Local rail group calls bus option laughableMembers of the Hudson-River Falls Area Rail Group blasted in a recent hearing, the Gateway Commission’s plan for area transit to St. Paul. The Commission discarded commuter rail to Eau Claire, with a stop in Hudson, in favor of bus service.
Members of the Hudson-River Falls Area Rail Group blasted in a recent hearing, the Gateway Commission’s plan for area transit to St. Paul.
The Commission discarded commuter rail to Eau Claire, with a stop in Hudson, in favor of bus service.
“From a business, economic development, brain-drain retention, and UW-River Falls perspective, trains are needed to meet the needs of our area for transportation in the 21st century,” noted Erin Tomlinson, a financial planner in River Falls.
“Business people and professionals don’t take the bus,” added William A. Draves, CEO of a national company with offices in River Falls. “We ride trains,” he said. “It’s hard to say ‘bus’ without laughing.”
“Instead of a win-win for St. Paul and western Wisconsin, there is no ‘Gateway’ at all in this plan. Instead of planning for the future with passenger train service, the Commission chose to waste time and money on fading bus transport,” Draves noted.
Steering committee members disputed the Gateway Commission figures used to dismiss the commuter rail option. “Their numbers simply are not believable,” noted member Paul Bode of Hudson.
The local rail group took issue with costs, ridership estimates and economic benefits. They say:
- Rail costs $8 million a mile, not the $12 million in the Gateway study
- Just the Twin Cities college students going to UWRF and UW-Eau Claire would surpass the meager ridership estimates presented.
- The 25,000 college students collectively at UWRF, Stout and UW-Eau Claire alone constitute far greater ridership numbers than the stated estimates.
- Trains ridership is breaking records all over the country.
- The most successful commuter rail line in the Midwest is in Wisconsin.
- There was no consideration on the value of human life, as bus fatalities are growing, according to government data.
If we want to reverse our local and state brain drain, we need trains to bring back our best and brightest young people, noted Jeff Horner, a retired psychologist from River Falls. He said that Department of Transportation data clearly show young people switching from cars to trains, accounting for the record train ridership since 2005.
“Well-educated young people, scientists, engineers and all types of entrepreneurs have experienced the advantages of rail travel,” notes Horner. “They see how commuter and high-speed rail provide opportunities that cannot be attained by cars and highways alone.”
“The future of UWRF is at stake, as well” said Horner, suggesting that if students cannot get to and from UWRF by train, they may choose other universities served by trains or light rail.
Draves said Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough was right in stating at a Gateway briefing the economic value of light rail and commuter rail, including increased housing values, private investment, job creation, and keeping young people here.
The steering committee of the Hudson-River Falls Area Rail Group said it would continue its efforts to educate the public on the essential role of trains and praised young people for creating 11 months of record train ridership.
For more information about the local rail group, contact Draves at 800-678-5376 or at email@example.com.