Cost and Quality

From time to time, I see people assume that low-construction cost infrastructure must compromise on quality somehow. Perhaps it’s inaccessible: at a Manhattan Institute event from 2020, Philip Plotch even mentioned wheelchair accessibility as one factor leading to the increase in costs since the early 1900s; one of my long-term commenters on Twitter just repeated the same point. Perhaps the stations are cramped: I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the “transit riders deserve great stations” point from various Americans (there are several such examples in the thread in the last link alone), or for that matter from the people who built the Green Line Extension, and even Korean media got in on the action, falsely assuming that the spartan, brutalist stations of the Washington Metro were cheap (in fact, Washington is building an above-ground infill station for around an order of magnitude higher cost than Seoul’s cost for an underground infill station).

Please, stop.

If you want to know what very low-cost metro construction looks like, recall that the existing about 104 km (about 57 underground) Stockholm Metro was built in the middle of the 20th century for $3.6 billion in 2022 dollars. Here’s how the stations look:

Source: Wikipedia, by Tim Adams; description in text below

Stockholm is famous for its exposed rock: the hard gneiss forms natural arches, and the T-bana elected to paint it over from the inside, producing the bright blue-and-white contrast with dark blue leaf paintings depicted above at T-Centralen. The stations look drastically different from one another, with many examples available from UrbanRail.Net, Flickr user Dyorex, Flickr user Kotka Molokovich, and the travel site Walk Slow Run Wild.

Swedish construction costs today are several times higher, but remain below world average, and are nearly a full order of magnitude lower than in New York. The stations remain artistic, but this coexists with consistent, standardized engineering specs, modified based on local conditions only when necessary. Citybanan’s Odenplan is not at all spartan; the entire station, berthing 214 meter trains mined below the T-bana station by the same name, cost $250 million in 2022 dollars, which cost includes not just the station but also 2 km of mined tunnel. The data that I’ve seen while researching our Sweden case suggests that Nya Tunnelbanan station costs are dominated by civil infrastructure and not systems or finishes, which look like they’re about a quarter of overall station costs, rather than nearly half as in New York. Nice art is not expensive; for that matter, New York’s subway stations have pretty tiles, and this includes old stations predating the 1930s’ cost explosion.

Moreover, I doubt it was the case when the system was first built, but nowadays the entire T-bana is accessible to wheelchair users. In fact, a number of metro systems have made themselves fully accessible or are in the process of doing so, generally at low costs; I have some numbers from 2019, and the programs cited for Berlin and Madrid are behind schedule, but Berlin seems to be sticking to a budget of 2 million € for an ordinary station, and even taking into account inflation that Berlin needs one elevator per station and most cities need three, this isn’t quite $10 million per station, a cost similar to that of Madrid’s ongoing program. In New York, the cost cited for accessibility is $70 million per station.

What goes on here isn’t really a matter of high quality for high cost. In fact, when Eric, Elif, and I researched the New York case, we were stricken by how little of the problem concerned actual quality or safety regulations (for example, the fire code in New York in practice requires mezzanines at the depth of Second Avenue, but does not require them to be full-length). The oversize stations are neither grand public atria nor revenue-generating commercial spaces, but rather conventional stations flanked by excessive amounts of back office space. The lack of standardization concerns fittings, not art. The massive costs of New York elevator installation are barely about redundancy (a requirement driven by low but fixable reliability) and largely about utility conflicts, bad-and-worsening project delivery, and the soft costs crisis.

Making the user experience worse is an easy way to signal that one is cutting costs. It’s a combination of vice-signaling and prudence theater. It also has little to do with how actually low-cost infrastructure construction programs look like. They can be highly standardized even without the artistic component found in Sweden and Finland, and then people may complain that the system looks bland and corporate – but bland and corporate is not the same as spartan, it just means it looks like the 21st century and not the imagined 20th.

Good systems are certainly not willing to make compromises on human rights and build inaccessible infrastructure. In Seoul, there are massive protests by disabled people demanding that the Seoul subway go from 93% to 100% accessible and that the bus fleet immediately be transitioned to low-floor equipment, and meanwhile, New York and London both loiter around 25-30% accessibility. The conservative governments of the state and the city both dither, but past competence by Korea has led to high expectations by users, in the same manner that people in developed country protest inequality and poverty even fully knowing that it’s nowhere near as bad as in the third world. While I don’t know Seoul’s accessibility costs, I do know a deep-bored Line 9 extension with an undercrossing of Line 5 is budgeted at $180 million/km.


