State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Governor Doyle’s proposed 2009-11 state budget includes a provision that would allow southeastern Wisconsin, Dane County and the Fox Valley to develop regional transit authorities (RTA’s). The RTA’s would administer bus systems and commuter rail lines and be funded via local sales.
Last month at a meeting in Milwaukee, the governor informed business leaders that federal stimulus money might be used to construct a high-speed passenger rail system linking Chicago to Minneapolis with stops at Milwaukee, Madison and possibly Green Bay.
Who knows? There might even be talk in the not too distant future about light rail.
I would caution that before the state gets into a mass transit frenzy, a review of a column written for Caranddriver.com by Patrick Bedard during October 2008 is in order. Bedard correctly pinpoints what he calls the “intractable” problems with mass transit.
The most problematic aspect of mass transit is the cost and its funding source. Transit systems carry an expense that is far and above what participating riders are ready and willing to pay. Bedard writes, “Think of it this way. Every time a Los Angelino gets on the Metro Rail, he lays out a buck and a quarter, more or less, depending on his destination, and the taxpayers kick in about three and a half bucks. Next time you ding your credit card for gas at $4 per gallon, imagine getting back a check from the government for almost $3 a gallon.” He cites a Cato Institute study that finds three of every four dollars spent on transit comes from taxpayers.
Other mass transit problems: users fail to value the service to pay the full tab, the lure of federal funds generally results in construction of costly projects, and systems rarely stop at desired destinations.
Even if more riders materialize during, for example, a huge spike in gas prices, remember that mass transit has operating costs, too.
Here is Bedard’s column.