Mar 15, 2009

Rogers flip-flops on mass transit

Freshman Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, has been getting plenty of ink since he was sworn into the Michigan House just two months ago in January, but the latest piece of publicity really floored me.

Radio station WHMI is reporting a “press conference will be held Monday by State Representatives Bill Rogers of Brighton and Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City, along with the founder of Interstate Traveler Company” to announce “the creation of a task force to study the feasibility of a rail line from Detroit to Lansing.”

Say what?

Is this the same Bill Rogers that served as the chair of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners who last September voted not to provide any money to the Washtenaw Livingston Line (WALLY) commuter rail line linking Howell to Ann Arbor? The answer is yes. In fact, the board, under Rogers’ leadership, not only decided not to help with any money, but it also decided not to be part of the coalition that wants to form a taxing authority.

I am a huge supporter of mass transit, and use it every day; I van pool to Howell from Lansing. So, I’m excited about this proposal. Mass transit will generate jobs, especially one this extensive, but I fear this is just one more way for Rogers to get his name in the paper.

According to the Interstate Traveler web site, this high tech system reminds me of movies made in the 1950’s when everybody believed we would all have hover cars in 2000. The system Rogers and the House Republicans are pushing is called a “Maglev“ system that travels using high speed magnetic levitation.

According to the company web site, it’s a “first of its kind full integration of solar powered hydrogen production and distribution system supporting a high speed magnetic levitation ( MagLev ) on-demand public transit network built along the right of way of the US Interstate Highway Systems, and any other permissible right of way.” The system is “accessed by Traveler Stations that are built within the right of way of the Interstate Highway within the land locked real-estate.”

This sounds like an exciting concept that will take advantage of new, renewable energy sources, and I hope it comes to fruition. However, I wonder how much it will cost and how long it will take to build an entirely new system and infrastructure.

WALLY will use existing railroad tracks to link Livingston ad Washtenaw counties, but we couldn’t even get Rogers’ support for that. Why is he now supporting a promising but possible pie in the sky proposal? The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus has editorialized against every mass transit system and proposal that has been floated in the county for the last 20 years, and some right-wingers in the county have called WALLY a “train to nowhere.” It will be interesting to see what they think of this proposal.

The good news is no one is giving up on WALLY. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) took control of the planned WALLY commuter rail line. The coalition includes representatives from the cities of Ann Arbor and Howell, Washtenaw county, the University of Michigan, WATS, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Northfield Township, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Washtenaw Community College, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, local Chambers of Commerce, AATA and other interested groups and individuals from throughout the WALLY proposed service area. Howell City Councilmen Steve Manor has even spent his own money to support the project.

According to the WHMI report, the press conference will be conducted by Rogers and Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. With the House controlled by Democrats and the Senate controlled by the Republicans, any successful proposal will require bipartisan support, especially one as complex as this. Where is it?

I see this as just one more proposal by Rogers aimed more at garnering publicity like his other ones than actually accomplishing anything.

His proposal to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) surcharge without a replacement will - and should - go nowhere.

He recently introduced a bill and press release that would amend the Public School Employees Retirement Act to require all new Michigan public school employees hired after July 1, 2010 to have a traditional defined contribution plan instead of a defined benefit plan.

This bill was also introduced in the last two legislative sessions. It passed the GOP-controlled House in 2005 when the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate and didn’t become law. Why would it become law now?

I hope this transit plan is not just another publicity stunt.


kevins said...

Hey...did you read about this or just rush to slam Republicans?

This project is a totally private venture. In fact it offers to split profits 50-50 with state and local government in exchange for right-of-way access. The WALLY deal required a lot of public money.

I don't know if this idea will fly, but it is wrongheaded to compare it to WALLY. WALLY serves a low ridership, was destined to lose money, took a horrible route, left passengers at an inconvenient spot east of Ann Arbor and required huge taxpayer expenditures...both at startup and annually to cover operating costs.

This project ultimately might not pass the scrutiny, but it is touted as a private venture that has multiple uses and follows existing high-traffic freeway routes.

Bill Rogers is not at all inconsistent by wanting to see the facts on this one.

You, also, are consistent. You will support any plan that says mass transit, regardless of whether it makes any sense. You will consistently bash Republicans and defend Dems, regardless of the facts.

This is a private-venture plan that deserves study. WALLY was also a plan that, once studied, was found lacking by the county board. That's not inconsistent. That's good government.

Communications guru said...

Yes and yes, brett. I read what was available, which was a paragraph on WHMI, and a sentence on MIRS.

If it’s a 50-50 split with government, then how can it be a “totally private venture?” The fact is mass transit always has some sort of government subsidy, which is a good investment by government. I think this is a great idea, and I hope I’m still around when it becomes a reality. But I don’t understand the total flip-flop by Rogers, especially on something that is just a few years away from becoming a reality.

