April 29, 2010 UPDATE

Despite the disappointing outcome of the past legislative session for local transit systems throughout the state of Wisconsin, the fight goes on!  At the Coalition for Advancing Transit, we believe it is absolutely necessary that we continue to push for the solutions required to save and invest in our local bus systems and other forms of transit. 

The ability to form and fund an RTA is a critical launching point for creating an integrated, regional transit system that will provide economic benefits to cities, counties and regions in Wisconsin.  In the past two days, both C.A.T. and Transit Now have released statements to the media and elected officials regarding the most recent outcome:  http://tiny.cc/ipdgx

The Racine Journal Times had a nice editorial afterwards (“Legislature Needs to Act” http://ow.ly/1EM6q) and our friends at UrbanMilwaukee had their take on the outcome too: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2010/04/26/rta-on-hold-for-now/

So in that fighting spirit, we encourage you to stay engaged as we move forward – we are talking to our other advocates and partners about where we go from here and will be in touch soon.  See below for more links to MCTS’s 150th Anniversary celebration, National Train Day and research from the Pew Charitable Trust.

Moving Forward Together
The Coalition for Advancing Transit 

There are plenty of reasons in the next couple weeks to celebrate the benefits that transit brings to our community. 

On May 7, 2010 the Milwaukee County Transit System will celebrate “150 Years of Transit” beginning with rides all day for FREE on Route 15 (Oakland-Kinnickinnic), in honor of the first transit route, which operated on a portion of the current Route 15. Northwestern Mutual is sponsoring the rides, which last from start to end of service.  MCTS will also unveil the new look for the 90 new Clean Diesel Buses which will be arriving this summer on May 7.  

From the days of the horsedrawn carriage to the streetcar to the trackless trolleys to the near-zero emissions buses arriving this summer, the incredible support of our community partners underlines that transit was vital then and is vital now.   The 150th Celebration will last for six months: http://ridemcts.com/news/index.asp?id=1430

On May 8, 2010, the 3rd Annual National Train Day will be a FREE coast-to-coast celebration.  In Milwaukee, celebrate with the first ever exhibit at the downtown station to include two model train layouts by The Milwaukee Lionel RR Club, information from Operation Lifesaver and travel agents, giveaways, and more.  Held from 10AM to 4PM at the Amtrak Milwaukee Inter-modal station, 433 West St. Paul Avenue.  Celebrations will also be held in Wisconsin in Columbus, LaCrosse and Sturtevant: http://www.nationaltrainday.com/events/other/

Why celebrate National Train Day?  Well, Amtrak has already carried over 13 million riders in the first 6 months of their fiscal year, with the busy season of summer travel yet to come.  That is about 100,000 more riders than the 13.5 million posted in FY 2008, which turned out to be Amtrak’s best ridership year in company history when America’s passenger railroad carried 28.7 million passengers.  Also, every single route is up in March.  One of C.A.T.’s “A-Team” members put that in perspective for us – this would make Amtrak the nation’s 8th largest domestic ‘airline,’ with nearly the passenger load of Continental (31,954,535) or Northwest (32,624,283).  See the stats at Amtrak News Releases: http://ow.ly/1EMeJ  (Scroll down to April 8, 2010: “Amtrak Ridership on Record-breaking pace”)

And from the research file…the Pew Research Trust released a study that shows highway users pay just 51% of their way, rail users pay better than 2/3s.  Highways, which span over four million miles in the United States, are increasingly paid for by ”non-user” fees—including sales, income and property taxes.  The report shows that in recent years, these revenues are funding a greater share of highway construction and maintenance projects, with a corresponding decrease in the percentage of user contributions—including gas taxes, vehicle registrations and tolls.  So for those that argue that roads are fully paid for through user fees and transit is more subsidy we don’t need, this is an interesting counterpoint.  http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=56233