Archives for posts with tag: save the train wisconsin

It’s been a long few weeks since this blog lost hope for infrastructure projects and went underground.  In case you missed it, in early December, all of Wisconsin’s train money got yanked due to willful sloganeering (that’s your tax dollars, Wisconsin, now going to other states, per usual).

Governor Walker also stopped a plan to burn biomass at a UW-Madison heating plant that is already under construction.  The whole point of the biomass plant was not to be a bunch of Madison treehuggers (jury’s still out as to whether biomass is even that much better for the environment) but to build up and support an emerging biomass industry in the state.  It’s industry is made up of farmers and local manufacturers who sell their refuse (switchgrass, wood chips, corn leftovers) to the state for burning.  It’s sustainable, Wisconsin-grown energy. Also it helps save jobs.

But, oh well, forget the future and all that making ourselves desirable stuff, we’ll just bury our heads in the sand. Or better yet,  we’ll continue to be really good at developing rabble-rousing, but meaningless, slogans.

Also we might lose our  jobs, as I did last week.  No train jobs.  No energy jobs.  No duchess jobs. But, don’t worry, it just means we’re open for business!

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Here’s a fun use of taxpayer dollars: some of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation are proposing a bill that would rewrite federal law so that Gov-elect Walker can give back money designated for Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project and use it to “pay down the federal debt.”  It won’t help Wisconsin’s debt that much, though.  We’ll still owe $100 million dollars and will lose all those jobs we need (fewer jobs=fewer taxpayers=less revenue=more state debt).

Other than the fact that we’ll still lose jobs and money, there are some other problems with the proposed bill.  For instance, it won’t do anything to improve Wisconsin’s infrastructure, or give people more convenient ways to get around the Midwest.  A high-speed rail service would do that, though.  Also the bill is unlikely to go very far because there are all these other states (Illinois, New York, California)  that would rather have that $810 million dollars go to them for rail projects.  And their congressional delegations will vote accordingly to make sure their  citizens’ federal tax dollars go to improve American infrastructure and the business climate back home. All those other states for prosperity!

But Wisconsin, know this, your congressional delegation is there fighting for you…to be bypassed by business, growth,development, tourism and improved transportation options–all to help your Governor-elect save face.

But in happy, non-cynical train news, the Sierra Club released details on all the different Save the Train Day of Action rallies that will take place all around the state this Saturday.  All the information is available on this Facebook  page, or visit their website.

Also for those who enjoy laughing at their own misery, here’s one for you:

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

New Links of Interest

Activism

November 20th – Save the Train Action Day (Details and locations announced today!)

Pledge to ride the train (WISPIRG)

WPR – “Conversations with Joy Cardine” (Call WPR tomorrow morning between 7-8 AM to voice your support of high-speed rail: 1-800-642-1234)

AFL-CIO – Petition to save rail and jobs

Prorail

Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers

Community Support

Scott McDonnell – Concerned about roads and bridges? Invest in rail.

AFL-CIO – Labor and community groups rally to save Wisconsin jobs

Citizens Action – Hundreds in Milwaukee rally to save high-speed train

Representative Grigsby – Pushes to save Wisconsin high speed rail jobs

Editorials

Hands on Wisconsin: Walker’s Train Tantrum

In praise of flip-flopping

Are we pennywise but pound foolish?

Blogs

Lubar backs Walker, high speed rail

Emily’s Post: Walker waffles on the train, RoJo observations, and the GOP ‘mandate’

Did Chicago-style Politics Kill Wisconsin’s High Speed Rail?

Canceling high-speed rail would derail jobs

Getting Back on Track

Scott Walker and high speed rail: This is why Wisconsin can’t have nice things. Or jobs.

Let’s boycott Wisconsin

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Satire

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan



News! So much news regarding the train today.  It seems that all of the constituent letters, phone calls, petitions, Facebook likes, letters from businesses, editorials and now rallies have made an impact on our Governor-elect.  Today it’s been reported that he is open to other rail projects being funded with the $810 million designated to start a high-speed rail extension from Milwaukee to Madison and then on to Minneapolis.  He is even open to using the money to improve the Empire Builder line (a passenger rail line that travels 30 miles north of Madison) into a high-speed passenger rail line. But he is not open to the train being connected to Madison.

