U.S. Urban Rail Transit requires $3.195 trillion

We are at the end of an era – the end of cheap oil, the end of suburban sprawl, the collapse of the world’s “shadow banking system”, the end of Wall Street’s arrogation of our nation’s financial system, the end of treating our natural environment as a “free” externality that corporations and consumers can ravage at will. In this time, as we transition from one era to another, billions is the mark of a mere politician. A true statesman -- someone who understands what we need to bring our country into the new era dawning -- will be talking about how many trillions we need. That’s why I was not happy with the stimulus package proposed and won by President Obama. Fortunately, the President has noted that it was only the first stimulus, implying there may be more to come. What we need to do now is begin defining the terms of the debate as to what is needed, and how much it is going to cost.

Below I outline one -- just one -- such national program we need. To build adequate urban rail transit systems in the 39 largest U.S. cities, where nearly half of all Americans live, is going to require $3.195 trillion. That is just construction costs – it does not include the cost of new rolling stock and maintenance rail vehicles. It is a project that can create 7.5 million jobs a year, for ten years. And it is a project that we most assuredly will not even initiate so long as we are content with politics and business as usual. NYC BMT Brighton at W 8th New York City Transit BMT Brighton Line, at West 8th Street, photo by David-Paul Gerber, 7/13/2008, www.nycsubway.org

Building 50,757 kilometers of new rail transit lines, at a cost of $3.195 trillion. is based on building urban rail mass transit systems to the same service density found in New York City, in the next 38 largest urban areas. I began by assuming a desideratum of having a rail transit line no more than 2.5 miles from any point in an urban area. That is, if you took a square of urban area five miles on each side, we want to have a rail transit line running directly across the middle of that square. Slice that 25 square mile area into one mile strips, and you get one mile of rail transit line for every five square miles of urban area, or a density of 0.2 mile of rail transit line for every square mile. Converting square miles to square kilometers, and miles to kilometers, what we are looking for is a density of 0.124 mi of rail transit line for every square kilometer of urban area.

Let me note here that these are numbers aggregated on the national level, and there will, without doubt, have to be major adjustments made for each urban area, to take account of specific factors of geography, population density, and existing transportation service densities. This is only an attempt to discover the size of national effort required, not a detailed plan for guiding planning and implementation. No small part of my intent is to demonstrate how inadequate the recent $750 billion stimulus package is, when measured against actual infrastructure needs.

I needed to convert to metric because I wanted to be able to compare U.S. cities with cities in Europe and elsewhere, and for the more basic reason that the statistics available for urban rail transit systems, at both Wikipedia’s List of Urban Rail Systems by Length and at the amazing www.urbanrail.net provides statistics in kilometers.

The statistics for land area for major cities in the U.S. is found in this table from the U.S. Census Bureau: United States and Puerto Rico -- Metropolitan Area, GCT-PH1. Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2000.

Also, the primary Wikipedia entry for each city provides the population and land area, including for cities around the world. My theory was that in order to achieve the same proportional levels of transit rail ridership you find in the great European cities, you need to provide similar densities of transit service and infrastructure.

I was surprised to find that my desired density is met by New York City, which has 368 kilometers of rail transit line for a land area of 1,141.64 square kilometers, or a density of exactly 0.1245 kilometers of rail transit line per square kilometer. Perhaps I have stumbled upon a statistical artifact of some competent city planning authority for New York from a by-gone era? Someone with some knowledge of the history of New York urban rail transit might be able to provide an answer.

Finding that New York City meets the desired rail transit density is also a confirmation of the validity of the desideratum because New York City is unique among American cities in the high percentage of its population that uses its urban rail transit system. Over 80 of the passenger route miles in New York City are carried by the rail transit system. New York City has, by far, the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city, with 54.2% of workers commuting to work by this means in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2006, Table S0802. New York is the only city in the United States where over half of all households do not own a car (Manhattan's non-ownership is even higher - around 75%; nationally, the rate is 8%).

