Rail Rally Fizzles

Members of my generation can remember the Brady Bunch episode from season one wherein Peter Brady threw himself a party to which no one came.

Peter, who was boastful at the beginning, came off as pathetic and was humbled by the end of the episode.

Peter, meet the ‘high speed’ rail advocates of Wisconsin.

Earlier this month the MacIver News Service reported on a rally rail advocates planned for this past weekend in Pewaukee.

Several liberal activist groups are among those planning a large demonstration in favor of the Milwaukee-Madison rail project, to be held just two weeks before this fall’s General Election.

Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, sent out an email alert to the group’s allies late Thursday night. In the message he announced the creation of a new website, StandUpforTrains.org, which is promoting a pre-election rally in Waukesha County.

The language on the website is intended to serve as a call to action for the plan’s advocates, who seem to understand the Milwaukee-Madison rail line’s completion is far from certain.

Stand up for your trains Wisconsin! For the last 14 years, different administrations, elected officials, agencies and travelers have been working towards rejuvenating Wisconsin’s passenger rail service. However, In the last 18 months critics have tried to derail this effort. It’s time to stand up in support of modernizing and extending passenger rail in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Let’s build on the very successful Hiawatha service and connect Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and other cities in Wisconsin to a midwestern passenger rail network. The construction and operation of an intercity rail system will bring jobs and economic development to Wisconsin.

This event is hosted by the Wisconsin Sierra Club, WISPIRG, ProRail and several other organizations.

The event is scheduled for Noon on October 16th at the Country Springs Hotel.

Other news outlets reported about this planned rally, too.

So, on the day of the planned rally, an enterprising local citizen decided to check out the event.

His account, as it appears in the comment section of the MacIver News story, above:

I went to this rally at Country Springs Hotel on Sat. 10-16. I arrived at 11:30am, while they were still setting up the room. I went in and gathered some information off the table and took it back to my car. I went back in the room and was waiting around until noon for the rally to begin, when I was approached by a man that asked me if I was registered. I said no, that I was there since I read about it on the internet, and seen/heard about it on the Channel 12 morning news. He replied, “it was on the news”, as if he was surprised. He told me “since I wasn’t a registered guest that I would have to leave, and that this was not opened to the public”. There were about 40 plus chairs set up in a small conference room,(Summer Set). There was one table for registration and four other tables for displays, and that filled the room. I also seen a number of hand made signs leaning against the chairs. When I left there were about 30-40 people in attendance. I went there to see what the other side thinks/feels. WHAT A RALLY!

Not so fast, says the ProRail, an organization that helped promote the event. This was never a ‘Rally’ per se. In fact, it was merely a press conference.

From their website:

A COALITION OF PASSENGER RAIL ADVOCATES representing a variety of interests will hold a noon news conference in Pewaukee on Saturday for southeastern Wisconsin news media, to express support for high speed rail in Wisconsin. (Earlier reports describing this as a rally were incorrect.)

Alas, just as Peter Brady was humbled by the fact no one turned out for the party he threw for himself, so too must rail advocates admit this rally was a bust.

This was supposed to be a rally, but it fizzled due to lack of interest.  But don’t just take my word for it.

Less than four hours before the event was to take place, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, one of the event’s sponsors, was still calling it a rally.

From their facebook page:

Midwest High Speed Rail Association Today’s the rally in Pewaukee, Wisconsin to Stand Up For Trains at noon!
Stand Up For Your Trains Wisconsin! | Midwest High Speed Rail Association

So, in spite of the promotional activities of several well-funded organizations, only 40 people ‘rally’ for High Speed Rail?


Perhaps we should take a closer look at these rail advocates’ projected ridership statistics, too.

Seriously, this is the rail trap in a nutshell.  Advocates make extravagant claims in order to sell the project and when those promised benefits fail to materialize, they deflect blame and merely ask for more money.  Cato’s Randal O’Toole has been warning about this bait and switch for years.

This rally that wasn’t is Exhibit A why local taxpayers should be asking a lot of questions about the proposed Milwaukee-Madison project.

By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Institute Perspective