No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Thursday Hot Read – Patrick McIlheran’s “The Great Train Robbery”

by @ 10:04 on July 15, 2010. Filed under Choo-choos, Politics - Wisconsin.

Not only did I “borrow” the concept from Charlie Sykes, but today I also am “borrowing” the source material. While Charlie focused on the killing of Badger Coach (as 71,000 of the 120,000 who take Badger Coach would, at least theoretically, go from the unsubsidized Badger buses to the heavily-subisidized choo-choo), I’ll focus on another part of the piece:

But even when the train stops in downtown Madison (or Milwaukee), passengers will have to get to or from it. That’s why that dream trip involves a train to the train. The $220 million cost of Madison’s planned light rail system is not included in the high-speed train’s cost. Nor is the $100 million cost of the downtown trolley that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants to ferry people from the train station.

And even with that kind of extra money, the fact is that most trips either start or end somewhere other than near the train. Clients incorrigibly move their offices out to the University Research Park, seven miles west of Monona Terrace. Or you move to Franklin.

All this crimps the speed advantage of a train when you add the time it takes to wait for the light rail, to ride it, to transfer to the big train, to wait for the big train to leave.

Interestingly, buses have the advantage here. Meier, whose nostalgia appears limited to having found and bought a 1957 GMC model his company once used, notes that Badger used to have a depot in downtown Madison. Not anymore: It was scarcely used, so the company closed the depot and took customers where they wanted to go.

“That’s one of our advantages as a bus,” says Meier. With tires instead of tracks, “if a stop isn’t very popular, we can stop going there” and instead go directly where people prefer. “We can adjust.”

P-Mac inexplicably forgot about the several-hundred-million-dollar local-bus-service-speed KRM disaster, for which a transfer is also required. Including KRM still doesn’t make it any easier for the train crowd to get to Franklin, or the North Shore, or Waukesha, or…(insert itinerary that doesn’t include the Lower East Side here).

There’s actually one more thing that I should touch on:

The money is part of $8 billion being passed out by the Obama administration in grants to spur new high-speed passenger trains nationwide. Wrapped into the much larger Obama stimulus package, the money is a product of Washington’s lowered inhibitions when it comes to getting value for the taxpayer dollar.

Wisconsin’s grant specifically was part of a scheme to tie Midwest cities to Chicago. Backers speak of trains displacing short-haul flights — so instead of us changing planes in Chicago, we’ll change trains there, or we’ll just do business there and forget about traveling on to St. Louis or Singapore.

That brings up another thing – there is no direct rail service between either Madison or Milwaukee and either of Chicago’s airports, nor would there be direct rail service between Madison and either downtown Chicago or Mitchell International. It would be a rather lengthy train trip with a transfer (or two to CTA’s El for the Chicago airports) if one wanted to get to either Chicago or a real airport from Madison. The funny thing is, even Amtrak provides direct bus service between Madison and downtown Chicago, while private bus companies provide direct service between Madison and all the major points of interest in Milwaukee and Chicago.

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