Mass transit

by thoughtfulconservative

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel thinks its time for another run at light rail. You can tell by looking at Sunday’s Crossroads section, where we see not one, not two, but three pieces and one blog post in favor of it, including the obligatory blame on Scott Walker.

OK, they had a piece against it, but that guy was the executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, so he doesn’t count.

The Public Policy Forum report linked to (PDF file) proclaims a crisis. It says we’re heading for disaster by 2010.

Ooooo, I love hyperbole.

We’ve heard the arguments before; it will add jobs, it will aid economic development, they tout the number of jobs within a radius of the proposed route, it’s a measurement of quality of life (funny how they don’t mention that in relationship to tax rates, crime, etc.), they point to “A subtantial number” of people in the region who are unemployed and don’t have access to an automobile, and, of course, we need to move into the 21st century.

Want reasons why people don’t want this? Try increasing crime on MCTS buses for one. Spring City Chronicle commented on the last light rail in Waukesha.

[It] went out of business because it lost huge sums of money and no one rode it. [emphasis his]

Surprisingly like the current system, save for prime routes.

Cudahy in his piece writes this gem,

In Milwaukee, our approach always seems to be a half-hearted patch-up of the same old, same old. Add more smelly buses under the guise of bus rapid transit.

And down the line will we be talking about smelly rail cars?

Cudahy, presumably, is a successful business man. He lets us know his keen business acumen early,

Common business sense would say that raising fares is like raising prices when business is bad. It is contrary to the very essence of business survival. Raising fares can be possible only with better service. And cutting routes is like discontinuing a product that’s needed but is not working right. The solution in business is to fix the product, not abandon it.

It sounds pretty sound. One wonders how many products Mr. Cudahy subsidized to get where he is today. Because as the Franzen piece points out (and readily verified for area transit companies by navigating their sites), the Minneapolis area system projects 30%-50% of operating costs will be covered by fares. Milwaukee’s is 32%.

How to pay for it? The consensus is a sales tax. Why? All the big kids are doing it.

The real hurdle for transit is convenience. As another recent report notes,

National public opinion polls indicate that 53 percent of commuters would prefer to use more public transportation if it were available near their home and workplace.

I doubt that transit will ever fully do that.

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5 Comments to “Mass transit”

  1. People will always op for as much convenience as they can afford. The moment regular bus riders can afford a car, they buy one. That may be at a lull at present with 4 buck gas BUT, we are only a few years away from small two passenger electric “city cars”. They will be charged at night when electricity is cheap. Prediction. When “city cars” are availble at low cost they will substantially reduce MCTS ridership. The problem with MCTS bureacrats and Milwaukee County Supervisors is they don’t understand the demand for convenient personal mobility. Furthermore they are running way to many huge diesel buses empty, or near empty, every day. If MCTS were run like a private business it would shut down tomorrow.

  2. There is also a high demand for transportation alternatives in a time of congestion and high fuel prices.

  3. Russ, ‘zactly.

    mccainman, I don’t know of any congestion locally, other than what we’ve had for years and the new one that will be artificially created from Milwaukee south when that construction begins.

    High fuel prices will become normal in a few years just like they have in the past and as Russ says, new technology will help folks not need mass transit.

    What happens then?

  4. What kind of new technology are you referring to?
    And it’s not just a fuel price factor, it’s also a factor of being able to spend less time in traffic, talk on the phone or read the paper on the way to work, etc.

  5. In response to your comment about light rail in Waukesha, most private transit companies, like the one you mentioned, were driven out of business by the freeway system, which received (receives) HUGE subsidies from the government. I think that all transportation systems should just be self-supporting. That way, nobody will worry about their tax dollars going to the government to pay for systems they don’t use.

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