Rail opponents in Wisconsin object to spending $810 million in federal funding for several reasons:
1) It’s for trains and we should send it back and trade it for funding for roads
2) The taxpayer subsidy would be close to $10 million a year — we can’t afford that.
3) It’s too expensive. At somewhere between $20 and $33 a ticket, it’s cheaper to drive.
4) No one will ride it.
Let’s take each one of these claims and take a closer look:
1) Its for trains and we should return it—- Can’t do that. The money is for rail only. This is the beginning of a national passenger rail system. If Wisconsin doesn’t get the money, it will go to another state. That means that Wisconsin taxpayers will be funding the development of rail in another state.
2) The taxpayer subsidy is too high— Let’s see. Right now, property taxpayers are paying $1.4 Billion for highways. (In addition to what they pay in taxes at the gas pump and auto registration fees. That means for every penny spent on rail, $1.40 is spent on highways. Dollars for roads and not one penny for rail????
3) It’s too expensive, it’s cheaper to drive— Even at the high and – $33 a ticket, rail is cheaper than driving. At 50 cents a mile (the going federal reimbursement rate), the 84 mile trip between Madison and Milwaukee costs $42 or $10 more than driving.
4) No one will ride it—- The service is really an extension of the current Hiawatha service between Chicago and Milwaukee. That is wildly popular with extra cars having been added to meet the demand. When service was extended to Oconomowoc in the late 1990’s, the trains were standing room only. Just wait til gas prices go up.
Train service will only grow in popularity as the infrastructure gets built and local transit systems get adequate funding.