If your only source of information was local conservative talk radio, you would be convinced that passenger trains are evil, maniacal tools of the liberal elite.
For whatever reason, the hosts of those shows jerk their knees, put their hands over their ears and scream when they hear the words "commuter rail," "light rail" or "trolley." On the local radio dial, such words rank right up there with other hot-button phrases such as "pro-choice," "affirmative action" and "global warming."
Judging from the radio hosts, you might think that conservatives and business people just naturally and universally oppose mass transit.
But you would be wrong.
Truth be told, conservative politicians and business executives across the country are jumping on board with mass transit systems in places such Texas, Missouri and Utah. Heck, even the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, loves trains.
Paul Weyrich, chairman and chief executive officer of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, has been making the conservative case for mass transit systems for the past 10 years.
"Just about every light-rail system is a success. Most far exceeded their planned ridership," wrote Weyrich, who was the co-author of a 1999 study titled, "Does Transit Work? A Conservative Reappraisal."
The forward in the study was written by none other than former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, who said, " Like many officials at the state level, I encourage those in Washington and in various think tanks around the country to go into the field and witness for themselves just how viable rail transit can be and how important it is to working people. The American people need a dependable and affordable means to get to work and back each day. Think about it -- the average price of a new car is now over $20,000. Good public transit can help working families keep a portion of that money in the bank instead of spending it at the gas pump. To them, and us, that's important. So is this study. Read it, and I think you'll see why even conservative state governors want more and better public transit, not less."
I mean, even Tommy likes trains!
Although the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail system was a last-minute casualty of the recent state budget negotiations, business leaders have been lining up to support the project, and it will come back again, like a bad penny, for the local radio talkers.
Consider the following recent endorsements of the KRM in the Milwaukee Biz Blog:
- "From a hard-nosed business perspective there are many reasons to support KRM. Job creation, economic development, increased tourism dollars and some relief on our increasingly congested freeways ... Change is hard for many but the pocketbook oftentimes speaks loudly regarding personal transportation decisions. As for me, if it passes all the political hurdles, I'll be one of the first to ride it on a regular basis."
- Gary Billington, vice president of client relations at Plunkett Raysich Architects LLP in Milwaukee.
- "We continue to hear a lot of discussion about a commuter rail connection between Milwaukee and Chicago. From my perspective, it can't happen fast enough. We need not simply to provide transportation, we need to encourage travel. Whether it's Summerfest or the Milwaukee Rep, our city has a lot to offer to the Chicago shopper and vacationer. Commuter rail can make that happen. It means dollars. It means growth."
- Bob Welke, chief executive officer of Blue Horse Inc. in Milwaukee.
- "The KRM commuter rail will create better access to hotels and for convention visitors, effortless and affordable travel between cities and link tourist attractions throughout the lakefront corridor. Increased access is attractive not only for the hospitality industry, but also for the economic vitality of our area in general, as we begin to see more people choosing to live, work and play in the region. The commuter railway will deliver a willing labor force to employers along the southern coastline of Wisconsin and northern Illinois as well as establish greater linkage to General Mitchell International Airport ... As plans for the KRM commuter rail move forward, southeastern Wisconsin needs to embrace this project and recognize it as a golden opportunity for the future of our state.
-- Robert Mariano, chairman and chief executive officer of Roundy's Supermarkets Inc. in Milwaukee.
- "I believe Racine and southeastern Wisconsin can be a place where people would love to live. We have the lake. We have affordable living. We have the culture and sports of Chicago and Milwaukee. But Racine is not connected to Chicago or Milwaukee the way Oakland is to San Francisco or Wayne Township is to New York. My company believes southeastern Wisconsin needs a commuter rail that goes not just from Chicago to Kenosha but on to Racine and Milwaukee."
-- Jane Hutterly, executive vice president of worldwide corporate and environmental affairs at S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. in Racine.
Then there's Michael Cudahy. The venerable, 83-year-old businessman and philanthropist is a long-time advocate of mass transit who has been studying rail systems throughout Europe and in other markets across the United States. Cudahy is calling for a new streetcar system that would shuttle people around to Milwaukee's most prominent destinations.
Now, I know local conservative politicians hate it when they have to defend themselves to the bully pulpits on the radio dial. But it's time they grow some spines. We've got $91.5 million in federal seed money waiting for us to get our mass transit act together.
To be clear, this is not a call for light rail, commuter rail, trolleys or streetcars. It is a call for an honest, thorough, objective discussion and analysis of all of our regional transportation options - once and for all - wherever that may lead. Let us not have that discussion polluted or muted by preconceived, loud agendas.
Instead, let's figure out what's best for the Milwaukee region -- whatever that may be - -and let's do it. It's getting done in other markets, and Milwaukee is falling behind.
"Subways are the hope for the world". At least that was what was told to me by my mother before I left Milwaukee for New York City 4 years ago after graduating... There are so many reasons why commuter rail and street car systems are a good idea, from economic to environmental; all of which have been clearly illuminated by the supporters of the KRM line. However, what often lacks from the discussion is a basic humanistic approach.
For example, each working day of the week I walk from my house to the subway station 3 blocks away or approximately a quarter mile. On my way I pass a grandmother and her autistic grand child who waves to me every morning as he waits for the bus outside their apartment building. I then cut through the small concrete playground and give encouragement to two young women who are performing their morning calisthenics. Then I grab my cup of coffee that is waiting for me at the local deli in front of the entrance to the subway black, no sugar and piping hot, just the way I like it. Right before I enter the station there is a gentleman, Charles, in his 50s, who waits just outside the station every morning and greets commuters with a smile and enthusiastic hello. No one knows what he does, but he is a local and is always there; hey, this is New York, dont ask questions!
