Monday, October 31, 2011

The WALLY Train to Nowhere hangs around like a skunk spray

Lately when I've been at my parents' house and leave at night, I have to keep my eyes open. On several occasions, I see one of the worst types of varmints around. A skunk. Another time, it sprayed a coyote or something outside, and some of that bad air drifted inside. Those damn things walk around like they own the property. They do. There's not much I can do about it except hope it goes away. I'm not going to chase it. Obvious reasons. I can't shoot it. I may miss or worse....hit it in the wrong spot spraying the entire area. I don't want to have to explain that one to ma and pa.

That smell doesn't go away. Neither seems to be this big government boondoggle called the "WALLY" train, also known as the train to nowhere. I've posted about this Train to Nowhere for four years. It's a waste of tax money. It's still being discussed, and there's still talk about this mess. New Geography does a good job debunking them in general and this one here is close to home.

From the Argus

Signs are emerging that the proposed Washtenaw and Livingston Line commuter train isn't running full-steam ahead — at least for the time being.

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which oversees planning for WALLY — proposed to stretch from Howell to Ann Arbor — has delayed spending more money on the project until local support is confirmed, Michael Benham, the authority's rail coordinator, said.

Benham on Nov. 17 is expected to update the authority's Board of Directors on public support for the project at the board's regular meeting.

He said past public surveys and input from local officials suggest most Washtenaw and Livingston residents at least support WALLY in concept......

In concept. A lot of things are good "in concept" until something called reality hits. There's more.

To date, only small amounts of money have been spent by the authority in planning the projected $32 million-plus project, Benham said. He said funding from grants and local contributions, including from Howell, is in place for the design work, however.

He said it's possible for the board to vote to eliminate the project, but not likely: WALLY is included in the authority's 30-year transit master plan.

"I think, long-term, there's no question of our support for that project," Benham said.

Support in Livingston County is less certain.

Hamburg Township officials have expressed interest in investing at least a nominal amount of money in the railway effort. The county government and Genoa Township officials have declined funding, however.

Howell officials continue to support the project, City Manager Shea Charles said. The city also contributed dollars to project planning when it was first being evaluated.

32 million. (forehead slap) Right now, Rick Snyder is pushing for increases in car registrations that doubles the costs of tags. He's also pushing for a gas tax increase. That's supposed for "transportation." Is that transportation going to be roads or trains to nowhere? At least County and my old home of Genoa Twp realizes this is a money pit.

Rich Perlberg had an aptly titled editorial. The Little Engine that Won't go Away. I don't usually agree with Rich, but that's a good editorial about the Train to Nowhere.

Now why do I oppose the train to nowhere? The number one reason is that it won't pay for itself.

I wrote this back in 2007. This is response to an estimated 4.9 million a year budget that was given at the time. I expect that number to be MUCH higher.

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.

Remember that this train does not go to Brighton or Hartland. The railroad tracks there a different line (CSX).

This is still a waste of money. If "light rail" is the right thing to use in this area, someone in the private sector would have created it and used it.


Communications guru said...

Only in your warped, one-track mind is Brighton and Ann Arbor no where.

Downtown Brown said...

Keep up the fight and the education. IN SE Wisconsin we , (With the help of Scott Walker), killed of 4 different rail plans that were slated for our State. And we currently about to Stop Milw. Mayor Tom Barrett's little trolley to no-where. I agree if theses things break even or make a slim profit, I'm all for it..but if the Taxpayers have to subsidize them I stand firmly and loudly opposed!!

Dan said...

This train doesn't even go to Brighton.

As far as Ann Arbor goes, it goes to Plymouth and Depot, hardly the major work and commercial areas.

It's a waste of money, but sounds good to white yuppie urban planners and those who own property there and want tax money to support them.

Communications guru said...

You mean like Republican donor Earl LaFave, who plans to build $77 million in commercial, residential and other development in Howell and Northfield Township along the planned rail line?