Our Construction Costs Reports are Out!

Both the New York-specific report and the overall synthesis of all five cases plus more information from other cities are out, after three years of work.

At the highest level, it’s possible to break down the New York cost premium based on the following recipe:

To explain the animation a bit more:

  • New York builds stations that are 3 times too expensive – either 3 times too big (96th Street) or twice as big but with a mining premium (72nd and 86th Streets). The 2.06 factor is what one gets when one takes into account that stations are 77% of Second Avenue Subway hard costs. This is independent of the issue of overall train size, which is longer in New York than in most (though not all) comparison cities.
  • New York’s breakdown between civil structures and systems is about 53.5:46.5, where comparable cases are almost 3:1. This is caused by lack of standardization of systems and finishes, which ensures that even a large project has no economies of scale. This is a factor of about 2.3 increase in system costs, which corresponds to an overall cost increase of a factor of about 1.35. Together with the point above, this implies that the tunneling premium in New York is low, compared with system and station cost premiums, which I did notice in comparison with one Parisian project five years ago.
  • Labor is 50% of the hard costs in the Northeastern United States; in our comparison cases, it ranges between 19% and 31%, and in Stockholm, which as the highest-wage comparison city is our closest analog for the United States, Citybanan’s contract costs were 23% labor. The difference between 50% labor and 25% labor is a factor of 3 difference in labor, coming from a combination of blue- and white-collar overstaffing and some agency turf battles that are represented as more workers, and a factor of 1.5 difference in overall costs.
  • Procurement problems roughly double the costs; the factor of 1.85 is 2/1.08, dividing out by the usual 8% profit factor in Italy. Those problems can be broken out in different ways, but include red tape imposed by American agencies, red tape imposed by some specific regulations, a risk compensation factor whenever risk is privatized (just not itemizing costs by itself adds 10-20%, and there are other aspects of risk privatization).
  • Third-party design costs add more. There are two ways to analyze it, both of which give about the same figure of a factor of 1.2 increase in costs: first, third-party design and management costs add 21% to Second Avenue Subway’s hard costs where various European comparanda add 7-8%, but the 21% should be incremented to 31% by adding the factor of 1.5 labor premium; and second, the inclusion of all soft costs combined is around 25% extra in Italy and 50% extra in New York, with the caveat that what counts as soft costs and what’s bundled into the hard costs sometimes differ.

I urge people to quote the cost premium as, at a minimum, a factor of 9-10, and not 9.34; please do not mistake the precision coming from needing to multiply numbers for accuracy.

I also urge people to read the conclusion and recommendations within the synthesis, because what we’ve learned the best practices are is not the same as what many reformers in the Anglosphere suggest. In particular, we urge more in-house hiring and deprivatization of risk, the exact opposite of the recipe that has been popularly followed in English-speaking countries in the last generation with such poor results.

Finally, if people have questions, please ask away! I read all comments here, and check email, and will vlog tomorrow on Twitch at 19:00 Berlin time and write any followups that are not already explained in the reports.


  1. Alex Cat3

    Your report mentions extending the W to red hook as one of the projects New York could do with lower costs. Why the W train and not the 1?

  2. Coridon Henshaw

    Do you have any thoughts on how inflationary materials shortages and greedflation will impact the cost premium going forward?

    My gut feeling is that high cost countries will pull further away from efficient cost countries, on the grounds that locations which already see high costs due to mismanagement are more vulnerable to greedflationary price increases by contractors.

    • Alon Levy

      Well, we adjust costs for inflation, so the impact of high inflation on real costs is zero.

      What’s true is that the construction sector is pro-cyclical, so that it’s harder to get workers in times of low unemployment (regardless of inflation) than in times of high unemployment. GLX suffered from this problem – it was so delayed that the civil works were done during the boom times just before corona rather than during the Great Recession as intended. But the impact of long-term changes is much more muted – South Korea remains a low-construction costs country, for example, even after 40 years of convergence.

