Fighting for Transit-Oriented Development in Wisconsin

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we check in again with John Michlig, who writes the blog Sprawled Out from Franklin, Wisconsin.

Michlig has a blow-by-blow account of his often frustrating attempt to raise the issue of transit-oriented development at a meeting of the Economic Development Committee of his city:

2817590468_241ec6a0b3_m.jpgThe status quo in Franklin, Wisconsin. Photo by John Michlig.

My feeling — if this hasn’t been made clear already — is that Franklin needs to embrace smart growth principles and prepare for upcoming transit improvements — including rail in nearby Oak Creek —
in order to remain relevant economically and as a community.

In
a postindustrial society, people need not go where the "factory" is; they choose communities based on desires such as: good parks, walkable neighborhoods, access to transit, vibrant public spaces, etc. That’s what modern opinion polls reveal.

Now that the federal government has made transit and smart growth high priorities, companies will look to locate in areas where these factors have been addressed; there will surely be tax breaks and other incentives to encourage use of transit for their workforce.

[When I raised the] notion of walkable neighborhoods, schools that can be walked to by kids who live mere blocks away, connected street systems, and the end of built-for-speed subdivision roads,  [t]here were sighs. Eyes rolled. Now, that’s not to say that each and every member of the commission expressed annoyance. However, the ones who may have agreed kept quiet.

On my tape, I can hear a commission member audibly scoff and chuckle as I describe the fact that teens have to get vehicles of their own simply to get to work and school — and teens are by far the most dangerous driving population.

Michlig’s experience in the trenches of Franklin (which we’ve highlighted before) is a reminder of how much work needs to be done at the grassroots level to change American minds about the inevitability of an autocentric lifestyle. It’s also a reminder of how many people are doing that work and making a difference. Michlig promises that part three of his account of the meeting, which is still to come, ends on a high note. We’ll be watching.

Elsewhere around the network: If you haven’t alrady seen the hugs ’n’ helmets cop video from Denmark, you can find it at Carfree USA; Grieve-Smith on Transportation discusses the counterflow bus lanes in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and The City Fix reports on Zipcar’s entry into municipal fleet management.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETSBLOG USA

The Road to the Future Is Not a Drive-Thru

|
McMansions overlook a strip mall parking lot in Franklin, Wisconsin. (Photo: John Michlig via Flickr) This morning on the Streetsblog Network, a cry of frustration from member blog Sprawled Out in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, Wisconsin. Sprawled Out’s John Michlig has been looking at some of the findings from the Brookings Institution’s "The State […]

A Potential Stimulus Horror Story from Franklin, Wisconsin

|
Some disturbing news about stimulus spending on roads comes to us from Streetsblog Network member blog Sprawled Out, which covers the city of Franklin, WI. In that Milwaukee suburb, according to Sprawled Out’s John Michlig, local bureaucrats are potentially on track to use stimulus funds to widen a local street in a particularly destructive way: […]

How Cars Destroy the Wilderness of Childhood

|
It’s the height of summer, the stretch of endless lazy days when — at least in the American dreamworld — kids hunt for adventure in packs through the shimmering heat. A time when they make their own fun. A time of bicycles and improvised games and ice cream, of luxuriant boredom and the discovery it […]
STREETSBLOG USA

The Scandalously High Cost of Shortchanging Transit

|
You will remember that Wisconsin was the state that, according to Gov. Scott Walker, couldn’t afford to operate an inter-city rail system, even with an $800 million federal start-up grant. But it turns out that having a transportation system based entirely on automobile travel isn’t exactly cheap. Now, instead of reaping savings, Wisconsin is drowning […]

“Building Cities Shouldn’t Be a Partisan Issue”

|
Over the weekend, we came across an article from the Isthmus of Madison, Wisconsin, reporting on a conservative scaremongering campaign against a commuter rail proposal. It quotes a leader in the Wisconsin Republican Party painting transit-oriented development as a red menace: "This has been done before," Dane County Republican Party spokesman Bill Richardson said on […]