Inaki Arbelaiz, City Innovation Project Leader (2011-present) upxed January 29 城市创新项目负责人(2011-至今)

From a foreign perspective, this question is a very interesting question dividing the attention between national pride, economic power, and the commercial reality of the need for infrastructure.The simple answer is that there is no need for it. The USA, geographically, is not any longer a transportation hub, but a transportation destination.



The last list, the busiest cruise ports, is largely skewed due to Disney [sad but true]. Once you have that taken out [the Disney phenomena due to cruises], the countries where most of the population is divided between a set of islande [as Greece, Finland, and the Sea of China] will require the largest ports.


Same happens with airports:Due to regulations and the low cost phenomena, airlines do not have to land in the USA when doing a transatlantic flight when travelling from Europe to South America, one of the booming routes.Because of that, airports don´t need to be large on terminals [perhaps on non civil infrastructure such as landing lanes, but not on terminals]: a destination terminal needs to be much smaller than a hub because it is simply getting passengers in and quickly moving them out, contrary to hubs, that need to get passengers and house them for one to four-six hours.And so on.


But then, there is the question that nobody seems to be asking, or the issue to be understood: the problem with infrastructre is not to build it, it is to keep it.Of all the cities I have lived [not visited, lived], which are 12, with metro systems, Barcelona has by far the best public transport system and network. But it does not look fancy, nor is it “big”. It is, though, extremely reliable and the frecuency of trains is astounding [every 40s on peak times on the busiest lines, and never above 7 mins on valley times on weekend nights]. It is very integrated with buses, trams, metro, public bikes, and microbuses.


And finally, as a foreigner, roads in the USA are, well, with all due respect, a service design nightmare. It simply doesn´t make sense for a foreigner. They are way too big, and are designed as point ot point transportation lines. That is a recipe for a disaster. I do understand that the USA is a very large territory, don´t get me wrong. But apart from the need to connect such a huge territory, the roads are just to over-engineered in the capacity sense.A road is not more capable due to the lanes it has, but for the number of cars it can handle per a time unit.


But to sum it up:Infrastructure is the classic bussines case of the long run: they need to perform for 30 to 40 years.Because of that, the smartest strategy is usually to develop the “minimum viable product” or infrastructure: if you build it too big, it will become a monster that is too huge to maintain [a problem the USA is having right now].


Having the “-est” of anything is not important. They are usually not the most efficient things, products or services at all. They might be a pride element, but they are not efficient and most importantly, not a business case any longer. The tallest building is a FAR [floor to area ratio] nightmare for all the services that at the end eat up valuable surface.Lets put it this way:The most important car for Toyota is not the “-est” lexus or the “-est” Toyota Century. It is the very humble Corolla. It is their money earner, their bread.