Yesterday I discussed all the reasons why the return to office was not going so well here in the US (even as RTO does much better in Europe). I spent a lot of time criticizing the sorry state of U.S. infrastructure as one of the many factors driving the reluctance to give up WFH.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Back in 2018, I mentioned my personal infrastructure was improving. Rather than just focus on the negative, let’s discuss the positives that have shown up recently in the state of transportation and public facilities over the past 5 years:
LaGuardia Airport: It may surprise you to learn that America’s worst airport is now its best.1 It took a massive rethink of La Guardia – an aging, dingy local airport on a narrow strip of land between Sheepshead Bay and the Grand Central Parkway without enough room for planes to maneuver and drivers to pick up and drop off passengers. The result is a wild success. Sure, it’s expensive, but that’s what happens when you allow problems to fester. It’s not even finished yet, and people have been raving about the improvements, all of which have taken place while the airport continued to operate. Best quote about from a new arrival: “I think we came to the wrong airport.”
LIRR Grand Central Station: It’s been in the works for decades and I don’t want to think about the cost overruns, but now that it’s open it’s a game changer for Long Island commuters. It’s big, beautiful, well-lit, well-signed, and is going to change the commercial real estate picture on the East side of Manhattan for the foreseeable future. Once again I have to wonder why we waited so long to commit to this project
Penn Station: A perennial shithole following the destruction of the once magnificent Pennsylvania Station in 1963, the LIRR’s home station is finally getting the makeover it deserves. High ceilings, wide spaces, vastly improved signage, and a general well-thought out upgrade is making New York’s worst train terminal much better. Sure, it lacks the appeal of the LIRR Grand Central Station or even the magnificent (Jackie Onassis saved) GCS. But it’s a vast and wildly overdue improvement.
UBS Arena Queens: “Made for music, built for hockey. Home of the New York Islanders.” The latest addition to live entertainment in New York is quite spectacular. Much of the work was done during the pandemic lockdown. Suoer job.
There are so many other projects we could discuss, many of which are nearly complete: Second Avenue Subway, all of the interstate highway repaving (completed 20 years late), Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the long overdue bridge repairs, automatic tolls for tunnels, etc.
What’s amazing about all these facilities is not that they are big and beautiful and efficient but that we were misled into believing that America could no longer build things like this.
We can have nice things after all; we just have to imagine them, then be willing to pay for them…
Of Course WFH is “Really Working” (March 29, 2023)
1. I’ve recently been to airports in Dallas, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Phoenix. All of these are in fairly decent shape having been renovated at some point over the past 20 years. Perhaps it’s my recency bias or just how awful the old one was but, hey all pale compared to the new La Guardia.