive a car.
      The decision to limit the tunnel size by 4cm to stop double decker trains was ideological foolishness. On paper it saved $200 million in tunnel boring costs. But they’ll spend more than that retrofitting the existing stations and tunnels for single-deck, so in the end it saves no money at all.

      The other counter-factual to this controversy is that the conservatives have refused to release “expert” reports they claim favour their implementation, despite all the experts who have testified, including some who have thus been forced to resign from the relevant government department (confirming my original proposition that this Anglosphere problem with infrastructure begins with neo-liberal undermining of historic independent public service advice).

      As to your remarks about these “driverless trains” providing greater efficiency etc, this was always part of the original design and has nothing to do with the choice between single versus duplex an: the RER line A in Paris is also driverless, has platform-aligned doors and in its most recent upgrade (its fourth iteration since it opened in 1977) and was specifically re-designed using their 5 decades of experience, to facilitate the most efficient and safe boarding/deboarding of pax (they reduced the number and position of doors to three per carriage; RER-A first went duplex in 1997). RER-A is capable of more than 60 000 passengers per hour in the morning peak on each track. Sacem, its new signalling system, is able to achieve 2 min headways and actually achieves 27 trains an hour at peak times; it currently carries 300m pax p.a. (more than the entire Australian rail network!). This is why London’s cross-city line follows the RER model (which likewise spans 120km from distant eastern suburbs to distant western suburbs while being underground within central London; most likely a model for Sydney’s new Metros). Incidentally Sydney converted its fleet to duplex in 1964 based on Paris duplex trains (what I believe morphed into RER-C; certainly there is strong deja vu when an Australian uses those trains in Paris; unlike RER-A or -B, the C line has not been updated for a long time so it is very reminiscent of Sydney!).

      The Paris (and French) intra-city (Metro, RER & tramways) and inter-city (SNCF including TGVs) networks are run by the equivalent of statutory authorities (ie. quasi-independent of government) and are among the very best in the world. They don’t privatise or outsource management. We, on the other hand, follow the clearly failed UK model of both underfunding, long-delaying necessary upgrades and new lines and then try to quasi-privatise them; just as London has given fat contracts to HK’s MTR to run the Overland lines and London-CrossRail we always blindly follow the Brits lead …. possibly into transit hell. Certainly into leaching public monies and public interest into the for-profit private (and foreign!) sector! Oh, and from plen of precedent we all know many of these plcans wll end p as handsmel ewaded cnslans f hese same cmpanes.

      This is no way to design a coherent integrated city-wide rail network. On this wider issue (integration and best interests of travellers) I give final word again to Michael Stove:

      The decision to change the NWRL to a Metro and terminate the service at Chatswood will inconvenience thousands of commuters each day. An independent study conducted by consulting engineers from Arup showed that 40% of commuters arriving at Chatswood Station on the Metro in peak periods would be unable to interchange onto the next arriving train to the city. This indicates there would be serious overcrowding on the platform, considerable passenger inconvenience and a corresponding reduction in project economic benefit (in this configuration) – all of which undermine any robust business case for the project in its currently proposed form. The Transport Minister and the Head of the NWRL project has dismissed the Arup report as being based on outdated assumptions; however, evidence supporting this assertion by the Minister has not been publicly demonstrated. Because the Arup report (as released by the SMH) appears to indicate that an identical set of assumptions and methodologies where adopted as those used to develop the Sydney Rail Futures documentation – this must bring into question the integrity of both works. Which are we to believe? An independent review of the Arup work should be conducted as it speaks to the ultimate safety of the travelling public and the viability of the publicly funded project.

      But I thank you Untangled for bringing this up whole sorry mess which so graphically illustrates my point of how neo-conservative thinking and government (including by Labor over the past 3 decades) has undermined the normal government functions that delivers such important infrastructure. Unlike Alon, I don’t concentrate so much on costs (though I accept his point that these high Anglosphere costs obviously limits what gets built) but rather on process. I believe the high costs flow from the former.

      • Michael James

        Groan. From transit hell to keyboard hell. The qwerty line of my keyboard has an intermittent fault resulting in:

        Oh, and from plen of precedent we all know many of these plcans wll end p as handsmel ewaded cnslans f hese same cmpanes.

        Which was meant to be:

        Oh, and from plenty of precedent we all know many of these politicians will end up as handsomely rewarded consultants of these same companies.

        I could add that conservative premier Barry O’Farrell was forced to resign over a $3,000 bottle of Grange Hermitage that was given to him as a gift (ie. bribe, yeah our pollies are cheap!) which he had repeatedly emphatically denied but then was caught out with incontrovertible evidence. His replacement as premier lasted barely more than a year and now the new boy’s (a merchant banker who has gone back to a $2m pa job in banking!) replacement is Gladys Berejiklian, the then transport minister who gave us this bastardised NW Metro. Years before in the last run of “successful” (well, stable) NSW state government, it was Labor Premier Bob Carr under whose reign all those expensive toll-tunnels were built. When he finally resigned from politics he literally walked from the premier’s office into the board room of Macquarie Bank who happens to be the major financer/builder/owner of those tunnels and also owner of the privatised monopoly of Sydney KSA airport. Between Carr (2010?) and Berejiklian there have been 5 (of 7) premiers who have resigned in disgrace, often removed by their own party. And Gladys has only served about two years so far ….

        Reminiscent of Tammany Hall days? Except this is a cross-party bi-partisan clustef**k, and Tammany nominally served the poor and immigrants, and got much done. Our modern version is bipartisan in serving the big end of town in a model that has delivered increasingly dysfunctional Melbourne and Sydney. (In Melbourne the same things happened with 5 premiers in the same timespan.)

        • Untangled

          No doubt politics is dysfunctional but amidst all this, things are still being achieved and that’s something quite amazing. You can’t say the same about Washington grid lock or Albany.

          • adirondacker12800

            Albany has managed to finagle enough money to have trains that run faster then they did in the heyday of trains. Not a stunning accomplishment but better than most states have managed.

          • Michael James

            Untangled wrote:

            No doubt politics is dysfunctional but amidst all this, things are still being achieved and that’s something quite amazing. You can’t say the same about Washington grid lock or Albany.

