Another step backward on jobs and energy independence

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Pay attention to this number.


That was the price of regular unleaded gasoline at a station on Milwaukee’s south side on Tuesday. It’s a number that’s likely to rise. It’s also a number that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature are so far ignoring as they put together a budget that does much for roads and highway funding but threatens to gut public transit systems across the state.

On Tuesday, the Legislature’s budget committee took another step backward on transit when it voted to repeal authority for four regional transit authorities created in 2009. One of those would have been responsible for a commuter rail line connecting Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

Keep in mind that Walker’s budget also cuts aid to transit by 10%, moves transit aid from the state transportation fund to the general revenue budget and bars municipalities from raising taxes to make up for the loss in aid. By repealing the RTAs, the budget also removes another tool – a cooperative one – that local communities could have used to help them deal with the loss of funding.

The committee also voted to eliminate a $100 million bonding program for capital transit projects in southeastern Wisconsin and to eliminate all state funding – $5 million over two years – for bike and pedestrian paths.

Why does this matter? Several reasons, but let’s talk about just two.

First, there are people without cars who rely on transit to get them to jobs, appointments, shopping and friends. Some can’t afford a vehicle; others prefer not to have one. Having a car should not be a requirement for living in urban areas such as Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and Waukesha. Giving people options that include transit as well as good roads make those areas more attractive for economic development.

Second, as gas prices continue to rise, many commuters are looking for alternatives to driving to their jobs. In a recent informal and unscientific poll by the Editorial Board, a slight majority of respondents said that a $4-per-gallon price for gasoline would be enough to make them change their driving habits.

Budget panel votes to repeal transit authorities; KRM line likely in trouble

From an article by Patrick Marley and Don Walker in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It also eliminates state funding for bike paths

Madison — The Legislature’s budget committee voted Tuesday to repeal the state’s regional transit authorities, including one responsible for a proposed commuter rail line from Milwaukee to Kenosha.

The Legislature gave four areas the ability to create RTAs in 2009, when Democrats were in charge. Republicans now run the Legislature, and on a 12-4 party-line vote the Joint Finance Committee voted to reverse course and eliminate the RTAs. The measure will go to the Legislature as part of the state budget once the committee finishes its work in the coming months.

After the 2009 law passed, local officials created the Southeastern RTA and the Dane County RTA, but the Chippewa Valley RTA and Chequamegon Bay RTA have not been formed.

The Southeastern RTA, or SERTA, is responsible for the proposed KRM Commuter Link rail line. It has the authority to impose an $18 per vehicle fee on rental cars but has not done so.

SERTA had $1.27 million in its coffers as of August. If it were disbanded, the money would be split equally by Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties unless the counties agree otherwise.

The committee also voted to go along with Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate a $100 million bonding program for capital transit projects in southeastern Wisconsin and to eliminate all state funding – $5 million over two years – for bike and pedestrian paths.

State Legislature should not cut mass transit

From a commentary on by Tom Rave, Executive director, The Gateway To Milwaukee:

Dear Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee Members:

An aerotropolis is a newer urban development that typically attracts industries that are located around the airport and along transportation corridors, such as:
Time-sensitive manufacturing, e-commerce fulfillment, telecommunications and logistics.
Hotels, retail outlets, entertainment complexes and exhibition centers.
Offices for business people who travel frequently: by air or engage in global commerce.

An aerotropolis provides efficient accessibilities for people, and has an integrated infrastructure plan.

In Milwaukee’s case, an aerotropolis will prov1ide an efficient multimodal- air, boats, trains and motor vehicles – transportation hub centered around General Mitchell International Airport and The Port of Milwaukee that will efficiently serve southeastern Wisconsin plus extended territories in northern Illinois, central and eastern Wisconsin.

Earlier this week, a number of people involved with Milwaukee Gateway Aerotropolis Corporation, which is led by The Gateway To Milwaukee, attended the Airport Cities World Conference in Memphis, Tenn. Over 630 people from 40 countries across six continents attended this conference. It was easy to see that this is all about economic competition among metropolises and ultimately about having good jobs for an area to be economically successful.

Virtually every presentation of aerotropolis efforts around the world and in the U.S. included the important necessity of having a mass transit system to efficiently move people for a variety of reasons and especially for work. Without such a system, an aerotropolis would be much less effective and more challenged to attract businesses to locate there. It is the way people will live in the future as urban areas continue to grow.

Milwaukee County transit faces steep cut in Walker's budget

From an article by Steve Schultze in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 10% cut in transit funding could mean dramatic service cuts or bus fare increases in Milwaukee and elsewhere, Milwaukee County supervisors were told Wednesday.

The cut to the Milwaukee County Transit System would be nearly $7 million, under Walker’s state two-year budget plan. It would take an 8% cut in routes or a 30% increase in fares to make up for the reduction, said Kenneth Yunker, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

“It’s a very significant reduction in transit services or increase in fares,” Yunker told the County Board’s Transportation and Public Works Committee.

Milwaukee County’s single adult bus fare is currently $2.25.

Lloyd Grant, managing director of the county transit system, said if the $7 million reduction was absorbed through service cuts, it would mean the loss of 100,000 hours of bus service.

Other bus and transit systems in southeast Wisconsin would face potential service cuts ranging from 6% to 10% or fare increases of up to 60%, according to a study by the planning commission.

Supervisors told Grant to prepare a plan for how the Milwaukee County Transit System would handle the cut, saying that information would be useful in lobbying legislators to slow or reverse the governor’s cuts.

Busting bus systems

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Even if you never use a bus and would never think of getting on a commuter train, the current bleak prospects for mass transit systems in Wisconsin should matter to you.

Transit moves people to jobs, it eases congestion on city streets and freeways and it gives people another transportation option. That’s important, especially now as drivers are faced with rising gasoline prices and roadwork that is shutting down lanes on freeways and major highways.

The Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker need to rethink their approach to transit and make sure that Wisconsin’s systems remain healthy, especially for those who need it for work, school and shopping. Businesses such as Bucyrus International and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. rely on transit. New businesses and young professionals look to modern transit as the sign of a healthy and vibrant community.

What’s in the works moves Wisconsin in the opposite direction and could damage transit systems across the state beyond repair.


• Walker’s budget would slice transit aids in the first year of the biennium and provide no alternative dedicated local funding source to help meet already financially troubled systems.

• The budget shifts transit aids from the segregated and protected transportation fund to the general fund, where transit systems would have to compete with myriad services for scarce dollars. Walker argues that the gasoline tax that largely supplies the transportation fund is a user fee paid for by drivers and should be used only on those roads that drivers use.

But mass transit helps ease pressure on those roads and gives drivers other choices, as Steve Hiniker of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, points out. Buses are a vital form of transportation.

• Because Walker’s budget-repair bill would eliminate most collective bargaining with public employees, federal aid, which is dependent on workers being able to bargain, would be jeopardized for mid-size transit systems such as Appleton’s.

• A separate bill in the Legislature would kill regional transit authorities that were created in recent years to help regions strengthen and support local transit systems. Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), a co-sponsor of the bill, told us the RTAs were put together badly and he’d like to repeal them and start over with an honest policy debate. We’d prefer leaving them in place and making adjustments where needed so that regions can start now to build what they need.

• Walker’s budget bill freezes local tax levy increases, meaning that even if a community wanted to spend more on transit, it couldn’t.