Posts Tagged ‘City of Milwaukee’

Tommy’s Little Choo-Choo

March 14, 2009

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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