Public Policy Forum Blog

The luxury of mass transit

The city-state of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, opened a new high-speed rail system last month. The Los Angeles Times reports that despite the city's crushing traffic congestion (estimated to cost over $1.4 billion annually in lost productivity), it will be a hard sell to get riders.

The article calls Dubai a "city defined by individualism and gated communities." Indeed, this is the home of the tallest man-made structure on Earth (the Burj Dubai office tower); fantastical artificial islands of high-rise condos, hotels, and villas (the Palm Islands); and a shopping mall containing, among other things, a 22,550-square meter indoor ski area (Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates.)

So, reports the Times, "authorities are highlighting the grandeur of the new rail system over its convenience." Judging by the Dubai Metro station pictured above, the new train system is living up to its billing. The goal is to increase the number of residents using mass transit from 5% to 20%.

If Dubai is successful in getting commuters out of their expensive cars and onto high-speed rail, could luxury be a tactic used here to attract individualistic U.S. riders? Perhaps, but at a cost of over $177 million per mile, the Midwest likely won't be the first to try transit Dubai-style.

Anneliese Dickman