China New York Ottawa

Chinese Rail Expansion; Ottawa Prioritizes Transit

I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a few days – for unclear reasons, I ended up in Stuttgart and have been having trouble finding internet other than at the local Starbucks, which is charging 8 Euros an hour, completely unacceptable. So I find myself at Coffee Fellows.

Thanks to the Overhead Wire, more information on China’s enormous rail expansion in Business Week. Looks like the overall $546 billion ($190 billion of which for railways) economic stimulus plan will include, as expected, thousands of miles of new railways serving the entire country. China Daily reports that inner city subway lines will also benefit, though costs are increasing tremendously; for example, subways in Beijing now cost 800 million yuan (about $110 million) a km to build, up from only 100 million a few years back. As a result, the government’s stimulus plan couldn’t come at a better time, seeing as how it will enable cities to invest now, rather than later as costs continue to mount.

Overall, this will allow cities in China to ramp up their urban rail mileage from 550 km today to about 3500 km by 2020. Quite an expansion.

The head of New Jersey’s Department of Transportation, Kris Kolluri, sees China’s path towards increased rail funding as excellent news. He argues that $1.2 billion worth of transportation projects in his state alone could be started in 90 days were Congress to approve its expected infrastructure-funding program in the next few weeks. This would, he estimates, create about 10,000 jobs immediately and act effectively to stem the increase in unemployment rolls the United States is currently experiencing as the economic crisis deepens.

Kolluri also announced that the ARC project, which will produce another rail tunnel from New Jersey into East Midtown, will be under construction next year, as the Federal Transit Administration has granted approval to the project’s environmental impact statement and will begin to release funds. A deficit of funds, importantly, still exists, and the federal and state governments will have to find a way to make up the gap.

Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is moving ahead on a large transit plan of its own. Prioritizing transit over roads, the city’s transportation staff has encouraged the city council to create a “compact, transit city” out of what exists there now. The first phase of the project envisions a $1.7 billion light rail line that will traverse the city east-west along the city’s existing bus transit way. This has been a plan for years, and caused considerable opposition. We’ll see if the city’s council agrees. Second and third phases will include a southern link for the same light rail line. Interestingly, the city is considering selling the line to a private operator. Considering that virtually all transit is unprofitable, we’re not sure that will come through…

China Infrastructure

China's Bombshell

That’s right. China’s going to spend a mammoth $586 billion to pay for infrastructure improvements in its country. This money is going to high-speed rail, airports, subways, and improvements to impoverished rural towns.

This is what China’s doing to calm the economic crisis. Will we follow?

Beijing Chicago Honolulu New York President

Chicago to Benefit from Obama Election; Beijing Commuter Rail; ARC Costs a Lot More

Finally, the end of a long and dramatic week!

The Wall Street Journal had a nice report today about the potential benefits of an Obama Presidency for Chicago, which needs funding for transit as well as for its fledging 2016 Olympics bid. It’s not hard to imagine that Obama will focus on his adopted home town, especially now that his White House Chief of Staff will be Rahm Emanuel, another Chicago native. Also, one of the new co-chairs of his transition team, Valerie Jarrett, who is the chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Board, once was the chair the Chicago Transit Authority and worked in the city planning agency. She will be a strong proponent of transit and smart growth and she’s a good addition to the Obama team.

We will be discussing Obama’s influence on specific local projects, including the Chicago Olympics bid, in a post this weekend.

In Beijing, the government has announced the construction of a 100-kilometer suburban rail line which will provide efficient suburb-to-city centre commutes that are currently only realistically possible on the highways in automobiles. This comes on the heels of the city’s recent announcement that it will built two more subway lines, this in addition to the opening of three lines in July for the Olympic Games. Overall, the city plans 516 km of urban rail by 2015, up from 200 km today.

Note: by 2015, New York City will have (theoretically) completed the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, a 4 km line. Don’t laugh, cry.

Meanwhile, in the New York Region, the Access to the Region’s Core project, which will provide a second rail tunnel from New Jersey to East Midtown, is now estimated to cost $8.7 billion. That’s $1 billion more than estimated last year. Based on the fact that the states of New York and New Jersey are approaching bankruptcy, either the federal government gets involved to a greater extent or this project isn’t happening.

Anyone think this project doens’t make that much sense, anyway? The new tunnels won’t connect New Jersey riders to the tracks at the existing Penn Station, meaning that through-running Amtrak trains can’t use them, and the terminus is on the West Side, which New Jersey commuters can already get to. Why isn’t the station being built in the vicinity of Grand Central instead? It would make a lot more sense.

Finally, opposition mounts in the Salt Lake area of Honolulu following yesterday’s announcement that the rail line that was approved this week might bypass that area in favor of providing better service to the airport. Expect further controversy before the situation is resolved…