Monday, June 16, 2008

Anti-Rail Consultant Hired To Study Regional Transit

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Larry Sandler brought readers something of a scoop Monday morning:

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has hired a known anti-rail California consultant, Thomas Rubin, to advise local officials and the private sector on regional transit problems and solutions.

Rubin likes to call light rail's benefits "myths."

As Sandler points out, the MMAC supports the proposed, and stalled commuter rail line known as the K-R-M that could serve Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

That's not a big contradiction, since commuter rail serves a different rider than light rail, which Rubin opposes.

Scoop update: Sandler reported later Monday that Rubin is suggesting expanded bus service, but with lower fares, something that County Executive Scott Walker opposes. The key graphs about this twist, are below:

"MONDAY, June 16, 2008, 12:15 p.m.By Larry Sandler
Cut fares, boost service, consultant says

"Town of Yorkville - Cutting fares and restoring slashed service could be key strategies for rescuing the financially troubled Milwaukee County Transit System, a nationally known transit consultant told the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority today.

"And in a turnabout from his usual positions, California-based consultant Thomas Rubin recommended serious study of a transit sales tax and of a Milwaukee-to-Kenosha commuter rail line, although he stopped short of endorsing either option.

Rubin is an unlikely figure in the regional transit debate - a prominent rail transit critic backed by two conservative think tanks, hired by pro-transit business leaders to help break a longstanding stalemate on transit funding."

Commuter rail serves suburban communities, while light rail or trolleys serve cities - - Denver, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, Portland, Memphis, Kenosha - - and soon, Kansas City.

Just not Milwaukee.

The MMAC is trying to help save Milwaukee County's ailing bus system with a local sales tax.

Bringing in a Thomas Rubin-type of pro-bus, anti-light rail advocate might help craft a bus system stabilizing plan, but could lead to fresh obstacles for downtown trolleys or light rail - - and forfeit development, tax-base and jobs along the routes and at stations.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett supports new rapid bus lines and a downtown rail system.

Walker has blocked the rail component, any local rail variation, preferring love from talk radio that an actual transit solution.

His latest scamarama: leasing the airport and turning lease payments into transit aid.

Might take five years to finish studying and maybe getting all the approvals, and producing higher airline fares, airport vendor rentals and costs for consumers, to boot.

Some solution.

It would be a loss for the city if Rubin's insertion into the discussion helps to keep Milwaukee the only big city in a local rail-free zone in America - - with one-dimensional, bus-only transit.


Anonymous said...

Just a question: If the state doesn't make local communities pay for highways, why do we have to have a local sales tax for transit? (or, conversely, how about making local gov'ts pay a sales tax to expand I-94. Bet that gets their attention - and shrinks down those plans - real quick).

Anonymous said...

Wait a second ... they invited *Tom Rubin* to come address a Milwaukee transit conference?

That's like inviting Colonel Sanders to address the American Humane Association! What are they smoking there, the drapes?