Wednesday, November 25, 2020

People's Budget Hearings - Advocate for Transit!


The Governor is hosting a series of online People's Budget town halls on different aspects of the 21-23 budget. The next one is at 6 p.m. on December 2 (online) and its focus is on the environment, infrastructure, and economy.

There is no special session specifically about transportation, so we are encouraging transit advocates to sign up to attend and speak at this session. You cannot separate a good, clean, equitable, comprehensive public transportation system from environmental concerns, from infrastructure spending priorities, and from planning for rebuilding a post-coronavirus economy. 

If it follows the format of the first session (on healthcare), the session will begin with a welcome and introduction and then participants will be assigned to virtual breakout rooms. Each room will have a facilitator to ensure everyone gets a chance to participate. The breakout sessions will last about an hour and will be organized around specific questions asked by the facilitator. 

SIGN UP NOW (space is limited!) TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DECEMBER 2 PEOPLE'S BUDGET TOWN HALL. If you don't want to participate in the town hall, you may submit written comments using this link.

If you decide to participate, it might be best to consider how public transportation intersects with the environment, infrastructure spending, and economic recovery. Here are just a few ideas to get your own thoughts flowing:

* Emissions from cars and light trucks currently lead all categories in greenhouse gases that are driving the climate catastrophe, for example

* Pollution from cars is a leading cause of asthma and other respiratory and heart diseases, especially in low-income communities near large highways

* Congestion wastes fuel, increases pollution, and reduces safety. Having more public transportation that can move more people in a single vehicle reduces those problems.

* For the billion dollars proposed to be spent expanding a 3-mile stretch of  interstate in Milwaukee that will cause more congestion, more pollution, and will divide important communities of color, we could be well on the way to the cross-state high speed rail line Scott Walker nixed in 2010.

* Many Wisconsin communities do not currently have public transportation systems. Those that do could use increased state support to provide more frequent, expanded service 

* Many Wisconsin taxpayers don't or can't drive their own cars. Many younger adults don't even want cars. The budget, to be equitable, should treat the transportation needs of the non-car population at as high a level as the car-drivers. That means ensuring non-car drivers have access and transportation not just a few hours during a work day but all hours of every day, not just to and from work, but to and from shopping, entertainment, services, recreation, and everyday life needs.

* Ensuring people can get to jobs should not mean ensuring that they buy and pay for expensive private cars. For a strong, people-centered economy, a good, comprehensive public transportation is required.

For more reading:

* The American Public Transportation Association has a series of white papers on the economic impact of public transportation

*  Smart Cities' Top Ten Benefits of Public Transportation

* Information from the U.S. Department of Transportation

Sunday, November 1, 2020

New Buses - New Protections - New Fare Collection!

At the most recent MTU Board meeting, MTU director, Adam Lorentz announced some exciting NEWS!

The city is getting MANY new buses including "clean diesel" and hybrids. By the end of 2021, the MTU will be running TEN new buses! Funding is coming from the federal government and from the VW settlement money. This will be great for riders and for our environment.

There is ongoing consideration of a NORTHSIDE CIRCULATOR but no details have been announced yet. If you have thoughts about where such a route should go, visit the MTU page and click on the FEEDBACK link at the top.. 

In addition, using CARES funds, the city is ramping up the air filtration systems in all the buses. This will benefit drivers and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic and all other times. HEPA level filters will help keep the buses cleaner and healthier. 

In addition, the city is retrofitting and ordering for new buses germ barriers in all buses. This will help keep people safer from illness.

FARES WILL BE FREE THROUGH THE END OF 2020. The city has used CARES funding to maintain free fairs though December and to keep contracts for other communities (Onalaska, Town of Campbell, and La Crescent) at the same levels as 2020. 

When fares are collected again, there will be a new touchless fare collection system. We don't have details yet, but this is exciting news as it opens other possibilities including capped fares and multi-day passes. More as soon as it's available.

If you have read the very good article the La Crosse Independent about the economics of PERMANENT FARE-FREE BUSES, please do. This is something more and more communities are doing and there are lots of benefits to consider.