Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
From Coulee Region Sierra Club:
TELL GOVERNOR EVERS TO STOP THE I-94 EXPANSION IN MILWAUKEE!
For more than a decade, environmental, social justice, and transportation equity groups have been fighting an expansion to I-94 in Milwaukee first proposed during the Walker administration. After years of citizen action, including a law suit, Scott Walker pulled the plug.
Governor Evers resurrected the project in 2020 and the fight is on
again. Read the history of the I-94 expansion here.https://www.sierraclub.org/wisconsin/blog/2020/07/stop-zombiehighway
back on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) plans to
expand the highway, a coalition of groups produced a "Fix at Six"
alternative, prioritizing fixing the existing roadway, retaining the
six lanes, and offering other ways to improve transportation in the
area, including support for public transit.
Late last month, WisDOT announced that it still plans to expand the higway to eight lanes and increase the footprint of the project. This is not an acceptable answer.
Expanding highways does NOT alleviate congestion. In fact, in many cases, congestion increases as more people try to drive on the roadway.
The I-94 has already caused harm to communities of color by cutting through neighborhoods and business areas, increasing noise and air pollution, and making local transportation more difficult.
With a price tag of more than $1 billion, this project is too expensive, will not solve identified problems, and will make things worse for the people who live in the community.
This is a concern for everyone in our state. A climate governor would not be proposing even more highway expansions. That money could be better spent on improving public transportation, especially regional and rural transportation, that will seriously address the climate crisis.
Be aware that WisDOT is not being clear about its latest plan, which incorporates a few of the Fix at Six ideas but is NOT Fix at Six.
CALL GOVERNOR EVERS TODAY AND TELL HIM NO!
The Wisconsin Sierra Club, as part of the Coalition for More Responsible Transportation, has created a call script. We are asking everyone - especially climate and transit activists - to call the Governor's office on Wednesday and strongly urge him to stop the expansion of the highway and back the Fix at Six proposal that was produced by the people of the state.
When you are finished calling, please report your call the Sierra Club using the link below.
Call Governor Evers' office about the I-94 expansion project in Milwaukee that his administration is pushing forward.
Hello, this is [NAME]. I am a Wisconsin resident in [CITY]. I'm calling because I was disappointed to see the Governor's Department of Transportation continue with the I-94 expansion in Milwaukee.I'm concerned about this project because [PICK ONE OR MORE POINTS BELOW]:
- Transportation is a leading cause of carbon emissions, and studies like Transportation 4 America's Congestion Con report demonstrate that adding lanes increases car use and traffic congestion. Continuing to invest in high-emitting infrastructure is not something that a climate champion would do.
- Highway expansion projects have harmed Communities of Color and Low Income Communities. Federal Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has called for tax dollars to be used to right the wrongs of racist infrastructure policy decisions. He said "we've also seen countless cases around the country where a piece of infrastructure cuts off a neighborhood or a community because of how it was built." I expect Governor Evers to align with the Biden administration in making racially just decisions on infrastructure in our state.
- [SHARE YOUR OWN CONCERN OR PERSONAL STORY]I hope that Governor Evers will right this error by pushing for WISDOT to study a new alternative that actually addresses the concerns of the community and that repairs the highway in its current footprint, with 6 lanes and an interchange that is not overbuilt, and minimizes air and water pollution and negative impacts to community resources like Valley Park. Additionally, I hope that Governor Evers will prioritize transit, walking and biking funding moving forward.
The I-94 expansion project was and still is a bad idea for so many reasons:
It would worsen the climate crisis. The transportation sector is the largest contributor to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Expanding highway infrastructure that caters to single passenger traffic will increase carbon emissions. This project is in direct conflict with the expressed goals of the Governor’s Climate Task Force. Here’s the bottom line: climate-friendly governors do not expand highways.
It would negatively impact public health. Because highway expansion almost always increases the number of cars on the road, air pollution increases with these projects. Traffic pollution causes asthma, cardiovascular disease and dementia. Entertaining the idea of expanding a highway during a pandemic is inexcusable.