This experience is real and it happens all over the world in cities, towns and villages that depend on efficient rail networks. High density developments spring up around rail stations and encourage social and economic interaction amongst patrons and rail encouraged enterprises.
The automobile gutted the great cities of the world, literally and psychologically, and especially the Midwest cities not constrained by geography. Sprawl resulted in congestion; and in cities like Milwaukee, sprawl took the very fabric of social interaction from the urban core.
The KRM should be the beginning of a push to bring an efficient and fixed public transit network back to the southeastern Wisconsin region. So that one day, instead of your typical southeastern Wisconsin commuter getting up, walking half a step to the garage, driving to work alone, parking at work and never once speaking with or interacting with a single other human being (angry talk radio hosts dont count); we can experience what city dwellers were meant to experience other people.
Let the people decide the future of KRM. Bring on a referendum.
Bob Gintoft, Pres. WI SIOR | Oct. 26, 2007 at 5:41 p.m. (report)
As President of the Wisconsin Chaper of the Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS (SIOR), I want you to now that we invited the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Frank Bussalachi, is speaking to our Members on Halloween, Wednesday, October 31st, to stress the importance of KRM and its economic impact on Southeastern Wisconsin and the State.
Steve, thanks for your leadership on this issue. As you know, the major employers within the region are quite concerned about this regional issue and the lack of leadership among local politicians within Milwaukee County and the State legislator will definitely come back to 'haunt' them. They think that by saying "no" to any new tax increases is what is good for the Region and they are 'dead wrong.'
Most large employers know that in order to compete for the best young workers, they need to create linkages between their community and the major attractions within Chicago and Milwaukee such as Summerfest, the arts, pro sports, universities, technical colleges, the lakes, hunting and fishing, etc.
This is a regional issue that the Milwaukee 7 has been behind but the other local newspapers have not really understood its wisdom. In fact the entire Milwaukee 7 effort is still operating within a vacuum as long as the local newspapers misunderstand its importance to link and market the region as part of one of the largest mega markets within the USA.
If we were in Denver or Miami or other markets that understand the importance of promoting the greater metro area, we would be responding to surveys that each of the publications would put out questioning the cost/benefits of sharing all of our public services such as sewer, water, police, fire, public works, highway maintenance, planning, engineering, assessments, mass transit, etc. In addition, we would be reading how its readers are responding to these important surveys.
When I was in grad school at UW-M's Dept. of Urban Affairs in the '70s, we learned that this was how the Miami Herald and the Denver Post and many other major metro areas got its citizenry excited about Regionalization. Why are we taxpayers within the region paying for 3 transit administrations to operate what could be a single regional mass transit authority?
And this is only one way to reducing taxes - by becoming much more cost effective with what we are currently spending as a region. You would think this is obvious but parochialism has paralyzed our newspapers leaders. I don't think they haven't even considered how other major metropolitan publications have played major roles in regionalizing many of its community services to make them less costly and more efficient for its local taxpayers. What is even more laughable is during those times when the newspapers were promoting regionalizing community services, they were generating more interest in these issues and thereby selling far more than at any other time in their histories. So even this approach was cost effective for them as well as for their region's taxpayers.
You may ask "what is the Society of Industrial and Office REALTORs." It is the leading commercial real estate designation/association in the industry due o its requirements: 1) 7 years experience; 2) an acceptable volume of commissions; 3) 2 educational seminars; 4) 2 letters of recommendation from competing SIORs (members outside of the applicant's brokerage); 5) becoming active within their local SIOR Chapter; 6) subscribing to a higher code of cooperative conduct and professional ethics; and 7) taking continued education; and 8) paying annual dues. I am proud and very privileged and honored to be its current President.
If you can attend our Luncheon with Frank Busalacchi this Wednesday at the Milwaukee Yacht Club, be my personal guest.
Change is fustrating!! well many shall say that a change is fustrating, and I would agree in a positive way. I would support a rail system for that arguement. Bus Fustrate me, you can never trust the routes or know whats happening. As for a rail system, it would be very difficult to lift them tracks and relocate them. Its more of a deal with what you have and work with it.
Maybe thats why our bus system is a failure, because they constantly relocate the routes or change to much on them. As for a train, good luck moving it after its installed. Your best way to make it better is Providing Bus routes to these station for city commute. HEY! wouldnt that be a helpful idea for or failure bus and taxi transit problems? I am all for it! it will be the best thing to get Milwaukee Metro Area thinking Steel over Concrete! Plus doesnt everyone like the Little train that hasnt change Milwaukee County Zoo. You know most of us have rode it at least once or twice. Well I'm guilty to riding it all the time when I visit.
- To best of what Milwaukee has to come!
The KRM might be nice to have, but it wouldn't address the more pressing, LOCAL transit issues we have.
If buses were a more convenient option, especially for commuters, more people might ride them, but they are few and far between and with the waiting time figured in, they are slower than driving. A city bus is fine for short trips, but try riding one across the county sometime. (Allow plenty of time--at least an hour, not including any tranferring you might want to do.)
A metro-wide system that's quick and cheaper for riders than gassing up and parking a car is sorely needed. I don't understand why all the folks stuck on I-94/43 every workday don't clamor for it. Sure, there would be a high price to establish such a system, but that's why the $91 mil. was allotted in the first place. It wasn't granted for KRM or a tiny downtown loop!
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