Practical analysis for investment professionals
07 July 2017

Weekend Reads: New York City Transit Woes and “Communal Panic Attack”

Posted In: Weekend Reads

Now is the summer of our discontent in New York City, the “Summer of Hell,” as New York governor Andrew Cuomo calls it.

Why? Because the transportation grid is more than just locked, it’s in a slow-motion collapse. Or so it would seem.

Everywhere you look, in a capital of global finance — the airports, the subways, the commuter rails — it’s a dreary slog. Every day there are fresh headaches: derailments, delays, long overdue construction and maintenance projects that go on and on, and always more disruptions on the horizon.

The only constants are the swelling crowds, the waits, the frustration, and trains that predate the moon landing.

Of course, the glass-half-full crowd will point to progress. Hudson Yards, the first new subway station in a generation, opened in 2015 and the long-awaited Second Avenue subway line debuted a few months back, albeit in truncated form.

But the Hudson Yards station is a leaky mess despite its $2.4-billion price tag. That’s one station, $2.4 billion. And the Second Avenue line is popular and has eased congestion elsewhere, but it’s only three stations and still managed to become the most expensive subway line ever built.

And despite all these improvements — the new stations were designed to impress, with soaring, high-ceilinged architecture — the subway’s signal system relies on antiquated World War II-era technology that could take $20 billion and 50 years to update.

And other problems are looming. L train service, which transports roughly a quarter of a million people under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan each weekday, will be disrupted for 15 months starting in 2019 for repairs to the tunnel. What that will mean at this point is more or less unfathomable.

You wouldn’t necessarily know the situation was so dire given all the shiny glass towers being erected. The real estate market across the city continues to boom even as the infrastructure buckles under the weight. But that can’t go on forever, can it?

What it all adds up to is, in Frank Bruni’s words, “evidence of a city in the grip of a communal panic attack.

Not that I’m complaining or anything.

Below are some other interesting reads on New York City and US transit infrastructure woes as well as other topics that have caught my eye in recent weeks.

Penn Station or Dante’s Inferno?

Among the more sordid elements of New York City’s ongoing transit debacle is the situation at Penn Station. The hub services two subway lines as well as the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak. About 650,000 people pass through its dim, dank corridors every day.

The New York Airport Situation

If there is a bright spot in the New York City transit network, it isn’t the airports.

US Transportation Infrastructure: Falling Apart Everywhere

Other Interesting Reads

Photo Bomb

All-Time Faves

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: ©Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff

About the Author(s)
Paul McCaffrey

Paul McCaffrey is the editor of Enterprising Investor at CFA Institute. Previously, he served as an editor at the H.W. Wilson Company. His writing has appeared in Financial Planning and DailyFinance, among other publications. He holds a BA in English from Vassar College and an MA in journalism from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism.

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