It would exacerbate racial injustice. Wisconsin’s decades-long focus on highway transportation investments has worsened the region’s racial and economic segregation. Not only are highways a physical barrier, but they also increase air pollution in the surrounding communities - which are Communities of Color. In 2014, the federal government found that the Zoo Interchange caused “irreparable harm,” to minority communities. This project on the same corridor is no different. Members of low-income and minority communities often lack reliable transportation options. Yet, this project is being reconsidered even at a time of heightened awareness about structural racism in Wisconsin.
It would be costly. Spending money (an estimated $1 billion) on this project at the expense of fixing our local roads and repairing our existing road and transit infrastructure is a big price to pay for a mere 3.5 miles of interstate. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s public transportation system and local road system are languishing due to lack of investment.
It would not fix congestion as proponents of the project suggest; in fact - highway expansions often make congestion worse shortly after construction is complete! This is because of induced demand -- essentially “if you build it, they will come.” Why should a damaging project move forward to make the very thing proponents of the project want to solve even worse?
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Planning has started for TRANSIT EQUITY DAYS in the La Crosse area! As of now, we plan to have activities and events from Monday, January 30 through Saturday, February 4. We hope to bring back our displays at the Library and Transit Center, our request for riders to Share Your Transit Story, our engagement with elected leaders (in 2023, Office Hour on the Bus), and more.
If you or your group would like to host a Transit Equity Days event or if you'd like to get in on the planning in early December, please let us know.
For a look at last year's events, check out our 2022 event page.
For more information about the history and purpose of Transit Equity Day, check out the Labor Network for Sustainability.
Monday, November 14, 2022
There will be a presentation about the coming study at the LAPC meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 1700 County Admin Building (6th & State) or you may attend virtually. Get details and the links to join from the meeting packet at the LAPC website.
Your attention is needed. How will climate collapse be part of this study? Where is the little public transportation icon? What exactly do "safety" and "operations" mean? What kinds of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will be included?
Pay attention and get involved.
“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us, all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we have to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and stop doing it fast. We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster.” - Inger Anderson, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, October 27, 2022
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
On Tuesday, November 1, there will be a public presentation about the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) 2nd Amtrak rail line coming soon through La Crosse. The meeting starts at 4:30 and will be held at Moxie's, 1835 Rose Street. Take the #6 to the Rose Court Motel stop, cross Rose Street and head south to Moxie's at the AmericInn. If you can't make the meeting, you can learn about the program at the website linked above. Comments about the project may be submitted with this comment form. Written comments can be mailed to Thomas Kratt at Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 3550 Mormon Coulee Road La Crosse, WI 54601.
Coming next year, 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin will host a ten-week Community Transportation Academy in La Crosse.
The Community Transportation Academy is designed to help bridge the gap between community advocates and transportation planning entities. Over ten weeks, participants will learn about the fundamentals of transportation planning, hear from guest speakers with local and national expertise, and have the opportunity to propose a solution to a local transportation problem. Community members will come away from the Academy with skills and knowledge to advocate for safe and accessible transportation networks that work for everyone. The first Community Transportation Academy will be held in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in Winter/Spring 2023, taught by Community Programs Director Susan Gaeddert.
The academy will meet on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Some sessions will be in person at UWL and some will be online via Zoom. There will be homework and opportunities for participants to plan and do a project. Learn more and find out how to register at their website.
The MTU has rolled out its GenFare, pay by phone, app. Have you tried it? I still have not been able to use it. It took about a week to set me up with a senior fare structure, but now I am not able to get to a payment screen. If you have had a great experience with it or frustration, please comment or email us at LaCrosseTransitAdvocates@proton.me.
Speaking of frustrations, has anyone else found that too many buses pass stops early? I have missed a couple of important connections because buses were early or late. It's frustrating! We encourage people to use the MTU's feedback form at https://www.cityoflacrosse.org/your-government/departments/municipal-transit-mtu/customer-feedback
We are looking for a few people to help plan Transit Equity Day or week events with the MTU, Ohalaska-Holmen-West Salem Shared Ride, and SMRT bus in early February. Do you have ideas for ways to demonstrate that "transportation is a civil right" or to promote public transit in our community? Would you like to ride the bus with an elected official to talk about how our public transit works well and could be even better? Please comment here or email us at LaCrosseTransitAdvocates@proton.me.