  1. wiesmann

    I would note that accessibility does not always equate new rolling stock. There are two examples of retro-fitted equipment in Switzerland to make them accessible.
    In Zürich the Be 4/6 Tramways built between 1976 and 1992 were transformed into Be 4/8 (Sänfte) with a lowered middle part with an accessible entrance.
    The BLS uses Jumbo-B carriages which are built from two Unity Wagons built between 1956 and 1967, again with a lowered middle part for accessibility…

  2. Navid

    Labor unions were stronger when the blue line in Stockholm was built during the 1970-1980s period. There was greater state control over project coordination and pretty much all the processes from planning to coordination was done by engineers working under some sort of government bureau with possible subcontracting to private construction firms that cooperated greatly with the state. This resulted in mass standardization of construction techniques, however we should not forget that environmental policies have been tightened over the decades so even if the same strategy was to be undertaken today, the costs would skyrocket regardless. Lots of environmental concerns were raised especially when the construction of the Hallandsås commuter rail tunnel was delayed due to uncontrolled environmental oversight which lead to contamination of groundwater.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, the part where they decided midway through Nya Tunnelbanan that they need to carefully remove the rock to a disposal site by truck, paying CO2 fees for the trucking, was delightful. And by delightful I mean “congratulations, you’ve destroyed value just to prove that you’re important, now move on.”

    • Tunnelvision

      Hallandsas was delayed by way more than the use of a toxic chemical grout. But that’s a whole other story of incompetence and wishful thinking.

  3. Onux

    “Stockholm is famous for its exposed rock: the hard gneiss forms natural arches, and the T-bana elected to paint it over from the inside”

    I don’t doubt Stockholm’s reasonable cost or attractiveness, but is it really a good international metric because of that gneiss? It would seem that not having to use shoring or earth pressure balance during construction, not having to install columns or structural walls, and not having to install finish walls or ceiling would all contribute to reasonable costs.

    For instance, you mention Odenplan being reasonably priced despite being mined beneath the T-Bana, but Stockholm’s geology would seem to make what is a major issues in most places (keeping existing lines/stations from sinking when you tunnel beneath them) irrelevant, the cost of a tunnel below should be the same as a regular tunnel (structurally the same that is; a deeper tunnel may need longer escalators, etc.)

    Also, did T-Bana stations look like that when they opened, or is the current picture the result of a later improvement program? Maintenance and upkeep is not a capital cost, but taking a bare floor and covering it in nice patterned terrazzo would be.

    • Alon Levy

      1. The exposed rock is original.

      2. Manhattan is schist, which isn’t as good as gneiss but is close.

      3. The ratio of finishes to civils in Stockholm looks the same as in Paris and Rome.

      • Tunnelvision

        And one thing to add there is absolutely no way a PE is going to take personal liability for a similar design in NY, even in the Manhattan schist, good mining rock though it is. While companies pay the cost of the liability insurance its still personal liability so that’s never going to happen.

        The other thing to consider is where the groundwater elevation sits and whether groundwater is going to get into the excavation over time…

        • Astro

          What is the particular rub the Stockholm designs that would be a hang-up in other countries? Is there just no good regulatory structure and guidance to certify and CYA that style of underground work?

      • Onux

        Late reply so won’t expect a response, but:

        1) I know the exposed rock is original, but what about the painting, the decorative up lighting, the nice terrazzo flooring, etc.

        2) Schist is good for digging, but you cannot do Stockholm’s exposed rock in schist, it is too brittle. From “Its abundant mica grains and its schistosity make it a rock of low physical strength, usually unsuitable for use as a construction aggregate, building stone, or decorative stone.” So places other than Nordic countries on hard gneiss have to pay for shoring, retaining walls, waterproofing, etc.

        3) What is important here is not the ratio but the absolutes. If the finishes are cheaper because you are using bare rock instead of building walls and a ceiling (#1 above) and the civils are cheaper because gneiss supports itself for easier tunneling and less structure (#2 above) then you can have a much cheaper project with the same ratio that other places cannot achieve due to geology.

