choo!" The step means the train's promoters can now apply for federal funds. A $500,000 grant is already budgeted-but when it comes to trains, that's small change: it's estimated that WALLY will require $32 million in capital expenditures up front and then $7 million a year to operate. Since fares are projected to bring in only about $2 million a year, AATA may put a new countywide transit millage before voters as early as next August. In the meantime, it's helping to fund a study for a connector system from a future WALLY station that might include a streetcar, and subsidizing some commuter bus routes to other parts of the county. Still unresolved: how to shield AATA from liability if the northbound train never materializes-because it if doesn't, those federal grants will have to be repaid.
[Originally published in December, 2008.]