July 30, 2011

Why Gov. Scott Walker isn't talking about the Milwaukee streetcar project.

You need to understand the history of Milwaukee urban transit and the role Walker played in it before he became Governor.
That story started 20 years ago, when Congress appropriated $289 million for a Milwaukee-area transit project. It was first slated for a bus-only highway between Milwaukee and Waukesha, but then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson vetoed that idea in response to neighborhood opposition.

Congress then took away $48 million, and state and local officials started a major study of how to use the remaining $241 million. The study recommended building a light rail system, adding bus-and-car-pool lanes to I-94 and expanding bus service.

Walker, then a state representative from Wauwatosa, was among the suburban Republicans who helped kill that plan, persuading fellow Republican Thompson to rule out using any state or federal money to study light rail.

In frustration, Milwaukee community activists filed two civil rights complaints against the state with the U.S. Department of Transportation in late 1998.

The complaints noted that many of the central city's African-American residents didn't have cars, but nearly all white suburbanites did. Therefore, activists argued, the state was discriminating against minorities by favoring freeways over public transit.
Read the whole thing to see how this played out in Milwaukee politics, with Walker favoring buses over trains and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett favoring rail. Barrett was the Democratic candidate for Governor last fall, and now he's got his rail project approved. He's not seeking state money, and the the settlement in the lawsuit supposedly "prohibits the state from blocking the streetcar project."

IN THE COMMENTS: Readers are pointing out that the proposed route for the streetcar does not extend into Milwaukee's minority neighborhoods.

The real goal of a lawsuit often fails to match up with the legal ground that is used to invoke judicial power. Similarly, political rhetoric often exploits values that don't square with what politicians are really doing. There are many reasons to play the race card, and only one is that you actually intend to serve the individuals you are leveraging your argument on.


TosaGuy said...

Tom Barrett's streetcar doesn't serve any Milwaukee central city neighborhoods. It connects Lake Michigan condo owners to downtown.

John Thacker said...

Incidentally, speaking of racial politics, in Los Angeles the Bus Riders Union claims that the city discriminates against the poor and minorities by favoring rail (which goes to fewer places, and favors wealthier neighborhoods to recover its costs) over buses (used more by the poor and minorities.)

Buses have cheaper capital costs, so you get more of them as opposed to rail. With rail, since you get a smaller network, people need cars more than if you covered the area with buses. Therefore, Walker is the one that was pro-poor and pro-minority, not Barrett.

Franklin said...

More proof that Democrats are incapable of not being racialist. It is the way that they get their preferred policies approved, bludgeoning everyone else with race.

vet66 said...

Racism does not cure the inherent cost of running a railroad, lite or otherwise, when the ribbon cutting ends and the reality sets in. Maintenance, power source, union demands/strikes for more perks and less work, winter operations, low ridership, inevitable accidents at grade crossings and collisions, etc.

The only ones who will benefit in the short term are the unions and the speculators who are busy buying up right-of-way property and equipment manufacturers in Germany and Japan.

In the long wrong, the taxpayers will subsidize the "Streetcar Named Desire" just like the perpetual loser-AMTRAK.

Michael Haz said...

This is a map of the proposed route that Milwaukee Streetcar will travel.

Anyone familiar with Milwaukee will intermediately note that the route does not serve any neighborhoods in which the majority population is persons of African ancestry.

The streetcar will ostensibly provide transportation between home and work/bars for upper middle class white people who live in expensive condominiums on Milwaukee's east side and who work/drink in a limited number of downtown neighborhoods.

When the streetcar system has been completed, however, many of the bars along its route will be out of business, as they will not survive the loss of business for two years while the streets are torn up, and the loss of on-street parking near their doors.

The Milwaukee Streetcar will be a colossal boondoggle, and Scott Walker is smart to keep away from it.

Cedarford said...

Maybe with young black male unemployment running at 50% due to free trade with China and mass illegal immigration - we should think a different solution. It should please the liberals and Greens!