      • Tunnelvision

        The other item to consider is the market conditions when you put out bids. When the cavern contract for East Side Access was bid there was one bidder. A year or so later after the 2008 meltdown the bids hitting the street had multiple bidders and (for NY) competitive pricing as agency work was assumed to be a guarantee of cash flow as MTA have to commit 100% of the funds or they cant award compared to the private sector that was mothballing jobs left, right and center.

  3. Tunnelvision

    Some interesting observations but generally nothing particularly earth shattering. I mean its no secret that in NY with MTA that Contractors include a 10 to 20% premium to pre price change orders due to the extremely opaque change order process. And with the rip and read style contracts for much of their work and low price bidding environment to avoid some of the corrupt practices of the past there are some good reasons for this. The level of oversight on an agency like MTA is quite intense with the Inspector General looking at everything as well. Add in the FTA’s aversion to allowance items and you get an environment where Contractors protect themselves from change risk by forward pricing it in their bid. And to some degree MTA accepts that as it means projects come in on budget. As for Agencies understanding the costs, certainly with MTA once the project is awarded one of the first things asked for is the detailed cost breakdown, schedule and cross reference register. There was a point where Costs and resource loaded schedules were not permitted by the MTA’s contracts although we tended to ignore that. But still every line item in the schedule had a costs item in the DCB so you could work out costs. They were though allergic to Unit Rate contracts and Bills of Quantities which would have allowed direct comparison between bids to have occurred. This most that was allowed was the schedule E but this did not include quantities unless entered by the Contractor and they were loathe to do that, and as this was not contractual was not of particular value. Likewise with no Standard Method Of Measurement you never knew quite what the Contractor had included in his costs and hence price for the project. This led to many low level disputes. For example how much over break was included in a rock excavation, was the price for excavating a trench only for the trench shown on the drawings or did it include the costs of the temporary works………. but MTA at the time only cared about the Low Bidder so discussions on this tended to fall on deaf ears, Unit Rates were considered too difficult to manage during construction…….

    Your comments on Maryland Purple Line are a little wide of the mark though. The Design Build Contract had a clause in it that allowed the Design Build Contractor PLTC to terminate if claims had not been resolved within 365 days. That’s what they did and the $250m was a settlement to make them “whole” for work completed through the date they issued the termination letter. The crazy thing about that project was that the delays at the start of the project were caused by a judge stopping the project accessing certain parts of the ROW and then MTA insisting that the schedule had to be met, plus a massive dispute with CSX over the design of a retaining wall…. One major problem in the US is that the agencies simply do not have the capability to manage large projects, a combination of being a low wage employer and lifetime employer means they really do not attract the right talent.

    One area where there are significant issues is the overcomplex contract documents agencies use. Not surprising though as they have to incorporate City Laws, State laws and Federal procurement laws and regulations. This leads to very complex documents, but the more complex a document the more the opportunity for ambiguity, which means an opportunity for inconsistencies and hence claims. Then you add in the lack of a SMofM, limited nationwide standard specs for items, Buy America, Ship America and the myriad other Standards and Criteria you end up with complex documents. And the Documents are heavily slanted towards the Agency, which as you says privatizes the risk and hence puts up the price.

    Not sure about your comments on Value Engineering. On every Design Bid Build project that I’ve been involved with in the US there is usually a VE phase with the Owner. NYCDEP for example have it as part of the process to get to a Bid set and many of the issues raised are related to OPs and Maintenance of the system and life cycle design and costing as the project moves from Capital to Ops. These have been quite rigorous and have at times resulted in quite significant changes.

    As for DB, there isn’t a single agency in the US that should be permitted to manage DB projects for Transit. The level of interference during the design build process is quite staggering considering the main reason for DB is simply to shift the liability to the Design Builder.

