Hong Kong’s public transit system is like the island territory’s central nervous system — essential to everything — and yet there’s also a dark side.
What’s the link between transportation and new housing development, and to what degree is the local transit authority actually part of the problem? Price Tags editor-in-chief Gordon Price captures some of the drama.
1 – You may have noticed that I reference ‘MTR’ as though everyone knows what that means. And in HK, everyone does. The Mass Transit Railway is an indispensable part of life, one of the best systems in the world. Or at least the most profitable (a 187 percent farebox recovery ratio). But one can make the case that it as much an investment firm and property developer as a transit company. In the Morning Post today, columnist Alex To describes it this way: “For commuters, the MTR is a metro system, but for investors – and MTR management – the corporation is a de facto property developer. It’s business model has long been to make profits from luxury property development at new sites benefiting from MTR rail links.” (Many suggest TransLink should do the same.). But as To notes, there’s another side: “… isn’t the MTR part of the equation of developers plus the government driving up property prices? It address one social problem (mass transportation) by contributing to another (unaffordable housing).”
2 – You want Transit-Oriented Development? MTR will do TOD. One little thing though: it doesn’t do social housing. Even in the most expensive housing market in the world, where close to half the population lives in government-supported accommodation, the MTR basically leases land to private developers to get as good a return as possible.