A sizable fraction of the cost difference between then and now is the proliferation of governmental requirements, and with them endless studies (paralysis by analysis, some say). The streetcar or interurban company then had essentially one government requirement to meet: obtaining a franchise. Now, the hoops to be jumped through before construction can begin seem endless. Obtaining a franchise usually took weeks or months. Today’s process requires years. I remember Congressman Oberstar telling me it now takes 14 years to bring a rail transit project from conception to conclusion. Then it was less than 14 months. One fact does not change. Time is money.
This phenomenon, everything getting more complicated, is not limited to
rail transit. We see it everywhere across our society. It is a classic
symptom of decay and decline. If we look at the rise and fall of other
countries, we almost always find increasing complexity marking the
downward path. It can reach a point where nobody can do anything:
welcome to 17th century Spain.
Costs appear to vary enormously, often for little or no visible reason, i.e., tunneling. For Salt Lake City’s
UTA Frontlines effort, the total Light Rail share of the program came
in at $57.8 million per mile. An extension of Charlotte’s Blue Line LYNX
Light Rail is estimated to cost $123.4 million per mile. What gives?
What gives is that nowhere in the process of building rail transit is
there any player who has an interest in keeping costs down. There are,
however, many players who have no interest in keeping costs down;
indeed, they may have an incentive to drive costs up, because they make
Mass Transit Advocates Must Address the Cost Problem | Smart Growth for Conservatives