    Interesting conclusions on design costs. In terms of absolute costs, it will always be cheaper to have an agency undertake the design, their salary rates are lower. Whether they have the skill sets for the 3D design work, through modelling the impacts of a deluge system on ventilation flows in a road tunnel for example and digital twin/asset management is a different question. One agency we have been working with recently was using software which was no longer supported by the software supplier leading to data breaches because of its vulnerabilities, so that side of things would need to be improved upon as well. We looked at this with MTA a while ago and the thing that is missed is that the multiplier for long term agency staff is so much higher than for consultants because of things like healthcare for life after retirement (a massive benefit in the US) where healthcare premium can easily costs $1000/month for a family, free travel, generous final salary pensions schemes etc. none of which consultants get. So the lifetime cost of employing design staff for an agency is considerably higher than hiring a consultant who by the way has their overhead rates audited by the Federal Govt every year and in the case of MTA now has to agree to a performance bonus measured once or twice a year to get to a maximum of 7% profit……. in my view the Agencies should be hiring good talent on industry comparable rates to head up key design and planning areas and then augmenting the design teams as and when they need them through the use of consultants with specific skill sets rather than hiving off large chunks of design. But that would require a sea change in attitudes amongst all parties. ON a separate note it would be interesting to see design costs for DB versus DBB, I would hazard a guess that DB is generally lower as despite agency interference the design is part of the critical path and therefore requires decisions to be made rather than the endless noodling and navel gazing that happens on DBB…

    After 34 years in the underwound industry and time spent in the UK, Denmark, HK, Istanbul and for the last few years the US, there are some things that work and some that don’t but change is hard especially for those in the US….. and on a final point, you make a comment about brining in talent from outside the US. What I find surprising is that it already happens, or should through the consultants and the Contractors. Virtually all the major consultants are multinational and should really be bringing their worldwide experience to bear, if they aren’t it would be interesting to see whose fault is that, Agencies resistant to change or consultants not understanding the industry they are in. And as Contracts get larger in the US the influx of Contractors increases to the point where some US contractors are talking about not being able to bid on some of the larger programs as they dot have the credit or bonding capacity. This seems like an opportunity lost by all parties concerned.

    • Alon Levy

      1. The 20% MTA factor is pretty well-known, yeah. But there are a lot of extras tacked on top of that; as the report was going to press, one contractor was telling us that with the factor plus other random regulations, a $50,000 widget cost $85,000 for MTA procurement. Buy America was mentioned as one reason, but Buy America is supposed to have an escape clause if costs are 25% higher than an import.

      2. The privatization of risk coming from lump sum contracts is unfortunately not well-understood among the agencies. (I’m not even sure the contractors get the issue – the papers I read for the Swedish case mention that contractors prefer fixed price contracts.) There are itemized estimates, but they’re treated as a trade secret and hidden behind NDAs, and in general, the amount of casual secrecy about everything reminds me of authoritarian states more than of how non-English-speaking democracies do procurement.

      3. Yeah, one of the things we figured with DB while doing the more recent parts of the work is that it’s less a matter of DBB being better than a matter of Anglo agencies using DB to paper over some deep problems with micromanagement as you mention. The political appointees don’t really know what they’re doing, so they don’t know how to oversee contractors, and DB doesn’t fix that. Where I think DBB > DB is that DB bundles the work into fewer, larger contracts with more opacity about their internal cost breakdowns, and this further empowers the political appointees, whereas $50 million contracts are beneath their notice and would be overseen by a career engineer who’s probably my age or not much older.

      4. Nothing prevents public-sector agencies from paying competitive salaries. They choose not to because of a deep-seated ideological aversion to anything that looks like big government, but instead of small government they have the Leviathan by Proxy issue, and at the end of the day, you can pay the civil servants well while still keeping taxes low.

      5. I’m sure there’s a value engineering process, but at the end of the day, if you’re mining a 400 meter dig for a station serving 187 m long trains, you didn’t actually do value engineering. European stations with anything even approaching this ratio are rare and atypically expensive and often there’s a reason (for example, Museumsinsel is under a river). Same thing with the systems and finishes premium – whatever the MTA thinks it’s doing, what it’s actually done is set up a system where the same consultants that worked in Denmark and talked about how the Copenhagen Metro stations are 70-80% standardized worked in New York and faced so many constraints that the stations were not standardized at all.

