Views on the impact of commuter rail in Dane County
I’ve always regarded myself as pro rail. I’ve been to Europe and witnessed first hand the ease of using trains to travel from city to city and within. Granted most of these cities are large metro areas. But since my travels I’ve always felt trains could be a benefit in the US especially between the metro areas. I completely agree though that Madison is not a large enough or dense enough city to support a commuter train. Now supporters are trying to use the European model and “green” ideas to push through the commuter train. Recently, I read this commentary, attached, in one of my engineering trade magazines. This helped to cement my thoughts against the Madison commuter train. I only wish the city and county council could read and understand the facts about trains in Madison – they will not help reduce cars on the road, they are not cheaper than cars, and they are not cleaner than cars. Please continue to stop the Great Train Robbery and have our representatives put their efforts to better use. Thanks,
Dear Ms. Jennifer Alexander,
Mount Horeb, WI
Subject: Why we don't trust our elected officials The way government works, I do not want to see an RTA formed until it is voted on by the public. The trust in what will happen is not there if the RTA is formed first. It is a sad commentary when most of our elected officials cannot be trusted to do what the people want or what is best for the people instead of their own agenda. If the shoe fits I hope you at least realize it. Mary Verona, WI
To: Dane County Supervisors
Sent: Fri, October 30, 2009
Subject: Why we don't trust our elected officials
The way government works, I do not want to see an RTA formed until it is voted on by the public. The trust in what will happen is not there if the RTA is formed first. It is a sad commentary when most of our elected officials cannot be trusted to do what the people want or what is best for the people instead of their own agenda. If the shoe fits I hope you at least realize it.
October 30, 2009
October 30, 2009
As my County Board Supervisor I believe it’s important you hear from me, a constituent, regarding my support, or rather lack of support for the new RTA and the impending costs associated with the formation of the RTA, the taxation that will occur and the modes of transportation the we all know this is about… Trains!
My first point covers the very formation of the RTA itself. It’s formation has been forced upon the citizens of Dane County by the Governor, Kathleen Falk, Transport 2020 and now the word on the street is that the County Board sees this as a “rubber stamp” issue due to last week’s vote. However, when you consider that the RTA will actually be considered a separate governmental body with the right to increase the sales tax minimally .5% to 6%, action by the RTA will effectively amount to “Taxation without Representation”. I say this because the public had virtually no anecdotal say in the matter, and certainly no legal say in the formation of the RTA. You may remember that Governor Doyle “snuck” this into the recent budget; an action, I might add, I consider to be reprehensible!
Now I know what your argument will be… “but it has to go before the public via a referendum!” However, not all of us are the rubes that the Governor, Ms. Falk, the RTA and other members of our government think we are. We are already seeing through the veiled attempt by many in power to say, “we are too busy to get this on the spring referendum so we’ll just have to wait until next November”; sighting the excuse that there is no time to get it on the spring ballot. However, the same group had no problem trying to ram this down our throats a year and a half ago; given only 9 day to do it!
My second point speaks more to the budgetary shortfalls of the RTA and its primary focus the commuter rail. According to the Transport 2020, 2002 report the 38 million/year commuter rail will serve an estimated 5,500 passengers (11,000 round trips). With county population of 477,000 people, that calculates out to a overall population use of the commuter rail of only .02%. That means that 99.98% of the taxpayers in Dane County will be subsidizing the commuter rail. Even if you were to double the projections for ridership, you are still over 99%. The math doesn’t work. Like my grandfather would say, “that dog won’t hunt.”
If you are concerned about being “green”, it’s hard to sell me on the fact that the train will be any kind of an environmental “savior”. Consider this… 9, 70-80 ton locomotives burning 1.25 gallons of diesel fuel per mile, 17 hours a day will be pumping grotesque amounts of exhaust into the atmosphere. In addition, with nearly 8000 traffic stops per day and the idling cars at each stop, pumping exhaust into the air, can you really tell me that this won’t leave an even bigger carbon footprint?