Some people are hopeful that this is a sign Gov-elect Walker may be willing to compromise on the rail project and build the line after all, but I fear this should be viewed as nothing but politicking at its worst.  I fear that Walker may be calculating that if he can somehow use the money in some way that avoids improving Madison’s infrastructure (he knows it can’t be roads) then he can claim Wisconsin did not lose jobs AND claim he never built a rail line to Madison. For Walker this might seem like a “win-win” scenario. Unfortunately, for the people of Wisconsin, it would be a “lose-lose.”

As has been stated over and over again in this blog and elsewhere, the purpose of the rail project is to spend the money connecting city centers across the Midwest.  More “destination” cities in the rail system equal more possible riders.  For this money to be most effective it must be used to connect as many larger cities as possible.  It is imperative for the entire rail system in Wisconsin that Madison is connected. Here are some reasons why:

1. Madison is large and growing

Although it might be hard for people to believe, Madison is no longer a small cow town filled with people grooving out in pot circles.  Madison is all about growth and commerce. According to 2009 estimates, over a quarter of a million people live inside the City of Madison and its metro area includes 500,000 people.   For many years, Madison and its metro area have been one of the fastest growing in the state (generally only outdone by the Wisconsin counties that border Minneapolis).  Madison is the second largest city  in Wisconsin and its metro area encompasses 10% of the state’s total population.

2. Madison is the state capital

Yes, Madison is the state capital of Wisconsin and for that very reason alone it should be high-speed rail destination.  Madison has a constantly reshuffling supply of tourists, business people, politicians, lobbyists coming from all over the state to visit the State Capitol building.

3. Largest and finest university in the state

Madison is also home to one of the nation’s premier public universities with 40,000 undergraduate students.  As those of us who studied there know, Madison students generally don’t have cars. UW students live off public transportation, bikes, and their little, adorable feet.  UW-Madison also draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to Madison from anything from research symposiums to sporting events.  Remember the last time you came from Milwaukee to watch a Badger football game and got totally drunk–wouldn’t a train have been nice?

4. Businesses Galore

Believe it or not, we aren’t all state employees. Madison is home to a number of major businesses: American Family Insurance, Alliant Energy, Pacific  Cycles, Cuna Mutual, Rayovac (Spectrum Brands), Epic, Sonic  Foundry,  UW Health and many other companies have offices in Madison: Google and Microsoft being two well-known examples.  There are also countless start-ups stemming from research taking place at the University.  In 2010, Forbes ranked Madison the 7th most innovative city in the country. Kiplinger ranked Madison as the 7th best city to live and work in the country. CNN Money ranked Madison the 20th best city to launch a businesses.  Businesses are here.  Businesses are coming here. Don’t you want other communities to be connected to and benefit from our growth?

5. Tourism and Conventions

Madison’s university, sporting events, businesses, conventions, recreational opportunities and festivals draw millions of visitors a year.  As someone who tries to walk on Madison’s cramped summer streets–I know.  Seriously, I’m sure some of these folks in this picture came from Milwaukee, Minneapolis or Chicago or want to go to one of those cities one day:

Let me reiterate again, for the entire rail line to be the most viable, it should be connected to larger cities.  The closest train station to Madison is a 40 minute drive away in Columbus. Don’t get me wrong, Columbus is a beautiful town that is full of great people, all 5,000 of them.  But if we build a train, shouldn’t we make sure that taxpayer money is spent on a train that will be as successful as possible.  It doesn’t make any sense to use all of that money to rebuild a rail line that already exists in a way that won’t have much effect on ridership. And in the mean time, Madison still won’t have a station and some day taxpayers will probably have to pay money again just to finally connect the line to Madison.  The money is there now. Let’s use it for what it’s been budgeted for.

Also, all of the environmental impact statements and research have been done for a line going to Madison.  All of that would need to be reworked (that costs money, like millions of dollars) should the new high-speed rail line not go through Madison.  Just something else to think about.  Frankly, I agree with all those conservatives out there. Let’s be wise with our money.  Let’s build the train through Madison.

This week, I’ll be getting back to basics in terms of my of coverage of the Save the Train movement–yes, it really is one. Much has been said already about the catastrophe that will befall Wisconsin if we do not go ahead with this project: Loss of $100 million, immediate loss of 400 jobs, loss of 4,000 eventual construction jobs, and no train to show for it!  I’ve worked to make it clear that cancelling the train would  really be the biggest Boondoggle of them all.

