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UWM Study Finds Transit Proposals Would Cut Off Thousands of Employers and Workers, Damage the Metro Economy
September 19, 2011
Both employers and workers would be harmed under the proposal to cut transit service in Milwaukee County in 2012. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development has released a new study of the Milwaukee County Transit System. The study, “An Analysis of the Impact of Proposed 2012 Milwaukee County Transit Service Reductions on Access to Employment,” finds that:
Proposed transit service cuts for 2012 would result in
The proposed cuts to buses and paratransit in Milwaukee County undermine central goal of state and local leaders and elected officials: jobs and economic development.
The negative impacts on employers and job creation are a major concern. In a recent interview by the Business Journal, the study author, Joel Rast, comments on the importance of good transit to employers: "the question becomes: Does a shrinking public transit system pose significant hardships to existing employers in Milwaukee County? For many, the answer is yes." He continued, "When a transit system goes into a downward spiral, as it has in Milwaukee County during the past decade, companies with large numbers of transit-dependent workers take notice. They may well hesitate before undertaking costly expansion plans or other new job-creating investment."
Much of the reason for the proposed loss of services to jobs and employers comes from a 10% reduction in State transit aids which results in a $6.8 million cut to Milwaukee County Transit System each year for the next 2 years. After a decade of service cuts and fare increases, the options for dealing with the substantial cut in State funding have already been exhausted. In the larger picture, the lack of a dedicated source of funding for transit has made the discussion of service cuts and fare increases an annually recurring event.
The UWM report points out that the loss of transit service in 2012 and 2013 is, however, avoidable by tapping into a portion of the additional $27 million in State Transportation Fund revenues that were found when the Legislative Fiscal Bureau recalculated collections for gas tax and registration fees. While not a long-term solution, this would eliminate the need to make immediate harmful cuts to the transportation system.
Rast correctly states that business leaders in Milwaukee, "who on the whole have been largely supportive of Governor Walker’s initiatives, have broken ranks with the governor and Republican state legislators on the issue of transit. Both the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Greater Milwaukee Committee unsuccessfully lobbied Republican state legislators to maintain state transit funding at current levels in the 2011-13 biennial budget, arguing that good public transit is necessary for healthy economic growth."
One thing is certain, continuing on the path of reducing access to jobs, and adding unnecessary workforce challenges for employers can only hold the region back economically. Good transportation is a fundamental requirement of any successful metropolitan economy and must become a priority if SE Wisconsin is to reach the job and economic development agenda laid out by Governor Walker and legislators.
The full study can be viewed here.
Transit cuts put jobs out of reach of workers with out cars
Report says 13,000 more in Milwaukee area will be inaccessible
Journal Sentinel | Sept. 25, 2011
See Business Journal Interview with Joel Rast here
The study is an update to a study released in 2008 that found 40,500 jobs that were accessible by transit in 2000, became inaccessible by transit between 2001 and 2007 due to loss of transit services in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.