MMAC Parochialism, Gubernatorial Hypocrisy & Rail Service

I was amazed to read The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial “Closer Chicago Ties” supporting rail service and revealing claims that the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) raised its parochial head and surreptitiously proposed a plan to Scott Walker to spend $450 to $500 million of the railroad stimulus money for upgrades on the Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha route in lieu of the full Madison – Milwaukee – Chicago Hiawatha expansion plan.  Their hypocrisy in not supporting the Madison – Milwaukee – Chicago route upgrade is amazing given the constant refrain that Milwaukee and Madison businesses and educational institutions should be working more closely together.  The editorial should have said “Closer Madison Ties” or “Closer Wisconsin Ties” and it should have said that the MMAC was pushing Walker to support high speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee and Chicago.   The Chamber showed a lack of business and economic development leadership when it hid behind the coat tails of their predominantly GOP members and gave the Governor the political coverage to dump the Madison to Milwaukee to Chicago high speed rail funds as political theater and sop for his right wing supporters.  That they now are yet again calling for the Governor to seek Federal funding for improving the Milwaukee to Chicago service is amazingly hypocritical and parochial.

Why weren’t they touting the Madison to Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha rail service as anyone with half a brain and understanding of basic economics and economic development would have?  Does the MMAC not understand that the output of the knowledge center in Madison connected with the knowledge and production resources in Milwaukee (yes even in Scott Walker’s conservative base in Waukesha County) would have been enhanced if they had supported the complete rail system that had received Federal funding?  Scott Walker’s administration and his GOP colleagues plans to give away money to businesses with no resulting jobs increases, while increasing the state’s structural deficit, shows what a red herring the claim of deficit reduction was as a reason to not support the high speed railroad between Madison – Milwaukee – Chicago and eventually Minneapolis.


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2 thoughts on “MMAC Parochialism, Gubernatorial Hypocrisy & Rail Service

  1. There are several problems with the allegedly high speed train system.
    1. The railroad right of ways were developed in the middle of the 19th century and do not reflect the passenger needs of major metro areas today. For example, Chicago’s Union Station is downtown, yet the Chicago metro area is 35 miles wide and 60 miles long. Is Milwaukee any different?
    2. The trains will run at 70, 90, and 110 mph depending upon the section. It will be faster to travel by car from the suburbs to Madison than to drive downtown to take a train to your destination city and then rent a car (or taxi) to your final destination.
    3. The Madison-Milwaukee line has a proposed ridership of 500,000 people per year (if I recall correctly) for an allegedly 2.2 million people served, or 40% of Wisconsin’s population. The ‘2.2 million people served’ was developed by adding up the populations of the counties between Madison and Milwaukee. This is like saying that a restaurant in Madison and one in Milwaukee -plus the three proposed stops between- serve 40% of Wisconsin’s people. This is simply untrue.
    4. There are 3.5 million people in the Twin Cities and their total Amtrak passengers boarding and disembarking is 350 people per day, ~ 128,000 people per year. How does Wisconsin’s 2.2 M come to 500,000 people riders per year? Don’t know.

    The high speed rail system planned for Milwaukee and Madison is just a portion of an overall flawed plan. Wisconsin needs a high speed train system that travels 150 to 200 mph, it needs to circuit the state, and it needs to be based upon right-of-ways for the 21st century and not for the 19th century.

    But, hey, if you are Amtrak (and a part of the Steering Team), doesn’t it make sense to have the state of Wisconsin (and nine other states) fund the upgrade of your railroad tracks to permit trains to travel at 110 mph? Just saying, not accusing.

  2. “For example, Chicago’s Union Station is downtown, yet the Chicago metro area is 35 miles wide and 60 miles long. Is Milwaukee any different?”

    Yes but Chicago has other public transportation options to get you from the loop to outlying suburbs unlike the gutted MCTS or other viable alternatives.

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