          • Onux

            ‘“sometimes has to grout” but never has to provide shoring during construction or permanent columns’ is a lot different than ‘the entire length of tunnel and stations must be provided with cast or pre-cast concrete lining with a continuous waterproofing layer’. Main-beam TBMs for solid self-supporting rock are much cheaper to procure and operate than shield or earth-pressure balance TBMs.

            The Fornebu line is in Oslo, not your chosen example of low cost but beautiful Stockholm.

            Any idea on the appearance of the system on opening day? I tried several Google searches including some online translations into Swedish but only found recent pictures.

  4. Patrick Jensen

    The stations being mostly double bore is the most significant factor here, because if reduces the volume to be mined. Blasted spaces must have a certain ratio of width to height to prevent ceiling cave-in, so keeping the station width down is key. The West Metro extension in the Helsinki region was much more expensive than previous ones mostly because it went single cave stations.

    Trying to generalize too much from Nordic tunneling costs is a bit of a fool’s errand, really. Nordic cities (except Danish ones) have unusually thin soils due to recent glacial scour, so the tunneling methods used here are mostly adapted from alpine tunneling techniques. (The Tallinn–Helsinki tunnel study offers a nice comparison between Regular World City vs. Nordic City geology:

    This is also why some of the recommendations regarding tunneling in the cost project report, particularly using cut and cover and shallow tunneling depth are downright counterproductive in Nordic contexts, except Denmark, because Denmark has normal geology for a populated place.

    Really, the only truly universal rule is to keep mass haul down. Moving earth from one place to another is expensive, regardless of whether it’s solid rock or loose sand. How you accomplish that depends a lot on local conditions. Volume is one part and the other part, which the cost project really should look into, is the distances from source to deposit.

    • Tunnelvision

      Actually muck hauling is not a huge expense although with the difficulty of finding disposal sites its becoming more of an issue. Double and triple handling of muck makes it more expensive. Most tunnel projects these days use conveyor belts to do the bulk muck handling from the excavations to the surface and sometime s beyond. If your lucky and working in hard rock you may be able to then crush the rock and use it as aggregate in the concrete linings although that will not account for all of the muck. Letting the Contractor sell the muck helps to offset costs. If your lucky like Channel Tunnel was you use the tunnel muck to create a new piece of land that is now a eco park….. being able to transport muck away by train always sounds nice but means disposal points have to be served by rail or your double/triple handling muck. And you have the ongoing problem of contamination both man made and natural. Some rock contains naturally high amounts of arsenic for example…surface soils in big cities are almost always contaminated and as such re using them becomes problematic as no agency wants to take responsibility for re-using them. But overall muck removal is not a major cost driver unless the muck is extremely hazardous, usually petroleum contaminated. Having said that the less excavation you need to do the better…

    • Alon Levy

      But Denmark has the same construction costs as the rest of the Nordic world… it was more expensive 20 years ago because it adopted the globalized system early (e.g. it was always design-build and used creative off-books financing) but since then the other Nordic states have privatized their states down to the capacity of Denmark.

      Deep mining is more viable in gneiss, no doubt, but the one geology where you absolutely can’t cut-and-cover is the opposite – it’s soft alluvial soils like those of Amsterdam.

      • Tunnelviision

        Except that’s how they built the new underwater bicycle parking garage in Amsterdam. More sophisticated than cut and cover in other places as the Dutch understand water but basically it was cut and cover.

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, but the North-South Line specifically couldn’t use it – the ground subsidence reached 30 cm and buildings were damaged.

          • Tunnelvision

            Agreed. We were involved in monitoring of some of the buildings some horrendous ground movements. What was interesting is that the knowledge gained in Amsterdam helped inform some of the work in Copenhagen where old buildings were sitting on wooden piles on man made ground.

  5. Herbert

    Well in Nuremberg costs have risen higher than inflation and old stations look like this: or this: while newer ones look like this: or this:

    So associating cheapness with ugliness isn’t entirely unjustifiable given those data points for the average Nuremberg subway user….

