Trains are green friendly transportation that will create economic growth. How much more needs to be said to make the argument about why trains are the way to go in Dane County and all over Wisconsin? Throw in a bit of nostalgia about riding the rails, and the deal should be ready for everyone’s signature.
But where other states are moving forward with optimism about the future of trains, there is a vocal segment in the area that is doing all it can to derail a great idea. Many train opponents are not being honest with the facts about Dane County’s regional transportation policy.
The train opponents spin their views on talk radio, and bloviate at meetings. That is the way democracy works. But when they want to weave falsehoods into referendums at the ballot box over trains and their funding then they have crossed the line, and have to be called out.
Such is the case with train opponents who want to place on the November ballot the following question. “Do you support increasing the sales tax to pay for commuter rail?” The aim of the train opponents is to create an image that the public is opposed to this form of transportation, and create a myth that trains will be a costly addition for taxpayers.
The problem is that it’s not accurate. The new Regional Transit Authority has the ability to levy a half-cent sales tax to pay for all kinds of transit options that would also provide property tax relief. In fact, the RTA would probably start by taking over the Metro bus system and expanding it both within the city and out into the county. The sales tax would also give us the chance to try bus rapid transit, expand transit services for the elderly and disabled and create a network of park and ride lots. Commuter rail might also be part of the mix, but it’s far from the sole focus.
So, this question, now on the ballot in some municipalities, is really just a piece of meaningless political theater designed by opponents of rail to drum up opposition in places where they know they can win.
I love a good robust discussion about the issues, but think it important that all start with the same facts. The real facts. Train opponents think they can do a ‘ball of fire’ over the issue of Dane County’s public transportation needs. A ‘ball of fire’ would never work on the rails, and it should not be allowed to work in the ballot box either.