Friday, September 24, 2010

More RTA?

I posted the following over on the Rag and then I thought, why am I giving away this good stuff?

I wanted to respond to one comment in your post and make a couple other observations: "I point out that Wood the is legal counsel for the State Office of the Commissioner of Railroads – so I would think it would make him a natural cheerleader for this project."

No, my agency is basically a quasi-judicial regulatory body. I have no rooting interest. Our primary focus is rail-highway crossing safety (highway being any type of public street, path, road, etc.). We don't run projects, like high-speed rail (HSR) or commuter rail or highway projects . Other agencies do that, like DOT, RTA, or municipalities. We get involved when those projects require changes to public rail-highway crossings.

I personally like the HSR project. It will tie us into the Chicago Hub Network of Midwest cities connected by HSR. It should not be viewed as a Madison to Milwaukee project - no, Madison is really not the center of the known Universe. I doubt I will take the train to Milwaukee very often, but would certainly take it to Chicago. On the other hand, I'm not sold on commuter rail. Will people ride a train to get from the far east side to the far west side in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile? Maybe, maybe not. I sort of look at it like a new roadway going through the Isthmus - imagine how much that would cost even if it were feasible. But how many trips per day will this new road carry?

In any event, whether I think these passenger rail projects are a good idea or not really has nothing to do with my job of evaluating the safety impact.

The high-speed rail (HSR) project is an entirely separate project from the commuter trains. However, commuter trains would run on the same tracks as the inter-city HSR trains. So clearly, any future commuter train operation would significantly benefit from the money spent in the HSR project to upgrade the tracks, signals, stations, etc.

The RTA was, in fact, created partly to aid the County's funding application to the Federal Transit Administration for commuter rail funds. The FTA would not consider the application until there was a governing structure and a funding source. The "Falk letter" that has everyone's tights in a knot was basically in aid of that application.

BUT, the RTA is NOT only about trains.

I actually blogged this issue three years ago:

Here is the estimated breakdown of expenditures at that time.

§ Bus service for Madison and surrounding communities – 25%

§ Town, Village, City and County road maintenance – 25%

§ Commuter rail – 33%

§ Rail/Bus Enhancements/County-wide Paratransit/Bike Transit – 16%

As it has now developed, the road maintenance part could not be funded by the sales tax under the law that created the RTA.

There's something about trains. A whiff of diesel makes a lot of people get goofy. We call them "foamers" or "FRNs". I never got that; to me it's just another way to move people.


  1. There is obviously a conspiracy to bloat government, raise taxes, and bypass the interests of business in Monona. Look at how the mayor was left in the dark about how Executive Falk and Representative Baldwin colluded to oppress the citizens of Monona.
    And, to keep the citizenry from voting to protect themselves from higher taxes.
    We need a tea party here in Monona.
    Just a few good Alders, a Mayor and police department, and snow plowing is all we need!

  2. Yup, just a police dept and snow plowing, that's it.

    And a library.
    And parks.
    And leaf/brush pickup.
    And a fire dept.
    And road upkeep.
    And a school system.

    Why am I reminded by this scene in Life of Brian?

  3. I'm pretty sure guilfoil was being ironic, but that's the problem with written irony. If it's not totally obvious it's easy to misread.