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.”
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.