Mayor Dave plays hardball with Scott Walker

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As has been widely reported, Scott Walker has publicly opposed the JFC’s acceptance of more than $800 million (not $8 million Herald) in federal stimulus money to be invested in high-speed rails between Madison and Milwaukee, and Milwaukee and Chicago. And Mayor Dave is pissed about it.

Although Cieslewicz praised Doyle’s support on securing the funding, he criticized Milwaukee County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker’s disapproval of the project.

“If you’re a friend of labor or anyone who wants to work in the economy, you’ll understand Scott Walker just doesn’t get it,” Cieslewicz said.

If it is the case that the only stop in Madison ends up being at the airport, I’m not sure approving the funding is as obvious as the Democrats want to make it seem. Without a stop in downtown Madison, a high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee could end up actually being a “rail to nowhere,” becoming more of a burden than a benefit to the state in the long run.

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8 Responses to “Mayor Dave plays hardball with Scott Walker”

  1. Lauren Says:

    A downtown stop would make things easier, but how hard would it be for people to take a bus to the airport and then get on a train? Our metro system is perfectly adequate and if the train is attractive to people, I don’t think the lack of a downtown stop will stop a whole lot of people from using it. If it’s not attractive to people (i.e. too expensive, too slow) then a downtown stop won’t save it.

  2. Patrick Fuchs Says:

    Lauren,

    A few justifications for the downtown stop (relevant to Madison residents):
    1) Value of time. Studies have shown people value the cost of their time in transit highest when they are not en route or on their final mode of transit. Compare the extra 10-20 minutes of bus travel with the time spent comfortably/productively situated–as you will be for the next hour–in a train…it really does impact decisions to ride at the margins.
    2) Transit-oriented development. A 1st and Washington stop, for example, might serve as the necessary catalyst for redevelopment of the corridor, whereas an airport station fails to generate any positive real estate externalities.
    3) Bang for the buck. The rail line to the airport already crosses Burr Jones, meaning additional lines will not have to be constructed and obstructed travel is minimalized.
    4) Connectivity. The high concentration of Madison Metro routes downtown is no accident–people want to get downtown, people are coming from downtown, people know downtown. Given existing land use patterns, a simple trip down Washington to/from the Loop to/from Johnson or University makes the “last mile” much easier than one including an airport connection, which again means greater ridership.
    5) Madison tourism. If the previous point holds, more people will be inclined to visit Madison should there be a generally hassle-free way to access their favorite destinations. The airport connection is a hassle and discourages local visitors. As Alder Eagon mentioned a couple days ago, few leave Chicago hoping to get to Truax, but many might want to get to campus or the Capitol or a downtown business. Let’s give them a easy way to access our great city.

  3. Anon Says:

    My guess would be (if there isn’t already a shuttle service between the Dane County Airport and downtown Madison) that a low-fare shuttle will pop up to service all the commuters who would use the train. Something to the tune of $1.50-$3.00 per trip on the shuttle, making the lack of a downtown stop not an issue.

  4. Patrick Fuchs Says:

    Anon,

    As mentioned, the explicit cost of the shuttle only part of the story. The cost of waiting time/time spent outside primary mode of transit, the inconvenience of additional transfers (and confusion for non-Madison residents), the variance in reliability of non-fixed transit connections, and the foregone development externalities must also be considered, amongst other things. Small differences in the value of time and ease/predictability/reliability of the “last mile” impact initial ridership and therefore affect the formation of new behavior patterns. One of the benefits of fixed transit is that it allows for long-term business investment (in a targeted city district) and long-term inter-modal transit planning (if we as a community are serious about Transport 2020–light rail or bus rapid transit–then presently favored alternatives favor a station on E. Washington Ave.)…the reliance on an airport shuttle supports neither investment nor inter-modal connectivity.

    It should be emphasized again that the train will already be passing Burr Jones on E. Washington en route to the airport.

    I am not convinced the WI HSR plan as designed will garner enough riders, spur enough development, or create enough jobs to post respectable cost-benefit numbers. But any prospects for success are greatly diminished by a singular Madison station located at Truax– a timid and unimaginative response to a bold initiative. We have one billion reasons to go all-in.

  5. Lauren Says:

    Patrick, I see what you’re saying, but I honestly don’t think it’ll be an issue if there’s no station downtown. I agree that it would be more convenient if there were one, but I seriously doubt that a ten-minute bus or shuttle ride will greatly impact people’s decisions to take the train. Either people are going to be interested in taking the train or not, and I don’t think the station placement will dissuade many people who are interested or encourage many people who are not interested. And I’m optimistic about visitors’ ability to navigate the transit system. Again, it would be ideal to have a downtown station but if that’s the only hang-up with an otherwise fantastic and important addition to our city, I don’t think it’s a reason to stand in the way of progress.

  6. Patrick Fuchs Says:

    Lauren,

    According to Essays in Transportation Economics and Policy, published by the Brookings Institution, the most cited disagregate demand models indicate the increased travel/waiting time would decrease ridership around 15%, the extra stop will decrease ridership by about 5%, and the additional cost of the shuttle will do so even further (Madison Metro probably has accurate price elasticity data).

    This does not even take into account the value of the station to businesses along E. Washington (and the cities tax base). The city’s BUILD plan for the corridor is clamoring for such a catalyst.

    It is possible citizens of Madison are immune to the demand determinants displayed by Europeans and other Americans, but I think that 25+% ridership and the revitalization of a targeted city area are something to stand-up for.

  7. Patrick Fuchs Says:

    And local planner Barry Gore agrees:

    In either case, Gore says Yahara Station is close enough to downtown to make it convenient for serving Monona Terrace, state government and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He notes the proximity to a new Yahara River bike path, the 14 Madison Metro routes that currently serve the site, the density of population in nearby neighborhoods, and the quick highway connection to the interstate via Wisconsin 30.

    “Putting a train station on the outer fringe of town with a big parking lot around it is very 1970s thinking,” says Gore, 48, who holds a master’s degree from UW-Madison and studied under renowned urban planning professor emeritus Phil Lewis. “Madison has got a tremendous chance to be part of the transit-oriented movement, but I’m afraid we’re going to blow it.”

    And so does local business:
    One who has seen the route and is very excited about the possibilities is local restaurateur Christopher Berge, owner of Restaurant Magnus, Weary Traveler and other venues in Madison.

    Berge says he would be excited to pursue a restaurant in a location like Yahara Station but seriously wonders if an airport location would generate the same kind of energy or attract many private sector investors.

    “I’ve been around long enough to remember when they decided to move the MATC campus out by the airport and saw what that did to downtown,” he says. “This decision will be just as epic, and we shouldn’t miss it this time.”

    …..

    Tom Miller, a senior planner with the Alexander Co., agrees about the possibilities. He was waving a copy of the city’s BUILD plan to revitalize East Washington Avenue during a recent tour of the proposed station site behind the old Fiore shopping center.

    “The (East Wash) plan shows great vision, but the fact is it’s not going to happen on its own,” says Miller. “What better way to jump-start it than by putting the train station here.”

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