    • Tiercelet

      Your examples of Rathenauplatz and Gustav-Adolf-Strasse are not noticeably more attractive than Gemeinschaftshaus. (If anything, both of the latter have tackier wall art, and the pebble ceiling in Rathenauplatz is both weird and weirdly-shaped.) I’ll grant that the newer stations’ hanging signage lighting is nicer than the fluorescent lighting in Gemeinschaftshaus, but I can’t imagine it costing *that* much more…

      • Herbert

        Maybe it’s because Langwasser isn’t particularly attractive as a neighborhood, but I consider the stations there (which were the earliest to be built in the system) as the ugliest. Especially with the tiles that exude all the “charm” of a mid-1990s highway rest stop toilet…

        But maybe that’s just me.

        However. If you dislike the aesthetics of Rathenauplatz station, you are objectively wrong.

        • Tiercelet

          If I could save a couple million Euro just by being objectively wrong, I’d feel a lot better about my track record!

  6. Tunnelvision

    Seems like you may be conflating quality and aesthetics. In the construction world quality is usually related to the materials used and their compliance with the defined standards. What’s clear today is that for example Turkey does not have the same approach to construction quality as other places do with its lax enforcement of building and design standards although many of the buildings that collapsed in the earthquake described themselves as “luxury”, a euphemism for high quality. Are you not really describing customer/passenger experience and aesthetics rather than quality here? I mean Stockholm and Helsinki have some very aesthetically pleasing stations that are also built to the relevant quality standards. Copenhagen similarly has functional, corporate stations infused with Danish design sensibilities and constructed with products of the relevant quality. Istanbul metro has standardized stations that function well as stations but aren’t winning any architectural awards anytime soon. But then what do you want from a station? Personally I want to be able to get to and from the platforms easily, with clear wayfinding, good lighting and easy to find and use ticketing machines. As for the rest, if there’s wi-fi or cell service who is even looking at the architecture, they r looking at their phone screens, the advertising panels or the train information boards. Destination stations seems to be the thing amongst some planners who go on to cite Stockholm forgetting that this is the exception, not every location has nice hard rock that with a smoothing layer of shotcrete can then be painted over and meet fire codes etc……add in the security paranoia that says all the services etc. must be hidden so they cannot be sabotaged and bingo you get the full architectural finish that is prevalent around the world.

    • Alon Levy

      The quality of construction in Turkey by small contractors building at the scale of one apartment building at a time is not the same as that of Marmaray.

      • Tunnelvision

        By the way some of those same “small” contractors are also involved in building of infrastructure projects… but having said that when I worked in Istanbul on the DSI Greater Istanbul Water Supply Project (Melen) project the contractors had their fair share of issues, tunnel collapses, piss poor shotcrete and concrete quality that we were frequently being asked to approve, because well its already placed even if its only 2/3 the necessary strength etc. Same shit happens pretty much the world over though. Anyway my point was the difference between construction quality and what your really talking about, aesthetics.

      • michaelj

        Saw a tv report last week on the quality of building in that earthquake-hit Turkish city. One of the big developer’s (possibly the only one willing to be interviewed on screen) gave the tv crew a tour of the city showing the 8 medium-rise apartment blocks he had built. All of them were still standing undamaged, often directly abutting others (not his) that were now heaps of rubble. He went on to explain the common knowledge of other developers and construction companies cutting corners in both materials (amount of rebar, quality of concrete) and design (he demonstrated an arrangement of pillars that resisted quake damage) and approvals, then illicitly adding a few extra floors during construction.

        Of course this guy probably (and it seemed) catered to the upper end of the market who could afford premium product. The problem in Türkiye, like many earthquake-prone places, is the need and pressure to produce cheap housing affordable by most of the populace.

        But Alon, I am sure you understand that they should have built to Haussmann standards so they wouldn’t have these problems! That might be my little joke but there’s some truth in it. Why build medium- and hi-rise residential in such places? Doesn’t make any sense to me, except of course that it makes sense to a developer. (Also, old Haussmannian structures are based on a timber structural core so much less likely to collapse catastrophically; equally that kind of timber I suppose would add to costs today?)

          • michaelj

            Actually everywhere gets earthquakes, just not big ones.
            My point was that Haussmannian construction (which is just shorthand for low-rise of that particular type) makes a lot more sense for zones at risk of significant earthquakes. Of course Japan may be a model for these things however it is a rich country so what works there won’t always work in a poor country, or the building regs aren’t easy to enforce.
            I suppose Danchi* apartment blocks could be a model. Though most appear about 14 floors which is too high. The new tall timber buildings could be a way to go. For up to about 8 floors the foundations & pad can be a lot less substantial (thus cheaper & quicker to build) because the weight of the building is so much less. The buildings are intrinsically more stable and safer. Macron has mandated that all buildings for the Paris 2024 Olympics must be all-timber if they are under eight storeys high.

