World's Slowest Game of Railroad Tycoon Update

1,700 miles of Continental Railroad: 6 years. 1.7 miles of Muni tracks: 8+ years.

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23 Responses:

  1. jwb says:

    In Zurich they install track of this length and complexity in < 48 hours, including the curing time for the concrete, such that they can hammer up the road Friday night and have it back in service Monday morning.

    At one-tenth the price, of course.

    • Thomas Lord says:

      I am curious if you happen to know: do they have a serious advantage in automation? I've seen the various robots that rehabilitate rail bed and lay new tracks at a good clip but never in an urban setting.

      • jwb says:

        No, they have an advantage in project management. When they want to do a track like this, there's just more guys working on it. You see how there's exactly two people in this photo, and exactly no equipment? On a Swiss project there would 20 guys. When they want to jackhammer up a road, instead of doing it with one guy and one backhoe, they line up backhoes shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the street and just go to it. The whole street is gone in an hour. The streetcar track outside my apartment window in Zurich was replaced over a weekend, and that included demolishing the existing street and track.

        That's the kind of project management you get when you price in the value of the public's wasted time. Here in California we value the public's time at nothing.

        • Philip Guenther says:

          There are times when the institutions value the public's time well and demonstrate that by moving and managing (and providing incentives) to match, such as the 2007 repair of the MacArthur Maze. When I lived in Denver two decades ago, the project to expand I-25 from downtown to the tech center had both an early delivery bonus as well as a penalty clause for each time there wasn't at least N lanes and ramps open during specified rush hours. Pulling this off required excellent project management not just by the contractor, but also by the city to keep up their end of various pieces and perform meaningful enforcement of the clauses.

          So yes, it's possible, but they have to want it and be at least some what competent. Hmm.

        • tkl says:

          Ah, Birmensdorfer. They took apart and replaced all of Stauffacher (30k passengers/day) over a few months and remade it (tracks, stations, ticket vendingm m,achines, sidewalks and part of a small park). Tram connections canceled: 0.

      • PDP says:

        European: let's have taxes that pay for infrastructure, and keep things that are public goods like mass transportation as government utilities rather than privatized profit, and generally try to make our social spending go to places that maximize social return.

        American: holy shit how do they do it? they must have robots or something!

        • Thomas Lord says:

          PDP, have you seen rail-building robots? They're cool.

          I wonder if there are any that work in urban environments. I haven't seen any yet. Have you?

          Maybe countries that invest heavily in municipal rail might have some, if they exist? Do you happen to know?

        • MattyJ says:

          In America, and especially California, and notably San Francisco, you have to add the NIMBY factor for anything that uses public funds. If a train track displaces one parking spot you can count on at least three lawsuits being filed the following Monday.

          It's why the Warriors new arena broke ground so soon after the land was purchased, it's privately funded so very little (comparatively) 'public discourse' to wade through.

    • Tim says:

      Sorry, but I was intrigued and had to look this up, and found:

      After a long planning and development phase, the first spade of earth in this major project was turned in 2008 at Escher-Wyss-Platz, and the project was completed with the timetable change in December 2011.

      That was a 3km extension through presumably a lower-density area (7000 inhabitants). Still fairly impressive, though.

      • jwb says:

        I was referring to this particular bit of track, which is probably not even 30m long, much less 3000m long.

  2. I bet it would go faster if we got the US Army to clear the way, too.

  3. Philip Guenther says:

    I like how the rail store applies plastic wrapping such as seen on new video monitors and other electronics. Is Muni installing OLED rail or is the current fog particularly corrosive?

    • jwz says:

      There'a s separate piece of rubber that they roll out on top of the rail girders from a 12' spool: it kind of wraps around it, and creates the trench that goes alongside the steel part. It's very stiff, like the rubber no-slip mats embedded in sidewalk intersections. The crinklier looking part is a different piece. I suspect that's there to keep the concrete pour off of the steel and out of the trench?

      • Philip Guenther says:

        Ah, that makes sense.

        I should probably be happy they they aren't OLED tracks, which would probably end up as a source of funds by running advertisements 18 hours a day.

      • legolas says:

        I see a few cm broad line of rubber on the side (and I expect below) of rails in my home town, which was said to dampen the vibrations and noise coming from passing trams, maybe that's the rubber you saw?

  4. tfb says:

    On the weekend of 21-22 May 1892, 177 miles of track in the west of England was converted from broad guage to standard guage. The last broad guage train ran on Friday night, the first standard guage ran on Sunday night.

  5. Matthew Platte says:

    When I put new carpet in a room, I always build elaborate levitation mechanisms to support all the furniture in-place while I unroll the rug. :/

  6. DaveL says:

    In the Boston area, world-renowned for the Big Dig, they actually replaced every bridge along a major interstate (I-93) one summer weekend per bridge a few years ago. Unfortunately, this was an anomalous event, probably never to be repeated.

  7. Forgot to add previouslies to this one.

  8. Joe Luser says:

    The slave labor thing makes comparisons with the transcontinental railroad slightly problematic. But no matter. Plenty of modern-day comparisons at similar cost and time rations. Switzerland, obviously, but also friggin' Spain can plow through dense urban landscapes on time (a completely reasonable time) and under budget (a non-insane budget). My assumption is that in Europe, the purpose of the project is to produce a part of a transportation system and in america it is to shovel tax money to political donators.

    https://mindroutes.blogspot.com/2008/10/lessons-from-madrid-metro.html

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