In conclusion, I am asking… no begging that you do your homework, look at the data surrounding this issue of the RTA and the Commuter Rail and have the courage to say NO to the formation of the RTA (a taxing entity). If an RTA is to be formed, with the power that it will absolutely have, it needs to be done by a referendum, not by and through the selfish interests of our Governor, Ms. Falk or anyone else in or out of our county or state government. I would appreciate a response to this e-mail, by you, personally, to explain your position and why you would either support or oppose the RTA and the Commuter Rail.
Bill P. Madison, WI.
To the whole County Board:
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dane County Board of Supervisors:
I would like to state my case against the RTA and any sales tax increase to support the RTA. I request that you not even consider establishing this without first going to the voters of Dane County via a referendum.
I am not against regional transit, but I am against a train going through the city of Madison and expecting the area towns and villages to pay for a train that will not benefit their areas. If we were assured that additional buses were being added to serve those areas, that is a different story. Supporting additional bus transportation is much more sensible and favorable.
For five days this summer we had the great privilege of picking up our grandson each afternoon at 4:30 after his music clinic sessions at Mills Hall. From our west side home to Campus it took 45 minutes with all the traffic lights, construction and general traffic. Now add to that, the possibility of a commuter train interfering with the traffic, stopping and starting at each light, ambulances trying to get patients to the hospitals, all of which would be affected by the rail system, you have to reconsider this idea. What if it's your spouse, child or other loved one who might be in the ambulance, trying to get them to the hospital, having to wait for the train to pass - are the trains going to stop for flashing lights on emergency vehicles including the fire trucks? Have you considered the possibility of the lawsuits resulting from emergency vehicles unable to reach a hospital or fire because of the passing train?
I have to say, this is not what I expect from the Dane County Board of Supervisors. You all are smarter than that and can figure it out. The first step should be a county wide referendum so the voters have their say. With people losing jobs, companies closing or reducing employees who will pay for this? Folks are already being taxed out of their homes. Let's not make it worse.
Thank you for your time.
Linda G. Madison, WI
Thursday, March 5, 2009
TO: Thegreattrainrobbery.org folks
Congratulations on all of your hard work! It is refreshing to see real people begin to stand up and begin to take responsibility for their right to speak up and be heard. For too long we have all been guilty of sitting on the sidelines and complaining about what is wrong and doing nothing about it.
While the Transport 2020 people like to call attention to the "well thought out and well intentioned, but highly emotional comments" against the rail. They like to show off their intellect with charts, graphs and numbers that are supposed to have everyday people curl up in the fetal position and surrender in defeat. However last night. I heard a number of speakers skillfully and intellectually, along with humor and wit, poke so many holes in their presentation. I hope this is just the beginning of a new grassroots movement for the people of Madison and Dane County to once and for all stand up and be a voice against government, (national, state and local) out of control.
December 1, 2008
Wisconsin State Journal
In recent news stories we learned the Madison Transit and Parking Commission, an appointed group of citizens operation without oversight and accountability, decided to scuttle the plan to add 50 cents to Madison’s Metro Transit bus fare.
Their actions were decried by public officials as irresponsible and a State Journal editorial said they were “lost in la-la land.”
Interesting, since these are the same politicians and newspaper that are pushing the formation of a regional transit authority (RTA) to “manage” transportation issues in Dane County.
My concern is that citizens appointed to the RTA answer to no one and have no accountability to Dane County voters. They are free to make whatever decisions they choose, even if they are bad policy and a waste of taxpayer money. What better example is there of authority run amok than the mess at Metro Transit.
Citizens need to speak out against the formation of the RTA. If they don’t, they swill see millions spent on the development of commuter rail that will not ease traffic problems, will have low ridership and will always run at a loss.
Dear Federal Transit Administrator,
I grew up in Chicago with my father being a streetcar conductor then a bus driver as the CTA abandoned rails, so I understand more about this than perhaps most people. With the layout of Madison and Dane county, I believe there will be nothing but a large scale failure, and a tremendous waste of taxpayer funds. Madison and Dane County have done NOTHING to provide decent cost effective transportation to the Dane County Regional airport in the 25 years I’ve lived in Madison . They can’t effectively manage the transit system currently operating where to go from the West side of Madison to the East side takes in excess of 3 hours, how are they going to manage anything larger in any sort of cost effective manner. I believe they should denied until such time as they manage what is existing in a positive manner which will probably occur around the year 3008.
