Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Economic Development Commission (in)action on rail last night

My email to the EDC today. Thought I'd pass it on.

Dear members of the EDC,

Today I saw an article in The Daily Reporter, and had a few comments.

Bike sharing - why not Madison?

One of the questions I get, as a bike advocate in one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, is, "Why doesn't Madison have a bike sharing program?"

I'm not really sure of the answer, but I have a good guess. Here's what I tell people about the situation in Madison: There's no space for the racks that would hold the bikes.

Wisc-Minn hearings on possible rail routes between Milw and Twin Cities

Dates for meetings at the end of this post. Also note the change of venue for the Madison hearing.

Photo courtesy of Environmental Law and Policy Center
No, rail is not totally dead in Wisconsin. Even though Gov-elect Walker is determined to throw away $810 million of federal investment and thousands of jobs to stop the extension of the Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin and Minnesota DOT officials are moving forward with a series of meetings to study routes through Wisconsin to Minnesota.

Coming up this week and next these meetings that give us a great chance to show support for rail in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the info about the meetings is hard to come by and confusing for anyone not already deep in the rail debate. There isn't even any information on the WisDOT web site, and they are running the meetings!

This is my effort to put all the info in one place.

Apart from the $810 million in ARRA money granted to Wisconsin to extend the popular and successful Hiawatha line west from Milwaukee to Madison, there was another project funded - a study of the best route between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. This was a joint study between the Wisconsin DOT and the Minnesota DOT, but Minnesota is taking the lead. Each state put in $300,000, and the federal government kicked in $600,000, so the study has $1.2 million total.

If the Hiawatha extension moves forward, that is, if Walker allows the Milwaukee-Madison piece to be built, it would seem logical for the MN-Milw route to go through Madison. But there are actually 14 routes being studied, and three of them do not pass through Madison. However, according to today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Wisconsin transportation officials don't believe any alignment that excludes Madison would be economically feasible, but the study has to consider all options, said Cari Anne Renlund, executive assistant to Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi.
That is why we need to attend these meetings and say that we want rail in Madison. Also, one of the routes being studied is the current Empire Builder route that goes through Columbus, not exactly convenient to Madison, and certainly not likely to bring business or tourists to downtown for Badger games, Taste of Madison, Farmers Market, Art Far on the Square, etc. It's also not going to help business people that want to access the Capitol or campus area by bus, foot or bike. They are looking for a quick, easy way to avoid driving, and a Columbus stop really isn't much help.

However, the Walker has said he might consider using the federal stimulus funds for the Empire Builder. I guess he's willing to hang on to that money, as long as it is for a project that is guaranteed to fail and won't benefit those meddlesome liberals in Madison.

So let's get out to the meetings and show our support for rail in Wisconsin. This is about more than the much-debated Milwaukee-Madison piece. It's about economic development in western Wisconsin and connections to the entire region. Eau Claire and LaCrosse are both eager to have a connection to Madison and the Twin Cities. They know that this will bring investment in their communities and crucial connections to business and people across the Midwest. Minnesota wants a connection to Chicago, and they will push for it, even if they have to go through Iowa instead of Wisconsin. Illinois officials are already looking at that possibility.

Do we really want Wisconsin to be bypassed? Are we going to be the backwater of the upper Midwest, doomed to be off the map as modern transportation moves through other states, loaded with business deals, tourists, and investments? Are we willing to be left off the new interstate system?

Attend one of these meetings, and RSVP via the WISPIRG web site so you can get more information on how we can move rail forward in Wisconsin:
  • Tuesday, Nov. 30,  5-7pm: Best Western Riverfront Hotel, LaCrosse
  • Wednesday, Dec. 1,  5-7pm: Best Western Trail Lodge, Eau Claire
  • Thursday, Dec. 2,  5-7pm: University of Wisconsin, Fond du Lac
  • Tuesday, Dec. 7,  5-7pm: WisDOT Southwest Region Office, 2101 Wright Street, Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4402 East Washington Ave, Madison
If you can't make the meetings, but want to submit comments, you can do so until December 29 by sending them to the MN DOT:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bicycle-motor vehicle crash types in adults vs. kids

I got an email a bit ago from a friend that got hit by a car while riding his bike to work. A left-turning motorist failed to yield at an intersection as Steven was going straight, and he was hit, thrown up over the hood of the car, and cracked the windshield with his helmet.