We are still looking for two or three additional members of our leaders team. We meet one time a month, often over zoom, for an hour to talk about events and activities and how we can educate about and advocate for transit. Please email or call (608-315-2693) if you are interested. Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 9 at 5:30 p.m. by Zoom.
If you haven't yet participated in the Forward La Crosse surveys, to help guide the city's update of its comprehensive plan for 2040. Find and take the surveys at their website. https://forwardlacrosse.org/
The City of La Crosse Bike/Ped Advisory Committee
meeting for November has been rescheduled since its normal day, second
Tuesday, is Election Day. This month, the committee will meet on Monday,
November 14 at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall (no online option this month).
Transit advocates are encouraged to attend these meetings to help voice
support for better bicycle and pedestrian (and transit) in our
community. Normally, the committee meets on the second Tuesday at 8:30
a.m. Learn more at their legistar page.
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
On September 22, let's commit to finding other ways to travel. Walking or biking for trips that are shorter than three miles is healthier and cheaper than driving. More than half of daily trips in the U.S. are under three miles. For trips that can't be made on foot or by bike, taking the bus is best.
On World Car Free Day, September 22, the La Crosse MTU will offer free fares all day! What a great opportunity to try something different and start changing our transportation habits.
For those who haven't ridden a bus before, La Crosse Area Transit Advocates offers Rides with a Guide. Contact us at LaCrosseTransitAdvocates@proton.me and we will connect you with an experienced bus rider who can help you read the timetable and route map, find the best route for your need, learn about how to pay your fare (new methods are coming!), signal for your stop, and more!
Celebrate World Car Free Day by walking, biking, and taking the bus on Thursday, September 22. And then, mate every day car-free day!
Almost one in four adults in the United States report that they do not engage in any physical activity outside of their jobs. Sedentary lifestyles are an important reason that two of every three adults in the United States are overweight or obese.
Investing in public transportation and bicycle and pedestrian facilities creates opportunities for people to exercise. This helps reduce obesity and the risks for developing costly chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Active transportation facilities are particularly important in low-income and minority communities, or communities with high percentages of new immigrants. People in those communities are less likely to own vehicles, and unsafe streets might pose a barrier to using active transportation.
The La Crosse MTU will trial a route update to better serve residents of Eagle Crest South. For a limited time, the Circulator 2 will connect with 7th Street near South Ave. and travel on 7th to the Ice Area, turning east onto Benora Lee Court. There will be a temporary stop near Eagle Crest South. The bus will then travel north on Sims to rejoin is normal route. Please confirm route with driver!
The MTU's GenFare app rollout has been pushed back to Monday, October 3. Once the app is live, you may purchase fares and passes, including day, week, month, and year passes, on your smart phone.
The MTU will be assessing its bus shelters for refurbishment over the next several months. In addition, they hope to add shelters at some stops. If you have suggestions, please use their online feedback form.
Sunday, August 7, 2022
We may try another route in the future, but scheduling for other destinations, like Tomah or Prairie du Chien, is less flexible.
"We had a pleasant ride to Viroqua to explore more business and entertainment enterprises in our Coulee Region. The timing was punctual to the minute. Our drive back was remarkable and will surely be remembered. Our driver (while always driving safely) shared stories and lessons from his HoChunk culture with us. There are a myriad of benefits being connected to people and places in the region and we enjoyed them on this excursion."
A few months ago, a donation of tokens was made to Hope Restores in the name of LATA and we received a nice thank you card. Now, we've heard that they could use more adult tokens. If you are interested in contributing toward another donation of tokens, please email us to learn more.
Our next LATA Leaders meeting will be Wednesday, September 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the South Community Library picnic table. We will talk about fall programming, the Ride with a Guide initiative, and organizational business. All are welcome to attend; we can make the meeting available on Zoom, too, if needed. Please email us for more information.
On August 16 there will be two opportunities to weigh in on the La Crosse comprehensive plan for 2040 with respect to bicycle and pedestrian (and transit) issues. Please plan to attend and give your opinions on what changes we will need to see in La Crosse to make life better, easier, and more accessible for those who choose to move around without a car.
