The Economist calls for more gov’t power to construct needed mass transit in London

London needs more mass transit capacity – and The Economist argues governmental bodies need more power to expand the system.

Whereas the number of people driving in London is falling, Tube and bus use is surging. Each day 3.7m people use the Underground while 6.4m take a bus. Once-quiet routes are crammed. The London Overground, a rebranded and improved railway line, carries 120m passengers a year, up from just 33m in 2008. The Docklands Light Railway carried 66m passengers in 2008. It now carries 100m…

The changing character of the capital makes things trickier. Much of the city’s population growth over the past decade has been in east London, which is poorly served by the Tube. Parts of inner London such as Kensington and Chelsea have lost people. In future, thinks Sir Peter Hendy, TfL’s boss, most population growth will be in the suburbs. Yet jobs are becoming increasingly clustered in the middle—in the City, Canary Wharf and the West End. “If you’re an insurance company, you don’t look at a map and settle on Enfield,” says Sir Peter. London will not just have more people: it will have more people travelling farther to their jobs…

Grand projects help, at huge cost. But there is a simpler, cheaper way of adding capacity, insists Sir Peter: make much better use of London’s huge existing commuter railway network. Which means giving him more control…

London’s transport could be improved even more if the mayor were given control over local taxes. Crossrail is being financed through a combination of government cash, fares and an increase in land values. A business-rate supplement on non-domestic properties with a rateable value of £55,000 ($80,000) or more has supplied £4 billion for the project. This arrangement could be extended for Crossrail 2, and more widely.

This is an interesting look at how London is going about tackling an issue many cities are facing: how to provide more mass transit amidst growing populations. Additionally, as the article notes, numerous interests may have opposition if lines are not placed to their liking or financial pressure falls on them. Large infrastructure projects aren’t necessarily easy to carry out anyway and all of these projects in London will require quite a bit of power to pull off.

The fate of major world cities could depend on these projects: as they continue to grow, they simply can’t provide more roads and many places do not exactly desire more suburban communities for the wealthy (though more of this may happen, including in London). Yet, the more cities grow, the projects become more and more difficult to put together because of hearing from different groups, moving people, and paying for land and higher construction costs.

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