Monday, April 21, 2014

Amtrak, Streetcar Benefits Denied To WI, Affirmed Elsewhere

Conservatives would have you believe that passenger rail doesn't help the economy, but if that were true, why would leading buyers of train equipment on both coasts - - the State of California and Amtrak, headquartered in Washington, D.C. - - make the documentation of job-creation a required part of the bidding process?
In the RFP, bidders are asked to submit information identifying U.S. production sites; a description of jobs that could be created for both skilled and unskilled workers; total compensation and benefit types that would be provided; workforce training plans; outreach and recruitment plans for new hires; the manufacturers’ experience in successfully implementing employment strategies; and information on how the employment plan would cascade to subcontractors and component suppliers.
The bidding requirement underscores a simple truth that Wisconsin talk radio hosts and the right-wing politicians who kneel before them alternately deny, mock and miscommunicate in a political game they manipulate for their own needs - - votes and rating points - - at the expense of the workforce and economic development along the Amtrak, commuter rail and municipal streetcar lines they continue to block.
That simple truth:
Passenger rail creates jobs.
Former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel transportation reporter Larry Sandler in early 2012 had laid out the train-assembling, rail construction and spin-off jobs lost when GOP gubernatorial-candidate-and-later-Governor Scott Walker effectively scuttled the Milwaukee-Madison Amtrak extension that was also projected as a link in a multi-state, higher-speed passenger service upgrade:
Talgo, a Spanish train manufacturer, is seeking a Wisconsin plant to assemble trains that could run on this route. The Talgo business could create 50 to 60 jobs building two trains that the state already has ordered for the existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha service, plus another 20 to 30 more building two more trains for high-speed service, says Jim Schmelzer, president of Super Steel Products Corp., which is seeking the work.
Counting "indirect" jobs at suppliers would add another 152 jobs this year, 479 next year, 647 in 2012, 202 in 2013, 54 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. State and local government jobs, including planners, engineers and project managers, would total 67 this year, 212 next year, 291 in 2012, 109 in 2013, 47 in 2014 and 26 in 2015. Klein said personnel hired by the state Department of Transportation for this project would hold their jobs no more than four years.
Therefore, total employment specifically linked to the train line would be 1,100 this year, 3,483 next year, 4,732 in 2012, 1,542 in 2013, 483 in 2014 and 167 in 2015.
Here is a documented summary and timeline of the loss of the Amtrak jobs in Wisconsin.
And about the Milwaukee streetcar the Walkerites continue to block, here's another truth that the talkers and their ideological political allies deny and twist
Streetcar systems also create jobs and development, principally in the downtowns they heavily serve.
Consider these numbers about just one city cited in a posting about several municipalities' streetcar projects nationwide - - numbers that are lost on Walker, his anti-rail team, and to the detriment of Wisconsin businesses, workers, students, city-dwellers and tourists, too:
When it opens for revenue service this summer, [Tuscon's streetcar] Sun Link will connect the University of Arizona, University of Arizona Medical Center, the 4th Avenue and Main Gate business districts, downtown Tucson and the city's Westside redevelopment district. City officials estimate about 100,000 people live and work within a half mile of the streetcar route.
And since 2010, the planned system has helped attract student housing, retail shops, restaurants and entertainment-focused businesses. City officials believe Sun Link will help promote Tucson as "a hub of business, retail, the arts, technology, education and innovation," according to the Sun Link website....
The Tucson Downtown Partnership has estimated more than $800 million of public and private investment has occurred along the future Sun Link line since the project was approved.  


Anonymous said...

Milwaukee is not in California, and not nearly as broke.
Milwaukee is not in Arizona, where people retire or snowbird to.
Milwaukee could not support this government funded corporate welfare.
Sorry James, It's. just not practical for a cold small city.

James Rowen said...

But Cincy and KC are moving ahead, as is Norfolk and Charlotte. Light rail here is stopped by politics, not weather or population.

Betsy said...

We spent a couple of months in Tucson this winter and were very excited to see the streetcars and their 'test drives' in the city. Beautiful machines garnered lots of interest as they slid quietly down the street. Of course, Milwaukee should offer such transportation. Hey Anonymous, not to get into it too deeply, but governments fund corporate welfare all the time. Streetcars might actually help all of us little guys!

sonoma badger said...

Hey Anonymous, update your talkingoints. California is not broke...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Sorry James, It's. just not practical for a cold small city.

which explains why Milwaukee never had a streetcar system in the past.

Oh, wait, it did have one.

Thomas said...

Milwaukee could have a street car but the problem is that the downtown streets have too much traffic on them. The buses can sort of get out of the way but the street car has to run where the rail is.

Milwaukee might benefit from a street car under the following conditions:

- Wisconsin Avenue is closed to all vehicles except street cars
- the CNW right of way is reclaimed back from a trail and is used to run a street car up to UWM
- The street car runs down Canal Street to Miller Park

You could make an argument for running to the airport but the Amtrak Hiawatha will take you from the airport to downtown for $7.50 (cheaper than a cab!).

As for the higher-speed rail from Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis, it could happen with track upgrades. Chicago and North Western and Milwaukee Road both did that route in about 6-1/2 hours. Note, however, they did not stop in Madison. The Burlington bypassed Milwaukee and Madison entirely.

Passenger rail is becoming more and more popular each year. Even in the "old days", passenger rail was not profitable, and we should not expect it to be, but it is an alternative that is growing ever more popular, and our proximity to Chicago means that it is a viable alternative to driving or flying for certain destinations.

Jerad said...

Anonymous: More people than retires ride public transit... that doesn't even make sense.

Also, Milwaukee proper and metro are both larger than Tuscon proper and metro.