November 30, 2004

No, no, not streetcars!

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on the continuing effort to impose streetcars on the city of Madison.
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wants to press ahead with his idea for city streetcars regardless of other regional rail proposals.

Cieslewicz announced his plan to create a separate City Streetcar Committee at Monday night's Transport 2020 Implementation Task Force meeting.

Cieslewicz said he plans to present this new committee as a resolution at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting. Cieslewicz, who favors a plan to run electric streetcars Downtown, led a delegation of community leaders and developers to Portland, Ore., to study a trolley system earlier this year.

An emailer, who flagged this article, writes:
I am fascinated that no one brings up the fact that the cities that our city fathers & mothers are emulating all have much larger populations, very different demographics, and much longer commute times than Madison. And it is population, demographics and commute times which determine the market for light rail or trolleys. If someone can show me a similarly sized city to Madison that has a successful light rail/trolley system I might be convinced; but to the best of my research there is none. Chicago has about 3 million people. Portland has 1.7 million people. San Diego has 1.25 million. And, having lived in both areas, I can tell you that the commute from Middleton to downtown Madison IS NOTHING like the commute from San Ysidro to downtown San Diego. I am not hearing many people complain about the "grueling" 15 minute slow down on the beltline so where is the popular mandate for all this talk about light rail or trolleys? As an obviously enlighted conservative maybe you can explain to me what I am missing here.

You're missing this (to go back to the WSJ article):
The city has secured $300,000 from the federal government that will go toward a streetcar study, Cieslewicz said.

The feds are willing to pay for this particular boondoggle. And note that the main dispute within the city government is about the possible conflict with a separate commuter rail plan for the city (which also taps federal money).
"We need to have one vision about how we deal with transportation, and it needs to be regional," said County Board Sup. Scott McDonell, co- chairman of Transport 2020....

"I do think this is the wrong direction," said Michael Blaska, Transport 2020 committee member and former County Board member. "I always thought the problem was regional. It seems like that's where our priority ought to be. I really don't think that our community is large enough to support two systems."

McDonell said Transport 2020's next step is to figure out a process for dealing with the different ideas for commuter rail and streetcars and how they fit together.

There is $1 million in federal money for the commuter rail and $300,000 for the streetcars. I guess that ought to cover it. What's to worry about? Let's play with trains, trains, trains.

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