            Not much is being done, especially in the context of half a century of almost nothing being done (other than build hyper-expensive toll-roads, that in case you missed it, have not relieved congestion). The fact that Washington and Albany may be grid locked is rather my original point: look around the Anglosphere and it is a uniting theme. Only very recently (like 5 years) has the UK finally begun to try to catch up on post-war inertia and 40 years of Thatcherism (including the Thatcher-lite years of Blair’s Nu-Labour), and even then it is mostly in London, and they still haven’t sorted out the awful sequelae of neo-liberal train privatisation.

            It’s why I tend to look at Paris and France as a model. I could look at Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul or Shanghai etc but the Anglosphere instantly dismisses those as an Asian model not appropriate to we Euro-types! Of course they dismiss the European “socialist” model too but with no underlying logic or even economic rationale.

            BTW, Albany may be dysfunctional but of course at least NYC has a terrific legacy metro (subway) system which, given its neglect over half a century, shows just how robust such mass transit systems are. It may be straining as it ages and as the city continues to grow but it is unimaginable as a city of almost 9m without it Now imagine Sydney without anything comparable when it becomes 8m. Of course no imagination required, just visit LA or those US SunBelt cities. Perhaps the biggest learning example is LA which is busy (re)building its Metro system at great expense and at painfully slow pace. In fact at just this moment I have opened a delivery that has Mark Pendegrast’s book “City on the Verge; Atlanta and the fight for America’s urban future”. It documents how this worst-of-the-worst SunBelt city of car-dependent sprawl and endless growth is facing a tipping point. Here is his opening paragraph:

            Atlanta is on the brink of either tremendous rebirth or inexorable decline. At the center of a perfect storm of failed American urban policies, Atlanta has the highest income inequality, and its metro area features the longest commutes, in the country; attempts at twentieth-century urban renewal blasted highways through the city center and destroyed neighbourhoods; suburban sprawl impaired the environment even as it eroded the urban tax base and exacerbated a long history of racial injustice. Although many cities across America suffer these problems, the issue have collided nowhere so conspicuously as in Atlanta.
            Consequently, Atlanta’s quest for reinvention maps onto America’s broad struggle to renew its cities: to transcend racism, segregation, and gaping economic divides, to transition from cars to public transit and walkable environments, to find new prosperity in the ruins of vanished industries. Having undergone an extraordinary transformation in recent decades, the city is now on the verge of emerging from its adolescence to become a grown-up city, with enough density to support a web of public transit, plenty of parks connected by multi-use trails, bike-friendly streets and opportunities for people in the most troubled neighbourhoods to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Yet Atlanta has been on the verge of something for most of its relatively brief history, and there isa a real danger that the city’s leaders will opt, once again, for image over fundamental change. Atlanta cannot afford to wait any longer; nor can the country.

            At least in spirit, if not quite detail, you could almost substitute “Sydney” for Atlanta. For the inter-racial problems substitute our inter-generational war as genX-Y-Z find themselves priced out of housing and finally falling out of love with the great Australian suburban dream of that quarter-acre block etc. (now only for sale 50km away and driving-everywhere lifestyle; Australia, too, is like the US in that the number of younger people with a driver’s license is decreasing quickly yet we have a poor public transit system to cope). In Atlanta the white suburbs fight the extension of MARTA to their area because they don’t want to encourage .. inter-racial mobility. In Sydney’s eastern and northern beaches they resist extension of Sydney’s Metro to stop those pesky Westies (the mixed hoi polloi from Western Sydney) invading “their” precious perfect beaches (of course stratospheric property prices keep them residing in Western Sydney). They fought successfully so that the Bondi line stops at Bondi Junction which is actually 2.5 km from Bondi! NorthConnex is an outrageously expensive road tunnel for the uber-exclusive northern beaches but they don’t want a Metro.

            Incidentally, fyi Alon, NorthConnex is the proposed extension of WestConnex that would take the traffic from the northern end of WC (that otherwise gets dumped just west of the CBD) across the harbour in a new crossing and then NE to the northern beaches (all strictly millionaire territory; well actually multi-millionaire since the average house price for all of Sydney recently passed $1m, dog knows how many millions you need to buy a house in this area). This is the tunnel that Chinese bidders have proposed a bigger diameter tunnel to effectively get a twofer, ie. bigger enough for two levels, one for traffic and one for rail. What’s the bet this conservative government (whose leaders and most powerful constituents live in the far northern beaches or “upper-north-shore”) will reject that sensible proposal on who knows what specious grounds?

  6. Untangled

    Wow, I really got your head spinning there hey. How mad are you? Also, a few facts about RER A, it’s not driverless, it’s has ATO but it isn’t fully driverless. Secondly, RER A is struggling to reach 27 tph every day, most of the time, it gets less than that. Also, Crossrail uses longitudinal metro-style seating with a few traverse seating, just like Sydney Metro. You could argue for network integration but within the Grand Paris Express metro project, there is a mix of different technologies that are incompatible with other lines. As for faster, let’s look at the existing Bankstown Line that will be converted, the existing double decker line takes 36 minutes from Bankstown to Central, once it’s converted to Sydney Metro, it’ll be 28 minutes, same corridor and an 8 minute saving.

    This line travels through the corridor of the highest job concentration in Sydney so there’s lots of passenger turnover, so lots of passengers getting on and on everywhere, the existing double decker line struggles to handle this because of stairway and doorway congestion. A metro with more doors and no stairs is better equipped to handle this turnover once the City and South West part is built, which means faster trains and better reliability. The Paris RER suffers from quite a lot of stairway congestion in the peaks, even with 3 doors. As for seats, again there is high turnover from this line, so if someone doesn’t get a seat at Cherrybrook, they will get one at Mac Park or Epping when a whole bunch of people get off. This line isn’t for the strict purpose for CBD commuting which is why metro is appropriate here, in fact, considering how much people will get on or off at Mac Park, I would treat that station as the CBD station if I had to.

    The situation at Chatswood is only temporary and there may be some pain there. I stand by my comments that the metro project delivers the best long-term outcome for Sydney, especially on this corridor. The only thing double decker supporters do is bleat on about RER, RER, RER, RER and occasionally privatization like it’s only thing in the world that matters, I’m sorry but the world of public transport doesn’t revolve around London’s “transit hell” or Paris RER or privatization.

