"In 1990, four years after Los Angeles broke ground on its Red Line subway, Shanghai began to build a subway system too," begins a recent L.A. Times article. "Los Angeles was one of the richest cities in the world, with an extensive freeway network, top-notch engineers and serious congestion problems. Shanghai was poor, a decaying post-colonial metropolis shaking off decades of economic stagnation. Its streets were congested too -- with bicycles."
So what happened? In less than 20 years, Shanghai has built one of the largest metro systems in the world. And it's still growing, rapidly. Los Angeles, already suffering the embarrassment of having dismantled its extensive early rail systems, still can't build a subway to the sea. Nevermind one that connects Long Beach to Pacoima or Venice to El Monte. In Shanghai, the goverment draws up a future subway line, the people in its way are moved and compensated, and that's that. By 2020, it will have some 22 lines, hundreds of stations, and serve millions of people every day. In comparison, Shanghai completely squashes L.A.'s measly metro and it's slow-moving expansion plans into East L.A. and Culver City. (Check out this other imaginary L.A. metro map, and whimper.)
The LAT story gets dissected at LAist with the help of a contributor at Shanhaiist, who wonders why the paper didn't quote anyone unhappy with being displaced by the Communist government. You can learn more about the Shanghai metro at the Shanghai Public Transportation blog by Micah Sittig, and Wikipedia.