From the Argus
Growing ridership on rail lines in other states indicates the proposed Washtenaw and Livingston Line communter train between Howell and Ann Arbor is primed for success, Michael Benham said.
Benham, rail coordinator for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which oversees WALLY, will bring that message to two upcoming programs in the county.
He's slated to discuss WALLY on Oct. 31 for a Livingston County Department of Planning event, and again Nov. 13 for the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Good Morning Livingston series.
The most recent project development came in August, when a $640,000 federal grant to help pinpoint costs of the rail project was announced, Benham said.
He said there has been a "reawakening of interest" in WALLY in the county since announcement of the grant, which will be used to complete preliminary engineering and station design.
They later compare this to a project in Nashville. There's a big difference between Nashville and the Ann Arbor/Livingston County corridor. I'll just state the obvious.
Population of Nashville - 600,000
Ann Arbor - 114,000
Northfield Township - 8200
Hamburg Township - 21,000
Genoa Township - about 20,000
Howell - 9500
Nashville has four times the population of the areas affected heavily from the Train to Nowhere. It's also a helluva lot more dense in population than all of these areas except possibly (and I'm being generous) Ann Arbor and Howell. In addition, the Ann Arbor train station isn't downtown, but Plymouth Road. Downtown Ann Arbor isn't covered except by a shuttle. The Genoa Station would be in the most rural part of the township. All that's there is Vic and Bob's Party Store. The Northfield Station would be in an industrial spread out part of the township away from downtown Whitmore Lake - which isn't that bad to begin with. .
People would have to drive to use the train. This is like one of those Solyndra Green Jobs Charlie Foxtrots.
And there's this:
WALLY has been estimated to cost $32 million. The Livingston County Board of Commissioners said early on that it would not financially support rail operations. Genoa Township officials have declined funding as well.
Hamburg Township officials have expressed interest in investing at least a nominal amount of money in the railway effort.
The city of Howell supports the project, both in spirit and in dollars. The city contributed money for project planning when WALLY was first being evaluated as well as later for station design work.<.
Kudos to the County Commissioners for saying no. I wrote this back in 2007 back when the startup costs were estimated at 3 million.
In order to cover the estimated operation costs from regular commuters - you need 408,334 a month - 1814 commuters a day (including weekends, so weekend warriors are very important). That leaves 2.9 million in debt from startup costs which can be paid for over a few years with good profit.
In order for this to pay for itself, the ridership would need to cover salaries, parking, security, maintenance, infrastructure, and everything else. This area doesn't have the population to cover a mass rail project. We aren't the big city. We shouldn't try to be.