      • Tunnelvision

        On the VE question, I said it happens, I did not say it was effective……. I was involved in a VE effort for BSVII a couple of years ago and the number of “settled” issues that could not be changed was ridiculous. Primarily due to political promises made to the community, for example no open cut or work in the streets for the stations….. well that really limits the scope of a VE to come up with meaningful options. Also the presence of the Owners designer in these VE sessions usually means that they are effectively defending their design and the fee received for it to date, although of course the designer will deflect any responsibility to the Owners staff and the various vested interests between station facilities and the train ops folk……no one wants to admit at that point that what was being designed was not necessarily the optimum project. On the flip side I’ve been involved in VE workshops for non Transit projects where radical changes to the point of eliminating sections of project have occurred…..

        Agencies in the US simply don’t pay competitive salaries, they rely on the long term benefits trade off, early retirement age etc. to suck staff in. The problem is that does not attract the best talent…. If there is a real desire to become leaders in transit they need to bring staff in on short term performance based above market conditions contracts, then they might attract the staff they need to, until then the Agency design staff will be in the second division. And honestly I’m not sure its the nuts and bolts design staff that they need, its the higher level planning and performance criteria folk that are really needed. Can they, yes if the political will is there but then look at what happened to Andy Byford…..

        Station standardization. Yes the same designers who designed Cop Metro also designed chunks of 2nd Ave. And the frustration of a standardized design versus a bespoke design for each station is real. However the main driver for this was the client. As you mention the crossovers may or may be needed from an ops perspective BUT NYCT insisted they needed them and would not sign off on the design unless they got what they wanted. MTACC under whose umbrella the project was designed and built did not have that much ability to push back, and the MNTA Chief Engineer sided with the operators. One of the Engineer of Records for 2nd Ave now works with me and talking to him about this process you could sense the frustration that a more efficient design could have been arrived at but the designers were hampered by NYCT’s involvement.

        Compare that to East Side Access where the one and only station was designed as a series of repetitive elements to enable the horizontal structural elements to be precast and delivered to site with only the vertical being designed for cast in place concrete or shotcrete. As much as possible was standardized, the escalators were procured under a stand alone contract so that they all came from the same manufacturer irrespective of which civil contract the escalator infrastructure would be installed by. There was significant objection to using this design for manufacturing process within MTA (the its never been done here before brigade) but the project adopted these designs and reaped the benefit as the station structural work was completed in around 12 months with some 6000 pieces of precast being delivered through the existing 4 miles of tunnel from Queens into Manhattan…… LIRR the end user did not get much final say in the civil and structural, but they did on the rail systems etc……..

        Oh and good luck with the 25% factor on Buy America. At the time MTA Legal simply refused to consider asking for waivers from the FTA. And don’t forget that BA applies to non steel products as well. The LVT or booted bock trackwork that was used on ESA was covered by BA. Meaning MTA had to persuade two manufacturers to set up facilities in the US to satisfy the “manufactured in the US” requirement. Similarly the marble used on the new ESA station cam from the same quarry in Turkey where the original came from for GCT but to satisfy the “manufactured in the US” piece of BA the marble was shipped in large blocks and cut and finished at a facility in the US…… all of which adds cost. And the list of this kind of stuff is extensive…….. just look at the tile issue on the Midtown Tunnel refurb……

        • adirondacker12800

          Compare that to East Side Access
          The East Side Access that was years late and three times over budget? To use a tunnel that was completed in 1972?

          • Tunnelvision

            That comment was on standardization of stations not the VE process. And on your comments the fact that the existing 63rd St tunnels had to be used caused constraints, no bi levels could be used as they did not fit and the immersed tube under the East River could not be enlarged, plus the alignments for the tunnels were supposed to surface into the lower level of the existing GCT, causing all kinds of problems with the vertical alignments that were eventually worked out…… but these things were set in stone as they were already built.

