Great Article on Transit Decision-Making

Via a reader, the article is about Madison, Wisconsin, but it could be about anywhere.  The author highlights at least three issues with the plans:

  • Unelected tax authority

Dane County, for instance, plans to fund its transit authority with a half-percent sales tax. Members of the RTA board were told by the officials who appointed them to put the tax to voters in a referendum, likely next fall.And if the voters say no? In theory, said County Board member Al Matano, a key RTA backer, it means no funding. But "it's not on our list of things to worry about," he told me.

Why should it be? The legal fact is the tax needs no referendum. Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed that part of the transit authority law. Struck it right out. The decision is solely up to an unelected RTA board.

"Quite honestly, they don't need (a referendum), legally," said Dave Ripp, a County Board member who doesn't favor the RTA. "And if it fails, they don't have to follow it."

  • Obsession with trains over more affordable solutions

Quite a few wonder why Madison, with 480,000 people and short distances, needs the expense of trains. Buses are much cheaper. They can go more places, and you can afford to run them more frequently. "We actually support buses," said Richardson. "They're very flexible."

"The main thing that worries me, and I'm not the only one," said Susan De Vos, head of the Madison Area Bus Advocates, a riders' group, "is that people put in rail at the expense of the existing transit system, and that's the bus." That's how things worked elsewhere, such as in Los Angeles, said De Vos. When train plans inevitably outstrip revenue, the money comes from cutting back the unsexy part of the system. She favors a series of limited-stop express "bus rapid transit" lines for a fraction of rail's cost.

  • The real focus is on rigid government control of development (ie the Portland model)

"Their agenda really isn't about transportation," as Dane County Towns Association President Jerry Derr put it to a reporter. "It's about land use. They want to build a rail system so they have a reason to force all new development to within a half-mile of the rail corridor." Surely he exaggerates? No. The commuter rail plan's founding document lays out the rationale thus: "Goal 1: Promote Efficient Land Use/Develo

Sounds like a another great town (Madison is really a great place from my experience) is about to be screwed up, just like Portland has.

  • Doug

    Here in the People's Republic of Wisconsin, there is hope that if the GOP can reclaim the state in 2010, then the stupid "high speed" rail that is going to costs billions of dollars, will be killed permanently. The RTA in Madison is only one example of unelected boards having the power to tax. Technical College Districts also can do this. For a state that bills itself as "progressive", its not. In fact, there is less democracy here in this state than their should be.

  • Dr. T

    Madison would be a nicer city if it wasn't heavily devoted to the very left-leaning (think Tower of Pisa at 45 degrees) University of Wisconsin.

  • http://space4commerce.blogspot.com/ Brian Dunbar

    I would not worry about funding for the trains in Madison. Madison is home to both UW and the state government. If they run short of cash they'll tax the rest of us to make up for the shortfall.

  • Henry Bowman

    Madison is a great place, but it's a lot better if you are a Marxist, as then you'll be surrounded by other who think just like you.

  • Allen

    Don't forget all the subsidies that will to building all those TODs

  • O Bloody Hell

    > Sounds like a another great town (Madison is really a great place from my experience) is about to be screwed up, just like Portland has.

    I don't think it would take much. I don't have direct experience of Madison, but I do know Wisconsin is one of the most liberal points between the two coastal enclaves of libtards. Building construction in Wisconsin, and particularly in Madison (aka "Berkeley East") is already strongly controlled and regulated by a bunch of liberal twits. This is just more of the same.

    > then the stupid “high speed” rail that is going to costs billions of dollars, will be killed permanently.

    Ahhhh, the naivete of youth.

    Doug, NO government proposal is EVER killed permanently.

    Like some foul mutant variation of a phoenix, they rise again no matter how often they are killed.

    Give it ten, fifteen years, tops, you'll hear about this plan yet again.

  • http://www.itsaboutmakingbabies.com/ Brad K.

    Actually, the restricted corridor and high speed transit plans make a lot of sense. I mean, I am sure the city council and county board all found that to be the winning strategy when playing SimCity. Anything else just made complaints grow and people moved away.

    Of course, they are overlooking the other part of the winning SimCity strategy - keep the silly tax rate low, or you push your commercial and industrial base out of town, and the people will leave in their wake.

    Why, look at how Sioux Falls, SD, blossomed as Minnesota kept raising their taxes. Funny, that.

  • Cboygan

    We in the Wisconsin hinterlands have observed that when our state legislators converge on Madison for a legislative session, the cumulative IQ of the communities they leave behind goes up slightly. The problem is that when they arrive in Madison, the cumulative IQ of Madison also goes up slightly.

  • Skip

    Consider Minneapolis/St. Paul, another place in the process of being screwed up by a recent obscession with 19th Century trains. Costs have skyrocketed, the choo-choos thoroughly screw up existing traffic. Spin-off development is exaggerated and heavily subsidized. I could go on and on, but see for yourself.

  • Sam L.

    Doug, they are Progressive; Progressives don't like freedom.

    And in Portland, the light rail trains don't do well when it snows, gets frosty, heaven forefend that it ices up.

  • Sam L.

    Doug, they are Progressive; Progressives don't like freedom.

    And in Portland OR, the light rail trains don't do well when it snows, gets frosty, heaven forefend that it ices up.