Why not close off some streets in black areas, largely white campuses to all but some emergency and commercial vehicles? Do away with any thought of buses or high speed rail. And then put jobless inner city blacks males to work as rickshaw pullers? It requires little or no education, modest thinking ability. Have the Federal Government 50% of the cost of the rickshaws. Do-gooder grants can cover much of the remaining expense.
It will save on so much evil CO2! Other than that of a little more from human exertion.

They can:

1. Allow white and Asian commuters to give up their 2nd car and use mass transit to get within a mile or so of work and shopping, then the rickshaws would take over.
2. Many black welfare mommas and their children are too obese to walk to grocery stores, hairweave studios, the free hospital, school a mile away. Since many of the young black men live with them for free, I presume many rickshaw rides would be negotiated free as some sort of rent payment.
3. Rickshaws are an enchanting way for tourists to get around. Chinese and Japanese, besides the casinos and natural parks - like going to the great industrial ruins and civic ruins of America in our cities as a major tourist attraction. Rickshaws seem perfect for Asian tourists. Hire a black for the day. There are even a few things left still made in America they can shop for...or at least hit some of our foreign immigrants ethnic restaurants.
4. Fast, strong former black athletes that can really make a rickshaw haul ass - may be able to charge an "express service" extra fee.
5. There is the possibility that the young black males may not with to work that hard, and rent out their rickshaws to aftrican immigrants and hispanics to run instead. But what can you do but try??

Cedarford said...

Oh, I forgot!!

6. It would allow blacks in the rickshaw trade to write off their designer sneakers as a business expense.

AllenS said...

Are you on LSD, Cedarford?

virgil xenophon said...

See, Cedarford is only HALF tongue-in-cheek with his EMINENTLY SENSIBLE proposal. ROTFLMAO!!

Dad29 said...

There are many reasons to play the race card, and only one is that you actually intend to serve the individuals you are leveraging your argument on.

Another is to collect a bunch of legal fees.

virgil xenophon said...

The point about bars/businesses going out of business along the construction path is well taken. When New Orleans widened/improved Tchoupitoulas St (which roughly tracks next to the Miss R. for a goodly way ) to include improved drainage system (drainage is ALWAYS a problem in below-sea-level N.O.)in mid 90s it also was a 2+yr program which destroyed numerous businesses along its path. When the city next sought to do the same for heavily traffiked Magazine St with FAR more businesses a few blocks over, the business community successfully fought like Tigers to kill the project; preferring intermittent minor flooding after heavy rains and minor street/sewer repairs in small patch-works of short duration to the business/job-killing multi-year "final/total solution" type street/drainage project like that previously visited upon Tchoupitoulas St.

DADvocate said...

Light rail will be a bust. In Cincinnati, they want to spend $100 million (they admit to) to build a street car system whose route I can walk from end to end in 20 minutes or less.

Few will ride the street car, either. Half the route goes through one of the highest crime areas in the state. The terminus at that end is nowhere anyone employed wants to go.

But, the Chosen One has pronounced light rail as the wave of the future and we must follow.

Steve Austin said...

I firmly believe that part of the winning formula for Walker last fall was the 69mph, one billion dollar train to Madison. Every average Joe could tell that would be a huge waste of money and a stupid idea.

This Tom Barrett Looney Tooter trolley will also be the gift that keeps on giving for GOP politicians. It will cost 2x what they think, run empty most days and actually hurt current street traffic patterns for cars and pedestrians. Bring it on Mr. Mayor!

I've done the math and you could use the 65 million dollars to run a fleet of 20 free luxury Eco green electric passenger buses 24-7 throughout the downtown area that would provide far greater flexibility and service. Most of the money would go towards an endowment to fund the free service for perhaps decades.

DADvocate said...

BTW - Cincinnati has a never used subway, built in the 1920s that was being paid off in 1966. Expect more of this with the light rail projects.

Curious George said...

"Steve Austin said...

and actually hurt current street traffic patterns for cars and pedestrians."

Not that it will matter. The area that this boondoggle goes in has no traffic problems now.

garage mahal said...