    • Michael James

      Untangled, that is some tangled bunch of nitpicking you are into. What exactly have you proven, or disproven of my claims. I’d have to say none. The RER-A is an overwhelming success in being able to handle a fantastically huge pax load, obviously especially at peak times (when that 27 tph is needed). It generates complaints but that is merely a reflection of being a victim of its success. And are you really saying that CrossRail was not modelled on RER-A, are you? explicitly modelled on Paris’ RER-A

      This line travels through the corridor of the highest job concentration in Sydney so there’s lots of passenger turnover, so lots of passengers getting on and on everywhere, the existing double decker line struggles to handle this because of stairway and doorway congestion.

      Quite, no argument except: you mean like RER-A serves the La Defense business district which is the biggest such business district in all of Europe (including London which is spread between two districts)? It brings in 180,000 workers every day. But also no accident RER-A also links to the historic business district between Auber and Chatelet-les-Halles, just like NW Metro was designed (but won’t for years due to these changes) the U. Macquarie district to Sydney CBD.

      A metro with more doors and no stairs is better equipped to handle this turnover once the City and South West part is built, which means faster trains and better reliability.

      Seriously? You think the Paris planners didn’t go thru endless planning iterations and experiments to ensure they got the best solution to these issues? The 4th iteration (in 40 years) of RER-A trains reduced the doors from 4 per carriage to 3 from these studies. There is no evidence for your statement and you are simply repeating the LNP spin on this and ignoring all the experts opinion–much of it documented as I laid out. (Having said that, it is unlikely Sydney trains will have to cope with Paris-scale crowds anytime soon so this is not the major point, but rather it is part of the pointless and political motivated changes from duplex to single, and that forever fixes the wrong non-solution.) There was no gain by the changes that Berejiklian forced on the plan against all the experts (unless you can cite some; good luck), and you are just buying into the rhetoric for whatever reasons you won’t even admit. (The lowering of the tunnel height by 3cm is very reminiscent of Robert Moses–perhaps apocryphal–lowering of the bridge clearances on his Parkways to make it impossible for the city public transit to use them.) Yet you clearly acknowledge that it was all about politics and control. I am fairly bi-partisan on these issues because Labor has only a marginally better record. I did a piece that was unfriendly to Bob Carr as premier, even though I quite liked him as our national minister of foreign affairs:

      http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/07/population-in-australia-2050-versus-1950/
      Population in Australia: 2050 versus 1950?
      by Michael R James, Wednesday, 7 April 2010
      In a recent op-ed piece (“What’s wrong with us”) the New York Times writer Bob Herbert lamented the disastrous lack of American investment in infrastructure. In a blog comment that appears tailor-made for Australia, the answer is in Pogo’s classic line “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
      And Bob Carr.

      As to your comments on Paris’ mixture of RER, Metro etc in the Paris Grand Express plans, of course, as each is designed for a particular purpose (“fit for purpose” in modern jargon). The RER is designed to move larger numbers, more comfortably (ie. more seated) over longer distances at higher speeds/lower transit times from the outlying areas. The Metro, for the two new circumferential (orbital) routes, is designed to serve more local population centres (at more closely-spaced stops) and to act as feeders to the radial RER (and some Metro). The tramways are all orbital for this purpose. Indeed Alon has written about this, specifically referencing Paris, on this blog:

      https://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/mixing-circumferential-and-radial-transit-in-the-other-direction/
      Mixing Circumferential and Radial Transit in the Other Direction
      Alon Levy, 2 August, 2016.

      Also by others here:

      http://transitcenter.org/2016/07/07/paris-trams-are-hyper-cool/
      What The Paris Trams Can Teach U.S. Cities
      July 7, 2016 by TransitCenter

      Finally your comment:

      This line isn’t for the strict purpose for CBD commuting which is why metro is appropriate here, in fact, considering how much people will get on or off at Mac Park, I would treat that station as the CBD station if I had to.

      This is pretty strange as even the current government’s plans of the future show the Metros proceeding thru the CBD and out the other side, performing exactly the roles of RER and Crossrail. Sydney currently has 42% of Paris-Ile de France population but sprawled over almost identical area (12,367.7 km2) and so needs the likes of the RER and a coherent plan like Paris Grand Express even more than Paris does. Especially as it will soon enough be ≈70% of the population of Paris–but must squeeze into the same footprint (because it has run out of geography–ocean, harbours & bays, mountains and national parks hem it in on all sides) so it better learn from those cities that have already gone thru the learning exercise.

      • Untangled

        Nitpicking? I was just addressing some of your points. For example, I said that the metro would be faster and you disputed that and then I offered the Bankstown Line example of an 8 minute time saving comparing the exact same corridor to metro vs DD performance, not an insignificant time saving there mind you. I’ll try and address some of your points here though.

        Firstly, you said that I thought that Crossrail was not modelled on RER A, incorrect, I just pointed out that Crossrail uses metro-style seating in contrast to RER A.

        Secondly, yes, RER A does serve a lot of people at La Defense and that no other centre in Europe can compare, however, RER trains do have 3 doors and are quite long, 225 metres I believe. However, even with 3 doors, the stairway is still a bit of a problem, mainly because, like Sydney, only one person can go up or down at a time.

        Thirdly, the new three door MI09 trains have wider doors than the old four door ones. You also said that there is no evidence about my statement saying that the doors and staircase is a problem. I’ll address doors first, it’s pretty obvious here that more doors mean more space to allow more passengers on and off the carriage at a time, so more doors or wider doors reduce door congestion and dwell time, a very well known fact in public transport. The other point about the staircase being an issue, there’s not much info on this but back in the 1980s when the Tangara was being designed, Comeng did an experiment and found that the staircase was a huge bottleneck. I would advise you look to have a look at this video of the experiment which highlights the staircase problem, look particularly at 1:28 and onwards. Do watch the whole video though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otTJfKcmF-s The video highlights that “double-width” staircases will alleviate some of the staircase congestion (as opposed to the “single width” staircases) but the problem is that the “double-width” staircase train was never built. Both the new Waratah trains or MI09 RER trains feature “single-width” staircases. Even with a “double-width” staircase, I think it would still be less efficient in moving passengers around the carriage compared to single decker trains. On to your point about there being no gain for the metro plan, as I explained earlier, the benefits are reduced travel time, less stairway and doorway congestion (which I’ve just explained) and much much cheaper operating costs which free up financial resources for new projects, I don’t need an expert to tell me that. The only problem is fewer seats but I can live with that.

