Early Monday afternoon, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz announced that he will no longer be pursuing a streetcar plan for Madison. The announcement represents the abandonment of one of the mayor's signature issues and significantly affects the fate of the Regional Transit Authority.
Several local leaders, along with members of the Madison Common Council and Dane County Board of Supervisors, shared their reactions with The Daily Page Monday afternoon.
Dick Wagner, former Dane County Board chair and a member of Transport 2020, the joint city-county committee evaluating transportation options
I commend the mayor for the reality of his views. The region needs better transit for its furture and commuter rail offers that alternative. Too many persons had viewed the choice as between one type of rail versus another. Recognizing that streetcars is not an immediate option permits the discussion to focus on a trully regional system.
County Supv. Scott McDonell, Dist. 1
The mayor's decision will make it much easier to enact a resolution in favor of a Regional Transportation Authority at the County Board. Concern over streetcars was the most common objection from municipalities outside of Madison to new funding for transit.
Ald. Robbie Webber, Dist. 5
The public's fixation with street cars, or their apparent dislike of same, seems to have impaired the discussion over not just Transport 2020 and the Regional Transportation Authority, but many other city issues as well. It's too bad that so many people immediately decided that they wanted nothing to do with a regional solution to our transportation problems because street cars _might_ have been included at some point in the future.
The Mayor appears to have decided to cut the line on this item, because it threatened to detract from progress on other pressing issues. Even when not discussing transportation, street cars kept being dragged into the discussion. My guess is that the Mayor has decided to put the issue to rest once and for all.
Whether street cars would have been appropriate for Madison, either as an economic development tool or as a transportation option, never got a fair hearing. This is unfortunately, because I think Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, and the US need to radically change how we view transportation policy and funding. Every option should be explored, and eliminating one, even if it isn't appropriate today, is a mistake.
I hope the Mayor's statement allows us to move ahead with the RTA and discussion of other transportation issues.
County Supv. Al Matano, Dist. 11
I applaud the Mayor for his support for a unified application for federal funding for rail transit for Dane County. With his support, our New Starts application to the Federal Transit Administration is all the more likely to succeed. Transport 2020 is likely to bring rail transit to Dane County, and with it, regional bus service to communities like Waunakee that currently have no transit service to Madison.
Ald. Zach Brandon, Dist. 7
The hardest thing to do in politics is to turn back when you are on the wrong path. The mayor won decisively in an election where this issue was front and center. He could have easily pushed forward and claimed community support. Instead, he listened to the community and, ultimately, he made the right choice for our city.
Leadership is about putting the wants and needs of others before one's own. While I never agreed with the mayor on this issue... I respect his leadership.
Michael Barrett, local activist and member of the Urban Design Commission
1. Note how it was carefully worded, "I will not pursue streetcars as part of the *Regional Transit Authority*." (Emphasis added.) This leaves the issue open-ended, I'd say.
2. As someone who is probably as much or more enthusiastic about streetcars as the mayor himself, I am -- ironically? sadly? -- only marginally saddened by the news. Though it is a setback for one style of transit, the big lesson to be learned by politicians in this area is that you can't drastically cut the transportation basics--bus transit, bicycling and walking--without repercussions. This also goes for our, ahem, liberal representatives at the State Capitol who land big bucks for big highways in small towns while slashing state funding for buses, bicycles and pedestrians in our cities. It also goes for our County Executive who can't resist big highways and big McMansions out in the country while doing nothing for our public transit system. (Yes, Kathleen, Madison residents are also county taxpayers!)
In sum, the natural allies of streetcars -- alt-transportation advocates -- were extremely burned by bus service cuts, outrageous fare increases and the continued expansion of highways along every cow path at the city's fringes and beyond. With all the allies hunkered down in a defensive position, there was no one left to go on the offensive for the trolley.
3. As for commuter rail, well, Kathleen Falk should pay attention here: Alt-transportation advocates are awake and well-organized. The county continues to fail urban residents by not helping to fund our transportation needs, namely the bus system. (Did I mention that Madison residents are also county residents?) The county also continues to fail in its promise to keep country roads country roads, and the country the country. Big highways are the order of the day as superhighways like US Hwy 12 cascade into a North Beltlines cascade into McMansionvilles sprawling on and on and on.... That sort of irresponsible planning has no place in a community as enlightened as this one.
