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Tool of the Week: Choo Choo Tom Barrett

MADISON — You know a government project is a failure when it’s losing lots of money but is “too expensive to shut down.”

The Hop — Milwaukee’s boondoggle of a streetcar — just rolled into Failure Station.

And the conductor of this taxpayer money suck is none other than Mayor Tom “Choo-Choo” Barrett, who wants a bigger railway to play with. No one has been a bigger cheerleader for the electric train, no one is more tied to this albatross, with the exception of the taxpayers who will ultimately pay the price for Tommy’s Toy.

As Fox6 reported last week, the city still isn’t charging a fare to ride. Maybe that’s because the few riders it does have would disappear. The Hop is running a $3 million annual deficit.

Ridership has plummeted in its nearly three years in operation, so low during the pandemic in fact that some city council members wondered if it was better to shut the fixed rail line down for a while.

But Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works says it would cost almost as much to shut it down as it would to run it at current paltry ridership counts. Shutting this streetcar to nowhere down could also put millions of dollars in federal funding at risk.

And therein lies the rub. As Fox6 reported, Milwaukee is legally obligated to the Federal Transit Administration to run the streetcar for its “useful life”  — 25 years or more. The city is obligated to come up with the money to operate it over all that time, or pay back the $69 million Federal Highway Administration grant that seeded the first leg of the $128 million trolley system.

Choo Choo Tommy and crew aren’t content, though. They want a bigger boondoggle. A three-mile, $160 million streetcar system extension.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The definition of Tool is Tom Barrett — Empower Wisconsin’s Tool of the Week.

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4 thoughts on “Tool of the Week: Choo Choo Tom Barrett

  • Anyone who didn’t see this coming had to be blind. Trolley Tom kept pushing for this boondoggle acting like it was going to be the thing that was really going to turn Milwaukee around.

    I worked for a company that had an office on Wisconsin Ave. that had the old rubber tired trolleys running up and down before they discontinued that program because other than during Summerfest and the ethnic festivals, were almost always empty.

    I knew the streetcar was going to be the exact same scenario.
    Trolley Tom is lobbying for an expansion because he knows that the current use for the line that is in place is pretty much limited college students that want to get from the east side to the Intermodal station so they can take a bus to Madison or the train to Chicago.
    This is comparable to spending $600,000 for bike racks on the front of buses only on a much larger scale. More liberal overspending for transportation programs nobody needs but they want them because for some reason, they love trains.

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