Jeramey Jannene

What’s Going On Everywhere Else?

By - Mar 6th, 2009 01:11 pm
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As the RTA inches closer and closer to reality in Milwaukee, what else is going on in transit elsewhere in the country?

The Twin Cities are heading into a budget deficit for transit operations that could result in fare hikes, it appears the mixed-mode (detailed in the article) funding source for transit is failing.  Ironically, it appears largely due to declining auto sales.  On the plus side though, things are moving ahead on the Northstar commuter rail line into Minneapolis.  The Twin Cities continue to impress with their vision of a true intermodal system.  They have light-rail connecting the Mall of America, the airport, and downtown Minneapolis, an expansive bus system, commuter rail under construction to connect northwest suburbs, and a proposed light rail line to link downtown St. Paul with downtown Minneapolis.  The new baseball stadium is even logically located at a hub on this network.

In Montana, they want to expand Empire Builder service using stimulus funds and start manufacturing more rail equipment there.  Probably not the best idea, the money would be better spent relocating Montana residents to more urban centers, expanding manufacturing capacity in those centers, and growing inter-city rail between nearby major cities.  Long-haul Amtrak routes are plagued by delays, are less cost-efficient, and don’t generate the kind of positive goodwill that the Hiawatha between Milwaukee and Chicago does.

All that said, rail service in Montana is a good idea (provided it connects population centers).  But the most important thing is that we build the most cost-effective routes first to generate momentum going forward (and one would guess they’re not in Montana, with a state population about the same as Milwaukee County).  That momentum will help reorient the country to using rail as a substitute for short-flights and inter-city driving.

In New York City weird things happen when street lights go out, traffic gets calmer.  Perhaps something more intersections in Milwaukee could use.

Also in New York City a coalition wants to tear down the Sheridan Expressway.  It’s recently been labeled “the worst highway in the nation.”  If they tear it down, hopefully they get the land deal structured better than we did in Milwaukee.

If you’re looking for a good article on cross-country train travel, GOOD Magazine has a great feature piece.  Please note the difference between inter-city rail, and cross-country, long-haul travel.

Seattle is struggling through potential transit cuts due to sales tax collection reductions.  This same problem has been rearing its head in other cities.  There hasn’t been much data that I’ve come across that indicates if these systems pushed too hard on the tax as a funding source (and didn’t leave enough in a rainy day fund), or if something else is at work.  What is known is that its the opposite of what we have seen here in Milwaukee, with collections rising despite the economy faltering.  Are people in the Midwest simply traveling less?  I’ll follow up on this in a future article.

In other news, maybe there is hope for Janesville, WI.  A former GM town in Indiana appears to be on the rebound.  I still think the best bet is to relocate the people to our urban cores, and not for the state to throw dollar after dollar into the dying city itself.


4 thoughts on “What’s Going On Everywhere Else?”

  1. Jeramey Jannene says:

    Worth noting that anytime I mention relocating people, I mean purely voluntary, with some form of financial incentive, and only in the event that there are jobs available. Government-assisted recruiting efforts for private employers.

  2. Excellent article Jeramey, keep up the good work and let’s get some better, greener transit in this city!

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Loxie Thanks for the link…. Yes we’ve heard a little bit about the Yahara Station idea, and are doing a little research into the topic.

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