Madison, WI 53717
Please don't let this happen! I'm sick and tired of having the government tell me how I must live my life. Taxiing me for something I will never use is unfair. I don't want to see one dime of my money go toward this very bad idea.
The issue here is more than having a” Cappuccino Express” and selling more New York Times. It is about the process in which the decision was made. It seems a small handful of people started with the conclusion of wanting a train, then worked backwards to justify that conclusion. The small minority WANT the “Cappuccino Express” while the vast majority feel there is no NEED for it, or like myself, feel process was an end run around the voters. Maybe if the process was done fairly, open, and with polls of a REAL cross section of voters, and not just the Monroe Street tif grocery store shoppers I would feel differently about this.
Voters deserve to be made part of the process, not blindsided and railroaded by elected officials who forgot they work FOR the voters and not a predetermined political agenda.
Thank you for adding the County Supervisors, and the candidates ,with their views on this to your website. I hope voters will find out about the listing, and get out and vote.
After reading RTA Questions: Show Me the Money, Blown Budgets, No New Taxes! I felt the need to post this comment.
If Dane County sales tax were to increase a 1/2 percent bring the total sales tax rate to 6% we would not get out of paying this sales tax if we were to go to another county, such as Rock or Jefferson, to purchase a car. The car dealer is required by law to collect the sales tax from the buyer based on the County in which the car will be kept.
So there will be no getting around the higher sales tax rate when it comes to buying cars, boats, RV's, etc...
Basically that's when you will really notice how much this Commuter Rail is costing you.
Dear Mr. Miller,
I understand that the state legislature will soon decide whether a Regional Transit Authority with taxing powers will be established in Dane County. In my opinion, the RTA for Dane Co. is an idea without merit. Wisconsin is already the highest taxed state in terms of percent of income paid in state and local taxes. Any additional taxes would probably tip the scales against many businesses locating or expanding here, just one example of its negative effects.
The proposed passenger rail service is unneeded, too expensive, and totally unsuited to an area of our population size.
If efficient, low cost, environmentally friendly transportation is needed, why not look at the obvious answer? Express busses that run on an expanded highway system (North Beltline) with peripheral "park & ride" locations would serve us better. In addition, if the original bus plan proves not to be ideal, it can be reconfigured much more easily and at much less cost.
Please vote against the Dane County RTA.
David Trowbridge Transport 2020 Project Manager, all Dane County supervisors, Sen. Feingold & Kohl:
I have been loosely covering the Madison RTA situation and I am appalled that this is being represented as having “overwhelming support”.
For the record;
I do not support ANY tax dollars be spent on a rail / trolley transit system, or further study of this system.
I do not want the State Legislature to approve a new permanent taxing authority for the RTA. (Please let Tammy know!)
I want a vote on this issue ASAP (Jack Martz resolution for a non binding referendum on April 1 08)
I want the Transport 2020 Committee to recognize and acknowledge the public’s opposition to the train and trolley proposal and to communicate our opposition in the application to the Federal Transit Administration.
Bruce (Dane County Resident )
The idea of an "RTA" should be on the April 1st '08 ballot as a referendum to find out if there is general support for "regional public transportation"!!!!!
The public should have the option to vote on something this costly and restraining. Before the legislature even considers anything about it!!
Before implementing any additional transportation options beyond state sponsored "Car Pools" or "Vans," it would seem logical to check to see how many riders are using these for transportation. Buses should be the next step, but only when the "Vans" are so full they have to be enlarged to carry everyone.
LET THE PEOPLE HAVE THE REFERENDUM ON 4/1/2008!!
David and Joyce Q.
On January 10th, the Dane County Board's Executive Committee considered a resolution, authored by several non-Madison county supervisors, to place an advisory referendum question on the April 1, 2008 election ballot. This resolution would have authorized a countywide vote on creating a Dane County Regional Transit Authority or RTA prior to enactment of state legislation providing counties with the authority to establish such an RTA.