You may attend either session in person or online (see access information below):
* From NOON to 1 p.m. at the Southside Neighborhood Center (1300 6th Street South)
* From 5 to 6 p.m. at the Black River Beach Center (1433 Rose Street),
To attend online, join the meeting: https://call.lifesizecloud.com/4796124 OR call this number (you will only be able to listen if you call in, not speak): 877-422-8614 meeting 4796124#.
City of La Crosse Comprehensive Plan 2040
Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Focus Meeting
(Hosted by the City of La Crosse Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee)
Introduction and Overview of the Comprehensive Plan
What is a Comprehensive Plan?
How the La Crosse Comprehensive Plan 2040 is being developed
How walking and biking issues and priorities in La Crosse connect with the Comprehensive Plan
What do you not like walking or biking in La Crosse? What are some things that don’t work well? What are some problems or issues?
How should we make things better? What ideas do you have for improving walking or biking in La Crosse?
How to contribute additional ideas and comments for the plan
Plan website and surveys: https://forwardlacrosse.org (new walk- and bike-oriented survey available after our session of August 16)
Questions, other items?
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
This July, we have a couple of opportunities to connect and advocate for public transportation.
On Saturday, July 23, we hope to table at the Disability Pride Fest, an event hosted by the Disability Action Network from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Copeland Park. IF YOU CAN SIGN UP FOR A SHIFT, please complete the form at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0F4CAEAE28AAFECE9-lata
On Wednesday, July 27, LATA will host its second annual RIDE SMRT 2 VIROQUA event. We will board the SMRT Yellow Route as it goes through La Crosse between about 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. and arrive in Viroqua at about 11:00 a.m. This year, we have invited our elected representatives: Senator Brad Pfaff, Representative Jill Billings, and Representative Loren Oldenburg, to join us on the ride or at a discussion about regional public transportaton and rural public transit. Those details are still being worked out. So far, Sen. Pfaff has accepted our invitation.
SPACE IS LIMITED! Please sign up by July 22 at tinyurl.com/LATA2Viroqua
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
Thursday, April 28, 2022
Thanks to all who attended out April 28 Transit Talk program! And special thanks to MTU Director Adam Lorentz and LAPC Transportation Planner Jackie Eastwood. We heard about the Regional Transit Development Plan process and looked a bit at some specific suggestions. Adam talked about plans for this year, including updating bus shelters, rolling out the e-buses, and testing and adding a new smartphone fare payment app that will offer more options.
If you have suggestions for places for shelters, issues with existing stops or shelters, or if you would like to be a tester for the new app, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were able to record the program and will have it posted this weekend. The link should be available by May 1..
The next event for transit advocates is the annual meeting of Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance on Saturday, May 21 from 10 a.m. to about noon. We'll talk with transit professionals from around the state about what's new and how transit is moving forward in Wisconsin this year and beyond. Please register for the zoom link at tinyurl.com/WTRA-052122
Saturday, April 2, 2022
After nearly a year of work by a transit planning team from SRF Consulting, the Final Regional Transit Development Plan is available for viewing, sharing, and download. You can read the executive summary, the needs assessment, and the recommendations at the LAPC Modal Planning page. Scroll down to Public Transit and Passenger Rail Planning.
On Thursday, April 28, we will welcome two guests to discuss details and answer questions in an ONLINE program from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Jackie Eastwood, Transportation Planner with the La Crosse Area Planning Committee, will talk about the planning process and outcomes, recommendations and next steps.
Adam Lorentz, Director, Municipal Transit Utility, will let us know how the report and other issues, including stimulus funds, local needs, and continuing COVID challenges, will affect transit operations this year and in the future.
Please register in advance for this Zoom event at tinyurl.com/LATA-042822 OR text or call 608-315-2693 (leave a message for call back). Everyone is welcome to the free program.
If you have questions for our guests, please email them to us at LaCrosseTransitAdvocates@protonmail.com.
Monday, March 21, 2022
During Earth Month, LATA will offer four Ride with a Guide events. We will meet at the Transit Center for a brief overview of the MTU and connected systems, the fare and transfer system, good rider habits, bikes on buses, and more. Then, we'll board a bus and ride one complete circuit. After the ride, we'll answer any more questions that come up. Cost is bus fare: $1.50 for adults ($0.75 for a senior with a Medicare card).
