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Monday, March 03, 2008

Taylor vs. Walker: Bus Wars

by capper

This is almost becoming painful to watch. Walker is becoming more desperate as his chickens are coming home to roost. He made some poor decisions, trying to pander to his base. He probably knew that things would blow up, but he was expecting to be living in the Governor's mansion by now, and didn't care.

His continuing paring down of the transit system as led to a massive decline in riders, to a tune of 4.1 million riders, in just one year. This happened under his watch while the rest of the country is seeing a boom in ridership.

Last night, Walker's campaign sent out a newsletter, which read (with my observations):

Don't be fooled by the smear piece printed in Saturday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Watch the video below to hear Scott set the record straight. The link is to his home page.

In 2008, regular riders of the bus continue to pay the same amount as they did in 2007 (weekly passes did not go up). And even though the transit system originally proposed eliminating a series of routes, Walker put them back in his 2008 budget. In fact, Scott Walker has not vetoed out improvements to the transit system that were included in the various versions of the county budget passed by the County Board in previous years. He in fact tried to raise all the rates and it was the county board that stopped him. Just like it was the county board, not Walker, that restored the routes he had cut. They were able to restore the routes due to the millions of dollars Senator Taylor brought to Milwaukee County. Even Walker grudgingly has admitted that in the BlogTalkRadio debate.

The long-term success of the transit system is based on lowering costs and stabilizing state support. Scott has a plan to lower costs by operating transit on a regional basis and getting employees to pay a reasonable amount for benefits. In addition, Scott has a plan to identify a stable form of support for transit from state government that does NOT include a sales tax increase. He wants tax support from the rest of the state. Why is bad if Senator Taylor would suggest something like that, but OK for

Scott's plan takes the growth in the current sales tax collected on automobile purchases and applies it to transit statewide. This amount exceeds $100 million during the budget and about 60% would come to the Milwaukee area. Overlooked by the media is the fact that the state government covers 40% of the costs of the transit system while the county tax levy covers just 14% (a few years ago, the state covered close to 44% and the county just 14%). Steady support from the state will stabilize the transit system. See what I mean?

Finally, Scott wants to use all of the $91.5 million in federal money to enhance our current system and to develop a regional form of transportation that will grow this community and attract employers - not develop a downtown streetcar line or a new light rail system. And if he doesn't get his way, he won't play.

UPDATE: MSJ is now reporting that the $91.5 million is now being blocked, and is in jeopardy of being lost forever, due in no small part, to Walker's shenanigans. How much more of this guy can we afford?

Today, I received an email from Senator Taylor's campaign. This too was about the transit situation:
Over the weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that our "Transit System ridership plunged to a 33-year low in 2007. . .[and the] ridership drop may have been the biggest decrease of any major U.S. bus system," (3/1/08). Across the nation, the rise in gas prices has boosted public transportation ridership. But here in Milwaukee County, Mr. Walker cannot deny that the decisions he has made-raising fares and cutting routes-have made our public transit inefficient and cost-ineffective. For example, the cost of a ride here is as expensive as one in Chicago, New York, or Philadelphia (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/18/07).

To read the full text of this weekend's article, click here.

Just recently Lena rode bus route 15 from downtown Milwaukee to Bay View to hear and see the effects of the transit situation firsthand. Bus route 15 is one of the bus routes that Scott Walker had wanted to cut.

Lena was privileged to speak with several riders who, like so many of us, depend on public transit to access their work and get around. Reality hit home when one resident from Oak Creek stated that if Mr. Walker cuts this bus route, he will be forced to quit his job. He is not alone. And of on top of service cuts, riders agreed that the fare increases have put a pinch on their already-thin wallets.

Another great take on this issue comes from Michael Rosen, author of mid coast views:

Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, says government needs to be run like a business.

But there’s not a business anywhere that would succeed if it was mismanaged the way Mr. Walker has mismanaged the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS)!

Walker, who has no private sector experience, has raised prices, while cutting service- a recipe for failure!


Walker doesn’t grasp rudimentary economics. You can attract riders/customers with low prices. Or you attract them by offering high level (quality) services. But no enterprise, public or private, can raise prices and slash service and operate successfully.

Yet, this has been Walker's strategy for the Milwaukee County Transit System.


Does the County Executive really believe Milwaukee can attract and retain jobs and corporate headquarters without a viable public transit system?

Does Mr. Walker really think we can connect the unemployed with employers experiencing labor shortages without affordable and efficient mass transit?

When you put a fox in charge of the chicken coup, the feathers fly.

My own view is that I'm sure glad Walker didn't take up medicine. If he were a doctor, he would be pinching off the oxygen tube, saying he was trying to help the patient breathe.

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