Winning acceptance for Richmond railUpdate: Chronicle story (see comments).
Continuing our story from last week, yours truly was public speaker #31 out of 47 at the standing-room-only Metro board meeting today packed with anti-Richmond-railers (I was the last speaker on the rail topic). That's 30 people ahead of me, each with 3 minutes to speak, in a room that felt like it was 80+ degrees. Do the math. Fun, fun, fun.
Opinions for and against Richmond rail were raised, with most objections from small businesses along Richmond. There are a few objections I did not address during my speaking time that I wanted to cover here:
- To those objecting about blocked crossings creating north-south traffic congestion: the Westpark routing has the same issue, so this is not an argument for Westpark over Richmond.
- The assertion that the majority of Greenway Plaza workers come from the far suburbs rather than inside the Loop: true, but the light rail allows them to take the bus/van/carpool for the commute and still get around during the day for errands, lunch, and business meetings.
- That there are inadequate east-west alternatives for the lanes lost on Richmond: Do 10+ lanes of 59, plus 6 feeder lanes, a couple hundred yards south of Richmond, not count? Also, if Westpark right-of-way doesn't get used for rail, it then becomes an option to expand Westpark Road.
- Appoint a full-time internal Metro advocate with real power that continuously listens to those along the line and quickly resolves problems during construction and with contractors.
- Fund a "Support Richmond Businesses" advertising and signage campaign. I think we saw the heart of our city after Katrina, and we are capable of coming together to support those making a sacrifice for the greater good of the city. If the businesses get the right publicity, citizens will go out of their way to support them. A specific option: maybe Metro could sponsor a daily "Rail construction business of the day" feature in the Chronicle with a half-page profile and advertisement. Another option: temporary signs along the north-south arteries that cross the route promoting the businesses along it. Note to Metro: hire a top-notch PR firm to work out the best program to really drive customer traffic to these businesses.
The bottom line is that Metro is facing a backlash after many businesses suffered and folded along the Main St. line during construction. Metro claims to have learned lessons from that experience, and they need to prove it with this line. If the same problems happen again, the political opposition will get so rancorous that I would venture to say no future lines will get built in this city.