Saturday, August 20, 2016

Milwaukee regional segregation worsened with another bus line cut

[Updated] Just days after I wrote a two-part blog series Monday and Tuesday last week - - one link will get you to both posts  - - that detailed segregationist and exclusionary state and regional policy histories that land-locked Milwaukee's minority residents and isolated them from job opportunities beyond the city's borders - - including documented light rail barriers and targeted bus line cancellations that barred or severed links between Milwaukee working people and jobs - - another such bus line cancellation was announced Friday that will force city workers to walk - - with winter approaching - - for up to an hour - -  from the last bus stop to work and back so they can continue to bring home a paycheck.

What kind of Wisconsin and America is this, in 2016? 

It's hard to believe - - and especially infuriating - - because the bus line getting axed connecting central city Milwaukee bus riders with jobs in Menomonee Falls was established by a well-intentioned but last-minute court order that addressed state transportation spending discrimination by thoughtless, urban-disregarding bureaucrats in Madison - - discriminatory spending and 'planning' which began before the bus line was cobbled together as a last-ditch road-building project add-on.

Yes, the actual cancellation decision was made by two Milwaukee grassroots organizations who were given some bus-line planning power in the court-ordered settlement, but these organizations are not transportation planning agencies and should not have had to bear the weight of making remedial decisions to try and deal with decades of discrimination originating elsewhere.

The organizations stepped in to address systemic failure when the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation approved the spending of $1.7 billion on Zoo Interchange reconstruction without adding any transit component, thus allocating that entire gigantic sum to serve motorists in the region - - often upper-income and predominantly white suburbanites in Waukesha County - - without earmarking a penny for the thousands of lower-income residents and workers principally in minority-majority Milwaukee who are without access to cars.

WisDOT has had this planning insensitivity pointed out to it over the years, cares not and only moved a bit towards including some transit in the project when faced with successful civil rights litigation.

Also to blame: the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the suburban-and-exurban-dominated publicly-funded agency SEWRPC which wrote the regional freeway system reconstruction plan under a $1 million WisDOT contract included equivalent.

The bigger failure is the state government's unwillingness to fully fund transit in Wisconsin, and certainly across the Milwaukee region where transit-dependent populations are the largest stateside, as a right, as a basic public service that is as fundamental as are motorists' rights to travel on roads and bridges.

People who do not drive by choice, or because of illness or disability and who pay state and local taxes make a contribution to roads and bridges, as should motorists and all others - - just as we all pay for schools we don't attend or social services we don't access or specialized business assistance programs which are outside of our professions or roads and bridges beyond our neighborhoods which we may never use, but which we support because they are part of a system which needs to be complete to buttress and extend the society.

A transportation plan that is intentionally light on transit and which intentionally disconnects bus riders regionally from jobs or unfettered movement is a plan that is discriminatory, backward, disgraceful and in need of a full-fledged teardown and replacement with economic justice as its foundation.

And remember that the last-minute dollars grudgingly-added by WisDOT to the Zoo Interchange amounted to $13.1 million, after $1.7 billion was approved for the roads and bridges project.

Of course that level of last-minute bus funding would be insufficient!

This latest bus line cancellation is a policy and public relations disgrace and needs to be corrected by the state picking up the entire cost now, and then integrating it and other Milwaukee-and-worker-friendly transit services into fully-paid state programs with the regularity and thoroughness with which new roads are constructed.

Looking back - - Much of this all began when the State Legislature froze Milwaukee's borders in 1955, boosting suburbanization just as white flight took hold after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Followed by the construction of I-43 from downtown to the north suburbs and straight through the African-American neighbors - - including Bronzeville, a vibrant entertainment and cultural district - - which literally split traditional neighborhoods, relocated homes and businesses and turned residential strongholds into a high-speed commuting corridor now scheduled for yet another WisDOT planned, SEWRPC-recommended, taxpayer-paid widening.

Stop the inequities now.


Anonymous said...

The state/suburbs plan is for anything Milwaukee tries to fail. Does anyone doubt that the move to kill any integration programs are tied to the desire to restrict the success of minority students? Chapter 220 bussing came about in large measure because it was a way for the powers that be to dodge the open housing and redlining issues. So now they want to kill even that and stuff more of the money into the pockets of the pals of Walker. Additionally, the reactions to the eruption in the Sherman Park neighborhood needs to be understood in the close proximity to very predominantly white Wauwatosa. If this had been happening 20 blocks east I highly doubt whether the governor would have had the Guard on standby. The only time the powers that be cared in the past was when Groppi was coming over the bridge. Prior to that it was just dealt with verbally and dismissed as people "causing problems" in their own neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Milwaukee, Montgomery. The system is American. Read in the above article: "'Here's what most people don't know. After the [Montgomery Bus Boycott] was delcared officially over, and black people were sitting on the buses, there was unbelievable violence...For a time after the boycott, the city shut down bus service altogether. And then, to make way for the I-85 highway, the local authorities, led by a state transportation commissioner who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan, bulldozed the city's major middle-class black neighborhood.'"