The Transit Center is at 314 Jay Street, on the southeast corner of the intersection of Third and Jay. If you are a driver, you may park your car along JayvStreet or in the city ramp on the northwest corner of the same intersection. Be sure to register at the kiosk; the first three hours in the ramp are free for registered vehicles.
- Saturday, April 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Monday, April 11 from 2 to 4 p.m.
- Thursday, April 21 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
- Saturday, April 30 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Sign up (space is limited) at this link OR call us at 608-315-2693 and leave your name and number for a call back.
Help the environment. Help your family budget. Help decrease air pollution, improve traffic safety, and strengthen community cohesion. Help your children learn to be self-sufficient and independent. Ride the bus!
Sunday, March 13, 2022
While the public transportation mask mandate has been extended for one more month (April 18), we have hopes that things will improve enough by early summer for mask-free rider and safe in-person events.
The Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers is holding its spring meeting on Saturday, March 26
in Appleton AND online. Please register soon if you plan to attend in
person. Zoom attendance is free of charge. The featured speakers will be
Arun Rao of WisDOT and Derrick James of Amtrak. For more information, and to register, go here: https://wisarp.wordpress.com/calendar/meetings/
LATA will table at the Earth Fair, April 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Myrick Park alongside the MTU electric bus which will be near the mid-park parking lot. The bus will be next to the electric vehicle (cars and bikes) display. If you could help table for an hour or more on that day, please reply to this email.
It's our opportunity to support the MTU by letting people know WE ride
and they should too. All materials are provided - tablers just need to
talk to people who stop by.
The Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance will hold its annual meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 21 ONLINE. Details are not yet finalized but we do know that Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America, will provide opening remarks followed by a panel of transit professionals from around the state including Peter Fletcher, Executive Director, LAPC! Watch this site for more information.
We are working on another SMRT2Viroqua trip. We rode the SMRT bus from La Crosse to Viroqua for a day of sight-seeing, shopping, and eating last July and want to do that again. This time, possible, we can connect with some Viroqua area transit advocates, too. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
In the meantime, StreetsBlog USA is replacing its usual Worst Bus Stop contest with a BEST Bus Stop one. Are there any contenders in our area? Visit their contest page for more info. The deadline to enter is March 14.
The MTU is planning upgrades of existing and installation of new shelters in the coming year, including at least some that include solar lights. They'll use data about most used stops, but maybe there are others that need improved access or protection from the elements. Where do you think new shelters should be placed? What have you seen at other shelters that could be added here?
I suggested looking at some real time arrival time signs:
Thursday, February 24, 2022
From Dan Krom, Director of MNDOT's passenger rail service.
Please join us for the signing of the federal grant agreement for the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) Intercity Passenger Rail Project that will improve transportation in the Midwest.
The event is scheduled for:
1 p.m.Wednesday, March 9th at the Amtrak Station in La Crosse
The program is open to the public, and confirmed speakers include WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson, acting MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Amit Bose, Amtrak President and CEO Stephen Gardner, and a representative of Canadian Pacific Rail.
The program will consist of brief remarks on the significance of the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Railroad and Infrastructure Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant. The funds will be used to advance a second daily, round-trip, that will provide a new, travel option to connect the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago areas, and multiple cities along the way.
The short program will be followed by media interview opportunities.
Because of limited space, please RSVP me at email@example.com by Wednesday, March 2 to confirm attendance or for any questions.
We are excited to see this important second daily train connecting a few important Midwestern cities move forward. It's a step in the right direction. Here's a map of Wisconsin passenger rail (Amtrak) and related bus service in Wisconsin and surrounding states.
Here's a glimpse of where we could go.
Passenger rail service in Switzerland, France, Netherlands. Wisconsin is about 3.4 times bigger than Switzerland and The Netherlands, and about 3.9 times smaller than France, and about 3.3 times bigger than the Netherlands.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
This just in!