Fortunately, he is OK, except for some major bruises, soreness and stiffness, but it makes me think about bicycle crashes. (And another pitch to wear a helmet. Note the part about cracking the windshield with his helmet, instead of his head.)

One of the little statistics that I have learned from being a bicycle safety educator and advocate for over a decade, is that this type of crash - motorists failing to yield and turning left into a bicyclist - is the most common type of motor vehicle-bicycle crash for bicyclists over 16 years old. (See below for why I worded that exactly that way.)

It also happens to be the most common crash type for motorcycle-auto crashes. Probably for the same reason: bicycles and motorcycles are narrower vehicles and easier to overlook when looking for a gap to make a left turn. This is why I am especially cautious when I see a motorist waiting to make a left.

Now, a slightly longer explanation, if you are interested in crash types.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Doyle's response letter on rail

This arrived in my email a bit ago. I suspect it was written several weeks ago, despite today's date in the header.

Thought others would like to see what is being sent as a response to calls of concern to Doyle's office.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bike Parking Fail: Wave/ribbon racks poorly placed

Bike Parking Fail is going to be an occasional post topic here. I often see bad bike parking situations:

  • Bad racks
  • No rack
  • Not enough racks
  • Right rack, wrong place
  • Bad access
  • etc.

Today's pics are racks that are marginal design, but placed where people can't really use them properly. Wave and ribbon racks are much better than "fence racks," - those racks that only hold the front wheel, unless you put your bike frame over the top - but they have issues.

Wisconsinites don’t want to pay anything for transportation, neither rail nor roads

While an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicates that Wisconsinites oppose rail, I think the results merit a little further reflection.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What does Minnesota think of losing their frequent rail connections?

Although many anti-rail folks seem to forget this fact, the Madison-Milwaukee rail project, that Gov-elect Walker is determined to stop, is but one piece of a larger system, one that would run Chicago<-->Milwaukee<-->Madison<-->Twin Cities. If this piece doesn't go through, there is no future link between Madison and Minnesota, or from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee or Chicago, except for the once-a-day Empire Builder, which runs at a relatively slow speed and is often delayed on its way from Seattle.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trains vs. buses

Short post, because I'm running off to a meeting. Sorry, not my best writing work.

Several people have suggested we don't need the Madison-Milwaukee train because "You can take the bus."

I have a few comments about this. Obviously this completely ignores the fact that the train also goes to Chicago and would be extended to the Twin Cities, not to mention the connections to points in between and cities throughout the Midwest network. And as you see below, there are distinct advantages to trains over buses, both for the individual, the state, and the operator of the service.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My letter to Scott Walker on rail

Although lots of people are calling and emailing Doyle and Walker to support the Madison-Milwaukee extension of rail service, I thought a person, hard copy, snail letter might be a good idea. Below you can see my letter Walker.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Two similar crashes. Two media reports. Can you spot the difference?

Crash # 1: Two vehicles collide on Mineral Point Road, one eastbound, and one westbound. Westbound vehicle operator turns left, failing to yield to eastbound vehicle operator.

Crash # 2: Two vehicles collide on University Ave, one eastbound, and one westbound. Westbound vehicle operator turns left, failing to yield to eastbound vehicle operator.

Can you spot the differences in the way the incidents were reported? Same reporter, although many times the newspaper reports are a verbatim repeat of the police reports, so it may not be the reporter's fault.

Stopping the train: bluff, political maneuver or reality?

This is a rapidly evolving story, so by the time I finishing typing, things may have changed, but here's what we know so far.