Gov. Jim Doyle, area CEOs, elected officials,
and labor joined forces Tuesday in support of
Regional Transit legislation that would kick-start
job creation, connect people with jobs, and boost
Wisconsin's position in the global marketplace
Watch press conference Part 1 (7 minutes), Part 2 (6.5 minutes)
Milwaukee Biz Blog: Business leaders want mass transit authority for SE Wisconsin
January 19, 2010
The Daily Reporter: Transit bill would grease tracks for KRM
January 19, 2010
See more about Regional Transit and Jobs Investment Act introduction
Governor Doyle urges support for the Regional Transit and Jobs Investment Act along with (l to r) Tim Sullivan, CEO, Bucyrus International; Ed Zore, CEO and President, Northwestern Mutual Life; H. Fisk Johnson, SC Johnson chairman and CEO; Robert Mariano, Roundys Chairman and CEO; Scott VanderSanden, AT&T Wisconsin President; Jeff Van Konigsveld, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 430, and Racine Mayor John Dickert.
South Milwaukee—Business, elected and labor leaders rallied in support of Regional Transit Authority legislation on Tuesday, the opening day of the legislative floor session.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of Bucyrus International, told a packed room the company’s headquarters that Southeastern Wisconsin needs a Regional Transit Authority to plan a broad transit network and provide funding that will “put us in line with competing areas so business can grow, prosper, and [we] can get people to where the jobs are.” He noted that Bucyrus, the word’s largest manufacturer of commercial mining equipment, had added more than 700 jobs in recent years and would like to add 500 more in the near future.
Additional workforce expansion, however, creates a range of issues including on-site parking questions and concerns about whether Bucyrus, as well as other companies in the region, can attract the quantity and quality of workers and professional staff necessary for success.
“This is a priority. This is not a want. It is an absolute need for business in our area,” said Sullivan.
Ed Zore, CEO and President, Northwestern Mutual Life, shared Sullivan's concerns. “It's really frustrating to see the constant deterioration of public transit as fares go up.” He added that the funding and regional planning were needed to “coordinate the system or pretty soon we'll be without one.”
The presented a balanced mix of voices from the public and private sectors that unanimously called for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to see that regional transit is a non-partisan issue that needs to get done now to the benefit of everyone in the region and state.
“We have 10,000 employees in the area and shoppers alike who need transit,” said Mariano, adding that the quality of public transportation “reflects the way an area looks upon its people... our citizens deserve better... It's critical that this legislation be passed in the spring 2010 legislative session.”
Koningsveld urged lawmakers to take note that the issue cuts across all socio-economic and political lines, and affects people of all ages regardless of gender or ethnicity. Citing the economic development and jobs potential linked to other regional transit networks, he urged lawmakers to “understand that this is not a partisan issue but a path to the future.... a game-changer.”
KRM commuter rail combined with reliable local and rapid bus transit would, experts agree, help create a regional transportation network that would spur significant job creations and economic development. The impact of transit investments like the KRM rail line indicate the creation of 4700 jobs and over $500 million in economic activity that could result from the start the up alone, with far greater jobs and economic growth created in the long-term.
In citing high unemployment figures in Racine, Mayor Dickert said his city can offer great workers, a great lakefront location, but needs to add great regional transit to the formula. “We need to give our people opportunity and hope,” he said.
The Regional Transit and Jobs Investment Act would give local governments
the ability to choose to make mass transit improvements. It would
integrate the KRM commuter rail line with other mass transit,
give Milwaukee the ability to save it’s bus system, and create
a pathway to regional transit cooperation and connectivity.
Doyle said the bill introduced by a in the Legislature would allow Milwaukee County to rescue its deteriorating bus service by shifting the local funding source from the property tax to 0.5% sales tax. At the same time, allowing local governments in Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee to vote to form their own IRTA and fund transit via a combination of funding sources now, leaving the door open to shift to a sales tax with approval of voters in a public referendum. The process would allow local transit authorities to form and fold into a larger Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority over the next 6 years.
Doyle praised lawmakers for helping to forge a compromise proposal that would allow Southeastern Wisconsin to approach the federal funding process with the regional voice required for successful project proposals, such as the KRM commuter rail line.
He cautioned that in the U.S., many other parts of the country are already improving existing transit systems and others are adding new local rail lines. He said Wisconsin needs to get on board by linking buses, high speed and conventional rail, and our highway infrastructure to maximize our ability to deliver goods and services.
“We are living in a very, very competitive world,” said Doyle.