Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another rail fight in Madison

Madison WI - The Wisconsin State Journal reports on the battle between two competing rail proposals. A commuter rail proposal that would connect Madison to outlaying communities and the streetcar proposal that is championed by Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

The problem is that both plans are taking the steam out of each other. Mayor Cieslewicz suggested that the proponents of the commuter rail plan cool it so his plan can go forward. While both sides agree that both types of rail need to be done, the order in how it is done is what they are fighting over.

The Dane County officials that are spearheading the "Transport 2020" plan for commuter rail responded to the Mayor's suggestion with a comment that "the mayor is out of sync with the broader community here". Mayor Cieslewicz was a part of the "Transport 2020" task force before throwing a temper tantrum and pulling out because the focus of the panel wasn't on his personal legacy streetcar line in Madison.

The fear of both sides is that competing projects will kill off both projects by making it too expensive to proceed. Neither side wants to budge and both projects continue to compete with each other for attention.

Putting aside the fact that Madison can't afford to run what it already has, I admit that the commuter rail proposal would be more beneficial and serve a much broader population (if done properly) than the streetcar proposal being done primarily for personal legacy reasons. The Mayor is so desperate for his personal legacy line that I truly expect this fight to become rather nasty as each side escalates tactics to get their proposals pushed forward.


Anonymous said...

Every person I have spoken to in Madison is excited about streetcars until they see the coverage area. Then they scratch their heads. I could walk, with my two young children from one extreme to the other in 15 minutes. It's really confusing how the mayor thinks this will help traffic downtown. People will still need to drive and park downtown to get to the streetcars. The commuter rail system looks much more sane.
I queried Madison Metro regarding service to my rapidly growing area of the city and the response was that even though there is great interest I should not expect service for at least the next two years. Meanwhile the push for streetcars where we already wonderful bus service continues.

RDC said...

The reason people scratch their head after seeing the area is that the streetcar line isn't being built for transportation. The streetcar line is being build in the hope of future developent as well as, what I really believe to be, the personal legacy of the Mayor.

The development won't be free either as every taxpayer in Madison as well as Wisconsin will be paying for it (for decades to come) through higher taxes. These taxes will offset the expensive sweetheart deals the politicians create for private developers which are designed to hopefully lure developers in.