Thursday, March 27, 2008

Other Communities Work Harder Resolving Thorny Transit Issues

Out east, they're struggling with the details of something called "congestion pricing" - - a system of fees laid on motorists who drive into already congested urban areas.

The fees are supposed to help expand transit, and clean up the air, too.

London has instituted it: New York City is experiencing some bumps on the way, but they'll work things out.

Anyone who's been to Manhattan knows how insane the congestion can get, which is why transit there has always been a must, and why improvements are logical and crucial.

Milwaukee isn't anywhere near needing congestion pricing, so all you folks out there - - the proverbial Mike from Germantown who burns up the AM talk radio airwaves demanding that every new fee be annihilated can relax.

What Milwaukee does need, however, are two interrelated things:

Better transit, and a dedicated funding source to pay for it.

A documentary film is in production on the subject: check out the trailer on its website.

Without expanded transit lines, whether buses, trolleys, light rail or the guided-rail tram knows as The Connector, the city will experience more traffic congestion, dirtier air, hamstrung businesses, and inaccessible tourist destinations if alternatives and upgrades are not implemented.

I think funding could be formulated with a combination of dedicated, fractional sales tax increases paired with equivalent property tax reductions, and additional state transportation funds peeled off major highway plans.

With gasoline heading ever higher, transit will become a greater need for more people, while some drivers will be priced out of their cars, if only for a few trips a week, making transit a bigger need for larger numbers of people.

If more people use transit, the roads become less congested for motorists, so everyone wins.

There has been a little movement on the transit issue, with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) taking new leadership on finding a funding strategy that will make the Milwaukee County Transit System sustainable.

There has been widespread support for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train because regional business leaders understand that the region needs better links with Chicago.

A major impediment to transit alternatives has been the reflexive intransigence of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, and that's disappointing, but it will be market forces that will eventually drive Walker to accept transit and funding solutions, lest he preside over the collapse of the system that is under his control.

I don't think he really wants that to happen on his watch, or his resume, because if it did, major media would come into Milwaukee and write Milwaukee County government's political obituary.

New York's difficulties implementing congestion pricing to aid transit there show that city's commitment to solving transit dilemmas.

If New York and New Jersey can work their problems out, you'd think Scott Walker could find some common ground with the City of Milwaukee, the MMAC, and other public and private sector groups and leaders who understand that without better transit, Milwaukee and the surrounding region will stagnate.


Anonymous said...

Instead of a sales tax, why not increase the gasoline tax?

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in New York City I know of what you speak. Any you speak ignorance. The New York City Transit System, except for the Island of Manhattan, stinks. That is why everyone in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx owns cars.

The idea that an area like Milwaukee with its population density could possibly put in a mass transit system that would be actually used (unless you consider driving empty busses around all night use) is absurd.

Why would I choose to stand on a street corner on a 5 degree day in winter while the snow comes down on my head waiting for "mass transit" instead of getting into my warm car, turning up the heater and the tunes, and driving to my destination?

5 million New Yorkers aren't wrong - that is what they do every day.

You should realize also that "time based pricing" doesn't solve the problem What about the poor person who needs to get to work in the middle of the time based pricing uptick? Do they tell their boss "I need a raise because the city just created another unfunded mandate?"

Find a better use for my money that you steal to support your useless notions. The only way this will every work is if you compel my participation.

Postscript: There is a reason why NYC has lost millions of residents and hundreds if not thousands of major businesses. It's called ideas like this imposed by people like you.

James Rowen said...

To Anonymous:

New York City has growing population:

Nearly 40% of the City of Milwaukee's residents do not have access to a car, so they can't hop in their car like you do.

Facts are not your strong suit.