Sunday, January 24, 2016

Baden-Wurttemberg, Elections, and Stuttgart-21

In mid-March of this year.....a state election will occur in Baden-Wurrtemberg, and it'll revolve around immigration, negative politics, 2011's election and Stuttgart-21.

Most Americans have never heard about Stuttgart-21 and it's one of those epic moments in history where reality got lost in a haze of chaos....only to find all wooden bridges burnt, and a public in disarray.

One could probably write a thousand pages over Stuttgart-21 but I'll try to limit this epic moment to a hundred lines.

In the mid-1800s.....when train travel was being discussed, planned, and implemented....there were two styles of a railway station.  The first one was the one that you pulled into, stopped, passengers shuffled on and off, and then the train proceeded forward, out of the station and continued on out of the city.  The second one was a end-point station.  You'd pull in....back a engine up to the rear, and when passengers were loaded....you'd pull out and go the reverse route to leave the city.

By 1900, this issue had been analyzed a thousand times over by German rail enthusiasts.  Future plans for railway stations went toward the pull-in/pull-out scheme.  A good example of that is Berlin or Mainz.  As for a good example of the pull-in/back-out scheme is Wiesbaden or Frankfurt.

Why does it matter?  The pull-in/pull-out concept lessens the time that the train is standing there and lessens the necessity of backing a engine up to remove the train.

In Stuttgart's case....they had the older style station (pull-in/back-out).  Stuttgart also had this issue of steady growth from 1900 to the 1990s.  I admit....since the 1960s....they've lost almost 50,000 residents in the population swing.....with a large segment moving to nearby communities and outside of the urban environment of Stuttgart.

So, by the 1960s.....the city and it's planners came to realize that they had a logistics hub issue.  They needed to modernize and redevelop the movement strategy of the city.  Most people will say that there's been various plans that came....got discussed....then political figures would talk and talk...with nothing much occurring.

By the 1980s....things were falling into place, and the possibility of modernization was shifting.  There's three key elements to this plan.

First, the plan has grown to the point of being massive.  The original estimate of 3.1 billion Euro has come and gone.  The number currently is around 6 billion Euro, and you can expect the amount to double within the next two years.  The main station itself will be replaced entirely, with roughly fifty kilometers of new tunneling to be built around the city itself.  The time period required?  If everything ran perfect....it'd be 2022 before every single piece was concluded and fully operational.  Most people laugh over the original planned date and suggest another three years be added.

Second, almost every single neighborhood in Stuttgart is affected, both in a positive and negative way.  Various areas will be torn up and dug out....meaning traffic flow through a neighborhood might be affected for a year or two.  Pubs, business operations, and restaurants?  All affected and most admit they will lose a fair amount of business.

Third, amid all the planning efforts....various syndicate investment groups found the ways to influence the planners and political figures....getting new rail lines to cross through neighborhoods.  So they bought property, and sat on the investment.....knowing a new apartment building adjacent to a new station....would be worth hundreds of millions.  Speculation on matters like this have been going on for a thousand years.  It's not new.

Open discussion?  That was actually accomplished by the city, which had the full support of the CDU and SPD political parties.  Everyone connected to established politics believed that it'd be positive for the city and set into some dynamic way....a path for the next one-hundred years.

In 2007, as the plan was about to proceed.....the Green Party along with various political agenda groups.....mounted an offensive against the rail way project.  Disruption of lives....the tearing down of the old and historic railway station, the dismantling of green areas (city parks) as part of the process, and the greed of the syndicate investment groups getting into the planning process all played a role of the opposition.

They wanted the city to have a vote on the project.  The issue though....if you think about this....funding for the project comes from the DB (German railway folks), the state itself (one-third of the total costs), and the German federal government (slightly less than what the state is putting in).  The opposition wanted only city residents to vote.  If you examine the project....it benefits outlying communities outside of the city....those people who moved intentionally out but still work in Stuttgart itself.  Numbers vary but some estimate that one of every three customers on the city line are from outside of the city limits itself.  These customer would have no say in the vote.  The opposition view was that the city was the one affected by the disruption and it'd be the city to have a say.

All of this talk got to be political in nature.  So when the 2011 election came....you can imagine the shock.

The CDU got 39-percent of the vote in the city election....losing five-percent over the previous election. The SPD lost two percent over the previous election....getting only 23-percent of the vote.  The Greens?  They shocked a lot of people....rising 12-percent and getting 24-percent of the city vote.  The coalition effort?  The CDU could not arrange a coalition....so the Greens and SPD teamed up and currently run the city government of Stuttgart.....all because of Stuttgart-21.

Several months would pass after this election, and a city-wide vote was put together on a push to stop the project.  Oddly....59-percent of the city voted to keep the current program and project intact.  41-percent....roughly slightly less than the combined percentage for the Green and SPD coalition....lost the stop-effort.

Since then?  Nothing. All of the political chatter and negative talk over Stuttgart-21 have ended.  Five years have passed since the election.

Some media organizations are still projecting a serious vote for the Green Party in the March election and the 2011 trend to remain in place.  The immigration and asylum issue?  It gets discussed on a routine basis in local newspapers and the regional state-run network.  AfD is figured to take a minimum of 10-percent of the votes.....mostly away from the CDU.

Even if the CDU goes through some recovery phase, and some Green Party voters from 2011 awaken from a daze and vote in some different way.....you end up with a CDU party possibly getting enough majority votes to win the election but no way to form a coalition to the fifty-percent point rule....UNLESS they partner up with the FDP and AfD Political party (something that people laugh about).

All of this epic political opera stuff....over a pull-in/pull-out strategy for the Stuttgart railway?  Yeah. That's the amazing part of this story.

The main tower of the old Hauptbahnhof (the railway station) will be staying around and will make itself as a symbol and historical facility.  The side structures, and the seventeen tracks (with platforms) will disappear, as a new underground facility will become reality with escalators taking you to the new platform, and trains will whisk quickly in and out.

If you were standing there in the 1920s and looking at the cumbersome method where people arrived and you had to walk a distance to catch a trolley car or bus....it wasn't that well-planned.  In a dozen years....in a matter of minutes you could exit a high-speed local railway car to some city subway system, and reach your destination in a matter of minutes in a city of 207 square kilometers.

This election in 2016 is really about what happened in 2011....the reality of the stop-Stuttgart-21 vote....and immigration......all bundled into one complex story.  

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