        Fourthly, your point about trains being “fit for purpose”, as I explained earlier the metro corridor is well suited to rapid transit, the high turnover along the route (which really begins all the way back at Norwest but Mac Park is the first really big turnover spot) means that longer distance commuters who may not initially get a seat will find one eventually down the line when a whole bunch of people alight at major centres. It worth noting that most of the Grand Paris Express really fills a job that would normally be done by RER or Transilien, yet Greater Paris went with Metro here, despite their wealth of knowledge on how to operate double decker RER or Transilien trains.

        Finally, your last paragraph. I don’t dispute anything there but I would add that metro is my preferred expansion method. That doesn’t mean that double deckers don’t have their place, but I would reserve it for lines where trains run express instead of stopping at every station.

        Now, if you could give me an RER style double decker with “double-width” staircases (which doesn’t exist yet), I would be happy to reconsider, but for now, Sydney Metro is better. Another point about the metro is that the trains have superior climbing ability so the new metro stations aren’t as deep as their double decker counterpart. Castle Hill, for example, is only 25 meters below ground but I remember reading that it would be 37 meters underground if it was double decker in a document when Labor was in government, I can’t find it now, the conservative government must have purged it. More customer friendly having it less deep and cheaper to build.

        • Michael James

          So, you agree that your first point was pure nitpicking, ie. irrelevant to the issue 🙂
          On your second “point”, err, yes, RER trains are very long. That’s, you know, part of the “high capacity” bit, and of course why CrossRail copied it, except for the duplex part. I have predicted that they may come to regret that because it has been predicted that the Elizabeth Line will vey quickly reach near-capacity at peak times. Though the CrossRail tunnels are able to take duplex trains of RER size. I suspect they may be upgrading sooner than predicted.
          Your second point appears to be the same, ie. the claim that boarding and deboarding is problematic on the 3-door RER-As. I think part, perhaps a big part, of this is cultural. In Paris (and for that matter Japan and most other transit systems) they expect the passengers to behave expeditiously while one of the frustrating things about the British system, both Underground and regional trains is how a slow passenger can hold up trains; the driver or conductor is watching and doesn’t close the doors promptly. Elsewhere it is up to you to get yourself ready to board or disembark the train. The doors close promptly and pretty definitively–as the warning rabbit decals show, don’t get your fingers or other anatomy in the way of that sliding door. They give notice of upcoming stations and those on the upper deck are supposed to get themselves down and ready to leave. I mean it is logical and the only way to run things as far as I am concerned. Passengers learn this stuff quickly but London Underground seems like your grandma is running the show. You can’t design a high-capacity mega-city transit system for the slowest people. They can easily catch the next train if they wish to dawdle.

          I also have always preferred the seating arrangements in Paris Metro and RER trains. And the sensible fold-down seats (strapontin) in the area next to the doors (so you can sit down up to a certain density of pax).

          In any case, again I find your long arguments on this point rather strange. I mean there is simply no doubting that RER-A carries more pax than any other commuter line in the world (at least outside Asia)–far more than any line in London or NYC. (As is true for Paris second busiest line, Metro#1 at 240m pax pa.) So I kind of wonder what your arguments are really about? Unless you deny this fact?

          the new metro stations aren’t as deep as their double decker counterpart. Castle Hill, for example, is only 25 meters below ground but I remember reading that it would be 37 meters underground if it was double decker in a document when Labor was in government …

          Seriously? There was 3-4 cm difference and I don’t believe there were any other major changes of the sort you suggest—it’s not credible. The reason RER and CrossRail (and probably Sydney NW Metro) are deep because they are being put into big cities with already a ton of other stuff (existing Metro, utilities, building foundations etc) so these new big tunnels go under it all. It does add to the cost because the stations are big (wide & long) and deep, but then there are fewer of them.

          That doesn’t mean that double deckers don’t have their place, but I would reserve it for lines where trains run express instead of stopping at every station.

          Again, you are missing the point: these lines will never be able to take duplex trains (though feasibly I suppose a special train set could be made to squeeze in?) or share trains on the rest of the network. Everyone knows why the conservatives made this change and it had absolutely nothing to do with technical demands but was entirely political.

          metro is my preferred expansion method.

          Not really sure what that means. But the NW Metro is extending out about 50km into exurban Sydney, and no standard Metro (ie. light-rail) is going to serve that effectively. Instead it needs an RER-type service which is what NW-Metro is: speedy full-size trains, with fairly widely-spaced stations to enable quicker journeys. (And contrary to your comment, RER are much more powerful trains than feeble light-rail Metro. RER can do 120kmph and get up to speed quickly too.) Again, the planned orbital Metro in Paris Grand Express is not of this type, but is to link up major stations on the radial RER routes. Actually when you are inside Paris, if it is an option (depending on destination etc) you take the RER because it will traverse the city much, much quicker than the Metro (in Paris it is the most dense system in the world, which means stations on average 400m apart and thus many stops if you are going a long way across the city; eg. if you are at Nation heading to La Defense then Metro Line 1 has 19 stations while RER-A has only 5). This is why the Paris Metro doesn’t extend, and hasn’t been extended, much beyond the original termini–either inside Paris or just into the Petite Couronne. It would overload the trains and lengthen journeys too much (and probably require more trains to maintain service frequency etc.) My main line, #13, was extended deep into the southern suburbs, to Villejuif, in 1984 but the stops on this section were much further apart than inside Paris. I am pretty sure that will be the case for the long extension of Metro #14 (the first driverless, platform-aligned door metro in Paris).
          In any case none of this has anything to do with our “preference” but how the system works best.

          • Untangled

            Standard Metro is not Light Rail, that is totally WRONG WRONG WRONG. If you’ve been thing that way the whole time, then you’re pretty much a brick wall. I won’t go on any further. I’m not nitpicking here, I would expect anyone who understands an iota about transport to know the difference between a metro, basically rapid transit and light rail.

          • Untangled

            Also the difference isn’t 3-4 cm, it’s more like 40 cm diameter difference. Go criticize me for nitpicking here, I’ve pretty much left this part of your argument alone but the difference is much bigger than you say it is. At 15km, quite a lot of extra rock.