The geographical availability of rail transit is a major determinant in whether or not commuters will use a system. In the Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 9, No. 5, 2006, Robert Cervero of the University of California, Berkeley found that

Surveys of rail-commuting in metropolitan Washington, D.C. found that nearly 50 percent of those working in offices within 1,000 feet of downtown Metrorail stations rail-commuted. In the case of offices that were comparable distances from the more suburban Crystal City and Silver Spring stations, the shares were 16 percent to 19 percent (JHK and Associates 1987). Place of residence was a particularly important explainer of whether office workers patronized transit. In the case of the Silver Spring Metro Center, a 150,000-square-foot office tower 200 feet from the Metrorail portal, 52 percent of workers who lived in Washington, D.C. rail-commuted; among those living in surrounding Montgomery County, Metrorail was used by just 10 percent (JHK and Associates 1989).

Surveys of those working in offices near rail stations in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990s found that around 1 of 10 individuals got to work by transit (Cervero 1994b). Suburban station-area workers were 2½ times more likely to get to work by rail than other Bay Area commuters. As in metropolitan Washington, living near transit made a difference. On average, 19.3 percent of those who lived in a city served by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains and who worked near a BART station commuted by rail compared to 12.8 percent of those who worked in a similar setting but did not live in a BART-served city.

This table, Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips and Passenger Miles for Urbanized Areas Over 1,000,000 Population, Fiscal Year 2004, from the American Public Transit Association, shows that the more dense a rail transit system is, the more it will be used. For example, passenger miles in Chicago are some 30 percent higher than Los Angeles, despite the larger population in L.A. Particularly telling is a comparison of Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC – each with relatively much more developed rail transit systems – with Miami, Dallas, and Houston.

The amount of rail kilometers of new line required for each city is based on land area, not total area, which includes water. For some cities, such as New York City or Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, Virginia, the amount of total city area under water is very significant. For many of these, it appears to be because the municipal boundaries are extended into neighboring bodies of water. For example, the Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wisc., PMSA is listed as having a total area of 3,322.27, of which 1,862.38 square miles are water, or 56.1 percent, the highest percentage of the 29 cities. The Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria, Ohio PMSA has a total area of 5,347.31 square miles, of which 2,640.47 square miles are water, or 49.4 percent, the second highest percentage. The city with the third largest percentage of water area is Norfolk--Virginia Beach--Newport News, VA--NC MSA, which has a total area of 3,586.20 square miles, of which 1,237.71 are water, or 34.5%. The next largest water areas by percent are Chicago, IL PMSA at 24.6 percent; Tampa--St. Petersburg--Clearwater, FL MSA at 23.3 percent; New York City at 19.3 percent; Baltimore, Md. and the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA CMSA both at 16.0 percent; and Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA MSA at 15.9 percent. Boston, MA-NH PMSA is 14.7% water; Los Angeles--Long Beach, CA PMSA is 14.5 percent; Orlando, FL MSA is 13.0 percent; and Seattle--Bellevue--Everett, WA PMSA is 11.9 percent. All the rest are ten percent or less of water area.

The city with the smallest percentage of water area is Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona, which has 14,598.36 square miles of which only 25.63 are water, or 0.2 percent. The next two lowest are Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. PMSA and Denver, Col., which both have 0.5 percent of their total area listed as water.

I may have lost you in that listing of water areas, but the overall national total can be greatly impacted by these considerations. In my initial calculations, I found estimated cost was bloated over $1 trillion by the unusually large land areas of Riverside, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nevada. There may be good reasons why these municipalities have incorporated so much land area, but it is doubtful that as much transit rail network needs to be built for these areas as the numbers indicate. I discarded the land areas numbers for these two cities found in the U.S. Census Bureau table, and substituted the land areas numbers given by Wikipedia for each urban area.

