Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Waukesha County Opts Out Of Regional Transit; Milwaukee Should Do The Same With Water

Well, it's official; The Waukesha County Board of Supervisors has decided - - unanimously - - to decline joining a regional transit authority.

This is not the first time that Waukesha County has blocked transit links with Milwaukee: it was the Waukesha County Board that voted down a regional transportation recommendation that included major highway improvements and light rail connections with Milwaukee.

And in late 2007, Waukesha County chose not to continue fundiung a direct bus line connecting the two counties - - Route #9.

Waukesha County prefers to keep job opportunities more accessible to residents there than share them with out-of-county people - - and particularly with Milwaukee, where more than 30% of the residents do not have access to cars.

This is especially true in Milwaukee's central city, which is heavily African-American.

Whether intentional or not, Waukesha County's transit disconnects fall heavily on the largest concentration of minorities in Southeastern Wisconsin, and are fundamentally discriminatory.

This may legally fall into home rule powers. I'm not a lawyer and don't know whether, on its face, the County Board has violated US Civil Rights statutes.

But my attitude is: if Waukesha County will not share transit resources, and will not establish those crucial connections, then Milwaukee should not sell water to the City of Waukesha - - Waukesha County's largest city, with a water service territory set to sprawl to the south and west into the Town of Waukesha, Genesee and elsewhere.

Waukesha County wants to go it alone on transit, and withhold the workforce opportunities that transit brings to the region.

Milwaukee can and should do the same with Lake Michigan water and its city Water Works, and let the City of Waukesha and other water-hungry sprawl centers in Waukesha County continue to tap and clean their deep and shallow aquifers, and rivers, for the water they need.

Waukesha County has taken off the gloves.

Supervisors representing the City of Waukesha were in the exclusionist and isolationist bloc, so the power politics have begun, and Milwaukee can't allow itself to be the patsy.

End of story.


Anonymous said...

Let's face it; The city of Waukesha is a pain in the ass to get to and to navigate once you're there. Now the board wants to opt out of regional transit? Fine. If they're so eager to become a route-66-style ghost town, cutting themselves off from the flow of commerce and traffic, let them.

Look at the suburbs north of Chicago; Million dollar homes where people WANT to live by the train station to commute downtown. Smooth move Waukesha! Keep marching backwards.

Anonymous said...

Waukesha County is much much wealthier than Milwaukee is or ever will be. By opting out, they will maintain that position. If you want a train, Milwaukee should burden its citizens with it and not the rest of the state.

James Rowen said...

To Anon, at 6:11.
Actually, Milwaukee County has greater value, in total, though per capita wealth is lower than in Waukesha County.

Crazy Politico said...

While you like to point out that chicago has million dollar suburbs to the north linked by rail and the RTA, you failed to note the RTA is bankrupt, and being kept afloat by the rest of the state of Illinois.

Waukesha county is smart and should stay the hell out of any RTA.

James Rowen said...

To Crazy Politico: The RTA under discussion here has not been formed. It is not the same RTA in Illinois.

Helen Bushnell said...

Subsidizing any RTA is the same as subsidizing roads. The RTA in Chicago is not any more bankrupt than the roads in Chicago.

Crazy Politico said...

James, while it's not the "same RTA", it will end up the same difference. There isn't a transportation authority in the country that's actually self supporting. They are all designed to make a majority of residents pay for a system to benefit a minority that use it, and like all gov't entities, they end up over paying for services and labor and costing more than they benefit.

Helen, you miss a major point. Roads are subsidized by the gasoline tax in your state, that and tolls in mine.

Users of roads pay that tax when they fuel up. There isn't a direct taxing authority subsidy coming from everyone in the area, as your RTA would be. Your state has had to "subsidize" the transportation fund only because it's been raided like a cookie jar to pay for other political favors over the last decade.

Anonymous said...

