Saturday, March 24, 2007

Light Rail Booming; Milwaukee Loses Out

Transit ridership is peaking across the US - - some of the best numbers in more than half a century, driven by the popularity of light rail, are being recorded and reported.

Huge gains are being made in cities like Salt Lake City, where even in the reddest of red states, modern trains are moving happy, conservative, well-adjusted people around town.

But Milwaukee's railophobics, ranging from Scott Walker, our County Exec, to regional rightist radio talkers, to Waukesha political leaders who derailed a two-county plan in the 90's, have decided that Milwaukee must remain a light rail-free zone.

Now, mind you, AMTRAK is OK with that crowd because it serves upscale daily commuters to Chicago.

The Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter line is moving towards a long-delayed startup with Walker's blessing - - because it will deliver services to his suburban constituents.

But Milwaukee's central city transit users: Let 'em ride the bus, Walker says, until they save enough money to buy a car.

And to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's modest plan for a trolley loop in the city's downtown?

Walker just says "no." Because that's the talk radio mantra.

If that attitude is allowed to prevail, and if public policy is made by elected officials who toe the talk radio line, Milwaukee will remain less competitive with a growing number of US cities that can offer its residents, businesses and tourists modern, bright and appealing transit alternatives to buses.


Anonymous said...

Talk about a false choice. Here in Madison it is the left who is apposed to rail. It is only DLC like Dems who tend to be in favor of it.

Mayor Dave said it best, light rail is important because the upper middleclass feels funny about busses.

Some rail makes sense such as linking Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago, everything else will accomplish nothing and drain valuable resources from the working class.

And I thought Milwaukee had a trolley, I'm sure I've ridden on it.

XOut said...

Milwaukee is in trouble because of high taxes and crime.

Putting a light rail line in isn't going to encourage economic development.

Get a clue.

James Rowen said...

Light rail is modern. Consumers prefer what is new and improved.

Milwaukee had a trolley but it was gone by the 60's due to the freeways.

Disregard Xout. He or she is a pathetic poseur, pretending to be the opposite of Xoff, who blogged under his real name, Bill Christofferson.

Anonymous said...

I recall riding the last streetcar in Milwaukee in the '60s -- the State Street line. I'm that old (but it was a school field trip:-). The first, so I've read, was the Downer trolley to the first movie theater in town to the Downer college campus, etc., in 1900 (and I read that the street went up around the trolley line a few years later). It may have then or later been the one that went on to what is now Hubbard Park in Shorewood (then East Milwaukee, after it was called Concreteville) and on to the resorts in Whitefish Bay. . . .

However, Milwaukee has had trolleys since -- but more like buses, without the overhead electrical connection or in-street trolley tracks) for the festival season, downtown to Brady Street to Summerfest, etc., a limited loop. Perhaps that is what you rode, anonymous.

All that said -- a light-rail line that continues up the old Downer trolley line to the UWM campus, which brings in probably 15,000 to 20,000 a day, would be great. (Enrollment of more than 28,500, although about 3000 live in on-campus dorms now -- and many of the students who do commute are parttime so not coming every day . . . but many of the 5000 employes do). It should connect downtown to a line that would serve MATC and MU as well as downtown workers. And all ought to connect to bus lines or parking lots in the Menomonee Valley for all the students and workers who come in on freeways from other counties.

And maybe someday, light rail could extend out State Street to county hospital grounds and the proposed UWM satellite campus there. Then it would retrace the last trolley line in the good old days.

Of course, we also could ride the train to Milwaukee then from the Tosa village, almost the end of the State Street trolley line.