U.S. Urban Rail Transit Requirements
Urban Area Population (million\s) Land Area (sq kms) Existing rail km Desired rail km
New York, NY PMSA 9.3 2,957 368 367
Los Angeles--Long Beach, CA PMSA 9.5 10,518 117.6 1,304
Chicago, IL PMSA 8.3 13,111 170.6 1,626
Dallas--Fort Worth, TX CMSA 5.2 23,579 72 2,924
Philadelphia, PA--NJ PMSA 5.1 9,985 61.6 1,238
Houston, TX PMSA 4.2 15,333 12 1,901
Miami--Fort Lauderdale, FL CMSA 3.9 8,162 36 1,012
Washington, DC--MD--VA--WV PMSA 4.9 16,859 171.0 2,091
Atlanta, GA MSA 4.1 15,861 77.0 1,967
Detroit, MI PMSA 4.4 10,093 4.8 1,251
Boston, MA--NH PMSA 3.4 5,236 708.0 649
San Francisco--Oakland--San Jose, CA CMSA 7.0 19,083 167.0 2,366
Phoenix--Mesa, AZ MSA 3.3 37,743 32.2 4,680
Riverside--San Bernardino, CA PMSA 3.3 12,562 none 1,578
Seattle--Bellevue--Everett, WA PMSA 2.4 11,457 24.5 1,421
Minneapolis--St. Paul, MN--WI MSA 3.0 15,703 19.2 1,947
San Diego, CA MSA 2.8 10,878 82.0 1,349
St. Louis, MO--IL MSA 2.6 16,555 74.0 2,053
Tampa--St. Petersburg--Clearwater, FL MSA 2.4 6,615 none 820
Baltimore, MD PMSA 2.6 6,757 24.5 838
Denver, CO PMSA 2.1 9,740 56.0 1,208
Pittsburgh, PA MSA 2.4 11,980 41.6 1,486
Portland--Vancouver, OR--WA PMSA 1.9 13,022 70.0 1,615
Cincinnati, OH--KY--IN PMSA 1.6 8,655 none 1,073
Cleveland--Lorain--Elyria, OH PMSA 2.3 7,011 54.0 869
Sacramento--Yolo, CA CMSA 1.8 13,194 61.0 1,636
Orlando, FL MSA 1.6 9,041 none 1,121
San Antonio, TX MSA 1.6 8,615 none 1,068
Kansas City, MO--KS MSA 1.8 14,002 none 1,736
Las Vegas, NV--AZ MSA 1.6 1,600 6.2 198
San Jose, CA PMSA 1.7 3,343 67.5 415
Columbus, OH MSA 1.5 8,136 none 1,009
Indianapolis, IN MSA 1.6 9,125 none 1,131
Norfolk--Virginia Beach--Newport News, VA--NC MSA 1.6 6,083 none 754
Charlotte--Gastonia--Rock Hill, NC--SC MSA 1.5 8,746 15.5 1,084
Providence--Fall River--Warwick, RI--MA MSA 1.2 2,956 none 367
Austin--San Marcos, TX MSA 1.2 10,940 none 1,357
Milwaukee--Waukesha, WI PMSA 1.5 3,781 none 469
Nashville, TN MSA 1.2 10,548 none 1,308
TOTALS 123.4 429,563 2.569.3 50,757

Again, keep in mind that this exercise is intended only to outline the scope of the national effort required. According to these numbers, very little new transit rail needs to be built in cities like New York, Boston, or Chicago, but given that these urban areas already have workable urban densities, and are being choked daily by congestion caused by the currently preferred national mode of transportation -- automobiles -- it is more than likely that extensive additional construction is needed in these areas. For example, here is the result of a quick one-hour PowerPoint exercise in filling in the gaps in the rail transit system of Chicago. (The dotted lines are my flight of fancy.) Chicago Rail Expansion

In fact, when we look at the number of miles based on population, we find that many urban areas which already have large urban rail transit systems could use much, much more. For example, the Chicago area’s 8.3 million people are served by 170.6 kilometers of urban rail transit. At 40 kilomoters per million people, the Chicago rail transit system should be doubled in size, to 331 kilometers.

This is a map of the underground transit system in Vienna, Austria. And this is a map of the Vienna tramway system.