          • adirondacker12800

            It was supposed to go Port Authority Bus Terminal East on 48th Street so they could tear down Grand Central and build more office towers. Plans changed since the mid 60s.

    • CA

      It’s interesting how the US Class I freight railroads (CSX in your example above) seem to have become much stricter in terms of interfaces with other projects over the years. WMATA and BART both built right alongside busy freight lines with nothing more than chain link fence separation and allowed both projects to hem in their ROW with flyovers, tunnel portals, etc.

      Today, they seem to require “triple track double stack” clearances for everything, concrete barriers for adjacent tracks, service roads, etc.

        • SP

          The railroad permit process is ridiculously long – they’re not extracting any money (at least not anything that goes in their pocket), just holding things up with red tape because they can. In my State, many of our worst highway bridges are the ones that go over railroads largely because they tie up even routine maintenance that doesn’t extend past the edges of the deck in 6 months+ of plan review. The railroad usually pre-dates the highway, so they have prior rights.

  4. colinvparker

    How should I understand “red tape” as a cost increase? Is it that, absent the red tape, I could have built something with a weight rating of X, but the rules say I need to spec it to 1.5 X, so that I can think of it in a similar genre to overbuilding? Or is it more, for every dollar spent, I need to spend another dollar on an employee whose job is filling out forms and ensuring compliance?

    • Alon Levy

      Honestly, @Tunnelvision’s comment details a lot of the red tape involved. It can include the red tape that you mention, i.e. compliance costs, but also other things, i.e. constant micromanagement creating more work for the same people and dragging out timelines.

      • James S

        You dont think NYC has a corruption problem that leads to higher costs? All the fraud OT for example?

        • Alon Levy

          In LIRR operations, absolutely. But we haven’t found anything of that sort in construction – and we constantly heard complaints about the labor force from management, mostly about high wages and benefits (management does not believe labor is overstaffed, for the most part; they are wrong).

          • Menska Johansen

            While organized Crime doesn’t have the presence in New York that it once did (or Philadelphia or Chicago for that matter), at least historically they are an important contributor to the larger culture of rent seeking behaviour in the construction industry. Your mention of headcounts, for example, recalls widespread use of “no show jobs” as a means to divert construction spending into mob coffers (a major plot point in the Sopranos).

            I’m from Canada, and here Montreal’s construction sector at least historically, was famously corrupt (see: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/10-witnesses-whose-testimony-rocked-the-charbonneau-commission-1.2834413). Besides inflated costs, substandard materials and shoddy workmanship were common results, which wouldn’t necessarily show up immediately.

          • Alon Levy

            Yes, but New York does not have a lot of no show jobs. The problems are other things:

            1. Jobs that don’t really need to exist, like elevator operator or two-person crane operator teams, and are kept so that older sandhogs can still earn very high salaries without doing hard physical labor.
            2. Tunneling techniques that make little to no effort to innovate in labor saving.
            3. Very large overtime payments, which workers treat as part of the pay package to the point of seeking shifts with overtime, leading to overwork and accidents.
            4. Unusually large overheads on top of an already overstaffed blue-collar workforce (GLX had a ratio of 1 white-collar supervisor to 1.8 blue-collar workers; the typical range for New England construction is 1 in 2.5-3).
            5. Jobs that just exist to funnel money to other agencies, i.e. the insistence of utilities that their own supervisors be in the tunnels, in lieu of publishing utility maps.

          • James S

            What about sourcing crap materials? Ie, the MBTA had to replace entire sections of track after like 10 years because the concrete used was garbage. The 2ns Ave stations had leaks spring up almost immediately. Classic mob move was to use bad concrete on projects. In NYC, escalators seem to have a lifespan of 3 months at best.

          • Alon Levy

            In Boston, there were bad elevator contracts leading to poor reliability, and then they got more normal (and more expensive) maintenance contracts with the vendors and reliability went up from something like 85% to 99%.