How can WALLY have a low ridership, but not a Detroit to Lansing route? Of course it will lose money, just like this plan and every mass transit system in the country. Since this is a coalition headed by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA), your claim that it “left passengers at an inconvenient spot east of Ann Arbor” carries no weight.

You can be Bill Rogers alibi on this, but he still flip-flopped on this.

I will bash Republicans and defend Democrats, and it’s not hard to do. But I use facts to do it. Like I have said repeatedly, brett, you do what you want on your blog, and I will do what I want on mine.

And yes, I do support mass transit because it creates jobs, is good for the atmosphere and good for national security by lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

kevins said...

I can't figure out if you are a complete idiot, a purposeful liar or merely a partisan hack. I guess I don't have to choose. You can be all three and you are.

1. You are a liar and you don't care about facts. I'm not Brett. I've never been Brett. I have no idea who Brett is. I follow your rules and post under an assumed name and you still lie about me. That's your style.

2. It's a totally private venture when it comes to investment, you moron. The private venture offers to give governments 50 percent of the profit. There is no cost to the government. Can you comprehend the difference? (I'm skeptical of the claim, but that's what they are proposing.) You say mass transit "always" has some sort of subsidy. But your mindless blather ignores two points. One, this one has "no" government subsidy. Two, even though subsidies are common, that still requires some decision making as to whether the subsidy is worth the cost. Sample question: Would you support a mass transit system that included people mover spurs from every driveway in America to the nearest train station? According to your logic, that would be a good plan because it's mass transit and because subsidies are common.

3. Did you really ask how can WALLY have low ridersship but not a Detroit-Lansing route? Are you really that stupid. Why don't you ask: How can Wayne County have more people than Washtenaw County? Look, I haven't seen any ridership projections for this new idea, so they may be low or unbelievable. But the WALLY route cuts through the middle of the county, serves a smaller populated area and doesn't follow heavily-trafficed arteries. If, for example, you lived in Brighton, you would have to drive halfway to Ann Arbor before you get to a WALLY station. With a detroit-lansing line that followed the expressway, that same person could reach a stop within 1-5 miles for a 30-45 miles commute. I'm doubtful that a Detroit-Lansing line will work because commuter traffic will dwindle as you go westward. But a Livingston to Detroit route carries far more potential and Howell to Ann Arbor, particularly since the WALLY line doesn't follow I-96 and US-23 in Livingston.

4. Your ignorance astounds me. You say that since AATA runs it, my comment carries no weight. WALLY backers themselves concede that the Ann Arbor terminal location is inconvenient and a drawback. They have to use it because they can't cut a deal with the more desired train line. So here's what you are left with: You drive halfway to Ann Arbor to catch a train at Whitmore Lake; then you have to take the train past Ann Arbor to the east side; then you have to take a bus back downtown or to your place of work. Even considering US-23 traffic jams, you have added 30-60 minutes to your daily commute. (And that's if you hit the train stop and the bus transfer perfectly and don't have to wait for either.) Don't take my word for it. The company WALLY hired to analyze the project said the same thing. Anyone with common sense can see it as find someone with common sense and have him explain it to you.

5. What is the flip-flop exactly? Are you saying that you have to support all mass transit projects or none at all? That seems to be a position of some. If it's mass transit, it has to be great. But there can be good or bad projects. Also, Rogers was part of a county board that decided that a particular plan didn't warrant the spending of tax dollars. His current position is that a completely differenct so far that requires not a dime of tax dollars ... is worth a look. How in the world is that a flip-flop?

Are you saying that no project is worth a look unless you reach into the taxpayer's wallet? Or are you saying that you are inconsistent unless you support or oppose every single mass transit project?

Communications guru said...

You can call me a liar all you want, but unfortunately for you have never proven it, brett. Thank you for calling me an idiot; coming from you it’s a compliment.

1. Again, brett, you have to prove it.

2. Again, it they are using public land it’s not a “totally private venture.” You can spin it anyway you want, but it’s not a “totally private venture.” Thank you again for the compliment. That is correct, mass transit always" has some sort of subsidy, just like this one. I have no problem with that. This is an exciting prospect, but it’s a long way off. “Would I support a mass transit system that included people mover spurs from every driveway in America to the nearest train station?” Sure, why not? I also support hover cars, but it will never happen.

