I LIKE TRAINS
JUST NOT SURE ABOUT THIS ONE
The high speed rail proposal from Milwaukee to Madison raises serious sustainability concerns.
I like trains. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an engineer. I've got boxes full of old HO scale trains. My son goes nuts for 'em. He's got a table full of Brio and Thomas the Tank Engine. Here are a few pictures of the family at the train show at the Domes, which I highly recommend.
All that said, the "free" train being provided by the federal government will not be free at all, and there are serious and legitimate concerns about whether anyone will even ride it.
Let's first address the cost. They say $810 million from the Federal Government will pay for the construction of the line.
Mistake number one is to believe local and State officials who treat Federal grants like free money. They're still our tax dollars! Federal dollars, State dollars, County dollars, Regional Taxing Authority dollars, Municipal dollars... they're all our dollars! So let's not forget, while Federal grants are great, they're not an excuse for overspending. They're still our tax dollars.
Next. Who's going to pay for operating the line once it's complete? Does anyone really believe fares will cover 100% of the cost to operate this line? This is like giving someone a $10 gift certificate to Bartolotta's and telling them it's for free lunch. You go... order a salad, steak sandwich and a coke. They bring you a bill for $30, and you hand them your $10 gift certificate.
Thank you sir... you still owe us $20 for your free lunch.
Finally, the line does not appear to meet any of my criteria for a worthy transit investment. As I've blogged before, it's gotta do at least one of three things. Gotta save me time, money, and/or hassle.
This proposal does none of the above. Do the math. It will take longer to get door to door than it will in your car. It will cost you more... even with higher gas prices and on the lowest end of the projected fare scale. Nothing about taking a train from downtown to the airport in Madison makes a trip to, say, the State Capitol more convenient.
$810 million dollars in Federal money is still about $2.50 for every man, woman, and child in America. I've got a wife and 3 kids. Can I ask Uncle Sam for my $12.50 back if I promise never to ride?