4. Apropos of another political pull-back announced today, the good side of the political spectrum needs to learn one thing from Karl Rove (hate him all you want, he is the Machiavelli of our time): FEED YOUR BASE! "Sister Souljah" routines have no place in building a movement, progressive or otherwise.
Ald. Paul Skidmore, Dist. 9
I am pleased that the mayor has finally realized that the proposed trolley had very little support from City residents. I am pleased that he has withdrawn this proposal and avoided a messy and contentious debate on the issue. Now we can focus on the broader issue of how best to structure an overall transit program for the City and the region. While there was very little support for a trolley by 9th district residents, there is interest in exploring and implementing a regional transportation plan in Madison and the surrounding communities.
Ald. Mark Clear, Dist. 19
The Mayor has made a wise decision to drop the issue. Streetcars had become the third rail of our regional transportation discussion and was distracting us from the important issues--creation of the RTA to enable a stable and fair funding base for all modes of transportation in our region. Hopefully this will help alleviate the concerns of other communities in the county that the plan seemed too Madison-driven. I believe there is broad support for the RTA among my constituents.
Ald. Brenda Konkel, Dist. 2
I think there will be a mixed reaction in District 2. Some people liked the idea of trolleys. Personally, I didn't and preferred enhancing the bus system. However, regardless of what you think of streetcars, I think most people agreed that this issue was botched. For the sake of the Regional Transit Authority, it is best to let the streetcars drop until the day when, and only if, the community is ready to support them. I'm glad to see the Mayor finally did the right thing.
County Supv. Ruth Ann Schoer, Dist. 9
County Supv. Duane Gau, Dist. 20
My constituents (City of Sun Prairie and the Towns of Bristol and Sun Prairie) would be very pleased to see that Mayor Dave let the streetcars vision go. This could give the commuter rail proposal legs.
Ald. Michael Schumacher, Dist. 18
I applaud the Mayor for dropping the streetcars once and for all.
There is no doubt that Mayor Cieslewicz has taken a severe public pounding over his streetcars proposal. There is equally no doubt that it takes courage to admit this change publicly.
Now that the specter of streetcars has disappeared, we can get down to business and focus on meeting current and future transportation needs. We also need to let go of foregone conclusions that rail is the primary solution. Instead we need to stay focused on Metro buses. Once we have a well-running bus system in our region, it may become evident that rail has a place among our transportation options. While that moment has not yet arrived, we are moving in the right direction. The common goal is to produce transportation plans that taxpayers believe add value and will do the job.
Another important need is public safety. There has been a lot of heated rhetoric connecting crime and streetcars. Again, we need to get down to work and focus on safety in our community. Northsiders are doing their part by holding a public meeting with the police on August 20, 2007 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center.
It is now time to focus on our needs and not on our wants.
County Supv. Eileen Bruskewitz, Dist. 25
Trains and trolleys cost too much and do too little.
Ald. Lauren Cnare, Dist. 3
While I haven't heard shouts of glee at the mayor's track change, I am confident that District 3 (far east side) residents will be delighted.
Supv. Matt Veldran, Dist. 7
I apppreciate the Mayor's courage to drop the pursuit of streetcars and his statement regarding the formation of an RTA for Dane County. As a Madison resident and a Dane County Supervisor, we will still have to create solutions for our commutation and transportation needs, now and into the future for all of Dane County. The formation of an RTA is the best way to accomplish the county's varied transportation demands.
Ald. Brian Solomon, Dist. 10
I must say it's a sad state of affairs when it's come to this. We have huge issues facing this city and it's really a shame when a potential solution is taken off the table prior to being fully analyzed. We had a long way to go before I'd have supported trolleys, but I sure was glad we were looking at all options in trying to solve our transportation problems. I sure hope we can learn from this and fully explore all potential solutions to the myriad problems that our community faces before driving them to an early grave.
Ald. Julia Kerr, Dist. 13
Good call on the mayor's part and something I am sure was not easy. I am looking forward to discussing the proposed RTA and looking at how it might effect bus service in District 13, particularly in the Park Street corridor where it is so important to many residents and employers.
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