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We missed the train. Now what?


Keep it livable

My summertime travels have included chances to use the commuter rail systems in Chicago and New York. I love trains! So I also jumped at the chance to ride the brand new street car in Cincinnati. 

I'm now back home to the nagging realization that Madison is a long way from a viable, visionary public transportation plan. 

In that light, I think it so important that Madison continues to invest in our network of bike trails and bike lanes. We are a biking city and a biking state! We have that going for us! 

Tenney-Lapham neighbors are doing important work to make the East Mifflin Street Bike Boulevard safer. This will do a lot to make the streets safer for everyone and make it a happier place to live. 

We can keep our neighborhood livable by:

-making it safer for bike traffic by re-orienting stop signs at streets that cross the bike boulevard 

-slowing car traffic that crosses through the neighborhood, like on busy Baldwin Street, by adding raised crosswalks 

-keeping non-residential car traffic off residential streets with tools like 'diverters'

It's a visionary plan! Check it out and contact Alder Ledell Zellers and tell her you support the TLNA recommendations.

Almost shoulda, coulda, woulda


I get close to crying when I think about the high-speed trains that were coming to Madison, but were sent away when Governor Walker decided to lock the state in 20th century mistakes.

Tragically our Governor sent away the jobs and the money, maybe because he is bad at math so didn't understand the real costs, or maybe because he is good at math and gets lots of money from car and road construction project enthusiasts, or maybe he just wanted to screw Madison. Because a city without train service can't evolve gracefully into the 21st century.

Cities big and small are trying to be what put Madison on the map: a walkable, bikeable, livable city. “Madison is 30 square miles surrounded by reality," said Lee Dreyfus, future Governor of Wisconsin, while campaigning in 1978. I believe that was said with pride, though some doubters think it means we are naive to the 'real' American way of life (where cars rule). 

Reality is, Madison has grown and we've gotten stuck at our precocious peak.

Statistics report that people born in America these days are no longer crazy for cars. Turns out these wise, mature young Americans want to ride bikes, join car-sharing programs, spend money on exotic vacations, and live in creative, vibrant neighborhoods. And cities all over the country are bending over backward to attract and retain young people. 

“The goal is to rebalance the public space and create a city for people,” say forward-thinking urban politicians. Cities are developing waterfronts, building parks and bike lanes, and getting the cars off the downtown streets. Basically trying to be as cool as Madison is, was, or could have been. 

Does Madison have to let the streets decline into ugly, noisy, stinky traffic jams, or might we instead choose to retain our glory with some preventative measures? 

Madison is a street-car city by design


The central isthmus core spread outward into the leafy, livable "street-car suburbs" designed and developed for people who wanted to be able to step off the streetcar and walk home. 
In other words, the developers a hundred years ago knew their customers and responded to their demands. A history of Madison's early streetcar system (1892-1935) explains that the developers worked with the transportation system and actually subsidized the construction of the lines. In the case of University Heights development, "the subsidy was in the form of $10,000 in subscriptions paid by Heights residents. In return the trolley company gave the residents free passes to ride anywhere on the system for an entire month." 

At least one street car line was done for industrial economic development. "In 1919, the Oscar Mayer Company paid for a line extension to its East Side plant so that workers could get to and from their jobs more easily." 

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz planned to build a streetcar system in Madison and keep the city moving into the 21st century. It was going to be a major uphill battle, but smart urban planners understood the vision and were laying the groundwork. Then for some reason it was made into a joke, called the Trolley Folly. Ten years ago, in 2007, the plan was cancelled.  

Mayor Dave, who is a great student of history and extremely astute, explained his decision to shelve the streetcar idea altogether:


"Major public investments like streetcars should only be undertaken when there is broad consensus in the community, and that is clearly not the case with this issue."

Neighborhood by design

 

My neighborhood is being redesigned. Sadly, it's not a story of developers and transportation companies working together. 

The neighborhood, specifically the Tenney-Lapham Neighorhood Association, has stepped up to do what they can to address the issues of congested and unsafe streets very locally.

In an earlier blog post, I mentioned the neighborhood steering committee that formed around a goal to improve the East Mifflin Street Bicycle Boulevard. The larger goal is called "traffic calming" and includes measures that will make it safer for people walking or riding bikes throughout the neighborhood. 

The results of the neighborhood traffic survey and the "traffic improvement recommendations" can be found here. There is a cool map that pinpoints all the recommendations, which were as a whole very positively received by the city traffic engineering department.  Now it is time for them to happen.





We need this 

 

The neighborhood recommendations to Traffic Engineering will help resolve current traffic congestion and make sure that the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood continues to be an urban commercial-residential zone in which bike, foot, bus and car travel co-exist safely.

We need to demand that our public streets are designed for us. As the former mayor said, we need broad consensus in the community

We also need visionary leaders and collaboration among civic leaders.

And, I believe, we need some trains... 

Contact Alder Ledell Zellers and tell her you support the TLNA recommendations. The more she hears from us, the more she'll work to make the vision for healthier and happier streets a reality.




  


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