But I think it’s also important to take some time to remember why Wisconsin so desperately wanted high-speed passenger rail in the first place. Let’s remember that if the train does go ahead, we not only avoid all those bad things I mentioned above, but we gain an amazing new weapon in our transportation arsenal!  Here are six reasons why the high-speed train will be a huge asset to Wisconsin’s infrastructure. I’ll be covering these in greater debt during the week:

1. Wisconsin will be connected

What is often forgotten when referring to the project as the “Madison to Milwaukee train” is that that’s only a leg in a long-term high-speed rail infrastructure plan–a plan twenty years in the making.  This is a project that will provide an efficient transportation alternative that will eventually be fast enough to compete with air travel (once you factor in waits at airports). It’s a type of travel that will allow people to get work done while they travel.  It will easily connect businesses, universities, tourists and families to cities all over the Midwest.

2. The riders are there now and there will be even more of them in the future

Just because someone says “nobody will ride this train” does not actually make it so. The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha line is hugely successful passenger rail service. The fact of the matter is, we have a large aging population that will soon no longer be able to drive. Madison, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, La Crosse, Chicago all have large populations of students and young people who don’t own cars. More and more young professionals live in city centers without cars.  Business people want to take the train because they can do work and ride to a meeting prepared and relaxed.  The ridership is there. The ridership will grow.

3. Jobs

Jobs: Wisconsin needs them. This project creates a lot of them.

4. Rail corridor improvements

In addition to building a high-speed passenger train, this projects funds much-need freight rail improvements.  Commerce! Jobs!

5. Supports car-free living

Some people view environmentalism with great skepticism, but think of it more as human-species-protectionism. Trains have less impact on the environment than the cars that would carry the same amount of passengers. As gas prices increase and our planet heats up (yes, it’s really happening), high-speed rail will give people a way to efficiently get around without relying on cars.

6. Trains are a pleasure to ride

As anyone who’s taken an Amtrak train in the last few years can attest, trains a great way to get around.  Put your feet up, walk around the train, give you kids some space to play, have a beer or a sandwich, get some work done…it’s all possible on a train.

Also, if you need more convincing, here is Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz explaining why this rail project is so important.

New Links

Advocacy

Eau Claire Leader Telegram – Question of the Week (Let them know why you want high-speed rail in Wisconsin)

Editorials

Oshkosh Northwestern – Pay no attention to that woman tied to the tracks

Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter – High-speed rail line should proceed

John Nichols: Walker creates jobs, but not in Wisconsin

Bloomington Pentagraph – Walker should pick fight with Illinois

The fast train represents opportunity

Editorial: The arguments against rail just don’t measure up

Cancellation of high-speed rail will kill jobs

Our view: Minnesota aims to be ready for rail (Winona Paper, Discusses Wisconsin)

Chris Rickert: Putting your money where the train is

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

La Crosse Tribune – Funding train is money well spent

Sheboygan Press – Rethink position on train

Stevens Point Journal – Plan to cancel high-speed rail project wrong

Blogs

Backwards we go!

Rail Cheaper and Faster Than Air

Fast rail operating costs would be 1% or less of highway operating subsidies


The day in trains was a bit of a snoozer in terms of news.  We learned (again) that Governor Doyle will not go ahead with the trains until Gov-elect Walker signs onto the project (that’s why all the phone calls, emails, petitions and community education are so important right now).  Walker also said he wasn’t going to push the feds right now on getting the rail money appropriated for roads (probably because he knows he can’t get the appropriation changed). Is he simply trying to ride out the negative press behind the project’s cancellation?  Is our Gov-elect looking to negotiate, or be convinced of something? Is he hoping that once the new congress starts, something will happen that will allow him to get the appropriation changed? It’s a great mystery that I’m sure will be partially revealed down the road.

Wisconsin’s rail debate became national news, with a feature piece this evening on NPR.  I continue to question Gov-elect Walker’s rationale for cancelling the project, given that costs are still negotiable at this point AND there are many people willing to come to the table with him.  Further, as I said yesterday, Gov-elect Walker favors state support for the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee to Chicago.  What gives? I’ve suspected an anti-Madison bias (and this Journal Sentinel blog indicates that it’s clearly out there among conservatives–by the way, the Madison Metro area is nearly 500,000 and contains the best university in the state and the State Capitol. Madison is important and pretty.).  Others suspect Gov-elect Walker may feel a sense of obligation to road builders for all the money they gave to his campaign.  I certainly hope for all of our sakes that such suspicions are incorrect.

