30 Comments
author

Hey guys — just realized that publishing this to the podcast feed required a separate step so I've done that now.

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It would be a better read if you edited the transcript to take out the umms, filler and repetitions. There are interesting gems in the transcript, but finding them was a bit of a slog

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This is exactly the kind of stuff ChatGPT excels at -- I'll see how it does with this later today

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And some clear auto transcription mistakes where I'm still not sure what was intended.

Admittedly that's tedious work.

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That the problem with audio, rather than just report in print what the guy said. Still, I understand, tases differ.

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I feel like public choice economists are just like rolling in I told you so here. At least in the descriptive part, not that countries that have better transit options are some theoretical free market oasis but something has gone quite awry here.

Like every topic here seems like a kind of bland technocratic question but the sum of those works out to a lot of concentrated interests of the few winning every discussion and diffuse benefits of the many getting screwed.

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founding

The interesting question is why this works out so differently in the United States than elsewhere.

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I think there’s a lot of specific governance issues. My inclination is that our federal structure is so sufficiently diffuse to avoid concentrating blame on any individual or office and enough riders have the option to use a car instead that it doesn’t rise on the agenda.

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FWIW Germany has had their struggles here too. My hot take is rail infrastructure is just really hard.

Billions Upon Billions for Berlin-Munich Bullet Train

The new rail route being built between Berlin and Munich is nothing if not ambitious -- as well as being the most expensive transportation project to take shape since reunification. But the line is yet another example of how France beats Germany in the high-speed rail game and critics say its costs may not justify the advantages it will bring.

https://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-s-longest-subway-billions-upon-billions-for-berlin-munich-bullet-train-a-794125.html

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The article suggests way too much parallelism and decentralization in command and entity structure allowing for constant friction, hold-up problems and general bureaucratic mire and not enough dictatorial hierarchy where the decisionmakers are personally accountable at the right level of granularity. Putting the NYC mayor in charge of this might work (although the post-Bloomberg mayoralty has been a clown show), but the governor of New York State isn't really judged by how well the MTA is managed despite it being under his purview (indeed, arguably the opposite considering what a firestorm running Andy Byford out of town should have been).

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People get weird about public choice. Trains are very important to Europe, and the right wing is more resigned to high tax and transfer baseline. So there’s a stronger political coalition available to check on this issue for efficiency.

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If good projects are going un-executed because of borrowing capacity, that just reinforces what I ‘ve though for a long time, the US needs a different way of financing infrastructure. Smaller units should not fail to execute cost effective projects because of borrowing limits and the federal government should not bunch infrastructure spending to magic moments when all the veto points are simultaneously weak enough for an “infrastructure bill to go through. I think an infrastructure bank able to finance hundreds of billions of projects per year is called for. Not only could this get more resources into infrastructure, but the bank would be able to apply proper cost benefit analysis on the projects, demand more discipline on projects, and centralize best practice knowledge.

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Wow, crazy that they feel the need to build big underground offices. Above ground seems like a semi-obvious solution to that, right?

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Apr 13, 2023·edited Apr 13, 2023

I think genuinely only semi-obvious in that above-ground land area in Manhattan is an *extremely* contested and expensive commodity and office space seems likely to take up a lot more aboveground space than the typical narrow subway entrance. Most (though not all) subway stations genuinely do have a pretty minimal aboveground footprint. Can't recall how big the Second Avenue Subway's is, though - IIRC it is larger than usual.

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They have taken some street level space for new 2nd Ave but if I recall correctly it’s given over to a backup ventilation system or something of that nature. The stations are massive even excepting the office space. Underground locker rooms etc seem fine anyway the meat of this is given realities of daily use they want to make more people share smaller space.

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Transit Costs Project Audio had a banger set last night. Solid NYC Indie band.

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Wow, I usually don't like listening to audio discussions, because reading the transcript gives me the same info so much more quickly and with less wasted time.

But this transcription makes reading it just as slow and irritating as listening!

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This seems like more evidence that the Democratic Party treats infrastructure projects as jobs programs rather than infrastructure projects.

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So the take home seems to be that the weak state and planning bureaucracy in the US gets overrun by other stake holders and contractors and costs balloon?

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Will you upload it as a podcast? Thanks a lot for everything you do.

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One possible overarching part of this problem that I think unites a lot of the different individual problems is that "people who went to public policy graduate school" are a very active and important constituency to many of the policymakers. Not fixing these very obvious bureaucratic problems creates lots of makework middle management and project coordination jobs for that demographic.

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Please add this audio to the podcast feed that had the curio files.

It’s really hard to listen on substack on a phone, particularly if you aren’t listening to the full hour in one session.

I love the work overall but this should be an easy fix to help improve user experience

Thank you!

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author

Just did it!

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Oh, this is great, thanks. I'd been hoping to see a transcript.

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Put this on the podcast feed! Don't make us click through another time to listen. C'mon!

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Another issue with TBM over cut and cover is that we are using it to make much much deeper stations. Eliminates noise on the surface but it adds a lot to cumulative travel time (it takes a while to get so deep!)

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Sorry for a gripey comment, but I really couldn't make it very far into listening to this because the audio quality was so bad. Matt was so quiet/grainy, I had the speaker turned way up, then I was blasted by Eric's loud, but glitchy sound. Was this just me?

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The capital cost maintenance discussion was confusing. That's just part of CBA whether to invest more up front to avoid maintenance down the line or not. I guess it is appropriate to build in some risk that maintenance in the future will not be done in a timely manner.

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