From the always hilarious MJS comments section:

Things suburban whites also have:
1. A job
2. An education
3. Family with a father present
4. Mothers that give birth after being married
5. Mothers that give birth after the age of 20

What lawsuit in the world is going to GIVE our central city blacks these other things to be FAIR?

Good God. Reminds of the A/V Club performing readers comments when Kanye West was announced to headline Summerfest.

jeaneeinabottle said...

Why is government the answer to everything to some people?? If you keep government out of most things oh like our freedom to get from A to B it would be a better world. You see, every time someone wants a government "study" more money is wasted. Why can't the private sector do the "studies", that will tell us how many people rather have that car or a tram to get to where we want to go. With freedom we get to figure it out ourselves, with smaller government we can figure how to make that work within limited guidelines/regulations so it makes it competitive so it will work the best it can and the cheapest. The governmet needs to be out of our hair so we can live, not totally out, we need some rules but come on with the micromanaging can we "evolve" to a better place for Gods sake. Lets figure out how to get those "poor" neighborhoods in a better place so they can live up to their potential/livetheirdreams so they to can buy that car or whatever their heart desires instead of keeping them poor in the same place so they can fund the trammy thing. Doesn't make sense to me why the Dems want people to be drones for the government, yuk.

Curious George said...

I think Milwaukee should start naming all its Public Transit routes by colors.

This streetcar route can be called the "White Line".

AJ Lynch said...

Steve Austin:
Bingo! Unfortunately libruls are engaged in a War on Math [coined, as far as I know, by SPimmortal here on this blog yesterday].

traditionalguy said...

Trains both big and small are Massive Earmarks.

They are of by and for wasting public money for no reason.

If that much cash money was piled up at the capitol and burned in a bonfire, we would lose it once.

But the trains are designed to lose that much money over and over until the end of the world.

MikeinAppalachia said...

Few still know of the Cincinnati subway project. IIRC there are a few of the original stations still standing and a couple of those were made into bomb shelters(?).
Should be a warning to the proponents of light rail in Cinn.

bagoh20 said...

"The real goal of a lawsuit often fails to match up with the legal ground that is used to invoke judicial power. Similarly, political rhetoric often exploits values that don't square with what politicians are really doing. There are many reasons to play the race card, and only one is that you actually intend to serve the individuals you are leveraging your argument on."

Shorter: Lawyers were involved.

edutcher said...

More union jobs in a rail system.

But, except for Chicago and, maybe, Detroit, serious mass transit doesn't live west of the Appalachians

PatCA said...

This provides a case study of the folly of Big Government. The feds take your money, then return a portion of it in a big cash wad on a particular city for a particular project. Union bosses, pols, racial hustlers jockey for control. Hilarity ensues.

Milwaukee would have been better off if its people were not taxed in the first place or received the "grant" in the second.

ic said...

Wisconsinites need lightrails as fish needs bicycles.

miller said...

Seattle has the South Lake Union Trolley (I kid you not; we're not allowed to use the acronym while at work). From downtown to Lake Union on a street already serviced by three bus lines. They didn't set the automated fare collection system to allow for the regional fare card to work, so you don't even need to pay when you use it. Only the tourists and rubes pay. Then there's light rail from downtown to the airport. No parking lots at any stops along the way, so you can use it if you walk from your home to the station. Because if they built parking lots, people might still want to use their cars.

Busses are far, far cheaper and of course they can switch routes at the drop of a hat. Yesterday the trolley broke down at rush hour, blocking one lane. There was no announcement anywhere on the stops even though they have automated reader boards with cheerful messages about payment and route times.

No one planned for a trolley that might break down, which blocks all trolleys on the line, and so there is no way to tell people waiting for the now-non-existent trolley that it won't be coming. The rubes and tourists who waited at the stops were a delight to listen to as they wondered what to do with their worthless trolley fare tickets which cannot be used for the bus fares or the light rail.

Lyle said...

What a fantastic story of racial discrimination within a political party.