Are we all just a little weary of listening to people rant about transit? This endless squabble amongst politicians, special interest groups and talk radio hosts that has been going on for almost 20 years now and why don’t they please just stop!
If you are one of the weary, than I’m sorry to say that the movie version of this written and oral tradition will be coming soon to a theater near you, or at least to your television. Yes, I am involved in making such a movie and it is called "Gridlock: Public Transit in SE Wisconsin."
Or, should it be that I am happy to say a movie is in the works? You see, I too am tired of it all so let’s make a documentary starring all the usual suspects and a whole lot more. What if we actually went out and talked to the not-so-celebrated citizens about what they think? And, even better, let’s travel to other metro areas and look at what they have done and how things fare in the world of transit and commerce because that is what this is all about.
It is about balancing a capital investment against future returns; an investment in getting our workforce to and from work and stimulating transit-oriented development. It’s an investment that seems to be paying off everywhere except here and in Indianapolis and Detroit because we are the only large metro areas without a modern transit system.
Allow me to observe that this has become our version of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," because of the incessant warnings about traffic jams, economic collapse and stranded workers; warnings that may now be falling on deaf ears. But are these false cries or only perceived as such because of their relentless frequency and unsubstantiated claims? While growing weary, I actually do applaud those who cry wolf; the wolves being higher taxes, unrepresented constituents and endless studies as well as the traffic jams, lost federal dollars and lackluster economic development.
It’s becoming too difficult to follow the story and draw a conclusion. The chapters roll out one after another, year after year, until it is impossible to remember the characters and story or care about the tedious details and tiresome plot lines. I just want to sit down and take in the whole story in one comprehensive viewing, except without that final grisly scene. Or, is that final scene inevitable? Take a look at the lists and studies about Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin’s decreased rankings on the various job, economic growth and population indexes that are available in a variety of online media archives and draw your own conclusions.
Am I advocating the installment of an expensive, modern transportation system in southeastern Wisconsin? Not necessarily, but I am advocating telling a story; a story about how we are assessing our economic and social situation and what we decide to do about what we are discovering.
I was recently listening to a story being told by another local business owner, one who plies a trade related to mine, bragging about how prosperous they are in this time of distressed commerce because all of their clients exist outside of southeastern Wisconsin. That, my cinematic fans, could also be the basis for a movie; a horror movie. A movie I do not want to see because it would scare the hell out of me.
Mark Irving is a producer-director at i level media, inc., a Milwaukee-based television and interactive production company. For more information on "Gridlock: Public Transit in SE Wisconsin," visit http://www.gridlockdocumentary.com.