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Guest Editorial: Trolley Plan Not Dead Yet (WSJ 8-23-07)

Dane County Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz Calls for Full Study

Trolley Plan Not Dead Yet

Wisconsin State Journal :: OPINION :: A10

Thursday, August 23, 2007
By EILEEN BRUSKEWITZ, Dane County Supervisor

The graveyard scene in Sunday's editorial portends "The Night of the Living Dead" for Dane County taxpayers where cash-thirsty commuter train and trolley advocates lust for more tax revenues and bigger, more expensive projects.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was mourning an empty coffin. The trolley system is not dead. It lives on in the Transport 2020 report as an integral part of the fully built out system. Mayor Dave was merely mourning the time frame.

This horror show is now playing in Denver and Sacramento where Regional Transit Authorities are lusting after additional 1-cent and half-cent sales taxes to keep their zombie train and trolley systems alive.

Take a closer look at the Transport 2020 Report where the devilish details reside. In 2020, an enhanced bus system with new express bus services will carry a projected 55,500 riders. A bus and commuter rail system has 56,650 riders.

Do the math and you have an additional 1,150 riders with commuter rail.

The capital costs for an enhanced bus system are $60.3 million and for the bus, and commuter rail system they are $242 million. The difference, $182 million, is the cost to get 1,150 riders. That is too much.

Will taking these 1,150 riders off the road reduce congestion? Absolutely not!

Transport 2020 states: "Public transit ridership is anticipated to increase regardless of the composition of the mass transit system however public transit's share of the trips in the region is projected to decrease slightly, from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent of all trips ... primarily because the number of trips made by private vehicle is also anticipated to increase." Congestion will be worse with trains because not enough people will use them.

Ultimately, the Transport 2020 plan is not about reducing congestion. It is about land use. Force enough people into high density housing massed along train tracks and "the people" will want to ride the train.

It is no coincidence that new county zoning changes were introduced recently by supervisors from the city of Madison to more tightly control residential and business growth in the towns.

No doubt construction will be permitted within a half-mile of train tracks, but prohibited beyond.

Transport 2020 relies on property assessments and taxes soaring near train stations. Housing becomes less affordable to workers who must live farther out. The cost of doing business increases until it is cheaper to move away than stay.

In the end, the pro-train, pro-tax, pro-trolley "Congestive Dane" advocates want to control how you live and how you travel.

There is a better way. Let's do a truly regional transportation study which makes the region the study area, not just Middleton-Madison-town of Burke.

Include all of the communities and find out what they want. Not everyone wants to go through the Isthmus. De-demonize roads. Buses, cars, trucks, and bikes use them efficiently and cost-effectively. Build them in an environmentally sound way.

We may not need an RTA to do an enhanced bus system. Reconfigure Metro Transit. Try flexible routes, encourage community cars and jitneys.

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