Vienna has 1.7 million residents. The city covers 415 square kilometers. The underground transit system runs for 66 kilometers and has 95 stations. Vienna has about the same population as the fifth largest city in the United State, Phoenix, Arizona, with a population of 1.5 million. But Phoenix covers 1,230 square kilometers, three times the land area of Vienna.

This is a map of the rail transit system of Phoenix. It runs half the length of Vienna’s system, and has only one third the number of stations.

Please take the time to compare the maps of the rail transit systems of these two cities. I find the exercise a sobering lesson in how far behind the United States has fallen in terms of public infrastructure. Rail transit in Phoenix opened for service in December 2008. It is a light rail system, running above ground for 32.2 kilometers, and serving 32 stations. There is no underground rail transit system in Phoenix.

Parts of the Vienna system were begun in the 1890s, but it was not until 1968 that the city decided to build a fully integrated rail transit system, including the semi-circular U2 line around the city.

Today in Vienna, public transit accounts for 48% of personal trips each day. This is just a bit more than the 47% of personal trips each day taken by car. Bicycling or wlaking account for the remaining 5%.

For estimated cost per unit length of rail system, I emailed four transit agencies that have completed extensions the past few years, and received the desired information from the Los Angeles Metro, which had extended its Gold Line back by 9.6 kilometers in 2004. I used the cost and amounts of steel and concrete used to for the Gold Line extension, divided by the kilometers of the extension. The resulting figure was $62.5 million per kilometer, which includes a small amount of tunneling. Next, I multiplied those numbers by the amounts I found doing the spreadsheet of the various cities.

But is $62.5 million per kilometer a number that can be applied to different cities across the entire country? In his 2006 book, Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, George Mason University history professor Zachary M. Schrag writes that the Washington DC Metro cost about $100 million a mile, adjusted for inflation. Dividing this by 1.6 to get cost per kilometer, we get $62.5 million per kilometer – exactly the same as the number calculated from the Los Angles metro number.

In this table, Light Rail Costs Approach $70 Million per Mile in 2000, Wendell Cox, an anti-public works consultant who is often cited by conservative wrong-wing media and institutions such as the Cato Institute, conveniently brings together cost information for nineteen light rail transit projects. (Note that “light rail” refers to on-ground, at-grade rail lines, often laid along existing streets; the DC Metro is considered a heavy rail system; I’m not sure what the Los Angeles Gold Line is considered). The numbers from Cox’s table range from $28.67 million per mile for an 18.3 mile rail system in Norfolk, Virginia, to $208.33 million per mile for 7.2 mile “shorter route,” in Seattle. Eleven of the nineteen projects are tightly clustered between $36.18 million per mile for San Diego and $50.62 million per mile for a 14.6 mile system in Austin, Texas.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) are finally working on a 11.6-mile extension of Metrorail through the edge city of Tysons Corner to Reston, another edge city on the western side of Fairfax County. In a second phase of construction, this line will be extended the remaining twelve miles needed to reach the passenger terminals at Washington Dulles International Airport. According to a January 2009 announcement by these two agencies, the new 23 miles of rail system will cost $1.63 billion, or $70.9 million per mile.

I was also looking for a bill of materials, especially for the amount of steel needed. Interestingly, reflecting the post-industrial devastation on the economy these past three decades, such information is extremely difficult to find. Information from the Los Angeles Gold Line extension indicates that 2,604 tons of steel are used per kilometer of rail line. I believe that the LA Gold Line extension involved some tunneling, so this steel amount is probably not accurate for rail lines built on ground at grade. However, if we want some general idea of the scope of such a national program, we are looking at a physical requirement of 133.1 million tons of steel. This is about two years of U.S. steel shipments, or probably about three years of U.S. steel production, assuming we become sane and produce it all here, providing good-paying jobs for ourselves, making, shaping, and distributing, big pieces of iron.

