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Friday, June 30, 2006

"People on the Left, People on the Right..."

"People on the right, people on the left, we have the common goal of moving people with transit, but doing it in the most cost-effective manner, in fact, in a manner that may end up costing no government subsidy, it may end up paying for itself,"

-Michele Bachmann referring to herself and fellow PRT promoter Dean Zimmerman in a 2004 MPR interview.

The Met Council approved the Central Corridor LRT project on Wednesday.

The LRT foes who once held the dominant role in the roads vs. rails debate have been pushed to the right and left of the political spectrum. The moderate majority, both Democrats and Republicans now support LRT.

It's easy to see why... The Hiawatha LRT is a popular success and if there's no issue moderate politicians like better to put their arms around, it's a popular success story. The fringe politicians, however like to stake out a contrary position to appeal to their know-nothing base. Since they offer no credible alternative, these fringe politicians are just grandstanding. Helping to build the framework for the anti-LRT grandstand are Ed Felein on the fringe left and on the fringe right, Craig Westover.

On the fringe left we have the Green Party's Ed Felein who warned in this week's PULSE article that LRT will "kill people". Felein got fisked point-by-point on the Mpls Issues forum.

Ed Felein is likely helping fellow Green Party member Farheen Hakeem attack Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin on McLaughlin's most popular transportation project. (Felein ran against McLaughlin in 2002).

Farheen Hakeem's web site has a page on transportation that only mentions LRT. The Hiawatha LRT is something Peter McLaughlin is proud of and rightly so. McLaughlin has supported some terrible transportation projects such as the Lake Street reconstruction and the Access Project. So why pick on LRT? The Minneapolis Green Party elected officials didn't do much to oppose those projects. Zimmermann actually stated his position on the Access Project as "neutral" and "ambivalent". His panacea for transportation was "Personal Rapid Transit". This attraction to nutty fringe issues has helped to kick the Green Party into the political basement. Only 87 Green Party members showed up at their recent state convention.

Way over on the right-wing fringe is Bachmann-supporter Craig Westover who bellyaches in a vague way about the Central Corridor LRT. His only specific complaint of the project is the $840 million price tag.

The sad fact is, if the anti-transit, pro-highway forces hadn't blocked the Metropolitan Transit Commission from planning and building an LRT line on University Avenue in the early 1970's, there would have been a lot less sticker shock. I've been told that the 1990 DEIS for LRT on University projected a $292 million cost for the project. Had we built it in the early 70s as the MTC recommended we could have gotten 90% federal financing.

And among those geniuses who opposed LRT back in the 1970's was J. E. Anderson, the supposed "guiding light" of the PRT movement that Zimmermann in the Green Party and and Bachmann in the far-right Republican Party have championed.

A little history lesson:

A book appeared in 2000 called "The Transportation Renaissance". It was written by a PRT fan called Edmund Rydell. He describes how Anderson and his pals got legislation passed in the early 1970's that prevented the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) from planning for rail transit:

"...Ed and others got legislation that took away from the [Metropolitan Transit] Commission its planning function. Over 20 years later, the Twin Cities still lacks an effective transit strategy."

Here are actual pages quoted:

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Does Bachmann still think PRT is a better alternative to LRT? Maybe Craig Westover should ask her.