Monday, April 01, 2013

WALLY boondoggle still planned

It's April Fool's Day. Speaking of April Fools, that infamous WALLY train isn't going away. 

From the Ann Arbor News

Local officials working on the WALLY commuter rail project say city-owned property at 415 W. Washington St. is a potential site for a future downtown Ann Arbor train station.
"The 415 site is a candidate, but is not the only possibility," said Michael Benham, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's strategic planner.
Benham said work has just begun on the first phase of the WALLY Station Location and Design Project, which includes a search for a downtown station location.

A couple of paragraphs later

A commuter rail station at 415 W. Washington is unlikely to happen until years into the future even if the site is chosen and funding becomes available. In theory, it would service the north-south commuter rail line known as WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Line), which is in the planning stages now and would link Ann Arbor and Howell with stops in between.
The plans for a downtown commuter rail station along the north-south Ann Arbor Railroad tracks are entirely separate from the new Amtrak passenger train station some city officials want to see built on Fuller Road along the east-west Norfolk Southern tracks between Detroit and Chicago.

In theory........ How often to projects in theory don't happen the way people think will happen. Remember the people mover in Detroit?

A previous study estimated about 1,300 riders each way per day would use a commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Howell.
It's also estimated to require $19 million to $35 million in capital costs. The total estimated operating cost is about $7.1 million annually.
Benham said much of that would be covered by passenger fares plus an assumed level of state operating funds, resulting in a local share of about $2.2 million. So-called "wild cards" that could affect operating costs are insurance and trackage rights.

Supporters of a north-south rail line bringing commuters into Ann Arbor argue it would be significantly more costly to add extra highway lanes for automobile traffic on US-23. The Michigan Department of Transportation previously estimated adding a third lane to US-23 would cost about $500 million.
Some remain skeptical there's enough demand to support WALLY, though, and some question the money being spent to investigate multiple long-range transit initiatives at once.

I'm waiting for this "$7.1 million" to go up to 14 million in operating costs along with the $35 million capital costs that was once "2.9 million". It was originally supposed to be 4 million in operating costs. I wrote this in 2007 and still don't see how the math works.

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.

This quote from the Ann Arbor mayor got a chuckle out of me.

He noted the University of Michigan has offered to subsidize the cost of WALLY tickets for its employees who want to commute to work by rail.
"As I recall, back in 2007 or '08, the U-M surveyed their employees who lived in zip codes along the WALLY line and 1,400 of them said they would ride the train if given the choice," he said.

Zip code? Mayor, do you know how large the zip codes are in Livingston County? 48843 runs from South Genoa Twp to the Genesee County line. Besides. 1400? That won't break even under the old estimates.

Let's remember who we are. We're a spread out semi-rural county. Homes are spread out. Countywide, Livingston County has about 180,000 people. Washtenaw County about 345,000. Between both counties, there is about 550,000 people. The only dense population pockets in that area along the train route are a small part of Ann Arbor near Barton Rd, one block of Hamburg, and Downtown Howell. This route doesn't cover Ypsi or Brighton.

Not one time of Livingston County, State, or Federal money should go to this project. If Washtenaw or A2 wants to bankroll this, that's their business since I don't live there. 


Communications guru said...

That's some good news for a change. It's about time we joined the 21st Century. I see you are still using those old, tires arguments of yours. You should spend an hour or so in one of the many park ‘n ride lots in Livingston County and see how busythey are in a bedroom community that has almost zero services and people have to leave to do just about everything.

Communications guru said...

I see you’re now a part of “Team Obamessiah.” Welcome. Although no one I know sees the president as a messiah but those crackpots on the right. I know lots of former Republicans that are now Democrats because the party left them. Isn’t it sad that a bunch of narrow-minded bigots are taking over the GOP. I think claiming that studies show “Homosexuals account for half the murders in large cities” or “50% of suicides can be attributed to homosexuals” is more than “over the top.”