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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Light Rail Hysteria" is a National Phenomenon

Jannice Eisen writes about LRT hysteria in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Most of us find that there are certain topics of conversation we need to avoid in social situations if we want to keep things civil. Abortion and gay marriage are two that come immediately to mind.

But one subject is unique to the Milwaukee area in the frenzied response it prompts: light rail.

I've been watching the light rail battle with bemusement for the past decade, and I just don't understand why the topic is so radioactive. We can't even discuss it rationally: Ordinarily sensible people start to turn red and foam at the mouth.

Janice Eisen is wrong about only one thing; LRT hysteria is not a local phenomenon. It's a national phenomenon created in part by right-wing and libertarian anti-transit organizations. Even with the success of the Hiawatha LRT, there are still hold-outs of LRT-haters in Minnesota... mostly on the right-wing and left-wing fringe.

Last week, the Green Party's Eddie Felien and Republican right-winger Phil Krinkie showed up at the Met Council to speak against the Central Corridor LRT line. It was no surprise for me. I've known for some time that many of the Green Party members have attitudes toward rail transit that is not very different from the right-wing Republicans.

I have seen how the subject of LRT can turn some Greens totally irrational. Last year at a forum, a Green Party member started screaming at me that "Light rail will kill people!". Former Councilman Dean Zimmermann, who worked closely with right-winger Mark Olson on PRT, also parroted that line. That hysterical nonsense about LRT killing people was repeated at least 3 times in Felien's vituperative PULSE article on the Central Corridor.

Transportation will be an issue in many elections this Fall. Michele Bachmann, Ray Vandeveer and Mark Olson have targeted LRT and the Northstar Commuter line. How does it help Patty Wetterling, David Francis and Jim Huhtala when PULSE has advertisements on AM 950 saying LRT is dangerous and expensive? When are Green Party members going to stop helping right-wing Republicans defeat progressive Democrats?