Public Transit: Ensuring Our Neighbors Have Access to Jobs and Employers Have Access to Commutable Workers

A strong, vibrant public transit system is the lifeline of our community and economy. Everyone benefits when we offer reliable transit to help get our neighbors to work, school, or events like Summerfest.

Our buses benefit riders and non-riders alike by helping to reduce road congestion and travel times, air pollution, and energy consumption. As Milwaukee County Executive, I will make transit a priority.  I support fully funding the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) and expanding routes, so more of our neighbors can utilize public transportation.

Our transit system was once a national model; however, due to constraints manufactured at the state level and misplaced priorities at the county level, Milwaukee County Transit has reached a crisis point in providing affordable transportation for our neighbors.

After securing dedicated funding, we must work with our neighboring counties and state officials to recreate a functional and sustainable multimodal regional transit system that allows citizens to easily access services, cultural experiences, and jobs throughout southeastern Wisconsin. This objective is laid out in the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s Vision 2050. Additionally, adding paratransit is something I am excited to discuss with MCTS. This will bring a new level of accessibility to our transit system.

The best way to stabilize an outdated transit system is to do what nearly all other major systems in the United States have already done: secure a dedicated funding source. If we don’t take action soon, the effect could be disastrous for our economy. In short, our community needs dedicated funding to make expansion permanent and to start planning into the future so workers can get to jobs in every corner of Milwaukee County.  In my first year as a County Supervisor, I led the coalition “Quality of Life Alliance” which successfully helped pass a countywide advisory referendum to fund our parks, transit, and emergency medical services with a 1% sales tax while reducing property taxes. I will continue that fight until Milwaukee joins every other major metropolitan area in the country and gets dedicated funding for our transit system.

When it’s time to complete the County budget, transit shouldn’t have to fight against other county services to get the funding it needs. Creating a dedicated funding source will help alleviate some of the burden we have to pay to use the system. Additionally, taxing programs like Uber and Lyft will help increase the ridership of public transit and bring in additional revenue for public transportation.

I also will collaborate with Milwaukee County Transit Services (MCTS) on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. BRT will run nine miles through Milwaukee County connecting downtown Milwaukee, Marquette University, Wauwatosa, the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and other areas. I will work closely with MCTS to make sure it stays on schedule and is available for the community to use as early as 2021.

I also want to address the safety of our bus drivers. The MCTS workers are a priority as they are the number one point of contact citizens have with the County Government. By listening to our drivers, I hope to hear their ideas on how to make our transit system safer. Additionally, I believe having our drivers participate in mental health crisis training will be an important step in preparing them for potentially harmful situations on their routes.

Finally, I will work to ensure transit routes serving our community are dismantling, not furthering, segregation. We are facing a budget deficit in transit which has the potential to hurt many neighbors who have limited access to transportation. When I started in county government 12 years ago, I fought for dedicated funding for our transit system.

As a State Senator, I have cultivated productive working relationships with my colleagues and will further work with them to find solutions for Milwaukee County’s aging public transportation system. Good public transportation can bring economic vibrancy to a community. With so many cultural, historical, and exciting activities to participate in, Milwaukee County needs to invest in this system. It’s not just about the money, it’s about having an efficient community service. It’s not just about ridership numbers, it’s about our neighbors getting to work on time. As Milwaukee County Executive, I will make sure we have a transit system that works for our community.