Monday, June 25, 2012

Even SEWRPC Says Waukesha Transit Disconnects Restrict Milwaukee Hires

I had noted a few days ago the long record of transit disconnections by Waukesha County to Milwaukee - - a timely report because Milwaukee was planning for a water diversion negotiation with the City of Waukesha, and transit availability for Milwaukee low-income residents looking for housing and job opportunities outside Milwaukee is a key criteria that Milwaukee wants water buying communities to meet.

How bad are these disconnections?

Even the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, isolated in a Pewaukee office park in western Waukesha County has said scarce, now disappearing transit connections for Milwaukee residents make it hard for the agency to meet its workplace diversity goals.

SEWRPC affirmative action reports, such as the 2006-2007 installment, noted transportation-related hiring hassles facing its own agency workers outside Waukesha County, but couched the problems in tentative bureaucrat-speak..."may be...could be a disincentive to potential job applicants, and even threw in this post-recession hoot: "Moving to Waukesha County in order to take a technical or clerical job at the Commission is an option which may be available to some."

A second factor regarding the difficulty of hiring nonwhites may be lack of public transportation. The time and expense of commuting to the Waukesha area could be a disincentive to potential job applicants from Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties—particularly in view of the pay levels attendant to most of the Commission technical and clerical positions. The Commission worked with Waukesha County in 2005 to reinstate transit services between Milwaukee and Waukesha County to help fill this gap. Moving to Waukesha County in order to take a technical or clerical job at the Commission is an option which may be available to some.
But now the problem is deeper: In its 2011-2012 Affirmative action report - - click on the pdf at the bottom of this SEWRPC page - - SEWRPC says:
Transit services have -- at least temporarily -- been terminated by Waukesha County to the Commission’s primary work place in the Waukesha area. Today 33 percent of Commission employees commute from Milwaukee County residences.
So here's a suggestion.

SEWRPC should step out of its role as subject, and observer, and say at its re-certification hearing Tuesday evening at State Fair Park's Thompson Center that from its own workforce experience, transit connections are getting worse in the region.

It should get up and say what is common knowledge in the SEWRPC seven-county region:

*  Transit is a dwindling priority in the region, though spending on new highways as recommended by SEWRPC is booming.

*  SEWRPC and its federal transportation funding partners, despite vocal citizen testimony about harmful transit inequities across the region at the 2004 and 2008 quadrennial federal reviews, are not advocating effectively for lower-income Milwaukee County residents looking for good jobs and fair housing in SEWRPC's region.

The current SEWRPC affirmative action report continues to say that the agency's transit plans recommend better regional transit, but transit plans have been ignored in SEWRPC's own Waukesha County backyard, by the admission of the current Waukesha County comprehensive plan to which Waukesha water planners steered Milwaukee for a report on regional transit.
•    A lack of a dedicated regional institutional structure for a high level inter-county transit system. The County and Region has a mass transit plan in place, but there is a lack of a comprehensive regional mass transit institutional structure and a dedicated source to fund it. 
*  Transit has been outright attacked in the region, led by State Rep. Robin Vos a legislator from Racine County, a SEWRPC County.

Wisconsin legislators, with the full support of the Waukesha County delegations, used the 2011-2013 state budget to wipe out cooperative, cross-jurisdictional Regional Transit Authorities, which affirmed the anti-transit, anti-Milwaukee position taken by Waukesha's County Board when it refused to join such a body that could have more closely aligned services with Milwaukee.

As the Freeman, Waukesha's largest newspaper had already argued:
First of all, while we are fine with regional partnerships and cooperation, we remain firmly against Waukesha County being part of a regional transit authority.

It doesn’t make sense and is not in the interest of Waukesha County residents to establish a regional transit authority that has the power to raise your taxes and will have aims that mostly benefit Milwaukee.

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