Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boneheaded politics means loss of rail money

Mayor Dave didn't pull any punches today when he held a press conference today in reaction to Governor-elect Scott Walker finally and definitely losing $810 million of federal investment in passenger rail service extending the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee to Madison.

The Mayor also points out that he repeatedly tried to talk to Walker, but was "met with a blank wall." Not even returning the calls from the mayor of the second largest city in the state, and the person you are likely to see frequently, since your offices are within two blocks of each other? What sort of bizarre politics is that? Is this what we can expect from our future governor: the cold shoulder and avoidance of anyone with whom he doesn't agree?

I have to agree with the harsh words of the Mayor, when he said, "the day can't come soon enough when Walker can be referred to as 'the former governor.'"

And right after the decision became final, Talgo made a definitive announcement of its own: They are leaving Milwaukee. Nice going, Walker. Not only did you lose the jobs building the rail line, but you have now turned away a business that would have manufactured trains in Milwaukee and shipped them all over the US. Manufacturing jobs in a depressed city, aren't those exactly the types of jobs we should be trying to attract?

One restaurateur has also decided that his plan to revamp and reopen his current eatery is not a good idea, now that there will be no train passengers coming and going across the street. This same decision will be repeated in other parts of Madison, around an abandoned grocery store in Watertown, and in any community that might have been along the line to the Twin Cities.

Good-bye to construction jobs, redevelopment in downtown areas, manufacturing in a depressed neighborhood in Milwaukee, and better rail lines for freight and the businesses it serves. All so communities in other states can reap those benefits. Wisconsin taxpayers aren't getting a refund on the money they have sent to Washington, DC, they are just sending the money elsewhere. And Wisconsin taxpayers will still have to pay to upgrade freight infrastructure and signaling that is mandated by the federal government. We could have paid for all this while also building the passenger service, but now it is all gone.

I am just sick to my stomach about this. Right after the election, I felt the same way, and then felt for awhile that maybe we had a chance to still make the situation right. Maybe, just maybe Walker would come to his senses and realize that he couldn't afford to throw away thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions, of additional dollars circulating in the state economy. Has he never heard of the multiplier effect?

When you are stuck in the snow on the way to Milwaukee, Chicago, or the Twin Cities, think about how the trains can get through all sorts of weather will virtually no delays. When you are creeping your way through rush hour traffic, or on your way to the Brewers on I-94, or want to get to downtown Chicago, but end up driving slower than I can bicycle, thank Scott Walker for ruining any chance to getting to those destinations more quickly and efficiently. When people who can't drive or shouldn't drive have no way to come to Madison to visit, imagine what it would be like to have the elderly, people with disabilities, or people who like to drink in our bars to have another transportation option.

The rail haters say, "What about the buses? Can't we just use those?" Sure, if you don't mind the buses moving the same speed as the rest of the traffic. See, trains get their own right of way, so they can bypass all the traffic. And buses hold maybe 50-60 people, while trains can carry hundreds. That means that to carry the same capacity, you would have to put 60-70 buses on the road and that also means 60-70 drivers for those buses, and that's expensive. Buses are just not a solution for a corridor where passengers want fast, reliable, and high capacity service.

I'm not going to write more, because what more is there to say? Maybe I'll be inspired tomorrow.  I don't suppose I'll wake up tomorrow and find out this was all a bad dream, right? No, I thought not.

No comments:

Post a Comment