Thursday, September 30, 2010

Big roads act as barriers for those not driving

Whenever I hear transportation planners say that they are going to make "improvements" to a road, my first thought is, "improvement for whom?" Something that might make it easier or less congested for drivers on that road might make it much more difficult, or actually impossible for someone to cross that road, especially if that someone is walking or bicycling.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Connecting people and food - Madison has it good

During my conference in Chattanooga, I participated in a mobile workshop - a chance to get out and see the city and discuss issues - called Connecting People and Food. Since I have been interested in food politics for awhile, I thought I'd see what the folks in Chattanooga felt were their local issues.

Stimulus money at work in Illinois

Today's Wisconsin State Journal (or the letters at ran a letter from a couple that wrote about all the projects, funded by (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) ARRA money, they noticed on their road trip out west. They complained that the right has been claiming that the stimulus has done nothing, and none of the "shovel ready" projects have been started.

I know how they feel. While on my road trip to Chattanooga, my first two days of driving through Illinois were marked by constant detours and slow downs due to road projects, most of which had signs noting that they had been funded through ARRA. Everywhere I went, there were orange barrels.

At the same time, as I crawled along interstates and two-lane rural roads, I listened to the talking heads of the right complaining that the President had lied to the American public about getting people back to work. They said over and over again that the stimulus money had funded almost no projects to date.

Can I suggest that these mouthpieces try driving the route I took? When they have yet again been detoured by an ARRA funded project on their way to the next town, we can interview them about the "nonexistent" stimulus projects, and how no one has been put to work.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Catching up after Chattanooga Road trip

I've been remiss in posting, in part because I've been out of town on a road trip/business trip. I'm going to write a few short posts to comment on the trip, but here's the outline of what I did:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Good question: Where's the outrage over the proposed I-39 expansion cost?

Note: I had this published, and somehow tried to edit it, and never put it back up, so ignore any dates that look odd, such as referring to "today's Cap Time" below. This post was actually written and posted on Aug 19. 

From today's Cap Times comes a question I've asked quite a bit: "Where are the fiscal conservatives - the ones screaming about the cost of the Madison-Milwaukee rail project - when it comes to road costs?"

Chris Murphy did the research on numbers that I've been meaning to do.
But I am always struck by the opposition to rail based on its price tag when we spend far, far more on roads each year. According to state Department of Transportation figures (see table TR1 on page Roman numeral x), Wisconsin spent more than $1.1 billion last year just on highway rehabilitation and maintenance. Then there was another $323 million on new highway construction and major upgrades and more than $293 million on debt service, much of it likely for roads. All of those figures are separate, by the way, from aids given to municipalities to help pay for their roads and bridges; that's another $557 million and that doesn't count what counties, cities, villages and towns spend themselves on those projects.
 So... let's start a real conversation about the cost of different types of transportation. And don't give me the, "Most people drive, so we should be spending money on roads." B.S. When people have no other choices but to drive, of course they are going to chose that option. If you want to compare how many people use a certain mode, you have to compare driving vs. train in places where their time, cost, and convenience are similar. Perhaps looking at Metra in the Chicago area vs. how many people drive the same route. Or the NE corridor on Amtrak.

When the Madison-Milwaukee line gets up and running - and it will - I think many people will be amazed how many people chose that option over the I-94 drive.