Archive for February, 2010

(1) Keith Bradsher, taking a cheap shot at “many Americans” in the NYT:

Many Americans may be too corpulent for the economy-class seats, which measure just 18 inches between the arm rests. One-way first-class seats are $114 and two inches wider.

The U.S. system of decreasingly convenient (and not increasingly affordable) air travel is not much of a solution, as the director Kevin Smith famously learned via Southwest Airlines. The ironically tickered LUV’s economy class seats, not atypical of U.S. domestic air service, are 17″ wide.

(2) Via Stephen Karlson, Milwaukee County Executive (and candidate for the Republican nomination for governor of Wisconsin) Scott Walker tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he’s skeptical even about the incrementalist 110-MPH Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Chicago service to be enabled by an ARRA passenger rail grant:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said Thursday the state should pass up the federal government’s offer of $823 million for a high-speed rail line linking Milwaukee to Madison and Chicago – unless millions more for operating the line come with the deal.

That’s unlikely, he said. Based on what’s known about the high-speed rail plan, Walker said he would reject the federal largess…

This is pretty typical of the anti-rail sentiment you’d find in the comments section of the Madison newspapers, where it’s a surprisingly widely held religious belief that passenger rail must be a boondoggle because it receives operating subsidies. But the visibility of passenger rail subsidies by no means implies that roads are self-financing from gas taxes or other user fees. As Karlson observes:

The article does not report whether Mr Walker objected to receiving Highway Trust Fund monies, which pay for some upgrades of arterial highways, which in turn encourage suburban development that calls for property taxes to provide and maintain the local roads. [link in original]

The subsidy would increase to $28 million by 2022, according to the J-S. If that seems like a lot of money, note that it’s less than the general obligation debt that the City of Madison will take on to maintain its streets in 2010 ($34.1 million), and that the State of Wisconsin’s pre-recession budgets had been increasing highway programs to the tune of $400+ million per biennium.

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