I have to confess that I kind of like trains. I think its crazy to drive to downtown Chicago unless your schedule leaves you no other choice. But I was struck by this statement in a Journal Sentinel article about the silly extension of high speed rail from Milwaukee to the Dane County Regional Airport. Rick Harnish, executive director of something called the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, says the following: "Currently, people are forced to drive, and that's the most expensive and least productive way to travel ...."
As a categorical statement, that's just false and it reflects a frustrating tendency on the part of rail advocates who seem to want rail for rail's sake. Rail is a system for transporting people between two fixed points. It works well when a sufficient number of people want to move between those two fixed point with one of them being, more of less, the starting point and the other the end point. This is the case with transit between downtown Milwaukee and downtown Chicago.
It is most decidedly not the case with transit between downtown Milwaukee and the Dane County Regional Airport. The need to make a second trip - between the airport and where ever in Madison travelers really want to go - will make travel by train more expensive and less productive than travel by car.
A high speed train between downtown Milwaukee and the Capitol or University might make sense. This train - as a way to get to Madison - does not.
Yet rail advocates will support it just because it's rail.