Saturday, July 05, 2008

KRM - Been there, done that

Before there was a KRM, there was the MRK.

The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company's Interurban railway included the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha line or MRK.

KRM - MRK, get it? Wonderful marketing job by these a-century-too-late hucksters looking to garnish your assets.

The earlier system was vastly more broad in its reach than just the MRK/KRM. Looking at the graphic below, it wasn't just Milwaukee to Kenosha. It went West to Watertown, and Southwest to East Troy and Burlington, and later North all the way to Sheboygan.

This interurban line was one of the finest commuter railways in the nation (This and the following quotes are from Path of a Pioneer by John Gurda.).
"The Midwest was the nation's center of interurban railway development and (...) Milwaukee had one of the finest systems in the Midwest."
At a time when roads were primitive; when automobiles were unreliable, unsafe, and uncomfortable; how could this state-of-the-art interurban rail system not succeed?
The various projects started and completed between 1930 and 1932, from the downtown Rapid Transit line to the Lakeshore Belt Line, required an expenditure of millions of dollars. Rapid Transit, wrote Roy Pinkley in 1930, "represents a huge outlay of money, but it is now established and will undoubtedly be of immense importance in ten years from the present time.
That thinking was wrong in 1930, and is wrong in 2008. This extensive and efficient interurban transit system quickly failed.
The TMER&L, a name once synonymous with the best in urban transit, became a corporate ghost, a failing presence that still lingers above the doors of the old red-brick power plants and substations ...

The interurban lines, long the beleaguered members of the transit system, were the first to go. Service between St. Martins and Burlington ended in 1938. In sharp contrast to the delegation of dignitaries that had made the first run in 1909, arriving to band music and speeches, only one paying customer rode the last car to the end of the line.
I interpret "long the beleaguered members" to mean that for decades the interurban had poorer ridership than either the TMER&L streetcars or buses. We all know how popular riding the bus is in Milwaukee County today. Why should we expect the KRM to do better than that? Or this?
The interurban lines operated at a loss, and no paying customer ever boarded a car on the Lakeside Line.
Whose brilliant idea is the KRM, and what data do they have to show that ridership will be better in 2038 than it was in 1938?

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