      • Tunnelvision

        As Alon alluded to in his comments the Union rules can be an issue. There is no incentive to finish a job quickly for the Unions either, the dues paid and the number of card holders employed is key to being elected to a senior Union position, its telling that every Union has business agents….. You introduce computerized drill jumbos that anywhere else in the world require one man to operate, and you still have two sandhogs plus an operating engineer on the machine, the sandhogs gave up running of machinery to Local 14 a long time ago. Introduce shotcrete robots and they spend more time being fixed than in operation, TBM crews remain at 22 where elsewhere in the country you can run a TBM with 10 miners and the list goes on. The myth of the sandhog is very pervasive in NY and is carefully cultivated, yes it can be hard work if you are having to hand drill and charge a heading, but no harder than in the mines or other countries, but in NY its eulogized and they get away with shit that miners in other places would not.

        And the biggest scam is weekend and overtime. Its time and a half on Saturday and double time Sunday, or was. The Union rules allow the longest and senior members to take the first pick. So the best guys work the weekend and then take Monday and Tuesday off meaning you can end up with a crew of shapers (apprentices) for Monday and Tuesday……. inefficient and accidents waiting to happen.

        • adirondacker12800

          The sandhogs don’t make projects go billions of dollars over budget.

          • Tunnelvision

            Well actually East Side Access finished on budget…. maybe not the original budget, but the final approved budget……

            No they don’t, but they skew the labor cost as a % of the bids and they are not as efficient as other workforces. With no ability to pay bonus work expands to fill the time and as noted in the Transit Cost report given the fact that US labor tends to only work in its immediate vicinity there is no incentive to finish a project timely, as once its done where’s the next one, and time = money for contractors and clients.

            There’s a couple of things that impacted ESA that rarely get a mention. MTA’s five year funding cycle and the impact that the 2008 financial crash had on the MTA’s ability to issue bonds and as such what the MTA could actually afford to get out on the street, which led to delays to procurements and hence increased prices. The other factor was AMTRAK’s involvement in the project. The rebuild of Harold Interlocking, the busiest in the US, was an extremely complicated undertaking. Creating new real estate in a 120 year old facility with 4 operational railroads, each with their own rules, 3rd rail and overhead catenary on some shared tracks was challenging especially with AMTRAKS lack of A- Men and interest in East Side Access compounded things. This did cause massive delays and increased costs as did their insistence of new everything or they would not approve ESA designs.

            There were multiple reasons why ESA cost what it costs and took as long as it did to build. Every cancelled outage by AMTRAK, every extra dollar on labor due to Union overstaffing, every betterment requested by Con ED, every access agreement for third party buildings, every piss poor decision by LIRR on systems, every Buy America issue that MTA refused to deal with FTA on, every planning and engineering decision, every packaging decision, every commitment such as to not add truck traffic to Manhattan without understanding how your going to get concrete to the project or to rebuild Harold interlocking without requiring any service cancellations or changes caused the cost and schedule increases. Not to mention not enough funding in the Capital Plan approved by Albany, financial crash in 2008, lack of capacity in the binding and surety markets…..

  5. Henry Miller

    How do we get people who matter to read this? That is people who should be making the decisions to change things. Politicians who are coming up with the funds, and the agency upper management? Is there anyone else who should read this – how do I find them and get to see it.

    Or is it first how do I get them to care: I’ve concluded that the purpose of transit projects isn’t to build transit, it is to feed money to various construction interests, and so low costs projects are not valued.

    • Matthew Hutton

      Personally based on how to have influence in the UK I would go out campaigning in the swing districts in New York City that have a Republican incumbent.

      Making friends with AOC and her people probably also isn’t a bad shout as she clearly is a very sophisticated politician – albeit perhaps an outsider.

      Fundamentally it’s embarrassing that London and Paris – not to mention newer players such as Singapore – can build new infrastructure and New York cannot. Those cities are probably cleaner and tidier too.

