When Rail Gets Old
Remembering Mayor Hannemann’s wisdom of approaching any civic infrastructure project with three questions—Do we need it? Can we afford it? Can we maintain it?—this piece from The New York Times caught my eye. It seems that even New York, one of the nation’s wealthiest, most densely populated cities, can barely afford to maintain what is one of the nation’s oldest, most successful, most heavily used rail systems.
“A study conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s own advocacy organization for transit riders found that nearly half of the subway stations examined ‘need more attention,’ and that the worst stations had decrepit conditions, including water damage, exposed wires, rodents, foul odors, clogged track drains and general filth.
While calling for additional state and city aid for mass transit—a difficult proposition given the current fiscal downturn—the study also made several proposals: imposing ‘station impact fees’ on new commercial or residential developments built within a quarter-mile of a subway station; enlisting business improvement districts, which are financed by special property assessments, to help clear trash and maintain stations; and creating an ‘Adopt-a-Station’ program under which companies and neighborhood groups would help pay for repairs and upkeep.”
The fact that a rail system will cost something to maintain isn’t necessarily an argument against rail in Honolulu. Even highways need to get repaved. But rail systems are a bit more complicated than asphalt. Expect to see exactly this sort of story in our news in just a few decades if future administrations look after the train with same diligence and foresight that previous administrations applied to our sewers.
Well, at least we won’t have to worry about rats in our elevated rail stations. We can just wrap them with those metal bands you see on coconut trees.