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Commuter-Rail and Inner-City decline

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[COLOR=#000000][B]Trains Create Economic Growth and are Viable[/B]

It is generally accepted that railways create economic growth and that they are viable. The problem is that many railways used, and still do, accounting systems based on ticket prices, which made them "unviable". They were viable as the economic growth they created soaked into the land emerging as land values. This wealth was not captured to feed back to fund the rail networks. Hence many realistically viable railways closed down due to a flawed accounting system, taking only ticket sales as the metric for viability.

In the USA the motor corporations bought viable rail networks and closed them down to sell motor vehicles. The LA tram system bought by GM is the glaring despicable example - the Keystone Cops were filmed on it a lot. In the UK, the road transport lobby was influential in the Tory party who in a few short years closed down 1/3 of the UKs railways in the early 1960s. Since then little was modernized - modernization has been far to slow. Electrification has not made a great impact in the total rail network. The oldest inter-city railway line in the world, the 1830 Liverpool-Manchester line, is just being electrified, which will be 185 years after opening. Every study since the 1960s closures condemned it, with all stating full modernization.

Trains in the UK are increasing in passenger usage and the system is now bursting, requiring more rail lines, stations and trains. There is (was until Cameron stopped rail investment) a scheme to open up closed lines, to great success.

The example of the London Underground Jubilee Line extension - £3.4 billion to build and the land values around it rose by £14 billion. Before Crossrail in London is open land values around the under construction line rose. Did land values elsewhere drop as a result of the lines? No.


Rapid-transit Commuter Rail, with its radial lines from the city centre, enabled people from the outer suburbs, and surrounding small towns, of cities to access the jobs in the city centre. In the specific case of Liverpool, this contributed to the decline of the inner-cities, as people moved to greener, and cleaner, places to live.

In the case of commuter-rail, and large through roads, as opposed to a meshed metro, there was severe negative affects as commuter rail contributed to inner-city blight.

The authorities that allowed the construction were unaware at the time. OK, the outer reaches of cities were supposed to be drawn into the city. I doubt they were expecting the city to be drawn out. In Liverpool's case The electrification of commuter-rail lines in the early 1900s drew people away from the inner-cities. The new electric trains were very fast and clean. At the same time large boulevards were built radiating out from the city and a comprehensive tram system was built with trams in the central reservation - John Lennon lived on one of the boulevards. Trams could get people out of the centre pretty fast as well, but not as far, or as fast, as commuter-rail. The clean running, electric, comprehensive tram network closed down in 1957 for some inexplicable reason. The opening of the under-river Mersey road tunnel in the early 1930s, added again to the decline of the inner-city districts as the middle classes moved out, with the poor working class remaining.

The Liverpool inner-cities were a mixture of working and middles classes. Whole areas of near 200 year old Georgian houses were demolished. OK, some working class houses needed bulldozing for sure, but the people who lived in the inner-cities were disenfranchised. The Georgian houses still are being demolished singularly, as absent landowners allow them to rot. Seeing the success in the USA and Hong Kong, the city was denied to implement Land Valuation Taxation.

Rail overall creates economic growth but sometimes shifts wealth from one area to another. Thought out properly, rail does overall create economic growth with no negative effect on any district. Implemented incorrectly rail can have a negative affect on parts of a community. That was the case with Liverpool and also many north American cities:
[/COLOR][LIST=1][*][COLOR=#000000]The outer parts prospered while the inner-cities slumped.[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Visitors see the now ugly inner-city districts easily as they circle the city centre.[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]The city then gets a negative image from outsiders,[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]The city image suffers[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Overall Investment tails off[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]The city declines[/COLOR][/LIST][COLOR=#000000]That is all too familiar.

In hindsight a fully meshed interconnected metro network, rather than radial tracked commuter-rail from the centre outwards, would not have resulted in the extensive inner-city decline. A meshed rapid-transit urban rail metro would have knitted the community together rather than being divisive.

The rails weren't initially built to serve the city or its residents. They were built to shovel money into the pockets of land in suburbia and green fields, raising the value exponentially as the tracks ran through the land.

The commuter-rail was also meant to get people to work in the centre to make money for companies. The commuter-rail is a tool of the commercial sector, not a mechanism to improve the lives of the population. The railway magnets built the lines in the 1800s and no doubt made killings on increased land values. If people use the commuter-rail for other uses then that is their bonus as far as the railway builders or owners are concerned - the lines are radial in a star formation. A meshed metro network enables people to seamlessly travel from district to district, like the superb Paris Metro - it serves all the people, and business, all over the city with most of the metro being underground. People use it like they would use a bus it is so convenient.

