Thursday, November 15, 2012

WALLY Train to Nowhere push continues

The Argus has another story on the WALLY train.

The planned Washtenaw and Livingston Line commuter train is among multiple mass-transit projects Michiganders can "taste" and "feel," though taxpayer-dollar commitment to the projects remains uncertain, a regional planning official said Tuesday.
 The tax payer dollar commitment should be ZERO. From a practical standpoint alone, we need to remember this. We are Livingston County. Homes are spread out. People like the autonomy that comes with cars. Driving to the stations take nearly as much time as the drive to the destination. It's impracticable. 
 
"They are literally on the rails right now to make sure that they're going to be safe," Tait said at Tuesday's Good Morning Livingston program at Chemung Hills Golf Club & Banquet Center in Oceola Township.
"I've not seen such enthusiasm for transit throughout the region in a long, long time, if ever," he added. "I think we're on the cusp of good things happening. It's just we've got to keep pushing."
While the plans are moving forward, all transit systems rely on some level of private and public investment, Tait said.
WALLY is expected to have about $7 million in annual operating expenses, about 30 percent of which would be offset by rider fares, said Michael Benham, strategic planner for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which oversees WALLY.

 Construction of WALLY on existing rail lines is expected to cost $41 million.
 
The cost keeps going up, up, up, and up. I thought it was 4.9 million a year?  I wrote this back in 2007, and this covers what it takes to break even under the much lower cost estimates.

4.9 million will cover what? You have salaries, security, normal wear and tear, energy costs, and runs. 2.9 for startup? Between the trains, parking lot construction, training, etc? I'm skeptical. Even using that number, will you get a profit on that. 15,000 people (estimated number of commuters from Livingston to Ann Arbor at $225 a month (rumored price) will get you 3.37 Million a month - that's if EVERY commuter in the county uses it and pays that amount. I'm guessing most of the commuters to Ann Arbor are in Brighton, Hartland, and Hamburg. Hamburg has 20,000 people. I'll guess that 4000 of them commute to Ann Arbor, with 1000 in Howell (city has 10000 people) commuting. That'll give 5000 of the areas covered from the train. 5000 * 225 - 1.125 million a month - if all commute on the train. Anyone familiar with Hamburg knows how spread out it is. Part of it is "Brighton", most of it is "Pinckney", part of it is "Lakeland", and part of it is "Whitmore Lake". I'll be shocked if most of the commuters are going to drive a few miles to wait for the train. This area is spread out. Howell is denser, but has much less population - and it too is spread out a bit in its eastern and northern most areas near 59 - and forget about getting much help from Genoa (even with the Chilson stop - that area is flat out country), Marion, Howell Twp, and Oceola.

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.

Can you get 15-20% of county's Ann Arbor commuters to use the train EVERY DAY - despite cutting out Brighton and Hartland from the route? If you can, then I'll cook up some fried crow.
 It ain't going to cover even close to the costs. Tait says this here when he mentions the T word. Taxes.


Tait said local taxes, while unpopular, will be essential to any of the transit projects coming to fruition under a transit authority.
"We have to agree that transit is a worthy investment" to move forward, he said.
To date, the city of Howell has invested in WALLY's planning stages, but the Livingston County Board of Commissioners and most of the county's local governments have declined investing in the project.
Hamburg Township officials have expressed interest in investing at least a nominal amount of money to WALLY. Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority have pledged dollars toward the project.
Kudos for the commissioners getting it.  It's not a worthy investment, unless private funds take care of it.

Benham said motorists and homeowners who don't use WALLY would benefit from less traffic congestion, increased property values and a decrease in vehicle emissions. He said mass transit draws commercial interest, which in turn boosts tax revenue and the values of homes.
"We're not talking about WALLY versus highway. It's not an either-or," Benham, a former rail coordinator in Chicago, said. "We're talking about balance and choice."
It IS an either or because money that goes here comes from somewhere. Taxes. There won't be less congestion. 1800 commuters a day - at best, won't ease congestion on two-lane each way freeways that get 50,000+ cars a day. Keep in mind this train doesn't go to Brighton or Hartland, only Howell, maybe Hamburg, and western Genoa Twp.

Let's be who we are, a semi-rural county with rural values. Besides, the less Ann Arbor influence here the better.

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