Korea Abolishes Seoul-Incheon Airport High-Speed Rail Line

The Nikkei Asian Review reports that: “A high-speed rail line connecting Seoul to Incheon International Airport will be abolished after just four years of service, as the expensive, politically motivated project loses the ridership race to buses.” Incheon is the principal international airport for the world’s fourth largest urban area, Seoul, which has 24 million residents. The Review reported that “Average daily ridership last year totaled only 3,433 passengers, which left 77% of seats unoccupied. Carriages were especially empty during weekday hours.”

The Review contrasted this with the airport volume: “Yet 42.23 million passengers boarded international flights during the first half of 2018, up 14% on the year, transport ministry data shows. … These numbers indicate that air passengers simply did not choose KTX to reach the Seoul-area airport.”

The line had fallen 97 percent short of its projected ridership, according to The Korea Times, which reported that daily ridership was to have reached 490,000 by 2010, yet was only 16,000 last year. This may have been the highest projection error in the history of an industry plagued by such inaccuracies (see: High-Speed Rail: Toward Least-Worst Projections).

High-Speed Rail Cost Blowout in England?

The Sunday Times (London) reports that it has obtained a secret Cabinet report indicating that “The HS2 high-speed rail project is “highly likely” to go as much as 60% over budget and cost “more than £80 billion.” HS2 refers to the high speed rail project intended to link London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and the East Midlands. According to The Sunday Times the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) called the plan “fundamentally flawed” and in a “precarious position.” Further, according to The Sunday Times, "cost escalation in the £56bn project could threaten wider public spending, interfering with funding across other government departments.”

The Cabinet report comes just weeks after release of a report by the European Union Court of Auditors. Particularly relevant to the HS2 are the Court's findings that EU high speed rail projects have been overbuilt. As we reported, “The European Court of Auditors found that high-speed rail has been built to considerably higher standards than required by their actual operation. They concluded that average speed are so far below the design speed that it 'raises questions as to sound financial management." The Court further found that: “The costs involved could in fact have been far lower, with little or no impact on operations.”

Coincidentally, The Sunday Times indicates that many members of Parliament would favor improvements to the conventional rail service in the corridor, which would obviously cost much less.

Mass Transit Ridership Losses

The Economist provides a useful perspective on the continuing decline of mass transit ridership in its current number. It starts with relating how Juana, a Guatemalan immigrant to Los Angeles, no longer takes the bus and now drives everywhere. She told The Economist that she had "two aspirations, to learn English and get a car," which she did.

I heard a similar story a decade ago from a Gabonese student in Paris, who said that he needed a car "so that he could have feet."

The Economist shows that the broad ridership decline occurring in US metropolitan areas (see graph) is also occurring in some of international cities, like London and Madrid.

The Economist cites more liberal car loans, working at home and ride hailing services, like Uber and Lyft.

Juana's story is typical. For the most part mass transit is not competitive with cars. The average employee in the New York metropolitan area (with the most extensive mass transit system in the United States) can reach 13 times as many jobs in 30 minutes by car as by mass transit. In some US cities, the car reaches at least 100 times as many jobs. There is no conceivable level of public spending that can materially change that.

The car enriches lives in ways that mass transit cannot, by making millions of additional jobs accessible, by increasing shopping opportunities and by vastly expanding the potential for leisure and recreational travel. The reality is that when people can afford cars, they buy them.


Orange County Focus | Forging Our Common Future

Orange County (CA) is a collection of 34 diverse cities with the inspiration and innovation for creating a great life.

OC Focus is a research initiative led by Chapman University, in partnership with the Irvine Company and a group of Orange County business executives, government leaders, students, and citizens for developing a shared economic vision for the region.

Research revealed that Orange County’s unique strength is in "Life-Tech", at the conjunction of tech with the arts, entertainment and design. Virtually no major region examined was above the national average in all of these categories.

The future of high-cost Orange County depends on its ability to attract and nurture high-wage employment. So seven implementable, core strategies were developed in order to activate our value proposition and ensure Orange County continues to become a better place to live for all of its residents.

See the report for more information: Orange County Focus: Forging Our Common Future

Hong Kong-Macau Bridge Usage Projections Dropped One-Quarter

Hong Kong's Transport and Housing Bureau expressed concern that the soon to open Hong Kong to Macao Bridge will fall far short of its usage projections, according to the South China Morning Post (see: "Estimates for traffic on Hong Kong mega bridge cut by up to 26 per cent because of competition, government admits"). The bridge is expected to reduce automobile travel times from four hours to 45 minutes between the two terminals, one of which (Macau) is adjacent to the large city of Zhuhai. The article did not indicate the financial impact on the project.

Officials blamed the competitive impact of a Shenzhen to Zhongshan bridge, planned to open in 2024, which will be upriver from the Hong Kong to Macau span, require only 20 minutes to cross, and will be more centrally located in the Pearl River Delta mega-agglomeration. The transport infrastructure development industry has been plagued by optimistic projections, with project sponsors often citing unforseen developments as the cause. This has been documented in research by Oxford University Professor Bengt Flyvbjerg and others.

Ontario Moves Rightward, toward Populism

After a nearly 15 year lock on Ontario’s provincial parliament (“Queen’s Park”), the Liberal Party suffered the strong rejection of voters in the June 6, 2018 election. Triumphant in the last two elections, the Liberals won so few seats that they lost official party status.