Liverpool's commuter-rail lines were built in the 1800s. They were electrified in the early 1900s. In the 1970s they were networked together being joined in the city centre. Yet, as late as the 1970s when new tunnels were being bored under Liverpool's city centre, there was no move to create a metro network extending to the inner-city districts. The inner-city districts continued to decline to total collapse, soon after the networking of the commuter-rail lines. The merging of the commuter rail lines made no difference to the lives of the inner-city inhabitants.

[B]Liverpool can have a Full Metro revitilising the Inner-Cities[/B]

Ironically, the Liverpool region has countless disused, mothballed, trackbed and tunnels, some of the oldest tunnels in the world are under the city, the 1929 Wapping tunnel was the first bored under a metropolis - about 4 to 5 miles of tunnel with disused underground stations, while the city slowly gets clogged with cars and large pieces of the city cut away to accommodate ugly soul destroying roads.

Recommissioning these tracks and tunnels would convert the commuter-rail into a economic growth meshed, gridlike, metro network. Central government would not put up the cash to do it. Economist Fred Harrison mentions this point mentioning Liverpool, in Ricardo's Law, that billions are poured into London's rail infrastructure while a fraction of that would benefit greatly Liverpool expanding its urban rail network. Liverpool could probably pay for its own rail expansion/metro creation by using Land Valuation Taxation, and Liverpool's taxpayers alleviated from the cost of building CrossRail in London.

Fred Harrison explained the financial negative affect of rail, and it went something like this....[/COLOR][INDENT][COLOR=#000000]
Railways create economic growth. This crystallizes into land values. If this was recycled back into funding the nations rail infrastructure everyone would share in the net gains. But it is not. The current laws dictates that this surplus income from land values is delivered as windfall gains to the landowners.

Thus the transport sector is transformed into a sophisticated mechanism for redistribution income away from low-income taxpayers who fund infrastructure to asset rich people.

This is how the trick is perform in relation to railways:
[/COLOR][LIST=1][*][COLOR=#000000]Government tax on people's wages, their effort - and sales, what they buy[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Subsidies given to railways using community taxes[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Strategically located land rise in value because of the railway[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Windfall gains pocketed by landowners[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Shortfall in funds to renew rail infrastructure[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Government raises rates of Taxes on Wages and Sales.[/COLOR][*][COLOR=#000000]Go to No. 1 above and the cycle starts all over again.[/COLOR][/LIST][COLOR=#000000]The Enterprise Economy Implodes.[/COLOR][/INDENT]
What was meant to be a benefit to the community acts against large sections of them.


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Updated 01-17-2012 at 04:51 PM by Waterways



  1. Waterways's Avatar
    Firstly the city has to understand what were the factors that created gradual inner-city decay and eventual collapse. Commuter-rail overall created economic growth for the city region, however it was instrumental in inner-city decay, shifting wealth from one area to another.

    American economics professor Mason Gaffney supports this by stating:

    When rail line A raises land values it accesses, some of that gain is taken from line B, it is true.
    1. The net result, however, is positive for society, because:
      1. Some of the gain is net
      2. More land is accessed overall, raising the marginal productivity of both labor and capital, and their rewards
    2. It is something like discovering a new continent

    I don't think the city realises this. The inner-cities are bottomless pits for public money to cope with the social problems created. Now what would create further economic growth and assist in regenerating the inner-cities? Well as commuter-rail doesn't help at all, expanding the commuter-rail to form a proper meshed metro would draw-in the disenfanchised inner-cities. Liverpool can do this very easily as the city has disused rail infrastructure that can extend to draw-in the inner-cities. In fact even the social aspect can be quantified to a degree - they know how much overall they are pouring into them in welfare payments, and other aspects like crime fighting, creating public funded meaningless jobs, etc.

    The city has to draw up a case and put figures down, then present them. Putting forward how much public money would be saved from being poured into the the inner-city bottomless pit. They may be surprised that when the cuts stop they may get the morphing of Merseyrail into a metro accepted. The electrification of the Bootle Branch line and the lines to Huyton, St.Helens will assist the case.

    Metros really do create economic growth. One accessing the inner-city districts will aid in regeneration and keep the districts self supporting giving them back their dignity Money well spent.