Report decries transit cutbacks
It pushes sales tax to save bus routes, jobs
By LARRY SANDLER
October 19, 2008
See UWM study on the impacts of bus cuts on workers
Bus route cuts are endangering the Milwaukee area’s economic development and pushing tens of thousands of jobs out of the reach of the residents who need them most, according to a study being released Monday.
An even larger service cut predicted for 2010 would leave most of the region's employers and more than 100,000 jobs inaccessible by public transit, with the result that "poverty and unemployment would likely increase, and employers would face an increasingly constricted labor market," says the report from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Center for Economic Development.
To stabilize local bus service, the report calls for a regional sales tax to replace property tax funding for the Milwaukee County Transit System and its suburban counterparts. That recommendation is timed to reach Milwaukee County voters before a Nov. 4 advisory referendum on whether the state should authorize the county to raise its sales tax by 1 percentage point to pay for transit, parks and paramedics, said center director Joel Rast, who wrote the report.
Public officials and business leaders agree on the importance of transit service to job centers, but they split on the sales tax question. As in the past, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas opposed any new local sales taxes. Karl Ostby, chairman of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority, and Pete Beitzel, a vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, viewed a transit sales tax more favorably, although the MMAC opposes the specific sales tax plan on the ballot.
Rast's report, "Out of Service: The Impact of Transit Cuts on Access to Jobs in Metropolitan Milwaukee," focuses on how commuters have been affected by seven years of bus route reductions...
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