The Service and Policy Recommendations Report for the La Crosse Regional Transit Development Plan (TDP) is now posted on the project website.PROJECT WEBSITE: https://www.lacrossecounty.org/metropolitan-planning-organization/LAPC-Home/regional-transit-development-plan
SERVICE AND POLICY RECOMMENDATION REPORT: https://www.lacrossecounty.org/docs/default-source/metropolitan-planning-organization/lacrossetdp_finalreport_final20211230-4final.pdf?sfvrsn=ce40291e_0
The La Crosse Regional TDP provides a vision for La Crosse area transit services provided by La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility (MTU), Onalaska Shared Ride (OSR), and Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit (SMRT) to meet the travel needs of residents and visitors in the region over the next ten years, with an emphasis on future needs and sustainable growth.The project is an initiative of the La Crosse Area Planning Committee (LAPC) and their partners. The LAPC will provide the plan to MTU, the City of Onalaska, and SMRT for their consideration and possible future implementation.
Please contact Peter Fletcher or Jackie Eastwood at the LAPC with any questions.
Menno Schukking, AIC Transit Planner III, SRF Consulting Group
Thursday, February 17, 2022
Friends of LATA recently sent this story:
Saturday, February 5, 2022
Next up, the Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers, WisARP, will hold it's spring conference in person and online on Saturday, March 26 in Appleton. Learn more here: https://wisarp.wordpress.com/calendar/meetings/
Monday, January 24, 2022
We're excited to see Transit Equity Days (January 31 through February 4) coming together! Our flyer is done and ready to be shared on social media. If you'd like a printed copy, please use this .pdf version.
Our transit riders story collection tools are ready to collect! Use the online form or look for a paper version at the Transit Center and Public Library. Plus, you can ride the circulator free from the one display to the other!
Local elected officials have stepped up to support the effort by passing a County Board proclamation and a City Council resolution. Governor Evers has also proclaimed February 4 as Transit Equity Day.
We are also welcoming local elected leaders to schedule a bus ride, so constituents can "Ride with Your Rep," and drivers and riders can talk about their transportation needs.
We're working on our display which will be at the La Crosse Public Library from Monday, January 31 through Friday, February 4. A companion display, sponsored by the MTU, will be at the Transit Center and feature highlights from We Walk: A History of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 519 and La Crosse Labors, books on La Crosse area transit and labor history by local labor leader and retired driver, Terry Hicks.
We encourage you to try the bus during Transit Equity Days! If you want someone to ride with you, please contact us and we'll find an experienced bus rider to meet you, help you understand the route map and fare/transfer system, and answer your questions while we ride.
And, we encourage you to pick up a THANK YOU, DRIVERS! sticker at one of the displays or download and print one or make your own sign to show appreciation for our essential transit drivers.
Please share this event, one of hundreds around the country, with your family, friends, co-workers and personal networks. Please plan to ride the bus at least once during Transit Equity Days, visit the displays, talk to drivers and riders, and learn why good public transit is a civil right and an important way to provide and equitable and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Thursday, January 20, 2022
"The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
Sometimes, it seems like this old adage has it all wrong. It seems, more often than not, the squeaky wheel gets replaced with a quiet one bought with money from people who don't want anything to change.
The recent surprise announcement by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation--that it will drop its decades-long push to build a new highway through the marsh--does give hope that constant, relentless, uncompromising noisy advocacy can make a difference.
But, there are mountains upon mountains of projects that, without scrutiny and comment, will continue down the path of inequity, wasteful spending, unhealthy priorities, and environmental degradation. And, often, you must comment decades before a project reveals its idiocy or inadequacy, because the process is so compartmentalized and circuitous, that something decided in 1998 cannot be undone or fixed in 2023 when it is unveiled for a final review.
I wanted to remind everyone that Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is collecting comments on their draft 2050 plan.The website is here:The last day to submit comments is January 24th, so there is not much time. I am sharing my comments here in case anyone wants talking points. There is a lot more that could be said, and your comments would be helpful. The more voices they hear, the better. If it's not obvious from my comments, I think the plan is more of the same that we've gotten from them for years. It's time for them to do better.--------------------My comments:
As a citizen of Wisconsin, I welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the Connect 2050 plan.