This is also about government spending money it does not have. We are all experiencing a recession right now, and many have had to do without. Not in the halls of government! If times are tight and someone wants to give you a new car, and you will be unable to afford the insurance and upkeep, you will not take that car. The Federal gift for this new rail line looks like a great deal, but if we cannot afford the upkeep, it is something we can ill afford to accept. I haven't even touched on other arguments; how they will get to and from stations (inconvenient), inability to flex routes once the lines have been put down, real numbers of ridership, and who is it that really needs to get to the Madison airport?

Steven said...

Crazy Politico,

"There isn't a transportation authority in the country that's actually self supporting."

Actually, there isn't a transportation SYSTEM in the country that's actually self supporting, and that most definitely includes roads. Roads, like all other transport systems, have NEVER been self supporting. The latest study I read estimated that taxes, tolls and fees only cover 51% of the cost of the road system.

None of the local or county streets are paid for with user fees (taxes, tolls, fees). They are paid for out of general funds which of course is a massive subsidy. And the State and Interstate highways that were built in Waukesha County were in all probability subsidized by money from other areas of the state and from the Federal government. I doubt the amount of gas taxes collected in Waukesha County over the years have come close to covering the cost of building them.

Since you seem to be so against subsidies for transportation I'm sure you would be supportive of a law stating that the costs for building, maintaining and repairing all roads in Waukesha County MUST be covered by user fees alone, with NO money from City or County general funds, the State or the Federal Government.

PurpleAvenger said...

could we stop the mythology that roads are just paid for by the gas tax? there are billions and billions of state and federal dollars - and decreasing amounts of them from the gas tax - that subsidize highway construction and maintenance. So non-highway users pay for this as well. maintenance.

Helen Bushnell said...

It is my understanding that the federal gas tax only pays for about half of all highway costs. The rest come from our taxes. In most states, ordinary roads get no funding from either state or federal gas taxes.

In my state (Colorado), a majority of transit costs are paid for by users with the rest coming from a dedicated (local) sales tax. Roads are paid for by the state sales tax, property taxes, lottery money, license fees, housing association fees, etc.

In most states, transit has a single source of funding while roads are funded by every tax available.

James Rowen said...

Add to the discussion of road payments the property tax which is used to pay for many local projects, and the borrowings that fund them.

Helen Bushnell said...

PurpleAvenger, thanks for the link.

Steven, note that user fees pay for 51% of HIGHWAY costs. In many states, none of the costs of local roads are paid for by user fees.

rjabo said...

The liberal hack known as James Rowen should experience a prolonged bout with cryptosporidium-laced Milwaukee water before spewing his vitriol against Waukesha County. You do not possess the capacity to withdraw urges caused by the incessant need to keep spending other people's money. Yet another unaccountable self-serving taxing authority is not the answer to your contrived problem. The problem is you and people like you - you obviously are so gifted and intelligent that you seem to know what is better for me than I do. Keep your grimy hands off my wallet. YOU are actually the racist - more people in Milwaukee would be able to get to their jobs using ANY form of transportation if you were actually concerned about these people and helping them become educated instead of helping to foster a culture of dependency. But then, those very same people might become a threat to your power, now, wouldn't they? You liberal hacks can't handle deal with people who actually can think for themselves, can you?

rjabo said...

What's the matter James? Afraid to post a comment by someone that doesn't buy into your obtuse drivel? So much for your belief in the freedom of speech. This reaction on your part just exposes you for the hack that you really are. Have a nice day.

James Rowen said...

To the last Anonymous - - and why am not I surprised by that? - - commenter.

It takes a few minutes for me to put up comments, even those as ugly as yours. I have only withheld four or five comments over the years because they were totally offensive or libelous.

Anonymous said...


Perhaps you are looking for responses from people to your comments. I'll respond but in kind. I am wondering what is the motivation you seek in your comments? I don't think James or people that read his blog take offense to your comments. They are your opinion. I respect that. That's the point, respect. James may offer his opinion sometimes but remember this is his blog. He used to be a journalist so sometimes his headlines are eye opening and what you call liberal but that's not the point. A journalist always needs an eye popping headline - hint/hint - "Tiger Woods Almost Becomes Father Out of Wedlock." What does that mean? I don't know, but I certainly might want to read the article, not because I am obsessed with Tiger W., but because he was once voted the greatest sports figure from 2000-2009 (because of his accomplishments and supposedly good character traits).

