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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Death Of Transit?

by capper

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that the number of riders taking Milwaukee County Transit buses has dropped by 4.1 million riders from 2006 to 2007. That is 4,100,000 less riders, in just one year. The paper goes on to report that the number of passengers last year was the lowest number since the County took over the transit system in 1975.

This decline is happening while almost every other major city is seeing the highest number of riders in two generations. Oil prices are regularly breaking record highs and analysts are predicting that gasoline could reach $4 a gallon this year. That combined with the other growing costs of operating a car, traffic congestion, and parking headaches, adds up to the logical conclusion in higher amounts of people riding public transit.

The article goes on to report that the increased costs of bus fares, as well as severe cuts in routes and schedules for the routes remaining are major factors into the reduction in riders in the Milwaukee area. We all know who is responsible for those decisions.

But what is interesting is the response around the blogosphere regarding this news. Gretchen Schuldt and Ken Mobile both point out the article and ask if anyone is really surprised. Bill Christoffersen sees this being the death knell for public transit, if something drastic isn't done soon.

However, those on the right are circling the buses and are in full mode to protect their boy, Walker. The defenses they are offering to try to warp the reality of the situation would be funny if they weren't so pathetic.

Over at Badger Blogger, they are saying that it isn't Walker's fault, but that all 4.1 million passengers stopped riding because of urban sprawl and crime. I reckon that in their skewed view of the world no other major city in the country has a problem with crime or urban sprawl. What they also don't mention is the fact that without sufficient access to public transit, people will be forced to drive, even when they can't or aren't allowed to drive legally. That not only drives up the cost of our insurance rates, but can have much more deadly consequences.

And Owen at Boots & Sabers, is taking the predictable approach of "it's my tax money, dammit."
He writes:

If only everyone would ride busses (sic), they say, then there’d be less congestion on the roads, less pollution, and the people of the community would be forced to mix and understand each other. Of course, that comes at the expense of less choice, less liberty, and higher taxes.

What Owen doesn't appreciate is that by cutting all of these bus routes and schedules, it limits the choices and the liberties for those that are dependent on them. He also seems to fail to understand that all of the roads that he and his kind advocate for doesn't come for free, but are paid for by our tax dollars, and at much higher levels than public transit is taking.

Not only that, but as mentioned before there are higher costs, such as insurance rates, with all of the unlicensed drivers taking to the streets again. And while I am not an economist, it would seem to me that if more people had access to transportation, more people would be able to get to where the jobs are, make more money, and help defray the costs of taxes among more people.

But I guess to some people on the right side of the sphere, their rights are more important than other people who might not be of the right socioeconomic class. And they support Walker because he promises to maintain the status quo of steady decline in the quality of life for the majority of people in Milwaukee County.

I have even seen arguments that people need to vote against Senator Taylor because she wants to take Milwaukee's fair share of tax revenues back from the state. As the MSJ article shows this is a lame argument, as that Walker wants to do the same thing:

But because state aid provides more transit funding than the Milwaukee
County levy, Walker said the focus should be on earmarking more state dollars
for transit.

Their argument against Taylor and their vehement opposition to raising taxes is also refuted by the article which reports that on a national level, 70% of ballots seeking to raise taxes to improve transit systems were approved by the voting public.

My biggest fear is that Xoff may be right. Walker may get re-elected, and that would mean the demise of public transit. Has anyone ever heard of a major city that has survived without some sort of public transit? I know I haven't. Even smaller cities like Stevens Point and Wausau need public transit systems.

Please vote for Taylor. There is a lot more riding on this election than just a buck two eighty in taxes.

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