Subways are people-movers between shopping malls by mattsteinglass
January 23, 2009, 11:04 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Matthew Yglesias writes that for encouraging greater density and more urban transit, we don’t need to demand a whole lot of implausible new development right away, but we should start by scrapping the rules that prevent people from doing dense development. I’m not sure this is an ambitious enough rhetorical strategy for getting Americans more enthusiastic about funding transit, though maybe I’m just increasingly allergic to anything with even a hint of laissez-faire about it (Yglesias isn’t really saying “take away the bad rules and smart growth will arise naturally” but there’s sort of a suggestion of it).


Kowloon Station in Hong Kong is a rail station, shopping mall, and residential development with an airline check-in counter so you can check your bags before boarding the train to the airport.

Kowloon Station in Hong Kong is a rail station, shopping mall, and residential development with an airline check-in counter (at left) so you can check your bags before boarding the train to the airport. Photo Matt Steinglass 2008.



Anyway, my favorite example of brilliant transit development strategies is the Hong Kong model, where the developers pay for the construction of subway stations in exchange for the rights to build the massive shopping complexes on top of them. I think this points towards a misunderstanding in the US about what modern rail transit is. Modern rail transit is basically a people-mover that connects shopping malls to each other. It’s incredibly convenient — you can zip from one shopping mall to another without ever having to go outside or get back into your car. Then you can connect office complexes to those shopping malls for added convenience, and even residential condos for ultra convenience. In fact in the photo above what you’re seeing is a downtown shopping mall and residential and office complex that has a check-in counter for airline flights so you can actually check your bags at the subway station downtown before taking the train out to the airport. Obviously I don’t ever expect anything that perfect to be achieved in the backward US of A, but the point is clear: these shopping mall people movers called “rail transit” are incredibly convenient.

Plus it has all these incidental benefits, like saving Planet Earth. Anyway, this is why building rail systems that actually prohibit dense development next to the stations makes no sense at all; and I think when you conceptualize rail transit as a way of linking shopping malls to each other, which is really what it is in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and even in Paris for that matter, then the whole thing makes a lot more sense to Americans who don’t live in New York or Boston or  SF or Washington, DC.

6 Comments so far
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Mass transit is most U.S. cities leaves alot to be desired. Hopefully, we can catch up to other citires worldwide

Comment by Denis

I agree Major Metro Cities in the U.S. should build similar Modern Rail Transit like the one in Kowloon Station in Hong Kong. Not only it’s logical, also it provides several benefits to commuters and everything surroundings the Transit for convenience..

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Comment by Mystery Shopping

Great Article. I have only Just found your blog but I will definately be coming back again! Keep writing! Jen

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Comment by bandsxbands

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