Waiting for the Subway

When compared to China's accomplishments in completing subway lines, North America's cities look exceedingly timid, where construction timeframes can stretch into decades. Will Doig examined why.
February 7, 2012, 6am PST | Michael Dudley
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As part of Salon's "Dream City" feature, Will Doig looks at how North American cities' mass transit schemes often get bogged down in bureaucracy, politics, financial woes and mismanagement, to the point where it's not unreasonable for people to wonder if they'll still be alive when the line in their city is expected to be completed. He writes,

"It only takes one politician to gum up a world-class transit plan...Voters want a subway stop on their block, so their elected officials fight for it, whether or not it really makes sense from an urban planning perspective. Or they don't want the subway coming near them. Or they want light rail but not a bus. Or they want an airport link, but they want it to go around their neighborhood rather than through it.

Good public transit is a cherished ideal of many progressives. Ironically, progressive values can end up making transit construction take longer. Part of the reason we don't build as fast as China does is because we have workers' unions, ADA compliance rules, and environmental concerns that require time-consuming impact studies...Good, affordable transit is a human rights issue too, though, and in many ways the common link in our desire for healthier, less wasteful cities that serve everyone equally."

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Published on Monday, February 6, 2012 in Salon.com
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