New York City could be facing fiscal death by expensive bus stations. In the NY Daily News, Aaron Renn points out how absurdly pricey New York City’s transportation projects have become—often for very little return. The city will be spending upwards of $10 billion (perhaps more) on a new Port Authority Bus Terminal. Other projects have price tags of $1.4 billion to $11 billion. More:
Why do New York’s projects cost so much? Disturbingly, no one actually knows.
We know some of the possible culprits. A combination of factors such as Buy American rules, union featherbedding, unique rail standards, excessive environmental review requirements for transit and our litigious culture all play a role. Fragmented governance and a lack of accountability may be keys as well.
None of this has stopped our leaders from promising more and more big transportation projects, often based on shoddy research. Facing a $15-billion, five-year hole in the MTA capital plan, Gov. Cuomo out of the blue announced a dubious LaGuardia airtrain nobody was asking for.
New York’s transit woes are a portrait of the collapse of blue model in miniature. The factors that Renn argues are causing the high costs are the classic features of that out-dated system: burdensome regulations, cronyism, and corruption. The problems will be hard to solve because they are deeply rooted. Corrupt politics, rent-seeking crony capitalists, organized labor, NIMBY lobbies, administrative incompetence resulting from poorly organized and poorly run bureaucracies: it took a lot of cooks to spoil this broth.
But the good news is that studying America’s biggest problems and bottlenecks — like our expensive health care system, bloated higher ed system, collapsing infrastructure — offer us the chance to reform and redesign the outmoded systems that are holding us back. The old ways of doing things aren’t good enough any more; American society needs a new era of reform that can transform a social and political infrastructure developed for the needs of an industrial society to the smarter, sleeker and more efficient infrastructure that our emerging information society desperately needs.