Goal 4 states that “The department will continue to prioritize reducing congestion”. A few things: it was *not* a priority from looking at most of the comments from Wisconsites all over the state. The most common priority was “alternatives to driving”, with 700 comments mentioning it, more than any other comment type (https://connect2050.wisconsindot.gov/outreach). It’s embarrassing that WisDOT states its priority is to reduce congestion yet ignores the cheapest option: reducing vehicle miles traveled. When people have alternatives to driving alone, congestion decreases. Yet in your own documents, you show VMT continuing to go up! At least Minnesota DOT has made decreasing VMT a priority. Wisconsin should look to their plans, as our states are similar and have similar challenges.
Also on the interactive website, when selecting Goal 4, then Mobility, you tout “what we are doing now” by presenting a bicycle plan from 1998. REALLY? A 23 year old plan is what you are doing now? You should be ashamed of yourselves. It would have been better not to show it at all because it shows how little you are doing for people outside of motor vehicles.
For Objective 8b: Prioritize emissions reduction and alternative fuels to improve air quality.
Again, WisDOT ignores the most straightforward way to do this: reduce VMT. With fewer miles traveled, emissions go down, and air quality improves. Even electric vehicles won’t save us as they have tires that turn into micro particles that pollute our water (https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1131916_report-microplastic-pollution-from-vehicle-tires-is-a-serious-global-issue).
WisDOT states “Balance transportation needs with those of the natural environment, socioeconomic, historic and cultural resources.” Yet the federal guideline states: “Protect and *enhance* the environment, promote energy conservation, improve the quality of life, and promote consistency between transportation improvements and state and local planned growth and economic development patterns.”
WisDOT’s statement is NOT actually what the federal guideline calls for. What does “balance” mean here? If vehicular delay is reduced by 1 minute is that a “good balance” with the environment? It is so vague as to be meaningless, and allows for vehicular delay to be seen as equivalent with our need for a livable planet.
Federal guideline: 8. Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system.
Pursue continuous improvement and expand data-driven decision-making processes.
Maximize technology benefits.
This is NOT the same! WisDOT should be focused on repairing existing systems rather than expanding them. We do not have infinite money, and we need to keep our existing system in good repair. Even WisDOT states that it’s important to pay attention to funding sources (goal 1).
Your section on safety is disappointing. You use the talk of Vision Zero “zero traffic deaths” and “5 Es” yet you don’t seem to properly understand them, nor how they work in a hierarchy. The standard 5 Es are: Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement. Some have swapped out Enforcement for Equity because it has been well established that the current system of traffic enforcement in our country can result in discriminatory outcomes. Still, I have NEVER seen anyone state that EMS or “Everyone” is part of the 5 Es. It is a complete abdication of your responsibility as a state transportation department to say that “everyone” is responsible. You continue to design roads that encourage speeding. You prevent ENGINEERING changes to East Washington in Madison that would provide more safety on a road where multiple people are killed each year. Yet “everyone” is responsible? That is some next level gaslighting, or maybe you truly are that oblivious to transportation research on appropriate traffic engineering measures that have measurable impact in reducing road violence.
Your idea of safety is laughable. You state that you want to decrease traffic deaths, yet your own GOALS for 2021 were *higher* than 2020! Your scorecard (https://wisconsindot.gov/Documents/about-wisdot/performance/mapss/scorecard.pdf) stated that the goal for traffic crashes was 127,892. In the same line it states that 2020 was 114,697. I realize that this 2050 plan does not have individual metrics, which will be found in other plans, but you can see why I am skeptical of your “goals” and “objectives”. Your goals clearly state that you will do worse than before, then if you come in under your absurdly high goal, you will get a green arrow showing what a good job you’ve done. This is unconscionable.
Finally, the second most common comment was around funding. As I’ve mentioned previously, decreasing VMT is the fastest, cheapest way to ensure that our roads are able to last longer and stay in good condition. The next area that needs to be explored and proposed by WisDOT to the legislature is increasing fees based on vehicle weight. Any engineer will tell you that more weight causes more road damage. It is simple physics. As people switch to (heavy) EVs that do not pay gas tax, they need to pay for their use of the road. As drivers choose heavier vehicles such as oversive SUVs, they need to pay for the damage they do to roads. France is doing this and it is one of the only ways to make it fair for all road users. People who do more damage to the road need to pay for funding the improvements. It is as simple as that. This needs to be considered in all your discussions around fiscal responsibility (ie Goal 1).