How Do We Solve the High Cost of Building Transit?

Compared to other countries, building mass transit in the United States has proven significantly more expensive. But why? And how do we fix this?

1 minute read

January 10, 2016, 1:00 PM PST

By jwilliams @jwillia22

fisheye photo of DC subway in station

ChrisDag / flickr

Why does it cost more to build a subway line in New York City than Paris or Tokyo, both dense, expensive cities? John Ricco asks the questions in the Greater Greater Washington blog, trying to identify what it is about the United States that makes building mass transit here so expensive. Ricco lists a number of possible culprits that lead to greater costs, from lawsuits and union rules, to inexperienced municipalities and the over engineering of station designs.

While it may be hard to narrow down the reason to one or two factors, the implications for higher costs are significant.

One major downside to having a cost problem is that it can be used as an ad-hoc justification to kill transit projects…

If your costs are five times higher than what they should be, that means you're potentially getting five times less transit than what's possible. If the Silver Line's costs were more in line with international standards, we'd have billions left over that could be spent on improving Metro.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 in Greater Greater Washington

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