In summary, there is no need to save the financial system if it is not able to provide financing for these types of massive national projects that will build a sustainable future for our children and their posterity. Every dime spent on saving Wall Street and money center banks that destroyed themselves through providing ample credit for gambling, rather than providing credit for these types of real investments, is a dime that is being wasted. Imagine what we could be doing if we took all that funding away from the banksters, and instead spent it on these types of programs. And, remember, this is a lesson that President Obama and his team has yet to learn: the President’s top economics adviser, Larry Summers, slashed 41% of transit funds from the stimulus bill before it was even submitted to Congress.

Note: This list of the 39 most populated urban areas does not include the following cities, which have one half to over one million people. Akron, OH Albany--Schenectady--Troy, NY Albuquerque, NM MSA Allentown--Bethlehem--Easton, PA Bakersfield, CA Baton Rouge, LA Birmingham, AL Buffalo--Niagara Falls, NY Colorado Springs, CO Dayton, OH Des Moines, IA El Paso, TX Fresno, CA Flint, MI Grand Rapids--Muskegon--Holland, MI Greensboro--Winston-Salem--High Point, NC Greenville--Spartanburg--Anderson, SC Harrisburg--Lebanon--Carlisle, PA Hartford, CT Jackson, MS Jacksonville, FL Knoxville, TN Louisville, KY Memphis, TN Nashville, TN New Orleans, LA Newark, NJ (not included in New York?) Oklahoma City, OK Omaha, NE Orange County, CA Raleigh--Durham--Chapel Hill, NC Richmond--Petersburg, VA Rochester, NY Salt Lake City--Ogden, UT Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA Spokane, WA Stockton--Lodi, CA Syracuse, NY Toledo, OH Tucson, AZ Tulsa, OK Wichita, KS Youngstown--Warren, OH Wilmington--Newark, DE-MD



wait a minute

Awesome detailed post but we're burning cash to the point I and I am not alone, am wondering about a national default on the debt and potential for hyper inflation down the road.

We do not even have details from the Federal Reserve on precisely how they are going to "wind down" this massive money printing press they have turned on.

So, whipping out trillions in more spending, uh.....

Also, in terms of systems, this needs to be analyzed in my view, much, much more. So far I see continual politics, inefficiencies and philosophies versus real cost effectiveness.

Firstly, the entire paradigm of the 9-5 (actually 8-7) daily commute to the office is stuck in the last century. One does not have to be physically present with virtual offices, teleconferencing, instant messaging, online collaboration and so on. That would cut down on demand as well as energy costs enormously if corporations would stop this silliness of requiring people to be stuck in some cube at some office.

Then, the idea that one must concentrate large populations into "cities" goes along with the above.

While the assumption is one must "end suburban sprawl", in fact I see technology being able to more enable the spreading out of small regional areas, of distributed communities, not the opposite.

Then, local transport. Local transport sorely lacks in the United States. This is your basic getting around a city without a car.

So call me a naysayer but I think many of the underlying assumptions on some of this are simply wrong.

Another problem is overall population in the United States, which completely affects the amount of transport needed. If they insist on turning the United States into China/India by unlimited immigration, which appears to be the great corporate goal....then we will have the same massive problems these countries have due to excessive population...

but if they get a grip on labor economic realities and the burdens of a massive population per nation-state, then there will not be as great of a need.

Believe me, I am all for public transport projects, especially where it makes sense but this is a engineering system/routing issue in my view, taking into account a variety of factors and variables....

I think BruceMF has mentioned the Chicago politics many times and as a result, one does not even have an efficient system set up to get across the town.

Nice to see you back Tony and don't take my criticism too harshly...I just get the impression people are jumping on some sort of philosophy instead of thinking this through as a system, as an engineered system, the inputs into it, the technological realities of the day as well as future, and how to cost effectively manage that system.

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This is where I've been

trying to get this material together, written, and uploaded, as part of the process of getting a general idea of what we need for a new "industrial mobilization." The scary part is that there is hardly anyone doing studies along these lines - great national projects that can drive the economy forward, the way the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo Moon Program did. If we survive the coming economic maelstrom unleashed by the financial follies of the past three decades, I'm sure that these numbers will end up being wildly at variance with the reality of what needs to be built - especially because the sprawl of American urban areas grievously distorts the numbers. Bottom line to my purpose - get people thinking BIG.

