Dedicated sales tax should fund mass transit

    It is hard to disagree that the region’s transit system is in the midst of a crisis. Fortunately, there are an abundance of ideas about how to address this transit crisis plus about potential solutions for transit in southeastern Wisconsin. One group in particular, the Coalition for Advancing Transit, was formed to advance a united front for transit solutions in southeastern Wisconsin.

    So far, more than 60 individuals and organizations from the business and civic sectors of southeastern Wisconsin are calling for a regional approach to achieve political and public support for transit. Through outreach, education and advocacy, this Coalition is promoting the preservation, improvement and expansion of public transit.

    The need is urgent, and not just in Milwaukee County. Transit funding throughout the region is threatened while transit services are not keeping up with demand. The entire southeastern Wisconsin region is feeling the effects of limited local funding, decreasing federal and state support and increased service cuts.

    The list of benefits of transit is long, and has been mentioned by transit advocates time and time again: the economy will strengthen, jobs will be created and the region will become more attractive to tourists, employees, employers and entrepreneurs. It is clear that transit in the region is a necessity. However, a consensus has not been reached on the best way to implement, fund, and govern a transit system.

    With this in mind, the Coalition for Advancing Transit is backing the recommendation of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for a dedicated sales tax for transit, as a good first step toward an integrated mass transit system. It is also absolutely vital to the region that we secure a dedicated funding source to invest in our economic future, compete with peer regions across the nation and increase our ability to access federal transportation dollars. Southeastern Wisconsin is handicapped by its flawed transit system. Now is the time to get on board and support regional solutions that ultimately spread beyond those of the RTA and connect with Madison.

    There has been enough talk. Now is the time for action. The Coalition will be holding a public meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the Manpower Inc. headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.
    We urge anyone that is serious about supporting regional transit solutions to attend and see how their voice can be heard as we demonstrate how local leaders can work together for the best interests of the region, and can come to a consensus to secure a dedicated funding source for an integrated regional transit system.


    Tom Rave is executive director of The Gateway to Milwaukee and is the chairman of The Coalition for Advancing Transit Steering Committee. For more information on the Coalition or to attend the Coalition’s Jan. 13 meeting, visit


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