Tommy’s Little Choo-Choo

Congratulations to the urbanists, the downtowners and the anti-car crowd. Mayor Tom Barrett’s end-around the County has given him the win he was looking for and he’s now got half of the money he needs to build his little streetcar project. What Barrett and the urbanists don’t realize is that the removal of street parking along the route will be even more reason to keep those of us who’ve been fighting against this cute but expensive little choo-choo out of downtown. I’m starting to think that was the goal all along, to drive “car people” out of the city and into the outskirts. What do those guys call the freedom to drive again? Oh yeah, “sprawl” pronounced with a condescending snarl.

So there’s now no doubt that we’re getting Tommy’s silly little train but there is a very serious question about where the REST of the money will come from. The city has been given ~$55M right? Barrett’s numbers had construction of the streetcars at $100M, which is actually a slightly conservative number when you take a look at the average cost per mile for similar systems of $35M/mi. So where is the rest of the money going to come from? Then once it is built where will the operating funding come from? Milwaukee County is estimating that the state will be taking ~$3M of annual funding away from the bus system to help run the streetcars. Does anyone believe that this system can be run on $3M per year? What about the bus system? Everyone acknowledges that it needs more funding and yet this streetcar system will be draining a hefty chunk away from it. That’ll be $3M spent on a 2.8 mile circuit downtown instead of on the bus system that serves the entire county.

Here’s what I predict. Tom Barrett will push for the RTA to take over the streetcars. The RTA will push for a new tax on the entire region which it will use to pay for this system that benefits only the select few urbanists in downtown who will use it. Milwaukee County will push for a new county sales tax (which the county board is already working on) to fill in the holes left in the bus system’s budget. The City of Milwaukee will push for new parking surcharges in the downtown area (something Barrett has already announced as his plan to help pay for the streetcars). The net effect is that the “car people” who will no longer come downtown unless they are required to will pay for the entire system that they will not use. They’ll pay for it in sales tax on every single thing that they buy and they’ll pay for it in extra parking fees when they do have to go downtown. Way to stick it to us.

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10 Responses to “Tommy’s Little Choo-Choo”

  1. Dave Reid Says:

    1 more spot that parking could possibly be impacted was at stations. Though as there are existing bus stops this probably won’t be needed either.

  2. Dave Reid Says:

    Oh I’ll also add that streetcars generally last longer than buses. I believe some very very old PSC’s are still in active use in some cities.

  3. Dave Reid Says:

    Well streetcars are longer than buses, so for one they hold more people. They are electric powered so they are cleaner. And most importantly fixed rail brings economic development. In fact the point is that it is fixed. It creates certainty for developers and riders which is why you often see development along lines and higher ridership numbers than buses.

  4. Dave Reid Says:

    Ahhh change the subject…. ignore the point that you claimed this was about removing parking when it just isn’t.

    As far as an obstruction, I imagine they get stuck. Though note it is a loop proposal with streetcars going both ways around so one might just catch the streetcar in the other lane. Of course buses get stuck weaving in and out of traffic often for many small delays daily.

    Buses serve a function of any transit system, but a proper system includes multi-modes to provide different options and to realize different benefits. For example fix rail encourages development along the line (note Charlotte, NC for a current example), which buses just don’t do because well they aren’t fixed.

    • milwaukeecountycomment Says:

      Just because I don’t directly answer every point doesn’t mean I’ve ignored the point. Let a guy do a little research, sheesh.

      An existing flexible system seems like a much better idea than a new and expensive inflexible system. Buses can adapt to changing needs on an as-needed basis. Streetcars can’t adapt without laying down millions of dollars worth of new tracks.

  5. Dave Reid Says:

    It is entirely possible that not a single spot will be removed for this line because a streetcar runs in the traffic lane. If any spots are impacted at all I imagine they would be at the few corners, but I don’t believe these are very likely to be impacted either.

    Further on Cody’s blog you said “His project, ironically, was to replace the parking along 3 miles of city streets with train tracks that can’t be used when it snows.” Which you’re trying to connect as Mayor Barrett’s plan and is 100% false.

    • milwaukeecountycomment Says:

      What happens when there’s an obstruction in the road? Buses can take detours, can these streetcars?

    • milwaukeecountycomment Says:

      So, if these streetcars run in the traffic lane and only take up as much space at the corners as a bus stop then why are they superior to buses? They are stuck to a track so they can’t deviate from their route, they’re stuck in traffic just like a bus would be. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just run a couple of buses along this route? It would at least give you an idea of what the ridership of such a system would be.

  6. Dave Reid Says:

    It is nice that this article (and your comments) start off with a falsehood. This is a streetcar, there will not be a significant if any reduction in parking spots along the line.

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