      • Eric2

        We (for certain definitions of “we”) got AOC to embrace YIMBYism so there’s a chance!

      • Navid

        I know young republicans and democrats (GenZ) who are for mass transit, I could cater to them without problem. However there’s no doubt biggest potential to cater to YIMBY democrats as well as younger affiliates mostly GenZ and Millenials.

        • Matthew Hutton

          I don’t think you should campaign for the republicans. I think you should campaign for the Democratic Party but look like you understand which seats are most important for them to win power.

          Also probably there’s some useful learning from the voters about the right path for pro-public/active transport activism.

          • Henry Miller

            You should campaign to both parties. Both parties have different needs around transit, but making building it is important. Republicans that instead of killing projects control costs are important (this is what the right wing does well in countries with good transit). The Democrats need to see transit as valuable for getting around and not just a way to shovel money to supporters.

  6. Henry Miller

    I was surprised to see escalators called out as a place where standardization helps. I know nothing about them, but my impressions is you need a box in the floor and at the top for mechanical parts, but since the slope is constrained, and height must be variable, overall they should be off the shelf standard. What am I missing about them that makes each manufacture very different.

    • Tunnelvision

      Not so much standardization as having one supplier for a particular project. On ESA there was one supplier, Schindler, who was contracted early on and was involved in the development of the civil designs for the motor pits etc. With some very constrained real estate, think high pressure steam tunnels under the existing GCT, getting the escalators to fit in the space available was challenging and having the supplier on board early meant that these issues could be worked through with the designers to eliminate clashes. I believe on 2nd Ave, each new station was a different Contractor and hence escalator supplier. from an Ops and maintenance perspective now you need to understand different equipment, have different maintenance contracts with different suppliers etc…

  7. R. W. Rynerson

    The report certainly matches the subjects that I’m familiar with. Representing the Service Planning and Operations point of view, I would add that if VE or political interference or any other reason removes planned elements from the project, the service design committed to the customers needs to be re-examined. We can always make the new situation work — a colleague once observed that leaders assumed that service planners could just sprinkle pixie dust over the issues — but it won’t work as promised and ridership forecasts may not be met.

    The effect on capital costs for equipment also needs to be checked. I can recall multiple projects that ended up with shortages of rolling stock or extra maintenance costs because train cycle times had to be increased.

    For both of these issues, which also apply to BRT or feeder bus networks, the value of retaining staff expertise was shown. We began to expect those problems with each project and were pleasantly surprised when they could be addressed.

  8. Nathanael

    You’ve nailed the NYC culture of turf wars, compulsive secrecy, and one agency fighting another when they should be working together.

    Is there any way to change that? In a normal city every civil servant would agree that they were working together to make a better city. But not in NYC! Oh no, in NYC the Parks Department treats the MTA as the enemy, and the LIRR fights with Metro-North. How to change this whacko culture, which results in a city which — to put it bluntly — sucks?

    • Alon Levy

      (I killed a duplicate.)

      There is a way forward: eliminate the political appointees, bring in the technocrats, legislate mandates for transparency (of e.g. itemized contracts).

      • adirondacker12800

        Assuming they are you kind of technocrat. There are technocrats that come up with “cars”, “more cars” and “only cars”

        • Alon Levy

          There aren’t, is the point. There was an actual movement in that era called technocracy and it never proposed cars-only urbanism – quite to the contrary. The actual technocrats at the BPR literally moved away from the cars-only approach in the 1940s and early 50s. The only reason the Interstates are toll-free is that the Toll Roads and Free Roads report authors, who found that such a system couldn’t pay its own construction costs from tolls, were under political pressure to present a positive spin on the situation and therefore suggested toll-free motorways instead. Same with in urban planning: the technocrats proposed multimodalism and regionalism in the early 1940s, and the snob suburbs complained, so the authorities got non-planner politico Robert Moses to enure that regional planning wouldn’t be multimodal or egalitarian.

          • adirondacker12800

            Silly me, I got the impression that “the way forward” was some time in the future.

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