Regarding paying for it - on the side I'm reading Bray Hammond's account of how the Union financed the Civil War, looking for details of Lincoln's greenbacks, which the big bankers like Morgan hated so much. I'm pretty certain we're going to end up democratizing the Fed, and issuing Treasury notes directly as legal tender as payment for building these types of infrastructure projects.

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I agree with you on this one!

I just want very smart, targeted, objective infrastructure and I am a huge believer in virtual offices (not enabling offshore outsourcing either) because it would enable single mothers, disabled, all sorts of people to contribute plus give people a higher quality of life.

I don't want a structure built around these 20th century assumptions. Huge mistake.

But any post which analyzes the strong, strong need to move the U.S. back to a production economy it's a good sound to hear.

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Countries default on sovereign debt when ...

... it is denominated in someone else's currency.

That's when you get the scenario of larger amounts of local currency needs to meet overseas obligations, driving down the exchange rate, leading to larger amounts of local currency to meet overseas obligations, when the external balances are out of kilter and there is no real sustainable way for the country to acquire the foreign exchange to meet those debt obligations.

US sovereign debt is almost entirely in US$, and so while the exchange rate may slump, and we face the risk that in the future we may have to issue sovereign debt denominated in foreign exchange, if the US$ loses its status as the global reserve currency as the result of national financial mismanagement ... we do not face any immediate prospect of that kind of sovereign-debt exchange rate melt-down which is followed by default.

And given the severity of this recession, demand-driven inflation is no serious risk for this year and, if we hit the trough before the end of this year, for next year either. And if we don't hit the trough by the end of this year, the risk is almost entirely the much more serious risk of deflation.

Most "zOMG hyperinflation" is based on Milton Friedman's monetarist theories or some variant of them, and have nothing to do with the actual creation and disposal of money in the real world. Real World hyperinflationary episodes ...

... Zimbabwe right now, Argentina this decade, Brazil in the 80's, the Weimer Republic with its export markets to the east destroyed by WWI and heavy foreign-currency denominated reparations payments, the Confederate hyperinflation as cotton bonds lost their status as investment grade assets in London over the course of the Civil War ...

... have been economies with the structural external imbalances that have not had the luxury we have had of being able to sell large volumes of debt denominated in our own currency.

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black swan

Just because it's unthinkable and yes the U.S. dollar is the world's reserve currency, do not discount the possibility.

This is why Goolsbee, Geithner being "open" to a new world currency is so incredibly naive to say in public...

for if the U.S. dollar was removed as the world's reserve currency, we would be a much greater risk...

So, while I will assume there is no way this will happen....
I think it prudent to not really look at the remote possibility....

BruceMcF, I'm having to deal with a bunch of issues and there is a butt load of things happening right at this moment...

the biggest being the House may "push through" as in within 1 week, sweeping new powers to the Treasury to seize non-financial, financial institutions.

If you or anyone else is in the writing mood to go into some of what's going on that would really help "feed" EP and keep it all current.

The hearing is still happening in the house as I type.

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Having said that

... have been economies with the structural external imbalances that have not had the luxury we have had of being able to sell large volumes of debt denominated in our own currency.

While that is true, just how stupid do you think the other countries are? Do you think for an instant we will continue to be able to issue debt in our own currency for infinity?

Heck, I'd put China as being stupid to accept US debt at all FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS.

Moral hazards would not exist in a system designed to eliminate fraud.

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Maximum jobs, not maximum profits.

It wasn't an investment in the debt ...

... China had to generate Chinese currency and buy US$ assets in order to maintain their exchange rate at a discount below what a floating exchange rate would be. That was to ensure the competitiveness of Chinese exports overseas, as the Chinese relied on manufacturing export growth to help soak up the massive demographic bubble they are trying to negotiate.

After Mao's policies to deliberately create a population explosion, it just takes a long time to reverse the massive demographic bubble that resulted, and while they are faced with that, and the immediate threat to the survival of the Chinese regime if there are no jobs to provide to at least some of the new entrants into the labor force, the exchange rate policy is the priority, and the accumulation of US sovereign debt as foreign exchange reserves is a purely secondary consideration.

