Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I have a question ...

Why is the street car loop that Tom Barrett wants to build even remotely a good idea? If you know, please tell me. I hope, however, that I'll hear something other than that we have 91 million dollars burning a hole in our pocket or that it will build "momentum" toward some other form of rail. If some other form of rail is a good idea, make the case for that and not for something that seems entirely superfluous.

I can see the value in rail transit if it takes people off the streets and freeways, thereby reducing congestion. The difficulty has always been that 1) Milwaukee does not have a highly concentrated population and 2) the cost estimates always appear to be in the stratosphere.

But put that aside. This runs on the street. Why not use busses. Even electrical busses. What is the purpose of this? Can even Jim Rowen explain?


Dad29 said...

The interesting thing about that is that even the Mayor will not explain it, except in vague generalities.

jimi5150 said...

Some days later, no one has an answer. How telling.

James Rowen said...

Gentlemen: Sorry I missed the earlier challenge.

Electric busses? Unless you guys mean buses, the kind with wheels and not hotlips, I choose not to help you.

Rail systems do more than take traffic off the roads. (And if that's not an issue, Rick, why are we headed for spending more tna $6.5 billion in 2002 dollars for widened regional freeways?)

Besides, taking vehicles off the roads is also good for the air that we breathe - - the quality of which is often below acceptable, according to Bush administration's EPA.

Rail systems generate development along the routes, and at stations, which helps the economy.

They offer a choice - - something most of us think is a good idea when it comes to other things, including education, consumer goods, political parties, etc. - - so philosophically, choice in transportation methods is a good thing, too.

The choice is especially good for people who do not or cannot drive - - young people, the elderly, and people without access to an automobile.

I'd like to see folks you subject spending on new highways (not road repairs or local streets, but the so-called "majors") to the same political and fiscal fly-specking that you apply to transit programs.

Imagine if the microscopic and emotional analysis was applied equally across the board, or if major highway spending and transit spending were roughly equal.

Then we'd have, for example, the KRM extension constructed alongside and simultaneously with the widening of I-94 from Kenosha to Milwaukee.

And we'd have a rail line running to Green Bay, as does I-43, and another on the way to Madison, much as I-94 goes west, too.

Finally, let's have the same rules apply to major highway maintenance and operations that are laid on transit?

Where's the demand for the local share for those majors?

Waukesha County has pitched a major fit over paying even a piece towards the new interchange that will be required by the Pabst Farm mall.

Local share? Forget it. That's a state and federal responsibility, say the local.

Rick Esenberg said...


You have responded with an argument for rail generally. What about the street cart loop?

As for the other arguments, I guess I don't want to either suppose or support rail generally.
I do think that the argument that it "generates development" is sketchy. So do roads. The real question is whether it generates new development or just changes where that development takes place.

It seems to me that rail works well where populations are highly concentrated. In theory, having commuter rail into downtown Milwaukee would be a good thing. But the problem, it seems to me, is that the terminal point would almost certainly be nowhere near where anyone wants to go. (The same might be true in Madison - it would make sense only of you could get off at the Capitol and UW. I can't imagine who would take the train to Green Bay unless you could get off at Lambeau. Then it might be full for the three Gold Package Sundays.)

More importantly, everytime people start to cost it out, it's crazy expensive. Comparing it to what is spent on roads doesn't really cut it because many more people use - and always will use - roads, particularly in a place like this. How does spending for roads compare to spending for transit on a passenger mile (or even passenger) basis?