3. Yes, I did. I don’t see the difference between the ridership between WALLY and this plan. I’m getting tired up debunking this crap again. Go here where I answered it before:
The existing railroad tracks go from Howell through downtown Brighton and through Green Oak Township. It will stop in Brighton, Whitmore Lake and two stops in downtown Ann Arbor. The Brighton stop is four miles from downtown. Ann Arbor has the U of M, U of M hospital St. Joes Mercy Hospital and even the Big House; plenty of riders. “Doesn't follow (sic) heavily-trafficed arteries?” You have to be kidding? Travel U.S. 23 on any weekday and then say that. I’ll concede that Wayne has more people than Livingston and Washtenaw, but for the past decade Livingston has been the fastest growing county in the state. According to SEMCOG, Livingston will have a 17.6 percent growth rate to 2035, Washtenaw will have an 11.2 percent rate, and Wayne will have a growth rate of -8 percent. The ridership for both systems will be there.

4. You’re going to have to show me what the “WALLY backers themselves concede,” brett because I don’t believe anything you say without proof.

5. Are you honestly saying you can’t see the flip-flop? You shun a project that actually has a chance to succeed in your lifetime, but you back a futuristic project that may never happen? It makes no sense. I support both, but WALLY has a chance of succeeding in my lifetime.

Not Anonymous said...

I would like to see a story come out that doesn't say who's in favor or against it just to see if you can really offer an opinion without knowing if it's a Socialist Democrat idea or a Republican idea.

It is nice to see though that anyone that you disagree with is named Brett. You really have a fixation on him. I noticed that you wrote about Tiger Stadium. It's ironic that Brett wrote about Tiger Stadium on his blog not long ago. Naturally, you take a different position but base your position on emotion while he based his position on the economic situation we're currently in.

For Kevins, you can see who Brett is at his blog. He calls it Conservative Lifestyle. I think it's on blogspot. I think I misspoke though. You can't see him, but you can read what he writes.

If Guru keeps calling everyone Brett, we'll have to start the old game of To Tell the Truth. "my name is brett", no my name is brett", "no my name is brett".

Or we could all just sign our name as brett regardless of our names on here.

Communications guru said...

First, brett, there is no such thing as a “socialist Democrat” in this country, and it’s just a fascist GOP talking point. You can do anything you want on your blog, and if you don’t like what’s written here you are free not to come back.

If you disagree with what I wrote about Tiger Stadium, please be my guest and try and knock it down. If you wrote about Tiger Stadium I didn’t read it.

We know one thing for sure, you are the one who used deceit to post as someone else, and if I remember correctly, brett, you said you were no longer going to post as kevins; you did it just to prove how dishonest you can be.

kevins said...

You are wrong about so many things, beginning with the fact that I'm not Brett. I don't know who Brett is and I have no reason to lie about that. I don't have to prove anything, anymore than you don't have to prove that you aren't posting under multiple names...which is something you did before until you were caught. For all we know you are also Ka fact you must be until you prove you aren't.

You make so many mistakes (or lies) that it is mind-boggling.

As proposed it is a private venture in the sense that the developer is not asking for tax dollars. I was clear about that; the fact that you purposely distorted it is a sign that you aren't ready for prime time debate.

The fact is that WALLY was heavily government subsidized and this new project is not only NOT subsidized but will provide money for state and local government. (If it is feasible which is a big IF. But the fact is, your beloved WALLY sucks tax dollars from my pocket; this venture uses private investment. Big difference. Even you can see that.)

Your facts about WALLY are so wrong that either you are totally ignorant or a liar. With you, could be both. WALLY will NOT go into downtown Brighton. That's a totally separate set of tracks. WALLY tracks cut through the middle of the county, passes by Chilson Hills Baptist Church and makes its way to Whitmore Lake. This is the route from the first day it was proposed; it is the route shown on all maps accompanying news stories; it is the route taken by the train during demonstration trips during Howell History Days (I know; I was on the train.) For you to say different is either deliberate fabrication or total ignorance.

Yes, of course, US23 is heavily travelled. I take it every day. In Livintston County, WALLY doesn't follow I-96 and it reaches US-23 just north of the county line. It starts in howell and goes south and then east. To use WALLY, I would still have to endure US-23 traffic since I would have to take the highway nearly halfway to Ann Arbor to pick up train at Whitmore Lake.

Then the train would take me east of Ann Arbor to Plymouth Road near North Campus. In what world are there two WALLY stops in downtown Ann Arbor? Again you are terribly mistaken or purposely lying.

The lying and mistakes and exaggerations are typical of WALLY supporters. The head of the WALLY coalition tried to bully the county board into making a large financial contribution by saying that the Genoa DDA had pledged a healthy sum. Couple problems with that: Genoa didn't pledge a dime and there is no such thing as a Genoa DDA. So maybe the county board has a reason to be wary of WALLY claims.

