Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Streetcar already boosting Milwaukee economy, despite obstructionist hypocrisies

The Milwaukee streetcar project, just weeks from launching regular service, is already spurring business development along its initial corridor.
Downtown Milwaukee office building along streetcar line to be converted to 73 apartments 
Property values increase nearly 28% along the Milwaukee streetcar route, Mayor Barrett says.
That's in spite of right wing schemers who will always prefer a struggling, resource-challenged big city that fits their perverse, inward-looking suburbs'-first narrative even if it contradicts other so-called conservative principles, like local control and economic growth.

More about that, below.

Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist had hit right a guest blog post he sent me some weeks ago:
Kansas City, a city with less population density than Milwaukee, recently built a streetcar line which has become quite popular and successful.
I support the Milwaukee Streetcar. It begins the restoration of a system that served Milwaukee’s people and property during the period of the city’s greatest prosperity and growth. 
The HOP MKE Streetcar.jpg
I would also support expansion of passenger train service (the Milwaukee-Mad City High Speed Train was a great idea). I would also support Light Rail (same as streetcar only on its own right of way), electric bus or BRT. They would all add value to Milwaukee unlike the freeways which damaged the city badly and unnecessarily.
And I stand by what I wrote about this in 2014:
Far right's double-standard power play aimed at Milwaukee's streetcar
Before Obamacare, before Amtrak and Benghazi, right-wing radio talkers around here and the elected officials they control had light rail to weaponize - - and now they've got The Streetcar.

Though Milwaukee is continuing to its plan a downtown streetcar and build it with accessible, available local and federal funds, Gov. Walker, out-state legislators and ideological allies linked to the Bradley Foundation are determined to derail it by applying legal, regulatory and financing restrictions not used in other transportation programs statewide.

They want one set of rules covering projects they like, such as highway expansion that keeps road-builder and other lobbies satisfied, but they are manipulating the process to apply more selective rules tag-teamed from the Governor's office to his appointees on the Public Service Commission to define what shall be allowed with their blessing to run on local Milwaukee streets.

The lever they have conjured for this iteration of killing the project and over-turning local control: the cost of moving some utilities' property so trolley tracks and electrical connections can be installed.

The Journal Sentinel puts it this way in a Friday editorial in its support for the streetcar and Mayor Barrett's leadership to build it:
Barrett is right to do what he's doing. Rarely have we seen such a blatant challenge to local control as the Legislature's politically charged bill. Gov. Scott Walker should never have signed it... 
Streetcar opponents in the Legislature passed a measure last year that would bar utility ratepayers from bearing any costs for the streetcar project — even though this is standard procedure for other projects, including many road projects that these same legislators likely would lobby for if the projects were in their own districts. Their bill was all about killing a Milwaukee project.
So why is Team Walker meddling in this one Milwaukee project?

Let's be honest:

The Milwaukee streetcar and Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, as was former Mayor John Norquist, are being beaten up for political and punitive purposes by conservative, anti-urban interests.

They've been whipped into a perpetual frenzy since the 1990's when right radio fear-mongers discovered that yelling about light rail boosted ratings in the suburbs and drove Republican voters to the polls.

Conservative Republican politicians in Waukesha County and then-Gov. Tommy Thompson continued to block light rail even after Milwaukee officials to whom earmarked federal funds had been assigned agreed that light rail would not touch sovereign Waukesha County soil.

The talkers and their beneficiaries killed Milwaukee light rail - - and are out to do the same for the Milwaukee streetcar even though it would be a boon to the downtown and thus the statewide economy - - as billions of dollars in freeway expansion continue to be spent across the region serving exurban malls and subdivisions with Milwaukee tax and utility ratepayers kicking in mandatory shares.

Here is some 2008 history about how Republicans sand-bagged Milwaukee urban rail a decade earlier, thus part of the reason urban rail for Milwaukee in the form of a streetcar has taken so long to launch.
A starter light rail system was recommended for Milwaukee County in a major state-funded regional transportation study in the 1990s that had considerable public and private sector support. 
But conservative AM talk radio and opposition in Waukesha County blocked further study of light rail for Milwaukee, even though $241 million in federal funds was set aside specifically for transit improvements in Milwaukee County. 
Had plans unfolded on schedule, the starter light rail, with an estimated 21,000 riders on weekdays, would have opened in 2006 and run about 10 miles from the Third Ward to Summerfest, downtown, Miller Park, the Milwaukee County Zoo and the County Grounds.

1 comment:

Raven said...

As Milwaukee County's Executive, Scott Walker also impeded its urban-to-exurban public transportation, i.e. canceling bus routes from the city to suburban work areas, deliberately killing jobs access for you-know-who.