In positive news, the Save the Train Wisconsin Facebook Group is up to nearly 7,000 supporters!  And all those train supporters have been busy planning activities to get the word out as to why Wisconsin needs to be a player in the Midwest high-speed rail network.  As I mentioned yesterday, the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Chapter has declared next Saturday, November 20th a Save the Train action day.  There are rallies and events scheduled to take place all over the state.  To learn more, visit their website.

Also, it positive news, the majority of the members of the Milwaukee Common Council came out in favor of the train.  And AND Virgin Everything owner Richard Branson is interested in investing in Florida’s high-speed rail project.  This is nice to just have in the back of your mind when someone makes an argument that private enterprise does see value in passenger trains. “If trains were valuable, businesses would invest in them”–here’s a very powerful businessman investing in a train.  I’ve already pointed out that Madison’s business community is very much in favor of the project.  After the election, Milwaukee’s business community sort of said “Meh. We like our train to Chicago, but don’t want to help you get yours.”  Although here’s a video of several Milwaukee business leaders showing strong support for public transportation. “It’s not a want. It’s a need,” says one executive:

You scratch my head; I’ll scratch yours!

New Links of Interest

Advocacy (Growing by leaps and bounds!)

Call Scott Walker’s Transition Office: 608-261-9200

AFL-CIO Rally (Monday, November 15th, Noon, Talgo site in Milwaukee)

UW-Eau Claire Petition Rally (Wednesday, November 17th, 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m., Campus Mall)

WISPIRG Letter Campaign

Badger Football Game Flier Distribution (Saturday, November 13th, Meet at Topper’s near Camp Randall at 9:30 a.m. — More details an the linked Facebook group)

1,000 Friends of Wisconsin Petition Campaign

Wisconsin Environment Petition

Bring High-Speed Rail to Eau Claire Facebook Group

Ray LaHood Facebook Page (Let the US Transportation Secretary know Wisconsin is still committed to high-speed rail)

Keep High-Speed Rail in Wisconsin Facebook Page

Editorials

Plain Talk: Road builders get return on their Walker investment

Capital Times – Even Republicans are tell Walker he’s wrong about rail money

Letters to the Editor

‘Tainted’ funds must be rejected by Walker

Blogs

Riding the Rails, Looking for Work

News Analysis

The Roadmap to a High-Speed Recovery

Today in trains:  More people speak up in favor of Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project and they get a bunch of smoke and mirrors in return.

That’s right, much of today’s news about the train revolved around the fact that people don’t understand the logic behind cancelling the project.  The media discovered the Save the Train Facebook Page (up by 4,000 like since yesterday!) and Illinois feels sad for us because we are being so stupid with our train hate.  As one person asks in this clip: “Why shouldn’t you be taking advantage of the funding that should go to your state?” Great question. Our neighbor to the south also made a play for our new train factory.  More jobs lost because of the terrible threat of putting Wisconsinites on the hook for anywhere from less than $0.20 all the way up to $2.00 a year!  Even first cousin Minnesota in confused by their dim-witted relative, but Minnesota’s going ahead with their train  project.

Also Madison’s Mayor Dave went on record last night to be clear that he was open to working with the Walker administration on alternative funding mechanisms for the train’s yearly maintenance costs.  This would have been a great opportunity for Governor-elect Walker to say something like “because of new information related to costs for this project I am now open to negotiating with stakeholders on a rail project that would not burden state tax payers in the future.”  He could have said that by now. He could say he was committed to jobs before rhetoric. He would have four years for the remaining anti-train people to get over it…by then most of them would be.   But he didn’t do that.  Instead, he sent this letter to the Doyle administration, to ask if it would be okay if he could be Governor two months early, and also to remind people that he doesn’t know anything about the policies he doesn’t like.  Getting the support of 52% of 50% of the voters makes one King of Wisconsin!

 

From the Daily Cardinal

 

What is often being forgotten in the debate about the train project is that it is not really about cost.  Scott Walker is in favor of spending the money we are slated to receive from the feds, just not on train.  He is in favor of state-supported trains, just not this one.  The state could develop a number of creative ways to deal with the estimated $7.5 million yearly cost of the train.  For instance, the state could receive support from Madison, as Madison has said it would be willing to do give more money to the project.  There could be train cards or memberships–or just ask for supporters to donate $3 extra on their annual tax returns for crying out loud! I want the train so badly, I would even pay *gasp* $20 or even more extra on my taxes.  So I would pay my “burden” and the “burden” on 9 other people.  We can get it done if there are honest brokers on either side of the negotiating table.  Every day that this debate goes on, I question more and more whether we have an honest partner in our Governor-elect.