An advisory referendum would involve all taxpayers, by their vote, to be full partners in deciding if a new taxing authority, like the RTA, was necessary. The call for such an advisory referendum comes from the fact that the voters and elected leaders of the towns, villages, and cities outside of Madison were excluded from the planning and development of the current RTA proposal. The results of an advisory referendum, which I believe would be overwhelmingly against the current Madison based proposal, would be a way for the taxpayers, as a whole, to lobby our state legislators during their deliberative process. Such a lobbying effort on the part of the taxpayers of Dane County is necessary to counter the pro- rail Madison activists and high priced lobbyists working to convince the state legislature of the need to create these new taxing transit authorities.
Unfortunately for the taxpayers, this countywide referendum will not take place. The majority of the County Board's Executive Committee, dominated by Progressive Dane Party county supervisors from the isthmus and their followers, decided to allow a referendum only after the legislature completes its work on this issue.
Could someone at this meeting have stood up for the county taxpayers in general and the voters of the 30th district in particular? Yes, for our own County Supervisor Pat Downing was at this very meeting. But what did he say or do, you might ask, on behalf of his constituents in an effort to keep this process open? NOTHING!! For as a supporter of the the Progressive Dane Party's agenda and a member of the county board's majority, he would never step out of line to stand up for something as trivial as the right of the voters in this county, or in particular, his district, to have a say in the largest potential tax increase in the county's history and the biggest capital investment ever to be made by this county if this far flung transit proposal were to become reality. Mr. Downing's tacit approval decries the open government needed in a decision making process of this magnitude and shows his obvious disdain of those he supposedly represents.
The saddest part of this entire episode is that many of those now in the majority on the county board, who in the past cried out against
the perception of closed government and the infamous smoked filled room decision making process, do the exact same thing as those they
replaced. Only this time, the room is smoke-free, making the deliberateness of keeping the taxpayers' voices from being heard much
more clearly seen.
Resident, Town of Blue Mounds
Candidate for County Supervisor
As a mechanical engineer for a reputable Architectural and Engineering Firm in Madison Wisconsin, and having lived in or around Madison my entire life, I felt compelled to take a look into this proposed rail system.
Taking even a brief overview of the proposed trolley corridor I have many critiques. The first and most obvious to me is, Where are the repair Depots? How do you plan on operating a rail system with no apparent support facility in the plan to work on your vehicles? Where are “off rails” to move a trolley car of the main rail if it has problems or breaks down? Where are the second and third rail line needed to run traffic in both directions? (Or is it actually the plan to only have one trolley in operation at a time?) If a second and third rail line are needed and installed, what would THAT cost be? To install a second or third rail line along the proposed routes would require the use of Eminent Domain to seize the land and property of homes and businesses along the route. (Now unless the Transport 2020 people are planning on the State just sticking it to the property owner and giving them pennies on the dollar for their property this will be a HUGE cost.)
I printed off the primary route proposed by Transport 2020. Knowing Madison like I do I identified 9 conflict areas that will create extensive traffic back-ups if this line gets utilized. I also identified a stretch of the corridor where to expand to 2-3 lane rail system will probably require the demolition of buildings or at least their support parking lots. Does anyone else see a problem with this?
And lastly. There is no mention in the Transportation 2020 plan for “waiting stations” in their plan either. They address how the busses can be used to assist the rail, but make no mention of waiting stations for trolley riders. Given the extreme temperatures that we get in Wisconsin, it seems unwise to suggest a mass transit system that does not allow people to wait in some type of comfort. Many will argue that the bus stops are not heated or cooled, but most bus stops are within a block of an individual’s home and you can time your walk to a bus route accordingly. Expecting people to wait along a route during the middle of rush hour is irresponsible at best. Now perhaps Transport 2020 has considered this but does not want to include these costs and land issues into their “initial start up cost”. But it is my knowledge in the construction world that bad news does not get better with time. To try and get the tax payers to buy off on this, then surprise them with these added “required” items only AFTER they have been locked into a ADDITIONAL taxing source in order to pay for it seems like dirty politics at it’s finest. There is also the cost of all the additional State employees that will be added to the YEARLY operating cost of this. The Governor is already trying to raise taxes to help plug the holes in the transportation budget (some of which he made), it does not seem prudent to add an ADDITIONAL transportation system to that budget that everyone knows will need to be subsidized by the state.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my opinion on this matter. And it is my hope that this proposal for the trolley (and the RTA) get dropped for the bad ideas that I feel they are.