          • Michael James

            Untangled, I think you have yourself tangled up by the confusion of Sydney Metro which is really suburban commuter train that happens to run underground in the CBD. But the term Metro comes from the Paris Metro (even if the very first subway system was the London Metropolitan line; my theory is that the French adopted that name but none of the history written on this implies that; a difference of course is that the London name referred to a single line while in Paris it referred to the system) and technically speaking it is “light rail”, certainly compared to RER which is heavy rail, or Transilien which is also heavy-rail. After all, the first Metros (other than London perhaps) were adaptations of trams/street-cars (today known as light-rail) to run underground. Electric trams first appeared in the 1880s, decades ahead of the Metro. The only real meaningful difference between light-rail and Metro is that one runs on its ROW while the other often shares street space (and so of course this means a different configuration eg. for boarding at street level). However there are city systems that confuse the two, such as Boston and San Francisco and others. But all the early “Metros” of London, NYC (and Budapest & Glasgow etc) were the equivalent of light-rail, adapted for underground.
            I agree that the terminology has lost some meaning in that Metro is applied to any rapid transit system. Like the Washington Metro is (like Sydney) really suburban heavy rail except in the CBD. But look at San Francisco where BART (which is really like the Washington Metro, quite RER-like) is not called Metro compared to “Muni Metro” which is effectively light-rail (ie. tram on its own ROW if above ground most of its route and goes underground only in places).

          • Untangled

            Nothing wrong with using metro for rapid transit, as you said, Washington and BART (basically post-war systems) have the name metro. A lot of the newer rapid transit systems in the world use the name metro that when it goes for longer distances, Sydney and the Grand Paris Express is no different in that regard.

            Speaking of the Grand Paris Express, I would like to nitpick on one other thing you said about it. You said that it was a feeder for the RER, this is incorrect, quite the opposite. The goal of the Grand Paris Express is to allow passengers commuting from suburb to suburb to bypass city centre to allow for more direct suburb to suburb journeys bypassing the radial RER. Basically, Grand Paris Express will be doing the job of mainly Transillen and to some extent the Tramways and RER in providing passengers faster suburb to suburb journeys. It is also designed to take pressure off the radial RER, so passengers don’t have to go to the city and back out again to get to other suburbs, not feed more passengers into it. That said, you could use it as a feeder but that’s not the primary goal. It’s primary goal to serve the suburbs, hence it’s really doing the job of Transillen but it’s a metro instead of double decker.

          • Alon Levy

            M15 and M16 are circumferential, but the M14 and M11 extensions are radial, and M17 is sort of radial. M18 is there to make the favored quarter feel better about itself. M14 and M11 have to be Metro and not RER, as extensions of existing lines. Now, you might ask, why did they extend M11, which has very short stop spacing and not great capacity? That’s a good question, which I don’t have an answer to. (M14 has longer platforms and wider stop spacing – if anything, the extension misses a key connection point to M2.)

            The region seems to be neglecting the RER, even though there’s a very high-performance investment it could do – quadrupling the tunnel between Les Halles and Gare du Nord to give the RER B and D dedicated tracks. The RER B seems more crowded than the RER A to me, and the project wouldn’t have to include any stations; a cost estimate from last decade says it would be 700 million euros.

            Or it could just be that all new lines are driverless, and if it’s driverless there’s no reason to tie it to mainline rail, and if it’s not tied to mainline rail it could be signed as Metro and not RER. The fares are integrated anyway if you have a monthly pass (and if you’re a suburban rider, you have a monthly pass, the discount over buying carnets is huge).

          • Michael James

            OK to those descriptions (which I put in my last post written before seeing your latest). As to:

            Now, you might ask, why did they extend M11, which has very short stop spacing and not great capacity?

            Dunno but presumably it services fairly dense eastern-suburbs? Political counter-balance to those southern ones? Also it is not very long with only 3 new stations so looks like an “easy” infill? Possibly also because a tramway wouldn’t do the job (roads not appropriate, too busy etc?).
            I didn’t understand you comment about connecting to M2 (it does?).

            As to M14, we’ve covered this before. It connects to M15 (inner ring) and M18 (outer-ring) as well as Orly airport direct link. I think your criticisms of M18 are too hasty as this surely is a major planned growth corridor for the future with those typical French mega-ambitious plans such as the Saclay super-university and tech industry hub (yes, and residential for petite-bourgeoisie like you and me–or next-gen versions who will work there!). I approve of that kind of planning. It’s a bit like criticizing those subway lines that pushed out into cow pastures in Brooklyn and Queens (there ain’t no cows there anymore). There were hopes the new Saclay agglomeration would launch straight into the top (10 or 20 or 50?) but I see that it still is not listed (ie. not yet integrated into) the ARWU rankings (2017 released recenly), which still separately lists Paris-Sud (which is #242). (Ahem, I note that every one of the 4 universities I trained or worked at make the top 100.) On top of that (ambitious planning) is that the world of transport planning ain’t perfect and must fit into all sorts of constraints.

            I don’t know anything about the tunnel to separate RER-B and D. Is it partly that it might be extremely tricky to get boring machines in to do the job? Aren’t they by definition too big to get in via the existing tunnels? Something they probably should have done back during the “big dig” in the 70s.

          • Alon Levy

            M11 connects to M2 already, but the M14 extension won’t. The Metro system has three places where two lines intersect without a transfer: M9/M12, M14/M5, M14/M9. The M14 extension adds M14/M2.

            The proper place for a next-gen university is Jussieu, with the entirety of today’s structure demolished and replaced with something that doesn’t make me wish ISIS had an air force with long-range bombers.

          • Michael James

            Alon wrote:

            The proper place for a next-gen university is Jussieu, with the entirety of today’s structure demolished and replaced with something that doesn’t make me wish ISIS had an air force with long-range bombers.

            Hah, maybe. I think I wrote something similar w.r.t. when they stripped the admin tower (straight outta Kafka if any building was) of its asbestos. I think the question as it gets older, becomes: is it so bad it’s good? One of Paris/France/World’s finest and large-scale examples of brutalism, surely? Includes probably the largest set of buildings up on pilotis anywhere! The other obvious point is that if it were ever to be demolished I doubt it would be replaced with university … They already moved Paris VII to Paris Rive Gauche. By my quick estimates it could be worth €2bn in real estate, maybe more given the location.