            Still, CLT is not cheap so maybe overall this type of structure is still mostly for the rich world? OTOH steel and cement is v. expensive too.

            *The Japanese have fallen out of love with Danchi and many are getting demolished, not because they are no longer fit for purpose (say like all the HLMs, project housing, plattenbau etc built around the world post-war) but because no one wants to live in them. Many are empty, apparently simply via ageing of the inhabitants, combined with Japan’s and Tokyo’s excess of housing.

    • Henry Miller

      Many things that will win your station awards are negatives for the users of the station.

      Anything that gets in the way of someone running late getting to their train (which is just about to leave) is bad. If that person needs to buy a ticket (as opposed to already having a pass on their person), then you need to measure how long it takes to do that – including the time it takes for the credit card processor to give you a pass even though that is out of your control it is still a negative against you. If that person needs to go through a gate, then time to find the pass and put it on the sensor needs to be counted, as does the time for the gate to open (you will note that in some transit systems this time is down to zero!). You need to count the seconds to run from the front door to the platform. If someone is standing in the way trying to figure out how to get around then that time counts against the station design (the person we are aiming for already knows their way around the station, if his train is always on the same platform he doesn’t need way finding)

      That person should be the primary design consideration. I don’t care if you win an award because once I’ve used the station for a week it is the same old station it has always been anyway and I won’t look at it.

      • Astro

        Moreover, you can always come back and have a ‘beautification’ effort after you’ve built something at a reasonable cost. Build a compact, efficient, repeatable station design that you churn out to get the line into service. There’s no reason you can’t come back later in life and add some cool paint, or art installations, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

        Hell, looking back at metro designs that stick out, it’s mostly down to the surface-level finishes. Concessions to make the stations bigger, longer, or taller just make me think “damn, this is a long walk to the platform.”

        • LMD3014

          Also, a smaller project can be far easier for local architects and artists, and won’t get any attention from starchitects and celebrities, so the quality and attention to context may even be better.

  7. Phake Nick

    Speak of which, in Japan, Hokuriku Shinkansen’s extension plan from Tsuruga to Osaka, the last missing link of the line, is now projected to cost 3-4 trillion Yen, despite a cheaper alternative of connection via Maibara would have only costed less than 1 trillion yet the later is not chosen because:
    – Tokaido Shinkansen have no extra capacity to allow through service, even after Chuo Maglev Shinkansen phase 2 completed
    – If Maibara is to be a transfer station instead, then it offer no visible advantage over transfer via Tsuruga station which in ~2024 will start having coordinated transfer, while track layout of Maibara station and Tokaido station Kodama train timetabling would prevent that
    – Currently, all passengers from Kansai area including Osaka, access Hokuriku area using combination of conventional trains and Shinkansen that are all run by JR West. But if the passengers are to connect via Maibara, JR West will lost revenue due to Tokaido Shinkansen being operated by JR Central, and passengers will also have to pay more in fare.
    – Connection from Tsuruga via Maibara to Shin Osaka is expected to cost 67 minutes, which is only a little bit of time saving while still needing 1 transfer compared to the arrangement from ~2024 onward which is transfer via Tsuruga for Osaka on conventional train which will cost 87 minutes, although connection via Maibara would be less likely to be affected by snow in the winter
    – According to Japanese law, if the Maibara route is chosen to be constructed, 1/3 local government fee will dominately have to be paid by Shiga prefecture, and Shiga prefecture will also need to bear the responsibility of pay for maintaining operation of conventional rail service across section that parallel the Shinkansen, which offer the prefecture no benefit as most of its population are not along the route despite going to cost them billions of USD and then a long term financial burden and also worsened service. On the other hand the currently planned route avoided Shiga prefecture and thus would not require financial participation from the prefecture.
    – The current more expensive route would go through Obama City, a town which from half a century ago was granted prospect of having Shinkansen service in exchange for hosting nuclear power plants
    – Route via Obama City can also double as route for connection to San’in area from Kansai area in the future, whereas the Maibara route wouldn’t be able to.
    – Connection via Maibara rely on Tokaido Shinkansen to connect into Osaka and thus cannot act as a back up route to the Tokaido Shinkansen.