I might not like the article written about Tiger. But I don't mind taking the 5-20 minutes to read articles about him because they are thought-provoking.

Please set aside your differences for James and let's talk about substance. I know you are probably a smart person. With that said, and I don't even know you, I'm sure others will give you more respect when you say thought-provoking things.

rjabo said...

Hey "Anonymous", why are you hiding behind a cloak of anonymity? Are you afraid of something?

Also, I don't quite understand your link between this thread and Tiger Woods - must be because I'm not a liberal or something.

As for James, since he feels qualified to make comments about other people, he should willingly accept those directed at him.

Your double-standard regarding the issue at hand is breathtaking: you speak of staying on point with the issue yet you offer no commentary on the issue (or of my reaction to the issue, for that matter).

So, how about it? What's your stand on the absolutely idiotic proposal to create yet another unaccountable unelected taxing authority in this area? I think the folks in Waukesha got it right - no thanks, er, piss off RTA.

I'm one of those conservatives that manages his own water well and septic system on his own property where no societal do-gooders can impinge on my personal freedom (at least not yet). I'll be happy to supply Waukesha from my well :)

rjabo said...

Hey "Anonymous", why are you hiding behind a cloak of anonymity? Are you afraid of something?

Also, I don't quite understand your link between this thread and Tiger Woods - must be because I'm not a liberal or something.

As for James, since he feels qualified to make comments about other people, he should willingly accept those directed at him.

Your double-standard regarding the issue at hand is breathtaking: you speak of staying on point with the issue yet you offer no commentary on the issue (or of my reaction to the issue, for that matter).

So, how about it? What's your stand on the absolutely idiotic proposal to create yet another unaccountable unelected taxing authority in this area? I think the folks in Waukesha got it right - no thanks, er, piss off RTA.

I'm one of those conservatives that manages his own water well and septic system on his own property where no societal do-gooders can impinge on my personal freedoms (at least not yet, but I'm sure you're trying to figure out a way). I'll be happy to supply Waukesha from my well :)

James Rowen said...

To rjabo:

I don't feel obliged to have much of a debate with someone who began the conversation with "The liberal hack known as James Rowen should experience a prolonged bout with cryptosporidium-laced Milwaukee water before spewing his vitriol against Waukesha County."

It's ugly and filled with projection. Who is "spewing his vitriol?"

And for the record: Milwaukee treats its drinking water to a higher standard than most cities through costly ozonation that kills crypto - - which is one reason Waukesha seeks to purchase it.

And when the crypto outbreak occurred, I got very very sick, but because it happened at the early stage of the outbreak, I didn't make the connection and only can presume that is what I had.

Either way, your wishing that on anyone is reprehensible.

If you read this blog you will know that I am no fan of taxing bodies that are not elected, with SEWRPC as the prime example.

As imperfect as are RTA's - - if they come with opt-outs by entire counties, it means we will have transit that will continue to be ineffective.

People who do not drive still pay for road construction, maintenance, plowing and patrolling through their property and sales taxes, as a portion of those revenues end up in various road budgets.

So I think society in general should support transit the same way, and regional systems make a lot of sense.

One final thing. You do not need to send them more than once. I moderate them, which means I review them. They do not post automatically, and I am not on line 24/7, so be patient.

Steven said...

Helen, that's why I said in my comment that none of the local or county streets are paid for with user fees.

To rjabo, it's great that you use well water and a septic field, but who paid for the road that enables you to get to your home? Or are you claiming that you and your neighbors paid the entire cost of building and maintaining that road?

Anonymous said...

I will engage. There's nothing to hide. I haven't even stated my political persuasion. Why should I? Would it make you feel better if I said I was an independent?

The Tiger Woods thing is simple - everyone has a choice of what to read and how to interpret the meaning of the news story. Tiger Woods or Milwaukee Transit or WI Governor races, no matter what the subject or daily news is about, I have a choice to learn about all of these. In my case, we read stories or watch TV always to educate ourselves on the subject matter, not the person who writes or directs.

