Friday, July 15, 2011

Street Car Reflects Desire

I'll say this much. The new street car plan is better conceived than the big square that Mayor Barrett originally wanted. And, by way of full disclosure, it may well benefit me personally in that it may (sort of) connect my office to places that I frequently visit but can be a bit far to walk if weather and time are an issue. If the anticipated operational costs and ridership are correct, it might be financially justified.

But, given the history of mass transit projects, I doubt that they are. And when one adds in the capital costs (particularly the "free" federal contribution)it starts to look pretty sketchy. If we add in the apparent cost of relocating utilities, it's close to a white elephant. It's not clear whether the extensions would hurt or help cost effectiveness.

There are other problems as well. Will a downtown steetcar actually add to traffic congestion? Who will benefit? Not, I think low income folks but downtown professional and upscale residents.

This is always the problems with rail projects. Rail advocates seem to want to spend almost any amount of money on just about anything that runs on a fixed course in order to build "momentum." They hurt themselves in the process. By focusing on a train that did not work - the semi-express to that hub of civilization know as the Dane County Regional Airport - they arguably cost funding for one that does - the Hiawatha to downtown Chicago.

Rail can be a good idea but it is not always - and probably, given its limitations, not often - a good idea.


Tom said...

I had the exact same comment on my facebook page about me being one of the few people this trolley would actually be useful for because I could hop on it from work to downtown, which would be better than either walking (too far) or driving (parking).

My main problem with this proposal is that there is already a mass transit option that runs virtually the exact same route. The 30 bus line, on of the city's most popular and most frequent, has an identical route save that the bus runs one block farther north on the east-west downtown stretch.

I can't fathom why the city would have any need or desire to duplicate an existing route at such great expense. The bus already runs every 8-10 minutes; if the need is that great, add a couple more buses so they are closer together.

Anonymous said...

Tom, you fail to understand that trolleys are perceived by the Barrett crowd to be way "cooler" than buses, which is the same reason those folks thought that the many buses that travel between Milwaukee and Madison needed to be replaced by (needlessly expensive) high speed rail.

Terrence Berres said...

Since much of the proposed route once had streetcar service, I wonder if its cost includes removing some old paved-over track to lay new.

Tom said...

Anon, don't forget there already is a train that runs from Milwaukee to just north of Madison, but it involves a *gasp* BUS to finish the trip!

Dad29 said...

OK. So we name it "Stella."