    With all these disadvantages of building along cheaper alignment, is there no other way around than for Japan to build lines at cost multiple time above the minimal cost necessary?

    • Luke

      Little though I know of the situation, it sounds like “minimal cost necessary” is not strictly related to material cost. Politics is always expensive. Nonetheless, as all of Japan outside Tokyo (and Keihanshin, to a certain extent) is gradually depopulating, avoiding excess costs even at the cost of reduced or compromised service to Osaka is essential. People who want access to Osaka from eastern Shiga still have the Biwako Line and the Tokaido shinkansen, and are geographically closer via those faster lines, anyway, than those around Obama who’ll be served by the Hokuriku extension.

      “Excess costs”, here, likely means avoiding politically-motivated delays like we’re seeing on the Chuo Shinkansen in Shizuoka, as much as it means anything else.

      • Matthew Hutton

        The politically motivated issues with Shizuoka are the same as the issues causing some of the HS2 costs to rise so much and can easily happen in other places too.

        The only real problem with the Chuo Shinkansen is that giving every prefecture a station doesn’t work when there isn’t road access at all to the place the station would go.

        Perhaps though you could stick an expensive eco tourist resort and have small platforms on the Chuo Shinkansen with one train a day or something?

        • Phake Nick

          “Every prefecture a station” is essentially a way to try to reduce NIMBY by giving each location it passes through something to look for. But there is 10km in Shizuoka it didn’t account for and that causes problems. Almost certainly JR Central isn’t serious about serving these rural location and are instead treating them like some sort of basic service like charity.
          Another thing is apparently JR Central is trying to reduce friction with other train companies by avoiding higher demand locations, so that JR East’s slow train to Kofu City in Yamanashi and Matsumoto in Nagano can still be reasonably competitive, which wouldn’t be possible if the Yamanashi station or Nagano city station are closer to either cities.
          But aren’t some of the stations, like the one at Yamanashi, being explictly built near highway exit to allow easy access by road?

          However, the issue here regarding Hokuriku Shinkansen, but in fact also a number of other Shinkansen projects, are different. Chuo Shinkansen is privately funded so NIMBY is essentially the only reason to finance it, however the like of Shiga’s position in Hokuriku Shinkansen extenstion, Saga’s position in bridging Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen missing gap, Kobe’s possible future role in construction of Shikoku Shinkansen or San’in Shinkansen, and Niigata’s interest in constructing Uetsu Shinkansen, are something that most objective comentors would agree no sane governor of these places would agree to their construction as there are barely anything to gain for these places if those propopsed lines are built yet they have to bear billions of up-front cost of new line and then also billion of running cost of the old line, while also having to deal with effect of fare disintegration and hike, schedule disintegration, and reduce in scale of economy of the trains.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Chiltern Railways gets nearly 30 million rides a year serving nowhere very large with parkway stations and (relatively) high speeds.

            That’s as many passengers a year as Trans Pennine Express gets linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Plus it’s also the least subsidised of all the train companies in Britain!

            So in general those rural stations probably will do OK. That said I do agree a Shinkansen station somewhere where there is no road access feels a bit much.

      • Phake Nick

        I am not convinced that rising the cost by 4x is worthwhile to reduce political pressure, especially when the Obama-Kyoto route is now also facing opposition on the ground “environmental protection” from Japanese Communist Party city councilors in Kyoto City and in Nantan, making they cannot start environmental review before starting engineering work.

        • Matthew Hutton

          4x is a lot. Enough to reschedule the Tokaido Shinkansen a bit and to add a cross-platform interchange.

    • Frederick

      If the Maibara route cannot shorten trip time, then it’s wasting money no matter how cheap it is; it won’t be cheaper than “building nothing”.

      If it takes 4 trillion yen to halve the trip time between Kyoto and Tsuruga, it’s a trade-off that the Japanese have to decide for themselves.