The people of Dane County reject the Regional Transportation Authority. That’s why the County Executive will not hold a referendum until after she gets the taxing authority - she knows it won’t pass. What are the details of the proposal? County Executive Falk says “trust us, we will work those details out”, after she gets her hands on our money.
Reducing congestion is not the goal of the commuter rail line. This is the ‘fact’ that I love the most. David Trowbridge, project director of Transport 2020, which endorses the RTA, told me “the Commuter Rail line is not designed to reduce congestion”. He told me it was “to give people options”.
I thought this was about traffic congestion; nope it’s about options. If so, roads are the option that over 90% of commuters choose, and they benefit all of us. Roads and expanded bus service are not part of the RTA. Chicago started building the “L” in 1892, when the population was 1.1 million people. When Madison’s population reaches 1.1 million we can begin this conversation again. Until then, build the North Mendota Parkway, fill in the potholes and pull the weeds in the medians.
Dear Senator Risser and Rep. Black,
I am writing you asking you not to support the creation of a Regional Transit Authority in Dane County. The reasons I feel so strongly about this to write you are:
1. The City of Madison's inability to manage their resources, such as the ongoing deficit from the mistake on the lake (Monona Terrace), the cost overruns on a pool facility which was not built within budget and had to closed during the middle of the week due in part to excessive salaries, and a school board which for the 25 years that I am aware of has never stayed within their budget while outspending the rest of the state in per pupil costs, without showing any difference in academic achievement because of the excessive costs.
A water department which put peoples' lives in danger routinely by a man that the mayor wanted to retain with a raise included. A mayor who appointed Bill Clingan to Economic Development even though he has NO expertise in that field, or in other words, give your buddy a job.
The Overture Center 's management has the potential for financial disaster because of their mis-management of the Endowment Fund, with it's past director facing federal charges on more than 30 counts. A city council that can't agree to 30 new police officers even after all the listening sessions around the city with citizens demanding a major adjustment to police staffing.
2. A county board chaired by Kathleen Falk which got a 1/2 % sales tax in 1991 to build the jail which is undersized, and being supported in part on an estimated receipt of more than $80,000 from the ICS phone contract which places an unnecessary burden on a segment of society that in general can least afford it, a court house which was built with inadequate doors for security of the jurists. Where is the $43 million dollars plus being wasted now?
3. The Alliant Energy Center which has gone from being self supporting to another financial drain to taxpayers. A regional airport with NO transportation available to arriving passengers other than a taxi.
4. We have the Madison Bus System which is grossly under utilized, and one can can look at almost any time of the day and see less than six people on a bus. Kathleen Falk wants to adjust this so instead of provide the transportation that it does, it would be stripped to force people to take the train, and subsequently take longer to get anywhere.
5. There has been no plan put forward to my knowledge on how the governing board would be made up. Would they be appointed by the Mayor of Madison and the Chairperson of the Dane County Board? Accountable to whom?
There are a great deal of different needs within a finite amount of money/taxes that we taxpayers can afford. This was vividly demonstrated by the recently completed state budget. There are things we need, but this is NOT one of them. Please stop the stupidity from happening. Thank you very much for your time.
John H. (U.S. Navy, Retired)
Senator Risser and Representative Pocan,
You are my state legislators. I wish to express my opposition to the formation of the pending Regional Transportation Authority in Dane county. I am asking both of you, at the state level, to oppose the formation of this taxing entity. Thank you for your attention.
In 1995 Portland Metro’s John Fregonese stated, “Light rail is not worth the cost if you’re just looking at transit. It’s a way to increase the density of the community.” More recently, the general manager of Portland Streetcar,