Thursday, November 2, 2017

Another day, another report verifies region's dying transit

There's always money enough to write studies about the transit-deprived Milwaukee region
Milwaukee County Transit System logo.svg
but never enough money or political will to solve the problem.

That why you will find the same old song in the same old hymnal just updated by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, (SEWRPC), as VISION2050.

The report's funding section lays it out:

Currently, the gap between funding and costs—identified in the funding comparison below—solely affects the public transit element. Because of this gap, the transit system recommended under VISION 2050 will not occur without additional funding...
Unless the Region is able to identify a new source of funding for transit, there will be less transit service in 2050 than is currently provided in the Region. The Region’s existing transit service has already declined about 25 percent from the amount provided in the year 2000.
Sound familiar? 

SEWRPC had the same vision and said the same thing in 2014 about transit funding shortfalls when it updated its then-current, 2035 plan: 
The principal effect on the transit element is a lack of the transit improvement and expansion identified under the vision plan, and as well reductions in current transit service and an increase in transit fares above inflation.
Like I said - - new SEWRPC vision report, same old vision.

After all, SEWRPC had written about the Milwaukee area's slow, insufficient, inconvenient and at times, non-existent bus services in 2006 (page 11).

And the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had tracked a drop of 100,000 hours of transit services in the Milwaukee-Waukesha corridor between 1981 and 1993, concluding in a 1996 study:
Without improvements, the effectiveness of the exiting transit system diminishes, thus impairing the mobility of transit dependent patrons and discouraging potential riders."
That study, by the way, led to recommendations for a light rail corridor to supplement I-94 East and West between Milwaukee and the Waukesha County line - - a proposal killed by GOP-led, talk radio fueled opposition, laid out here.

What was not curtailed? The predicted drop in transit services in and near Milwaukee, because that was part of the GOP game plan Scott Walker & Co. brought into government when he took over in 2011.

Look at the lede in this July, 2011 Journal Sentinel budget story which begins to get us to motive:
Less bus service. Higher fares. No more regional transit authorities. No more planning for new commuter rail lines. And dim prospects for new public transit funding.
This transit deficits are not an accident, as I wrote recently about Walker, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and their diversion of $252 million in already-squeezed state transportation dollars to expand and upgrade I-94 near the Foxconn site which the same Walker and Vos have made sure is not served by transit:
...right-wing GOP WI Governor Scott Walker's foolish blockade of an Amtrak extension from SE Wisconsin to Madison and the rest of Midwestern inter-city rail expansion removed development-based rail connections which would have fed potential employment for high-tech Foxconn should it build a mega-factory in Racine County:
Right-wing GOP WI Governor and shallow ideologue Scott Walker for the narrowest of partisan and self-serving political motives wiped out the federally-funded Hiawatha Amtrak connection between Madison and Milwaukee and south through Racine County to Chicago.
I also wrote [earlier] that right-wing and fellow Walkerite transit foe GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was using the possible Foxconn project's trucking needs to press Walker to fund a faster completion of I-94 re-construction and expansion through Racine County which is Vos' home base and the heavily-rumored site for the Foxconn factory.
And the $13.5 million in transit service added to the billion-dollar plus Zoo Interchange project at the Waukesha County-Milwaukee Count line only happened because advocates sued the state and the feds for discriminatory funding and a judge had to order the transit service upgrades.

There is so much endemic, official hostility to transit in Wisconsin by Republicans and anti-urban constituencies - - a contributor to the legacy of housing and economic discrimination that robs the entire region of growth and vitality - - that Assembly Speaker Vos was comfortable trying to use the state budget law to bar any transportation fund dollars from reaching transit systems, thus making the transit funding crisis even worse. 
Robin Vos, the GOP WI Assembly Speaker, thinks transit funding should be removed from the transportation fund:
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has pushed for public transit to be funded through the state’s general budget instead of the DOT, saying he considers transit a social program. Gov. Scott Walker proposed such a move in his last budget and Vos said it had the support of Assembly Republicans, but it failed to make it through the state Senate.
This is part of the GOP plan to define "transportation" as roads and highways - - facilitated with the just-approved state constitution highway lobby dream amendment to dedicate gasoline tax revenue to their version of transportation. 
And SEWRPC is no stranger to transit deficits, as I wrote in 2012:
I had noted a few days ago the long record of transit disconnections by Waukesha County to Milwaukee...How bad are these disconnections?
Even the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, in a Pewaukee office park in Waukesha County 18 miles west of downtown Milwaukee's City Hall ,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. 
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. 
Which is exactly what you would expect in a GOP-run state unfriendly to urban, green and other progressive goals. 

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