Still, the county chipped in on a $150,000 feasibility study. The study said that WALLY cost estimates were terribly low and that much more taxpayer money was needed for it to even have a chance. Backers, again lying or hopelessly optimistic, said it could get started with only $2.9 in upfront cost. The study said initial investment had to be $32 million, or more than 10 times higher. Backers also projected ridership of 884,000, also discredited by the study. The study also said that the Ann Arbor terminal location was a detriment and that more money needed to be pledged for transporation from Ann Arbor station to other destinations. These aren't my arguments; these are the arguments from professional consultants who make their living this way. The report is easily available to anyone with half a brain.

Your argument about the Big House is silly...a commuter train because of 7-8 Saturday games a year? Many Ann Arbor sites have indicated interest but there are no hard ridership studies. Not just my opinion. The consultants said that ridership numbers provided by WALLY were not reliable and a more professional study was needed to confirm their wild estimates.

Bill Rogers and the county board never were against mass transit. They funded a feasibility study and then decided that the project didn't deserve county taxpayer support. You can agree or disagree with their decision, but they didn't come out against mass transit..they decided not to fund WALLY. Big difference.

So there is absolutely no flip flop in Bill Rogers. He studied WALLY, and didn't think it was a wise use of county funds. Those are the decisions he was elected to make. He has now seen a private venture which may seem futuristic but which promises huge benefits at NO public expense. So he thinks it should be looked into. To do otherwise would be grossly wrong.

I know you are too thick-headed to admit a mistake, even with the many listed here. But here's one more. You said this new project sounds interesting but it will never happen in your lifetime. Are you not feeling well? The developer said construction could begin next year. Another fact you didn't know or falsely presented.

Even for you...well known for mistakes...your latest post is impressively incompetent.

I know this is long, so make it easy on yourself. Read this exact quote from you: "The existing railroad tracks go from Howell to downtown Brighton and through Green Oak Township. It will stop in Brighton, Whitmore Lake and two stops in downtown Ann Arbor."

Now answer these 3 questions:

1. "The existing tracks go from Howell to downtown Brighton." What is the address of the downtown Brighton location of the stop?

2. "...and through Green Oak Township." From Brighton south, US-23 travels about 6 miles in Green Oak Township. How much of that route is followed by WALLY?

3. "...two stops in downtown Ann Arbor." What are the addresses of the two stops in downtown Ann Arbor?

Communications guru said...

Sorry, brett; I have never hid who I am like you, and I have never used deceit like you to post as numerous other people. I post as no one else, and I have no reason to; if I want to say something, I will, brett.

Once again, if they are using public property, it’s not a pure private project. I didn’t distort anything, I just stated a fact.

Great, WALLY was, or will be “heavily government subsidized.“ I don’t care. The difference between WALLY and this project is it can become a reality. My “beloved WALLY?” Like I said, I support mass transit because it creates jobs, it’s good for national security by lessening the dependence on foreign oil and it’s good for the environment.

The existing railroad tracks go from Howell through the Brighton area and through Green Oak Township. It will stop in Genoa Township four miles from downtown Brighton, Whitmore Lake and two stops in Ann Arbor. You are correct it does not go through downtown Brighton, but so what?

I don’t understand why you would have to endure U.S. 23 traffic to ride WALLY? You can get on in Howell or Genoa Township. Yes, two stops in Ann Arbor. I’m not all that familiar with Ann Arbor, I’m going to guess the AA Transportation Authority has an extensive bus system in Ann Arbor. Like I have said, I ride the Michican, and it’s not a problem to drive to the park and ride to catch it. We have riders drive from Hamburg and Hartland to catch it, and I see numerous vans leave from Howell to Ann Arbor. Now, just because you don’t want to use public transportation doesn’t mean the project should be killed.

“The head of the WALLY coalition tried to bully the county board into making a large financial contribution?” Please excuse me if I am skeptical of that wild claim, as well as the rest of them.

I count two ridership studies, and the Big House is just one valid reason for people to go to Ann Arbor. You can call it silly if you want, but it’s a valid reason for people to ride, along with all the people who ride to work at the U of M and the hospital during the week.

The county board refused to pitch in when the City of Howell and the other municipalities did, and they even refused to even be a part of the coalition and you are trying to claim they are not against mass transit? Please. There is a good reason this is a bedroom community with nothing of its own, and the board is the reason. That is called a flip-flop and a huge one. You refuse to fund something that will become a reality but support something that may never happen.

I say great, look into it, but in the meantime let’s get some realistic mass transit in place.

Like I said, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, and I feel fine, thanks. I hope I’m wrong about how soon it will be up and operational, but considering how futuristic it looks, the infrastructure required and the mindless opposition mass transit receives, I don’t see it. Saying and doing are two different things.