Why Do Transit Projects Take So Long To Plan And Build? My SF Chron Op-Ed Today

The San Francisco Chronicle is running my op-ed today on why public transit projects take so long these days.  Case in point:

In 1925, Los Angeles opened a downtown subway tunnel (four-fifths of a mile long). After just one year of planning, construction took 18 months at a cost of $3.5 million ($47.4 million in today’s dollars). In 2014, after four years of study, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimated it would cost over $1.427 billion to build a similar 1.9-miledowntown “regional connector.” At $751 million per mile, it’s almost a 13-fold price increase from the 1925 project. And the 23.75 months per mile construction rate became 40 months in 2014.

Here are some thoughts on how to fix it:

Engage in strict oversight of construction management and awards and ensure no conflicts of interest due to construction-firm campaign contributions, possibly through the creation of more independent construction authorities.

Reform state laws to reduce litigation over environmental review of transit projects.

Allow local agencies to prioritize transit infrastructure over automobile traffic without requiring expensive new planning studies.


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