The good news is that people continue to be vocal in support of the train.  Watertown’s republican mayor continues to show support for the train because he believes it’s in his city’s best interests.  We need more business people, more republicans, more people outside of Madison to make it clear that they support the train (because Madison is apparently no longer part of Wisconsin).

News Links of Interest

Advocacy

Sierra Club Wisconsin – November 20th – Save the Train Events (Sierra Club Wisconsin is declaring November 20th a day of action on the train — learn how to plan or attend an event in your area)

Survey – Should Walker his plan to stop the train project

Sierra Club Wisconsin – Intercity Rail Letter Campaign

Poll: Should Wisconsin go ahead with plan for high-speed rail

Editorials

Tomah Journal – Editorial: Wisconsin open for business … except for mass transit

Randy’s Ramblings: Who’ll stop the train?

Walker’s plan for high-speed rail a huge fail

Blogs

Jeremy Bloom – Off the Rails II: GOP misreading Ayn Rand in blocking railroads

Mike Shafer – Opponents spew myths about high-speed rail

Matt Logan – Scott Walker stuck in the 70s

Myths about Madison-Milwaukee rail service – station and train ridership

Emily’s Post: Wisconsin high-speed rail supporters fight back

Rejecting high-speed rail will isolate Wisconsin

This time out could be useful for high-speed rail

Letters to the Editor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Today in train talk, the  Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce went on record (again) to voice support for Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project. (This is a business association with over 1,600 members in the Madison area.) In the same article, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce basically said to Madison’s business community, “screw you guys, we got ours”:

“Quite frankly, our focus was on ensuring that we had that (Hiawatha) connection to Chicago for lots of reasons. (The Madison line has) been more of a nice-to-have discussion than a need-to-have discussion in the business community in southeastern Wisconsin,” Sheehy said Wednesday. “In a sense, why beat a dead train?”

Here’s a fact that may make you hit your head against the wall:  Governor-elect Walker supports the already-existing train from Milwaukee to Chicago AND the use of stimulus money to upgrade it.  This begs the question–why do some people hate Madison? Seriously. Is it the university?  The State Capitol? Our tolerance of people (even Republicans!)? Our emphasis on urban planning? The fact that we’re generally ranked as one of the healthiest and best places to live in the country? Our high-tech businesses? Ella’s Deli?  Why is a train from Milwaukee to Chicago a good investment in our infrastructure, but a train from Madison to Chicago is a boondoggle?  This makes no sense.

 

Talgo

 

Also there was a press conference today where people who make trains in Wisconsin said they are worried that they will lose their jobs.  Also Governor-elect Walker again said he will end the train project while somehow also creating 250,000 jobs. Brain explosion!

New Links of Interest

Advocacy

Save the Train Wisconsin Facebook Page (This is different from the page I posted yesterday and has many more supporters)

Gov-elect Walker – Citizen Suggestions (Governor-elect Walker seeks our suggestions–maybe he’ll listen to our suggestions to save jobs and keep the train!)

Care 2 – Wisconsin High Speed Rail Petition (To Gov-elect Walker)

National Association of Railroad Passengers Petition

Save the Train – What you can do (Document prepared by ProRail with additional ideas and resources for advocacy)

Editorials

Jim Stingl – Walker holding firm on the wrong side of the tracks

Dan Bell – Governor-elect should do the math on rail line

La Crosse Tribune – Our View: Walker must trust rail project

William S. Lind – Conservatives should like rail

High-speed rail: A gravy train?

Blogs (Highlights from the past week)

Anti-spending climate shouldn’t mean cloudy skies for transit

In the public interest: Fast trains don’t belong to either party

Emily’s Post: Wisconsin Republicans focusing on everything but jobs

Governor-elect Scott Walker is being unrealistic about trains

Letters to the Editor

In economic terms, Wisconsin loses

Don’t waste once in a lifetime opportunity

Dems–Don’t let GOP abandon rail

High-speed rail is an economic engine

Press Releases

WISPIRG – Why Wisconsin needs passenger rail

Letter of Support

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce – Letter in support of Wisconsin’s application for high-speed rail funds