La Crosse dedicates new transit center

From an article by in The Business Journal:

The city of La Crosse this week dedicated its new Grand River Station, a seven-story facility in the downtown district designed as a “one-stop transportation hub.”

The new transit center can hold six buses and includes 12,000 square feet of retail space and 92 apartments. The center is said to be the only type of its kind in Wisconsin that combines housing, retail and transit developments under one roof, officials said.

“It’s a terrific example of what community transit leadership can accomplish by involving local, state, federal agencies and private developers,” said Gary Goyke, legislative representative for the Wisconsin Urban and Rural Transit Association.

Gwen Moore: Hold up KRM until bus needs addressed

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Congresswoman tried but failed to block funds until transit system was secure

A proposed Milwaukee-to-Kenosha commuter train line has a new nemesis: U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.

Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, recently unsuccessfully sought to freeze federal action on the KRM Commuter Link, a $283.5 million rail line that would connect downtown Milwaukee to Kenosha, Racine and the southern suburbs with 15 round trips daily.

Like Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, Moore says she’s not opposed to commuter rail but believes funding for Milwaukee County’s embattled bus system must come first.

“A new commuter line between Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee will undoubtedly offer new benefits to our communities,” Moore said in a written statement. “But I think it’s important for (the Milwaukee County Transit System) to have a dedicated source of a funding because any new expenditures could come at the cost of current bus service. That’s unacceptable.”

Moore’s action adds yet another layer of political complications for the KRM. The rail plan has drawn broad support from business, labor and community groups, but it has split transit advocates and is opposed by fiscal conservatives who don’t want any new taxes. KRM foes have pushed anti-tax referendums onto the Nov. 2 ballot in Racine County and several Kenosha County communities.

Beset by rising costs, falling ridership and state and federal aid cuts, the Milwaukee County Transit System is facing a $10 million shortfall next year. County Executive Scott Walker has said he won’t eliminate any bus routes, but he has not said whether he would seek fare increases or service cuts. Supervisors want a local sales tax to replace property tax support for the bus system, an idea that voters backed in a 2008 advisory referendum but that Walker opposes.

Transit supporters had hoped for a package deal that would have empowered a regional transit authority to fund both the KRM and the bus systems in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. But when the Legislature voted instead for a compromise that would have set up a separate Milwaukee County transit authority with sales tax power, Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it, leaving the new Southeastern Regional Transit Authority in control of only the KRM.

Federal Transit Administration officials have indicated they could approve preliminary engineering for the rail line but would not authorize funding for construction until the bus system is stabilized financially. Planners are counting on federal money to cover two-thirds of KRM construction costs, with one-sixth from the state and the rest from an $18-a-car rental car tax.

Chicago suburbanites now favor more transit spending, poll shows

From an article by Jon Hilkevitch in the Chicago Tribune:

Reflecting the increasing strain of gridlocked traffic, a majority of Chicago-area residents think improving bus and train service is so important to the region that repairing and expanding expressways and toll roads should take a back seat, a Tribune/WGN poll shows.

Most suburbanites support investing more in mass transit than roads, sharing the long-held stance of a large majority of city residents, the poll found. Suburban residents also said they are driving less and taking more advantage of expanded suburban train and bus service in communities where the automobile has been king.

Drivers who said they would back spending more on mass transit cited the growing stress associated with congestion; high gasoline prices; and, to a lesser degree, the environmental and financial benefits of riding transit instead of inhaling belching emissions from cars.

Jim Ceithaml, a semiretired teacher from Elgin, said he has given up driving.

“I wish the mass-transit system were expanded a lot,” he said, particularly suburb-to-suburb service that has been promised for years. . . .

Fifty-two percent of suburbanites said they agree with investing more of limited government resources in public transit, versus 32 percent who chose improvements to highways and toll roads. In a 1999 Tribune poll, 34 percent of suburban residents said more money should be spent on mass transit than on roads.