Early on, it was clear that the Liberals were in trouble, and it appeared that the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s) would regain a majority at Queen’s Park, under the leadership of Doug Ford. The Globe and Mail had characterized Ford as having led a populist takeover of the Party. But Ontario voters have not always been predictable, and by the eve of the election many were predicting that the PC’s would not win a majority, and that the more likely outcome was a government led either by the PC’s or the New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP has usually been the third strongest party in the province in recent decades, though held power from 1990 to 1995.

Liberal prospects had become so dim that incumbent Premier and leader Kathleen Wynne conceded defeat days before the election, but called for Liberal support sufficient to deny a majority government for either of the two other parties.

So, it was a surprise as the votes were reported, when the PC’s emerged with a strong victory, taking 76 seats. The NDP became the official opposition, with 40 seats. The Liberals took only seven seats, while the Greens won one. The popular vote rejection of the Liberals was stunning. Voters gave 40.5 percent of their votes to the PC’s, and 33.6 percent to the NDP. The Liberal vote was less than one-half that of the PCs (19.6 percent).

Ford, and his government are will move policy in not only a rightward direction, but also one that is more populist. The National Post said that: “Doug Ford positioned himself during the campaign as a defender of 'the little guy,' promising to lower taxes, cut hydro rates and eliminate the province’s cap-and-trade-system.”

Toronto Sun columnist Antonella Artuso provides an interesting day-after-the-election commentary summarizing reactions from the three party leaders, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others.

Malaysia to Drop Singapore to Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail Project

Fresh from his recent national election victory, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that a planned high-speed rail project from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore will be cancelled. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s largest urban area, with approximately 7.8 million residents, while Singapore has nearly 6 million residents. The Prime Minister told a press conference: “We need to do away with some of the unnecessary projects, for example the high-speed rail, which is going to cost us RM110 billion (S$37 billion) and will not earn us a single cent.”

Read more at the Straits Times (Singapore):

“Fix Our Damn Roads” Campaign Launched in Colorado

Radio host, television personality and President of Denver’s Independence Institute Jon Caldara has announced progress toward placing the “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative on the Colorado ballot.

Caldara provided an update to the campaign in a recent email:

Since the Colorado State Legislature refuses to address our crumbling road system in Colorado, we are proud to bring the issue directly to the voters. I’m thrilled to let you know our Fix Our Damn Roads initiative is one step closer to reality.

The Title Board has approved our title, and the Colorado Secretary of State has approved our petition forms. Thousands of blank petitions are being printed as you read this and tomorrow we hit the streets to get the signatures we need to get this question on the fall ballot.

We’re told the only way to Fix Our Damn Roads is to raise taxes and raise fees. We’re told the only way to Fix Our Damn Roads is to pay ransom to ineffective transit schemes and pay off cities with slush funds. I’m here to say HELL NO! We’re not going to be played again!

We expect our lawmakers to Do Their Damn Jobs and fund this core function of state government. We expect lawmakers to STOP holding our roads and bridges hostage as a way to pay for their skyrocketing Obamacare Medicaid increases. If they wanted a tax increase for Obamacare, they should have asked for one instead on squeezing road funding so that 1 out of 4 Coloradans could be on Medicaid.

And now that the state has a MASSIVE budget surplus, thanks to the tax increase sell-out called the Hospital Provider Fee, we are going directly to the people. I am convinced voters will do what law makers refuse to do – Fix Our Damn Roads without raising taxes or fees, without siphoning off payola money to trolley cars and bike paths.

Commentary: Build on the Toronto Urban Fringe

On May 3, Canada’s Financial Post, the nation’s leading business daily, published my commentary entitled: “Doug Ford was right: Toronto housing won’t be affordable unless we develop the Greenbelt: The PCs could have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to effectively deal with the housing-affordability crisis.”

For those unfamiliar with Ontario politics, Doug Ford is the leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the Ontario Provincial Parliament and the PC’s are the Progressive Conservatives.

As the commentary indicates, Toronto has a severe housing affordability crisis, traceable to adoption of a urban containment policy in the middle 2000s. The commentary concludes: “Doug Ford and the PCs could have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to effectively deal with the housing-affordability crisis. It is time for a serious rethink of the Toronto-area housing policy, with a focus on putting the right priorities first. People are more important than place.”

The article is available here….

Why Young Talent Is Leaving Silicon Valley

Perhaps no region in the world is more associated with talent than the once-booming San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. In the first four years of the decade, the area netted an average of 10,000 domestic migrants annually. But by 2016, the tide had turned. About 12,000 residents fled San Francisco that year, and the net outflow for 2017 climbed to 25,000. Nor is the future prognosis particularly great. Seventy-four percent of millennials in the Bay Area are currently considering an exit, according to the Urban Land Institute.

No surprise. San Francisco has devolved in recent years, with streets in some areas marred by the presence of homeless people, excrement and needles. Yet, housing prices are such that the California Association of Realtors now suggests a $181,000 income is necessary to purchase a home, more than 3.5 times the national average.

Expect Bay Area prices to rise further— even if Valley economic expansion continues to slow due to planning policies that block the peripheral growth required to improve affordability. Meanwhile, the outflow of households from the Bay Area could be accelerated by the new federal income tax provisions.

To date, the Bay Area’s job market has survived largely by hiring foreign workers; immigrants account for virtually all the region’s population growth. Many of these are essentially indentured servants on H-1B visas; the Bay Area accounts for a disproportionate share of these contract laborers and depends on non-citizens almost twice as much as other tech-oriented metropolitan areas. If the Trump administration follows through on promises to cut this program, the Bay Area may face even greater talent challenges in the years ahead

The complete listing for the Best and Worst States for Business can be found here.

This piece originally appeared on Chief Executive.