            Reminds me, a (American) friend of mine in Paris (used to work at Jussieu) teaches a month-long course (biochemistry) for the Stanford-in-Paris classes (in Feb-March IIRC). They make him work hard for it (he seems to spend one or two months preparing, but I assume it is financially worth it (he’s retired on a CNRS pension …). Several of the ivy-league do this kind of thing in Paris. You could check it out. (I mean if urban planners or transport planners don’t study Paris what are they doing …?)

            The RER A and RER B have almost the same annual ridership per peak hourly train. Don’t forget, the RER B shares tracks with the RER D. The RER B is more crowded, though.

            I’ll have to accept you on that since I can’t see it anywhere (well, I’m too lazy to search). But given that A has about 67% more ridership than B, that implies A runs 67% more trains? But surely not; I mean those duplex trains carry a lot more pax than A’s single deckers and the stories of crowding at peak times are legion? The fact that you consider B feels more crowded is presumably partly related to A being duplex? I see that line D has duplex trains and carries almost as many pax as B (at 190km D has double the catchment of B) which means that the shared tunnel is carrying more then A!

          • Alon Levy

            The RER A ran 30 tph peak, 24 reverse-peak, 18 off-peak when the numbers you have were collected (it now runs 15 tph off-peak). The RER B runs 20 peak, 12 off-peak. The RER D runs 12 peak, 8 off-peak through the shared tunnel, but it also runs 4 tph terminating at Gare de Lyon (and if it had a dedicated pathway it would probably also take over the remaining Transilien R trains, the way the RER C took over everything out of Austerlitz).

            I think the RER B is more crowded in part because it’s single-level, but there are other issues in play:

            – The RER B+D tunnel is highly-branched, counting all the RER D and B branches, so the lines are less reliable. Less reliable lines have more perceived crowding – if train intervals aren’t even, then perceived crowding grows. Imagine two lines running two trains, such that on one line both trains are at 75% capacity and on the other one is at 125% and one is at 25%; the latter has higher perceived crowding even though on average they’re the same.

            – The RER B trains are single-level, but have no large vestibules for people to stand. The RER A was awful when it was still running single-levels for the same reason – those trains had narrow corridors between the 2+2 seats and not enough standing space.

            – The RER B trains are 7% shorter.

            – The RER B trains serve one CBD station (Les Halles – Gare du Nord is busier but isn’t anywhere near the CBD) whereas the RER A trains spread passengers out across several CBD stations (Les Halles, Auber, Etoile, La Defense), with heavy internal travel within that segment.

          • Michael James

            Good info on those RER trains. Whew, see what you mean about that tunnel. Amazed it can handle that number of tph and with switching every second train?

            On seating etc. I don’t agree. And I would guess most (French) pax wouldn’t. I understand what technocrat transport planners prefer but I reckon the French have it right. I’m not convinced it makes such a difference to either capacity or egress (in fact with longitudinal arrangement, since you have to hang on to ceiling straps and don’t have solid seat handles, it is trickier–especially when crowded and if you are repositioning as the train is moving; especially for women, children & the aged). I think it is the same reason why we have a strong preference against a middle seat on a plane, who wants to be squeezed between two strangers? Everyone aims to get that seat up against the wall; sure you only bother on longer trips, otherwise one tends to stand in the vestibule. I don’t want any central-planning nazis removing that option 🙂
            On the same topic, why do none of the Anglosphere metros use Strapontin fold-down seats? Planners just think we should stand always even when the train is not packed? In fact some modern buses do use them in the longitudinal positions in the front section because the are intended for wheelchairs and prams.
            I don’t remember RER-B being as bad as you say. And it certainly has usable vestibules (just presumably not as capacious as RER-A; again I’ll have to accept your descriptions … to a degree …). At any rate I don’t think you’re going to get your wish anytime soon, as the latest redesigns and on M1, have kept the old layout more or less?

          • Untangled

            Does using a suburban metro to relieve a double decker system sound familiar to you now? Why yes, both Sydney and Paris is doing it.

          • Untangled

            My feeling is that Line 11 and 14 were extended to to help fill in the “missing link” between some of the lines. Line 11 extension will connect the circumferential 15 and 16 and Line 14 extension will connect with Line 15 and the dual-purpose circumferential-“feel better” Line 18.

            On your comment about new the Paris Metro lines being driverless and not tied to mainlines, this is quite similar to Sydney.

          • Alon Levy

            I want to say that Lines 11 and 14 are good southeast-northwest and center-northeast lines, supplementing north-south and east-west lines. (Ridership per km on the Metro goes 1 = 4 > 14 > 2 > 6 > 11 > rest.) But the 14 is being extended as more north-south than anything, and the 11 is being extended going east and not northeast. I have crayon involving breaking the RER C to provide southeast-northwest and southwest-northeast rail, but it’s not going to happen, unfortunately.

        • Alon Levy

          Where did you read that the RER A struggles to run 27 tph at the peak? At least going by the schedule, it’s 30, and there aren’t a lot of cancellations (unlike on the RER B+D).

          The internal staircases aren’t really a problem. The reason is that the upper and lower levels still have transverse seating, rather than longitudinal seating as in normal metros (even the Metro here has transverse seating). At the peak, most of the crowding is in the vestibules on the middle levels, where there is a lot of standing space.

          • Michael James

            Untangled wrote:

            The goal of the Grand Paris Express is to allow passengers commuting from suburb to suburb to bypass city centre to allow for more direct suburb to suburb journeys bypassing the radial RER. Basically, Grand Paris Express will be doing the job of mainly Transillen and to some extent the Tramways and RER in providing passengers faster suburb to suburb journeys. It is also designed to take pressure off the radial RER, so passengers don’t have to go to the city and back out again to get to other suburbs, not feed more passengers into it.

            That is more or less true and is not inconsistent with what I wrote. Those orbital lines are designed with multiple goals including feeders to the major stations on radial RER so as to get banlieusians out of their cars (I’m ashamed to admit that I am not aware if any suburban RER stations have Park n Ride facilities? But anyway it is well known that you’ve got to stop people getting into their cars at all because most of them will then tend to drive all the way.) Tramways are all orbital.

            And “Grand Paris Express” refers to all modes though Metro is most prominent (M4, M11 & M14 radial extensions; new M15 thru M18 orbitals) there are extensions to RER-E (& improvements to B, C & D) and extensions to T4 & T8. This also shows the sense in which I deploy the terms for the different types–though in some senses they are all “metro”, the nature and function of M15 etc in the plan are clear enough. The T tramways are light-rail on shared roads while M-metro is light-rail on their exclusive ROW (I don’t know how much is underground).

