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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Walker Again Refuses To Improve Transit System

by capper

UPDATE: The county board overrode Walker's veto by a 16-3 vote. At least someone in County government is listening to the people.

We have seen time and time again that Walker does not want to help keep the Milwaukee County Transit System keep its wheels on the road. He raises fares and slashes routes (more cuts are coming this weekend), and then wonders why ridership is down, while ever-increasing gas prices is producing a boom in every other major metropolitan area. He has also fiddled around and did his usual grandstanding on working with others, putting $91.5 million at risk of being lost forever.

Now, today, Walker has vetoed the plan to put bike racks on the buses. This is after he has stated that he was for it as long as local tax dollars weren't used. He even tried to use the bike racks as a bargaining chip to get Milwaukee County out of a lawsuit that he created with his no bid contract to tear down the Courthouse Annex.

An email from Shea Schachameyer, of the Bicycle Federation of WI, sent out this email:

As I described on the phone, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors have the opportunity to override the veto that Scott Walker made today on behalf of the Bike Racks on Buses program. The program, which has been approved multiple times by the Milwaukee County Supervisors has had overwhelming support from Milwaukee residents: we gathered over 17000 signatures and have letters of support from Congresswoman Moore, Mayor Barrett, the SE Regional Director of Health and Family Services, Robert Harris, and many others. In short, the program will:
  • Increase ridership
  • Expand service area
  • Increase the frequency of use
This program will not be another burden for MCTS to pay for. MCTS is in the process of applying for Federal funding to cover 80% of the capitol costs and we are working with them to raise local sponsorship dollars to cover the remaining 20% or $130,000.

I apologize for the short notice, but hope that you will support this program and in doing so will call Chairman Holloway, advising him to support the override of Walker's veto before the County Board Meeting, tomorrow morning at 9am.

Thank you!

Sincerely, Shea--

Shea Schachameyer
Bicycle Federation of WI

(Please note: The email was slightly modified to remove Ms. Schachameyer's personal phone number.)

Ms. Schachameyer also sent along an attachment of a pdf, which I unfortunately cannot find on the web, and currently have no way of posting or linking to. (If someone can help, that would be appreciated.)

The attachment was of a newsletter that outlines some of the benefits that other cities across Wisconsin and across the country have enjoyed from putting bike racks on their buses. These benefits include increased ridership, expanded service areas, more frequent riders, better health of the community (both physically and economically), and a cleaner environment. It also provides federal and local studies that support these assertions.

For further background, there is this site that provides some of the history of the work of the BFWI, in regards to this issue.

So, as Ms. Schachameyer asks, please call County Board Supervisor Lee Holloway, and your own county board supervisor, and urge them to again override another one of Walker's mean-spirited, short-sighted, harmful vetoes, and to follow the will of the people of Milwaukee County.

This would not raise our taxes, and it would help the transit system stay at least at its current level, if not even improve. One just has to wonder: Why would Walker, who claims to support transit, and had at one time supported it, now be against it?

ADDENDUM: Here is the beginning of the pdf report from BFWI:

Efficient and affordable public transportation systems are essential to successful cities. Communities that invest in public transportation realize enhanced development and prosperity. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $10 million invested in capital projects yields $30 million in business sales. Milwaukee is in need of economic development and more jobs--investment in public transportation can bring these changes. As outlined by Southeastern Wisconsin's Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is potentially facing severe service cuts which would result in "a significantly smaller transit system...operating with shorter service hours and with less frequent service…, and [which would] offer less of an alternative mode of travel to the automobile" by the year 2010. Yet, despite this dreary forecast, it is possible for MCTS to gain economic stability as other transit agencies have done across the country. Bike racks on buses are an affordable and effective capital improvement to invest in. In fact, Florida transit agency, LYNX, found that for one-third the cost of a new bus they could reach more customers with bike racks and expand access to transit from ¼ mile walk buffer to a 1 mile bike buffer, allowing them to reach more customers.

Currently in the United States, there are over 300 transit agencies which, when combined, operate over 75,000 buses. 40,000 of these buses--more than 50%--are equipped with bike racks. Furthermore, out of Wisconsin's twenty municipal transit agencies, 40% have bike racks installed on their buses while and additional 15% plan to within the next six months. Unfortunately, it appears Milwaukee is not only falling behind on a national standard, it is falling behind on what has become a statewide standard as well.

Again, it makes one wonder how Walker can even keep a straight face when he claims that he supports the transit system.

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