How to Sell the Streetcar
Ald. Bob Bauman says mayor’s sales pitch lacks vision.
Downtown Ald. Bob Bauman argues that Mayor Tom Barrett is taking the wrong approach in how he is promoting the proposed streetcar. The project must be sold as something larger than a line that runs just to Ogden Avenue, he contends. The “but it goes nowhere!” argument has been a powerful one for streetcar opponents, he notes, but Barrett’s proposal gives no sense of its outward potential.
“Right now the mayor has a map with a bunch of arrows on it,” Bauman complains. The administration needs to promote its planned route extensions at this time — and that should include maps and statistics, he suggests.
How the Common Council will vote on the streetcar is still not clear, as my colleague Jeramey Jannene has written. As always, Ald. Bob Donovan opposes it and has demanded, once again, a city referendum on the issue. But this time he is joined by his colleague and fellow candidate for mayor, Ald. Joe Davis, who issued a press release also calling for a referendum and blasting Barrett’s typically mild-mannered streetcar announcement as an attempt “to ram the Streetcar project down the public’s throat.” Davis also dubbed it a “Streetcar Named Ego,” easily besting Donovan in the colorful language department.
The city should also take a look at available grade-separated routes where the streetcar can make express runs, the alderman added. For example, any streetcar system could easily go to the airport. But traveling at 12 mph, as the streetcar would in street traffic, might be a bit slow for the long haul. The city should identify infrastructure, like state-owned rail corridors, where the streetcar could make some time. (The streetcars can easily do 45 miles per hour under those conditions.)
The alderman was holding forth just after the adjournment of the Historic Third Ward Architectural Review Board meeting on Wednesday. The point is to counter the argument that the line goes “nowhere,” and that you have to start someplace, he emphasized. “If you don’t start it, you can’t finish it!” Bauman said, melding public policy with existentialism.
The point is that a streetcar is not like a tunnel, which is constructed from its two ends toward its middle. You cannot build a streetcar segment at the airport, or the ballpark, or at UWM and then eventually connect the segments to a whole. Of necessity, a streetcar system (or a subway, or commuter rail) must begin at a central location and spread outward. The central location should also be the densest part of a community, and that is where the project is poised to begin — with rapid extensions once it is established.
One thing Bauman would like to see done — before the December Common Council meeting — is to see that all neighborhood development plans incorporate a transit component for future guidance. This should be done to assure that the outlying neighborhoods, which will see streetcar service, be prepared to plan for the changes that new transit lines would bring to their districts. Some have suggested this might be something UWM Urban Planning students could help with.
Bauman, meanwhile, has blasted Donovan’s call for a referendum on the proposed streetcar line. As he told WUWM: “We debated the streetcar 39 months ago. We debated the pros, we debated the cons, we looked at all the issues, we had public hearings, we had large attendance those public hearings, and the council made a decision to move forward.”
Donovan has conceded his call for a referendum is a “long shot.”
Urban Milwaukee Streetcar Coverage
- Next Stops for the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 24th, 2014
- Barrett Moving Forward with Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – November 18th, 2014
- Who Will Be Streetcar Operator – Michael Horne – May 8th, 2014
- A Streetcar Named Cooperation? – Dave Reid – April 27th, 2014
- How a Streetcar Spurs Development – Angie Schmitt – November 3rd, 2013
- Streetcar Social – Michael Horne – September 12th, 2013
- Mayor Says Streetcar is a “Trojan Horse” – Michael Horne – April 17th, 2013
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind – Dave Reid – September 27th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference – Jeramey Jannene – May 18th, 2012
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings This Week – Dave Reid – November 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council – Jeramey Jannene – July 26th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward – Jeramey Jannene – July 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex – Jeramey Jannene – June 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward – Jeramey Jannene – May 6th, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday – Jeramey Jannene – October 5th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett – Jeramey Jannene – September 21st, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up – Jeramey Jannene – April 19th, 2009
- Vote for your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee – Dave Reid – March 14th, 2009