With the demographic bubble cresting in the coming decade, the Chinese will be in a position to allow their exchange rate to rise.

However, the question is not what the Chinese or anyone else is going to do in the future ... people using Milton Friedman's Monetarist economics to predict hyperinflation are ignoring economic history (as mainstream economists normally do) ... a debt default leading to hyperinflation requires that we owe a lot of debt in foreign currency. And at this point in time, we just don't.

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Basically, though, you are

Basically, though, you are suggesting that China otherwise would have had to use debt to finance its 8 cities initiative...to absorb its rural populace into its new cities modelled after Shanghai. Because of the contradiction faced by the Fed. Reserve--to be at once a global central bank (and also monitor U.S. financial stability)--China was able to use the "gap"--as an alternative to having to issue its own debt--to finance its build-out. I like your analytical thinking. What other reference sources would you recommend, Mr. Bruce?

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China has been using external markets as a ...

... safety valve, with many "new" industries have very low profitability in Chinese markets and looking to external sales to stay afloat.

And by pursuing neo-mercantilist policies, they have avoided the problems of external finance of productive equipment that plagued the Latin American economies in the 50's and 60's as they pursued import substitution development strategies.

You can google neo-mercantilism, but many of the better sources seem to be behind academic journal firewalls. I'll see this weekend if I can find anything of use.

I don't think there is anything controversial about the broad outline of the basic demographics ... the impact of nutrition and public sanitation, the impact of the Great Leap Forward, the post-GLF baby boom, and then the imposition of the One Child Policy. Googling China's Demographic Transition brings up lots of sources, and while there is of course controversy over the specifics, the political implications follow from the broad outline.

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The rail system is one of the greatest developments that United States has. If you look back on history it was the way that they US broke out and was able to expand across the continent. Furthermore it assured our Independence from Empires of the British Maritime trading!! Causing an explosion of American economic development around the world! If Lincoln's policy would have kept going and McKinley not been assassinated the world would be connect by rail today! If you look at the cost of transportation of goods, by air it is to expensive, by sea it too slow but the cheapest, but by freight train is the most reliable mode of transportation however it has not been maintain, and new technology are always coming out with improvements such as the MagLev systems which reach speeds of 300mph!! But in order to redevelop this technology and to make our city and country up to date with the rest of the world we must put the current financial system in to bankruptcy reorganization!!! To get ride of all this toxic paper that's not even good enough to wipe our own asses with. And then we need to set up a multi-national credit system with China,Russia, India and the US as the major backer to make a new economic develop of these system around the world.

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You missed the point

I generally agree with you on this topic, but you missed a huge point. Vienna has 1.7 million residents spread across 415sqkm versus Phoenix, Arizona, with a population of 1.5 million spread across 1,230sqkm!!! Your desire to spend $3 trillion on rail only reinforces unsustainable sprall. US population densities (in may areas) just don't support rail service (forget about the environment). We have to change that if we're going to have sustainable rail and or cities.

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Mass Transit is by no means the only kind of rail ...

... and it is mass transit that requires very high population densities, not all kinds of rail. Regional stopping trains are effective at population densities where even buses drop out of the picture. Rapid streetcars can allow short stretches of streetcar line to knit together small towns and small cities while the majority of the route runs in existing rail right of way. There is a wide variety of light rail technologies that meet a range of transport tasks.

And, of course, it does not matter at all for high speed rail what the local population density is, any more than airports require a certain minimum population density before they can function.

Now, even in the face of the massive subsidies to cars that we have adopted as policy, big cities see continued survival of mass transit lines, because they have the density to support them, and because no other form of transit can approach its efficiency in use of valuable urban space.

But if we were to simply level the playing field and have road projects and rail projects compete for transport funding on a level playing field, we would quickly reverse the present funding ratio and be building more new rail route miles than new highway lane miles. And the rail projects attracting funding would run the gamut.

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