As soon as the Morning News Focus is done today, I will be heading down to Chicago for the Brewers-Cubs game at Wrigley Field. One of the best parts of going to Chicago is getting to use the public transportation system to go pretty much anywhere I need to in the Metro area. I've traveled to a number of big cities over the years and have used their local buses and trains with little problem. It's save me plenty of money not having to rent cars in Los Angeles, Toronto and Washington DC.
So why then haven't I ever been on an Oshkosh or Valley transit bus? With gas at 3.64 a gallon today I would love to take public transportation--but it just doesn't work out for me. When I first moved to Oshkosh, I lived in an area where I would have had to walk as far to the bus stop as I would have actually rode the bus--so that didn't make much sense. We have since moved to a house right on the bus line--but I still haven't used it. To ride it to work, I would need the bus to come by at 3:45 am--and that service just isn't provided right now.
There has been a lot of talk about extending commuter rail to the Fox Valley from Milwaukee. I would love to see that--but I think we are still a long ways from it ever being successful. The expansion of 41 over the next decade should increase capacity on the highway--and ease the few traffic backups we have to deal with daily. And right now, people in this area aren't ready to give up the control they enjoy by driving themselves everywhere. When you use public transportation, you can't just make a stop at the grocery store if the bus or train you are on doesn't run past the store. And on those cold days, the bus or train don't come to the station right at the moment you are arriving there.
For some things, a Fox Valley rail line would be fantastic. Wouldn't you rather hop on a train here in Oshkosh and get dropped off a few blocks away from Lambeau Field for Packers games? Or be able to hop a train and maybe transfer to a bus for flights in and out of Mitchell airport?
If we are going to have commuter train service here in the Valley it had also better be high speed. I don't think most people would be too keen to see the traffic on 41 cruising past them at 65--while they are stuck doing 50 on the rails. And the support systems on both ends will have to improve as well. Cities will have to offer more bus routes to more parts of the Fox Valley. There will also have to be construction of more park and ride lots.
Between congestion and gas prices, commuter rail and public transporation is in our future. Now would be the time to establish the infrastructure and to make sure the system is ready to go when demand finally makes it at least a break-even proposition.