      • Phake Nick

        The main purpose of the extension is re-strengthen the tie between Hokuriku area and Kaisai area. In the past, the two area is being served by a direct old trains. But as the Shinkansen extend from Tokyo into Hokuriku, it introduced a break of gauge and passengers are forced to change trains, while happening at the same time is Shinkansen from Tokyo reduced access time betweeen Hokuriku and Tokyo a lot. It immediately reflected on states that number of people from Hokuriku travelling to Kansai for study have huge lost and Tokyo become much more popular among people in Hokuriku. Business and politicians in Kansai observed this and see it as centrality of Kyoto and Osaka being further reduced and Tokyo becoming even more attractive, making Japan even more monocentric around Tokyo than it already is, and fear about the future of Kansai area amid such circumstance, that was why they started treating this project seriously in 2010s and was trying to push for construction start in year 2023 although JCP is now blocking it from realizing.

        Whether a 20 minutes time saving and a change bewteen two Shinkansen trains instead of between fast and slow trains will make Osaka and Kyoto become more attractive to population and business in Hokuriku is unknown, but what is important here is the mentally felt distance more than the physical time or distance I think. The Maibara route would make the whole trip be completed in Shinkansen network.

        Also, the Maibara route can reduce the problem of frequent weather disruption on the slow train currently going through Kosei line

  8. Michael Schaeffer

    Need to know when form for Transit Costs Project Event will be available.

  9. Nathanael

    I’ll give London a little bit of a break on metro accessibility issues given that some of their old station layouts are frickin’ ridiculous to deal with, featuring severely curved and sloped platforms, and they’ve ended up with weird situations with incompatible boarding heights sharing the same platform on several lines. And London will provide staff assistance to a degree I have never seen anywhere in the US. And London made all the taxis wheelchair-accessible in the *1990s*. And they are adding accessibility with every renovation, like they should.

    By contrast, New York has NO excuses. Its platforms are relatively straight and flat (now that the old South Ferry and City Hall loops are closed) and everything has the same boarding height. New York City is just bigoted and hostile to disabled people, that’s all. It’s been proven in court repeatedly. The MTA has repeatedly done renovations without adding accessbility, which is illegal, black-letter law dating in some cases to the 1968 Architectural Barriers Act. The city government had to be sued just over the *taxis*, which still aren’t accessible.

    ( )

    I fully expect Chicago and Boston to have 100% accessible systems before New York hits 50%. At some point the hammer is going to drop on New York City because it’s going to be the last outlier in the US.

    (Looking at the intercity rail system in the UK, it’s actually much worse than London on accessibility and with far less excuse for its backwardsness. Amtrak was just as bad but recently-applied pressure is changing it.)

    As for aesthetics… the IRT approach was to have standardized stations, with tiled walls, with different tiles on each station. Everyone seems to love it. The added cost of doing different tiling patterns for each station is essentially nil. This is, as you have pointed out, not the sort of variation which adds cost.

    • Alon Levy

      I believe Boston is three stations short of 100%, and two (Symphony and Wollaston) are being retrofitted as we speak; the holdout, Bowdoin, is considered for closure as part of the Red-Blue Connector, and if the connector is killed then it will be retrofitted too.

      That said, it costs Boston $25 million to retrofit a non-transfer station, which is ridiculously high by most European standards.

      • Nathanael

        Close. Not quite.

        Boston still has the surface Green Line stations to do (which they are working on). And the “historical landmark” station Boylston, which may be very difficult to retrofit under historical preservation legislation. (It’s 1500 feet from Park Street and 1600 feet from Arlington.) Also one station on the Mattapan Trolley (Valley Road), which might just be closed.

        The Boston commuter rail has more inaccessible stations, but again, not that many.
        – Five on the Franklin Line (Frankin/Dean College, Walpole, Windsor Gardens, Islington, Endicott)
        – Six on the Worcester Line (Wellesley Square, Wellesley Hills, Wellesley Farms, Auburndale, W Newton, Newtonville; the latter three are top priority, designed, and IIRC funded for construction)
        – Six on the Fitchburg Line (Shirley, Ayer, Concord, Lincoln, Kendal Green, Waverly, Belmont)
        – One on Lowell Line (West Medford)
        – Five on Haverhill line (N Wilmington which is under construction, Wakefield, Greenwood, Melrose Cedar Park, Wyoming Hill)
        – One private-use-only station on the Newburyport/Rockport line (River Works)

        At this rate I expect they’ll ALL be done, even Boylston, before NYC gets to 50% of the subway stations.

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