Railing about rail
I was happy to see your cover article ("Stop That Train!" (11/13/09). The massive expense of public transit merits public debate, and the number of failed projects nationwide demonstrates that it is difficult to do well.
Unfortunately, your article appears to only polarize opinions. Legitimate concerns of any public transit project - cost, usage, traffic and pollution effects - are barely mentioned until late in the article. Instead it focuses on conservative hyperbole about the USSR and Vicki McKenna's complaints about the uniformity of Madison.
Next time, I hope Isthmus decides to address legitimate concerns and contributes to a real public debate. Without one, the trains will never come.
I would love a train for Madison, but a commuting population of 100,000 will simply not provide the volume necessary for a return on the investment.
The proposed route serves communities that are already well served by the area's transportation system. Why shouldn't the train go to areas where the population needs more efficient forms of transportation? And if the goal is alleviating congestion from cars, will a sizable amount of people now on the Beltline reroute to the train?
Maybe we should ban the personal car within the city, except for taxis serving the disabled and elderly, and delivery trucks serving the beer. Congestion would be a thing of the past, the train would be filled to the brim, and walkable neighborhoods would be the only kind.
Kevin Boyle, Fitchburg
This current rail pipe dream comes with an initial cost of $255 million, with an operating cost of $10.4 million annually. Both are sure to rise once the wheels start rolling.
McKenna is spot-on with her analysis that commuter rail systems are perfect for high-rise condos and office buildings in downtown areas. Not single-family neighborhoods.
The remarks from our mayor and County Board Chair Scott McDonell in support of rail are arrogant and condescending.
McKenna's analysis of Madison's transportation problems makes sense only if you ignore current economic reality and some basic local geography. Her vision of universal car ownership works only if you believe that supplies of foreign oil will remain cheap and plentiful for the indefinite future. Any takers?
Plus, Madison is built on an isthmus, so all traffic must either be routed between or around our chain of lakes. At some point, you either learn to accept the gridlock that continued road building inevitably brings or you explore alternative solutions. Most responsible stakeholders are willing to at least consider the commuter rail option.
Warren J. Gordon
The opposition of conservatives to commuter rail has to do with attitudes which they will never acknowledge: They do not want certain people to enter their neighborhood.
I've seen this before in other cities in which I've lived. In D.C. the wonderful metro system has no stops in Georgetown, for fear that the primarily African American, lower socioeconomic populations from other neighborhoods could easily commute there. In Los Angeles, the subway stops do not include wealthier areas like Beverly Hills or even Santa Monica.
Bill Richardson must have learned well the lessons of information manipulation and fear-mongering from the Bush administration. He claims there will be 8,000-plus railroad crossing stoppages a day, and air-polluting, choking diesel fumes. It would not surprise me to hear opponents of the Regional Transit Authority refer to it as some sort of "death panel"!
Mr. Richardson has no vision for Dane County's transportation future except to advocate using valuable farmland for a North Mendota parkway. How sad that some people will do and say anything to oppose any idea that has the potential to improve our future well-being.
S. Michael Shivers
Get off the tracks!
I was disappointed to see your recent cover photo showing Vicki McKenna standing on a set of railroad tracks. It conveys a dangerous message: that railroad tracks are open to the public to do what they wish.
Every year hundreds of people are killed and injured while trespassing on railroads; not too long ago one of those deaths occurred in Madison, only a few miles from where Vicki is shown standing.
I am glad Isthmus is willing to present the debate for and against commuter rail, but in the future you should take care not to present railroad corridors as places where the public can trespass.
Thank you, and have a safe day!
Peter J. Schierloh, Sun Prairie
As much as I adore Madison and am proud to call this city my home, I appreciated Bill Lueders' advice in his column "The Danger of Compliments" (11/13/09). Cautioning us to avoid letting President Obama's flattery go to our collective heads, he echoed an important lesson I try to teach my elementary school students.
Our goal in and outside of the classroom is not about winning recognition; it's about earning and giving respect as honest, hard-working citizens. I like to quote Muhammad Ali: "It's not what you do when the cameras are watching, it's what you do when the lights are off."
Regarding Bill Lueders' comments about Ralph Armstrong's conviction getting "tossed due to prosecutorial misconduct": Having spent almost 20 years in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, I have seen numerous examples of prosecutorial misconduct by the Dane County District Attorney's Office.
The alleged misconduct in Armstrong's case pales in comparison to other cases. But Armstrong was fortunate enough to get Barry Scheck and Jerome Buting to represent him. It wasn't until lawyers outside of the Dane County "good old boys" network got involved that the misconduct came to light.
It's Dane County "just-us" at its best, because nobody cares.
Thomas Reimann, Fox Lake Correctional Institute
Save the Bohrod mural
I was taken aback to read in your recent article that no plan exists to preserve the Aaron Bohrod mural in the new Central Library ("Will the Mural Survive?" 11/13/09).
As a child I spent hours of what seemed like every weekend in the children's section of the Central Library. I surely recall some of the books but, more than anything else, I remember that mural. It made the library come alive for me.
Art brings cities to life, represents key elements of their personalities, and ultimately creates meaningful bonds with the people that inhabit and visit them. Preserving the landmark Aaron Bohrod mural should be a priority in the creation of a wonderful new children's section in Madison's new Central Library.