Thursday, July 24, 2008

Regional Transportation / Kassel, Germany

I attended the Downtown Madison Inc. monthly "What's Up" breakfast at the Madison Club to listen to the featured speakers, who were representatives from Madison's sister city, Kassel.

I am a firm believer that Madison, especially with its geographical limitations (e.g. isthmus), needs a comprehensive public transportation system that includes light rail, express buses and park-and-rides. Anyone who regularly takes the Beltline or East Washington knows how much more traffic is on those streets compared to just five years ago. Plus, gas prices will only continue to rise (in Kassel, one gallon cost $9.40!).

Kassel has a population of 195,000. It has an integrated transportation system that links intracity transportation to regional transportation via trams, regio-trams, trains ans buses. Thus, residents of Kassel and its suburbs are able to get anywhere within the city and outside of it using public transportation.

We must be forward-thinking. Gas prices will continue to soar. The population of Dane County will exceed 580,000 by 2030. We can't just keep building roads like the North Mendota Parkway.

It's funny that outlying communities like Waunakee and Sun Prairie are opposed to the light rail, since it's the residents of those suburbs who are clogging the roads now. True, the first line won't hit every 'burb, but they eventually will! It just takes a bit of patience and seeing the bigger picture.

Really, a half-cent sales tax in Dane County is not a big deal. And people who complain that they have to pay for something they won't use forget that our taxes pay for a lot of things that not everyone uses.

I could fill up pages and pages worth of benefits a regional transportation system would provide, but I won't. Hopefully, if everything goes well, we will have our light rail operational by 2013.

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