Why Is Subway-Building So Slow and Expensive in the United States?

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 7 2012 8:18 AM

Why Is Subway-Building So Slow and Expensive in the United States?

Will Doig at Salon attempts to answer the question and makes many interesting points, but ultimately comparisons with China are more interesting than enlightening. The real issue Americans should be pondering is why our big infrastructure projects are so much slower and more costly than comparable projects in Europe or Japan. Even expensive projects in big, old, rich cities like London and Amsterdam come in far cheaper than a New York subway project. That, I think, is the real mystery here. Improving the situation is likely to be complicated, since it's not just one thing as much as it is a series of overlapping cultural and regulatory issues, but it's important for people not just to come down with a vague case of China-envy and instead start with high but realistic expectations that we can match best practices from other developed countries.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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