            Re duplex trains, the same blogger source you cited also said:

            You need to see our double deck trains in the same way as you see double deck buses. You wouldn’t use them on the Gong Shuttle or to Bondi Beach, you’d use them out to places like Palm Beach and Baulkham Hills where the bus is running express with a low turnover en route. Our double deck trains are best suited to long distance express runs to the outer suburbs and interurban/intercity service. They’re completely inadequate for high-turnover stopping services, not because of carriage capacity but because of how they exchange and store passengers which ultimately governs true service capacity.

            He agrees that duplex makes sense on long runs such as Baulkham HIlls which is where the NW Metro is passing (unless I have my geography wrong?). Oh, and the strange comment on double-deck buses: has he ever been to London or Hong Kong (which has double-deck buses and trams; I always try to get the front seat on top for the panoramic views and slightly out of the crush). When London commissioned a completely new bus design during Boris’ reign, there was much gnashing of teeth over whether to remain with double-deckers. The new design is a double-decker (though not electric as Boris rashly promised; he also promised those open rear “porches” allowing people jump on and off as pax wished but of course that was squashed flat by OHS.)

            A double deck train with less doors will not process turnover of passengers as well as a single deck train with more doors and therefore ultimately the capacity of a double deck operation will be lower, regardless of the initial superficial impression …

            It is he who is making a superficial “intuitive” judgement, and unfounded assumption, on this tricky issue. I mean why does he think the Paris planners went from earlier 4-door designs to 3-door in the most modern incarnation of RER-A? (And yes, somewhat wider doors). Incidentally, as mentioned earlier, those transverse seats are what I like about Paris transit. Of course the argument is that more people can be squeezed in (standing) with longitudinal seating but I am not totally convinced of that since the vestibule area is well-designed for that. And again, the numbers of pax on both metro and RER for Paris don’t lie, though that blogger continues to insist that despite RER-A carrying 300m pax he “knows” that a single-decker could outperform it!

            The main reasons why most cities don’t adopt duplex trains (even as they get very crowded) is that they can’t physically fit them into their systems (tunnel & bridge clearances etc). And even for new lines “interoperability” is often a consideration. Of course neither was the case for Sydney NW-Metro; indeed they threw interoperability under the proverbial bus, which is why all the experts are so angry about this dumbest of decisions.

            Incidentally you can play the game of searching on blogs for what opinions that reinforce your own while ignoring all the named experts who have gone on record claiming the opposite (as detailed in my earlier posts) but it is not convincing.

          • Alon Levy

            The RER A and RER B have almost the same annual ridership per peak hourly train. Don’t forget, the RER B shares tracks with the RER D. The RER B is more crowded, though.

          • Untangled

            Right, so you acknowledge that the metro expansion will fulfil the role the RER and Transillen would normally. RER E is indeed also being extended but that’s a separate project. The cost of that extension is not part of the metro expansion package.

            You highlighted that the “blogger” wrote that the bus to Baulkham Hills is ideal for double decker. I can’t speak for that person too much but you are unfortunately bring very selective there and you conveniently ignoring the low turnover and express part of his comment. The express bus to Baulkham Hills is indeed low turnover.

            However, the new metro line will be of a different nature stopping at every station along the line, yes every station, so it’s not express and there is also a high turnover across this line from Norwest to the CBD with lots of people getting on and off at various points. In other words, metro suits this line. Remember he also says that double decker buses and trains is suited to low turnover lines where there is one, single big spot to leave or disembark. In the new metro corridor, there will be various spots like this.

            You mentioned that interoperability is often a consideration (although sometimes it doesn’t work out). The government under different parties absolutely also considered interoperability here but they decided against it, it was after all originally and double decker and plans also went back and forth. Considering that it was originally and it went back and forth as double decker, I can’t see how your managing to spin it as if it wasn’t considered, very desperate. Those experts may have resigned, but as I said earlier, I feel that they were more holding transport back rather than open to pushing for anything radical.

            As for “blogger”, I never knew that forum posters were bloggers, I guess you learn something everyday. Also, that blogger I linked has worked in transport for decades.

          • Untangled

            Honestly, why are you even a “journalist” when you select you facts and ignore others?

          • Michael James

            Untangled wrote:

            Right, so you acknowledge that the metro expansion will fulfil the role the RER and Transillen would normally.

            No, I wrote that it performs multiple functions. I doubt it will cause a drop in RER ridership though perhaps might stabilize it. After all a lot of the people using the RER are going to the centre or across to the other side and this won’t change; and the number able to take a orbital route alternative will probably be matched by new transit pax drawn to the radial routes by these new feeders (ie. out of their cars).

            As to Baulkham Hills, I wasn’t talking about bus. Obviously a bus service to an exurban sprawl suburb is hardly going to be popular or very effective, more likely a nightmare. It’s something like 45km from central Sydney and almost as far from anywhere else you’d actually want to go to! (as I say I am ignorant about this but vaguely recall it is part of the “Hills district” way out in the wilds of outer outer NW Sydney?). The point is that the NW Metro that will serve these distant areas is like the RER and people will certainly want to sit for the long trek … wherever.

            You mentioned that interoperability is often a consideration (although sometimes it doesn’t work out). The government under different parties absolutely also considered interoperability here but they decided against it,

            At least you got those facts right. It was “government” (specifically politicians) who made that decision, not all the experts who recommended against it.

            Honestly, why are you even a “journalist” when you select you facts and ignore others?

            Well I am a scientist (biomedical researcher) with a side interest in other things which I write about and sometimes get published in the regular press (ie. not just online blogging). The thing is that I assess the credibility and source of stuff I read (as a scientist it is a learned and lifelong habit). Amongst those I have cited in these posts include Arup (you know, the built the Opera House amongst a hundred other incredible engineering feats), Michael Stove (former NSW trans employee & transport expert/blogger who chooses not to be anonymous), Jacob Saulwick (longtime transport journalist for the major Sydney serious newspaper), Professor Keith Still (Brit. transport expert & consultant), Howard Collins (head of Sydney Trains!!) and the ABC-FactCheck unit (yeah, I know, bunch of lefties you can safely ignore, amirite?). Oh and well-known urbanists Alon Levy and author Mark Pendergrast. Also Crikey’s transport writer (and former Fairfax journalist on transport for half a century) Ben Sandilands (he writes mostly on aviation but also on HSR and trains; he lived in Paris half a lifetime ago so I tend to take his views more seriously as he has that rare thing, great and wide experience). Of course I too have lived in Paris (and UK, and Tokyo and San Francisco etc).
            Whereas you are relying upon one or two anonymous bloggers who cannot get basic facts correct, plus some conservative politicians who historically hate public transit (and even more, the people who work for them) (and some of these pollies have resigned due to ICAC inquiries!).

