As we just said, trains have a door into the psyche for many of us and create an emotional pull. Forbes blogger Kai Petainen acknowledges this in his blog post when he tells the story of his father taking him to watch the trains at the Soo.
I was fascinated by trains. Soo, Ontario had the wonderful Agawa Canyon Tour Train, and I loved watching it go by. When I was older, I was able to take a national trip and visit some of the famous train hotels — the Fairmont Hotels. Now, I still watch the trains and that childhood train fascination is still in me.
But Petainen, who is a stock picker, mentions that he is also aware of the behavioral aspects of investing. And then he segues into a meditation about his hometown of Ann Arbor.
“Ann Arbor has found itself in somewhat of a controversy, as there are discussions to cut police and fire department personnel, and yet decisions are being made to build a $100 million “transit center”/train station/parking lot. Cut public safety, build a parking lot. Cut the fire department and build a train station. Cut the police department and build a transit center. Opponents of the “transit center” argue that it isn’t much more than a glorified parking lot for hospital employees. Others point out that a new transit center will bring more people into Ann Arbor from Detroit and Chicago, and it will function as a bike/bus/train station. Although Ann Arbor already has a train station (the busiest station in Michigan), and a recent Ann Arbor news article confirms, “Stations are already built in Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor”; they still want to build a new station a few blocks to the east of the existing station. With the new intermodal station, officials hope to encourage more people to visit this top 10 city. The situation is pitting the folks who believe ‘It’s an expensive parking lot for employees, located next to a river, replacing parkland’ against those who believe ‘It’s an intermodal station and it will bring people to Ann Arbor and Detroit’. “
Petainen’s post is well worth reading in its entirety (it also discusses a couple of pollution problems), but the quoted text makes an important point, that we are making an enormous investment (at the municipal scale) in this dream of trains at a time that our city is under many financial strains.
As his post also highlights, it is not just the possibility of reconfiguring AATA to accommodate the trains, but the continuing Ann Arbor City investment in the Fuller Road Station that is based on the belief that somehow, our dream (train) will come. Talk about behavioral investment – this is a prime example of spending money from an emotional motivation.
The Fuller Road Station Phase I is proposed at $43 million, according to a recent story on AnnArbor.com. But whether it is just a parking garage for UM employees or really the first step in developing a crucial node for both the commuter rail and intracity high-capacity transit system as outlined in the Transit Master Plan depends in large part on whether it is really possible to bring in that rail service. As Ann Arbor’s Mayor, John Hieftje, is quoted by AnnArbor.com,
“It is the most exciting time for rail in Michigan in 100 years,” Hieftje said. “This is a very exciting time and actually things are moving forward.”
But is this real? We need to know before we make big investments as a city. The Council is slated to have a work session to review plans for the Fuller Road Station on July 11. It is important for the Council to know whether the dream of trains is a realizable vision – or just a delusion.
UPDATE: The July 11 work session will not touch on the Fuller Road Station. That understanding was evidently spread by a guess in a brief article by the Ann Arbor Chronicle.