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I would argue there is a huge difference in OPs argument and that brought up by most people to claim the US is "special" and what you just wrote.

> The US is special because its cities were either built to be pedestrian-hostile, or were made so during the Depression years when the transport companies went bust.

The original argument is based on "nature", things outside of human control. Your argument is 100% under human control, a self-made problem. What perplexes me is that the "nature" (inevitability) argument always comes first, but when prodded (like I did here) there is the attempt to shift it it elsewhere. I don't like that style, as I said, this seems to be mostly emotions-driven and I don't quite get why there is this attempt at any cost to paint the US situation as "special". Everyone and everything is "special" if you dig deep enough. The point is, are the difficulties any worse than elsewhere in magnitude and complexity? I don't think so. You only argued about the US, but the point of "being special" here has the meaning of "it's more difficult", and I don't think that is justified at all.

I agree, the "nature" argumnets are bollocks (the US is big! That's why we don't have local transit in urban centers - yeah right), and I never understood why people make them (ditto for healthcare - "we can't have it because we are big!").

As for your question:

>are the difficulties any worse than elsewhere in magnitude and complexity?

I firmly think that this is the case - a century of bad urban planning is hard to undo. You don't have that in Europe (cities are old, the layout makes public transport viable and necessary), you don't have in 2nd world countries (a lot of growth happened under central planning that bet big on public transport because it couldn't provide enough cars for its citizens).

Huge cities in the US are different from cities in Europe. Even when a European city has suburbs, taking a train to the city center makes sense because you can get around the city center without a car. That is not the case in Houston or Dallas, for example. You wouldn't want to walk there.

Yes, these problems are man-made - but they are entrenched and systemic to a scale that I'm unaware of.

I guess what I am saying here: we need to understand the scope of the problem. It's not that it's more difficult to make trains running in Dallas than it is in Paris.

It's that we need to rebuild Dallas from ground up for that train to make sense there due to the way it grew in the past 70 years.

TL;DR: screw-ups are hard to undo.

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