            I think that we have worn out the welcome of our host, Alon.

          • Alon Levy

            For the record, I think that the Eastern US should retire the bilevels when possible and only procure single-level trains from now on. Bilevels are nice when in-vehicle capacity is more important than dwell times; this is really not the case in North America, with denser CBDs than what Paris has (the job density in the Paris CBD is on the order of 50,000/km^2, that of Midtown is 200,000/km^2), and constrained commuter rail station locations making it difficult to spread the load across many different stations. The big advantage of the RER A rolling stock is that it has wide vestibules for standees, which RATP should procure in its single-levels on the Metro too (and, FFS, join the advanced world and do longitudinal seating).

          • Untangled

            I think that we have worn out the welcome of our host, Alon.

            Yes, I think we have too. Bye bye, it was nice talking to you but I stand my comments and you’ll probably stick with yours. Unfortunately, only one side one and we all know which one it was, I’m looking forward to the opening. I have great respect for SMH and ABC but I can’t agree with them on the metro. For the record, here’s what Howard Collins has said about the matter, http://disq.us/p/13xxzyf

            Again, bye bye.

          • Untangled

            *won, not one.

            Since Alon here offered his view on single level vs bilevel trains and job density. I’ll leave this map of job density in Sydney here in case anyone wants to make up their own minds.

          • Untangled

            Another thing I would address though, that “blogger” I linked to isn’t exactly fully anonymous. I’ve already provided
            a link earlier but here’s another one, http://www.busaustralia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=82902

            Also, if you believe that you “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, why did you, for example, not question your source that the tunnel diameter was only 3-4 cm different compared to DD when any critical thinker will know that that number sounds so trivially low. Turns out my 40cm difference was wrong as well. The tunnel diameter of DD ECRL is 7.2m, Sydney Metro’s diameter is 6m, that’s a 120cm diameter difference. As far as I’m aware, you didn’t really “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, call me nitpicking here, but that statement is a very serious one to make and you really failed it.

            http://www.therobbinscompany.com/projects/epping-chatswood-rail-link/
            https://tunneltalk.com/Australia-02Feb2016-Five-TBMs-for-15km-Sydney-Metro-City-and-Southwest.php

        • Michael James

          Untangled.
          You have just given a textbook example of nitpicking. How does it materially affect the argument whether it is 3-4cm, 40cm or whatever. Answer: it doesn’t. At all. The relevant feature is that it was made sufficiently smaller specifically to exclude the standard Sydney duplex trains, forever. Now, if I was writing something for formal publication I would have certainly verified it (or used the journalistic trick of being vague such as “small enough to exclude ….”) but in a quick blog I am just trying to avoid material errors. You also need to exercise some judgement on what is and is not important; for example your querying on the tph of RER-A or whatever (it is so high that even if you were correct did it really materially affect the argument? (again, no, you were just nitpicking and pointlessly and wrongly too)–and Alon convinced me otherwise and he looks at this stuff as part of his profession, and he happens to live in Paris).
          And BTW, just remember that the politicians claimed it saved $200m in boring costs but the experts said that was more than lost by the non-standard platforms that would have to be modified. 6m seems small for a heavy-rail system! It is probably seriously constraining future options and might be additional reason why all those experts objected so much (but entirely speculation on my part; I am not interested in this particular feature to chase it down.)

          As it happens I think I was remembering (from just having read it) the difference between the CrossRail tunnel (though I haven’t verified that… because it too isn’t material to this particular argument).

          • Untangled

            I agree, the size doesn’t matter, but you said that you “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, to which I say, you clearly haven’t and I was just pointing that out as an example. When you said that you “assess the credibility and source of stuff”, then clearly it is not unreasonable for me to point out those errors and call you out for it. If you did not intend to uphold to such a blanket statement on this blog, then you should not write it. Simple as that.

            Also, I really don’t want to go into again, but your sources that come out against the Metro because of the arrangement at Chatswood (including Arup and cited by Micheal Stove) assumed that the Metro would run 8 cars every 5 minutes as it was originally, this has now changed 6 cars every 4 minutes, which will help spread the crowds coming out of the metro at Chatswood compared to the original plan (so it’ll be less than 40%), so the people who miss the first connecting DD train at Chatswood should now be reduced and there’ll be less pressure on the first connecting train. Just to make sure, your linked Micheal Stove comment on Crikey was on June 2014, the plan was changed on September 2014, so Arup and his comment is outdated by 3 months. Also, the ABC FactCheck assumed SD capacity was a converted existing line rather than a new corridor, as is being built. So I just want to point those two things out.

            What does this change in the long run once the metro to the city opens? Nothing! So I still stand by the metro.

          • Untangled

            Also, your part about “seriously constraining future options”. While this may be true in the short-medium term, I would have to disagree in the longer term, I say just build a new tunnel, especially if it’s a faster express tunnel. As I explained earlier in another comment, underground stations, not the tunnels are the most expensive part of rail projects. If you need to make changes in the longer term, you’ll probably be doing it for extra capacity and a new tunnel does that best (a new express tunnel will help speed up trains and cheaper to build along with extra capacity) and you’ll want to avoid shutting down a line that’s been a part of the urban fabric for many decades just to convert it especially when you’re building so many new apartments in the north west corridor.

            The tunnelling contract for the metro north west was only 1 billion, a fraction if the over 8 billion cost. That’s just my view on long term planning.

          • Untangled

            Also, before you comment on the Bankstown Line conversion shutdown. Do keep in mind that the Bankstown Line is a quiet line compared to others in Sydney, that doesn’t mean it won’t be disruptive but the Bankstown corridor is less dense today compared to the north west corridor of the future, the amount of new apartments being built there is insane. Bankstown corridor will also the same treatment, especially post metro.

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