But with this blog, you get a little bit of everything. No one is supposed to be right.

And on the subject matter of your well RJABO, you must have had to go through a zoning permitting process for that well and septic system? Why? Why not just do all of that on your own? Why not just live off the grid? Nothing's impossible. Why be part of a society of the collective good?

The RTA isn't going to take away any of your rights. I mean, what right or aspect of your life would they be taking away from? You will always have a choice to drive. If you don't drive hardly at all, isn't that a good thing for the environment and road maintenance crews? But what if you couldn't afford to drive? What if you had to live within your means and couldn't own a car, but wanted to have the same quality of life as another Waukesha resident? And your own mode of transportation was through public transit? Can't I have the choice to take available transit?

The world doesn't revolve around Waukesha. We all have to contribute something to the common good. Politics aside, would you say European or Asian cultures have it all wrong when it comes to public transit and/or high speed trains? Maybe the taxes are too high for some, but many, if not most, people in those countries don't even own cars. I guarantee you if you took away the trains in those cultures, their economic system would collapse.

And if I took away your car, you would what, freak out! Nothing is perfect. Your way of life on your quarter-acre or 1 acre lot or farm-sized plot is no better than living in a city where people have to pay a little more taxes for the common good. But the main difference is you have a car to leave your driveway with a two-car garage that probably is placed in front of your house (meaning, you really don't have a welcoming front door) to drive down to the local tavern to drink swill with your fellow friends, turn on the TV to race car driving and talk shop about fixing your cars. Well, you know what, I think that is great. I will engage with you anytime in that type of situation. But me being the responsible person, I will do the same, and take the bus home where I live (or take a taxi here in this big city) because I know it is irresponsible to drive while drinking.

And what is nearly the highest, if not the most, causes of deaths each year in the U.S.? Let me see, oh yeah, the combination of driving and something else. But the statistics are all wrong. As for the choice of traveling to and from work (with an RTA is the governing body), why are so many municipalities and economic development organizations for it?

Your nice plot of land will not last forever. You know why? Because others will want to live by you rather than fill up the central part of cities with a little more density. And then what, people on the hillside to the north of you will build without ever realizing you are downstream. Your water will become more polluted - thus maybe taking away the bountiful wish that used to live there. And the more roads will only cause more runoff. And the water supply will lower but you will fix it by drilling a deeper well and the person on the hill will drill a deeper well below yours and the water will... Eventually, you'll move farther outside of the County. Or, you'll depend on your local gov't agency to fix this problem with over-housing development through what we call regulation. It sucks living in this world.

rjabo said...

First off, my apologies for the "double-post" yesterday - no intent here other than a technical oversight.

Now back to the issue: First, the Route 9 was discontinued because it was not economically viable to keep running empty buses back and forth.

Besides, how many people do you realistically think would take a bus from the inner city of Milwaukee to somewhere in Waukesha on a daily basis for a job? (Or from Waukesha to Milwaukee, for that matter?) Oh I'm sure there will be a few riders, but certainly not enough to support the routes on their own economic merit. Also, I don't think anyone with half a brain can deny the statement that any government-based estimates of ridership for ANY type of public transportation are patently overestimated and ludicrous. But I suppose that's where an RTA could step in to use more taxpayer money to fund an activity that is not economically viable.

Yes, I know I must be cruel-hearted to think that sometimes one must learn to fend for themselves instead of groveling for a government hand-out.

As for my paying for the roads I use, I have already contributed to - and continue to contribute to - the well-being of the roads I drive on through the existing myriad of fuel taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, utility taxes, sewer fees (before I became enlightened and moved out of Milw Co), so I believe it's safe to say that I at least contribute my fair share.

Liberals are chock full of good intentions, especially when they think they can use other people's money to pay for those good intentions. The trouble is, they don't know how to manage money, so they always seem to need more and more and more money. The road to economic ruin is paved with good intentions.

rjabo said...

