The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

11 August 2007

More trains, less traffic

This is, in fact, a slogan of Virginia's Independent Green Party, but it played well in downtown Oklahoma City this morning, as about a hundred rail buffs, progressive activists, and old-fashioned penny-pinchers — the latter group includes me — gathered in front of Union Station to "Save the Rails."

And it's probably a good thing that they specified "Rails," because the station itself is in no danger. Heck, it's on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been for nearly thirty years. But the New Crosstown Expressway, currently advancing beyond the drawing-board stages, was cunningly (I suspect) designed to rip out the railyard behind the station, turning it from a viable transport hub into a stately but static relic.

While it's not surprising that the left would pick up on this issue — most of the support for public transportation comes from that side of the aisle — there's a fiscal-conservative angle as well, and it comes at you from two directions:

  • Estimates of the cost of the New Crosstown continue to rise. Right now, it's running around half a billion dollars. Repairing and upgrading the existing road wouldn't be inexpensive, and I suspect the $50-million figure suggested is a tad low, but even if it's twice that much it would still save $400 million. (Reminder: all the original MAPS projects combined cost less than $400 million.)

  • When Mayor Cornett put out a call for suggestions for a possible MAPS 3, the single most requested project, by more than three to one, was improved transit, so it's not at all inconceivable that the city would actually put a commuter-rail system into the MAPS 3 package as early as next year. And it makes no sense to trash a railyard that already has all the necessary connections in place, only to replicate it somewhere else at greater expense.

I talked with J. M. Branum after the speechifying, and we took a walk to the back of the station where the passenger facilities are. They've been left to deteriorate, of course, but they're not beyond repair, and the rail lines themselves need only a freshening here and there.

And we had one actual Presidential candidate on hand: Gail Parker, who hails these days from those Independent Greens in Virginia but who spent some of her childhood here in the Sooner State, and who was well received by the crowd. (She also schlepped along a Draft Bloomberg sign, which if nothing else indicates that she's keeping the options open.) I was hoping to hear Rep. Andrew Rice, who's working up a Senate campaign against Jim Inhofe next year, but he was stuck in traffic or something. The local NBC and Fox affiliates sent cameras to cover the event; so far as I know, only Branum and I represented local blogdom, and I'm pretty sure no one expected me. Certainly Tom Elmore didn't.

As these things go, this one went pretty well; there may be more rallies in months to come as the price tag on the Crosstown continues to rise and some of its boosters start feeling the heat.

Posted at 1:40 PM to Political Science Fiction , Soonerland


Lovely Wife & I were there in spirit. We're both FOR the rails (but we had to work). After the MAPS3 questionaire, I Heard Mick Cornett say that he didn't want a rail system because it would make it easier for folsk in Norman & Edmond to continue to live in Norman & Edmond and still work & play in downtown. He wants folks to LIVE in downtown (which I am for, but Hell, I'll take their work/play money just as well)

I wanted to call in & suggest that we start shooting at cars driving into downtown from Norman & Edmond. That would make it difficult & dangerous, so folks would quickly move into downtown to avoid the gunfire. Makes as much sense as his bassackwards way of thinking.

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" at 8:26 PM on 11 August 2007

Great post and assessment of the situation. Thanks for coming to the event. I'm also a blogger who was there. A very BAD blogger, but I do have an eponymous domain.

Posted by: Rena at 8:51 PM on 12 August 2007

It was good to finally meet you in person.

With regards to Gail Parker, I got to talk to her a few times over the weekend. She is a likable candidate but she is green in name only. She has some good positions (with regards to rail), but her campaign strategy and approach is very un-green. I don't see any real possibility that the Greens would actually endorse her or would support her Bloomberg fusion campaign concept.

Posted by: J. M. Branum at 11:33 PM on 12 August 2007

Here's some more detailed discussion on Gail's campaign... http://jmbzine.com/wordpress/?p=705

Posted by: J. M. Branum at 4:16 PM on 13 August 2007