Ahh, very good... Anonymous with the strawman arguments. Wonderful!! Sounds like you were on the verge of blowing your gasket during your hollow diatribe. However, it was quite revealing of just the kind of person you are.

First, you continue to hide behind your cloak of anonymity. It is perfectly clear you are of the liberal leftist persuasion and somehow feel offended that someone of my misguided political persuasion would be able to post comments on this blog, as if I was trampling your lovely flower garden or something.

After years and years of increased digging into my pockets by a failing MPS, inept City of Milwaukee and associated Water Works, and unaccountable MATC (at least Milw County tried to do something on behalf of the taxpayer), I deceided to vote with what's left of my wallet, and get out of Milwaukee County.

It appears that your understanding of "working for the collective good" means I need to work to support myself and my family and you get to ride my coattails as a slacker. Wonderful.

Oddly enough, I do not have a palatial estate as you have suggested. I own a farmhouse built in 1908 that I am fixing up (yes, it actually has a nice entryway, and I have a detached garage as well as a 4000 sq.ft. pole barn where I store & work on my vehicles, garden tractors, and snowmobiles). Mine will be the most energy-efficient farmhouse in the area - I have already installed a 92% efficient boiler complete with digital controls, dual-pane windows, and am currently reinsulating the walls and attic with dense-packed cellulose and closed-cell polyurethane foam. My goal is in fact to get off the grid - not because I'm a liberal tree hugger, but because my goal is to reduce my operating costs to the lowest I can possibly achieve. My future plans call for installation of a 20kW wind turbine in my back yard, unless NIMBY people like you intervene. At least I'll be better insulated (get it?) from the liberal hack energy policies of Obama and Doyle & his cronies at the PSC. By the way, I have not pursued any grants or tax credits for these projects as I don't want to labeled a hypocrite by people like you for taking other taxpayers' money for my personal gain.

Speaking of vehicles, one of my racing cars makes 600 horsepower on E85 fuel. How 'bout them apples? Once again, I run E85 because of economic reasons and not because I support the bogus corn lobby. When it comes to ethanol, sugar cane is a far better feedstock, but apparently the sugar lobby doesn't have as much money as the corn huskers.

I love your line starting with "And if I took away your car..." - what other things of mine that I paid for with my own earnings after paying my taxes do you envy and would gain pleasure from taking away? The one thing you will never take away is my ability to think things through instead of making knee-jerk comments on things you don't understand.

You also seem to be of the misguided impression that I am some type of country hick or something. I do not condone drinking and driving as you imply - I have too much at stake in my life to subject myself to that kind of idiocy.

Now go ride your bus and piss off.

Anonymous said...

For RJABO and hiding behind my cloak. The funny thing is, I'm just playing the devil's advocate.

I do ride a train for work and pleasure. I do drive a car for errands sometimes. I like to bike and I like to walk. I have lived in the same setting as you - in your younger life and your current life. I'm speaking about the bigger picture.

Did I ever say you were conservative or hick? Read through my posts again, which I appreciate that you have. I only have brought up situations. I don't mind that you think certain lifestyles equate to a person's political free will. I don't at all. I'm all for living where one wants to - in the sense the environment isn't totally destroyed paying a path to get there. And no one is taking away your car. That's a hypothetical.

In fact, one could say I grew up working on farms and fixing up barns. I'm just bringing up facts of life and giving a shout out to James for the information he shares on his blog.

I'm with you on everything you said. Too bad I couldn't have come out and said I was playing the devil's advocate. And let me be clear, I never said palatial estate. Anyone can own land, a house (small or big) and a barn; that doesn't have anything to do with money. I'm sorry, but again, assuming is not correct. I only said you go out to the local bar and drink and talk about cars as an example so I take it back if it seemed directed at you. But you know I'm right about the type of people that live in the country - I didn't say that was bad. That's just an accurate representation. Trust me, I lived in Waukesha country long enough a time ago to know how to mix with the locals. And usually when I meet people, I don't start the conversation how you did with James.

I will piss off, but thanks to you, my point is proved in how defensive we are of the status quo.