SERTA: Transit News & Notes

Racine Journal Times Opinion Editorial: Regional transit needed to fuel businesses, economy

Posted in Uncategorized by SERTA on January 25, 2010

By Roger Caron President, RAMAC appeared in Racine Journal Times

As I look back on my 41 years of working in the community development arena, 28 of those with RAMAC, I realize more and more today the importance of not letting key opportunities for the future economic strength and vitality here in Racine pass us by without giving it more of a fight. I can’t help but sincerely regret our failure thus far to accomplish what would be one of the most fruitful achievements of all: regional transit.

Along with leaders in our corporate and business communities, I believe that a strong, well-integrated regional transportation network is imperative to growing our businesses and the economy while protecting our investments and quality of life. Improving transit is the next step that our community must take in securing a prosperous future,

This became all-the-more clear recently in a powerful display of bi-partisanship. Gov. Jim Doyle, elected officials and labor leaders, and many top area CEOs held a press conference to urge support for legislation that would give communities options for implementing regional coordination and dedicated funding for transit. Held at Bucyrus International in South Milwaukee on the opening day of state Legislature’s floor session, the timing and setting also spoke to the issue’s vital importance. Not only is Bucyrus the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial mining equipment, its location is near a planned station stop on the proposed KRM commuter line.

Bucyrus President Tim Sullivan told about 100 attendees that southeastern Wisconsin needs a Regional Transit Authority to plan and fund transit services comparable to competing areas and “get people to where the jobs are.” He said Bucyrus wants to add 500 jobs, on top of about 700 created in recent years.

But he warned that without better transit Bucyrus and other area companies are facing increasing difficulties in attracting the workforce and talent they need. He emphasized that better regional transit network is vital to their success and directly linked to job growth.

Northwestern Mutual Life President Ed Zore shared similar views, as did Racine’s own H. Fisk Johnson, SC Johnson chairman and CEO, and Mayor John Dickert. Roundys Chairman and CEO Robert Mariano, AT&T Wisconsin President Scott VanderSanden, and Jeff Van Konigsveld, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 430 also spoke.

The audience was packed with other business leaders, elected officials, and workers, clearly demonstrating this is a non-partisan issue that cuts across every political and socio-economic line.

With what may be our final window of legislative opportunity dangerously close to slamming shut, representatives on both sides of the aisle need to form a coalition and reach agreements to finally get this done.

Failure would be tantamount to biting the hands that feed and fuel our economic engine, by denying our businesses the tools to build a regional economy that can compete nationally and globally, and provide the jobs that keep our community strong and growing.

This legislation would allow Racine and other municipalities to create truly regional RTAs and decide locally how to fund and integrate buses and the proposed KRM commuter rail into a region-wide system. The result, the kind of regional transit we need. Without passage, not only will our bus system continue its steep decline, but KRM, and its powerful physical link to two major metro economies, will not happen.

This affects us all. Large and small businesses know it, labor knows it, manufacturing knows it, as do retailers, and municipal governments. Faith-based, environmental, and minority organizations know it too.

The data showing the economic and social benefits of a well-coordinated transit network is overwhelming. That’s why regions like Charlotte, Minneapolis, Portland, Phoenix and other peer metro areas have chosen to expand and invest in transit. With RTAs already in place, they’re on a long list of places far better positioned than we are to nail down federal funding. Moreover, failing to qualify or rejecting the money won’t lower taxes, it just gives more dollars to competing regions.

Now its our time to make potentially historic transit choices. We can continue to talk about other successful places; we can continue our political and philosophical bickering. Or we can take action now and make a real difference for Racine County.

A time to get on board may not come again.

Roger Caron is president of the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce.

Watch the CEOs press conference by visiting: http://tinyurl.com/CEOsRallyForTransitPt1

and http://tinyurl.com/CEOsLaborRallyForTransitPt2

Tagged with: , ,

South Milwaukee Alderman Takes a Stand on Regional Transit

Posted in Uncategorized by SERTA on January 25, 2010

South Milwaukee’s 4th district Alderman posted the following on his blog  following the widely attended press event at Bucyrus International:

Where I Stand on Regional Transit … and Rail

January 23, 2010

As I said in a previous post, I had the pleasure of attending last week’s press conference at Bucyrus International where Governor Jim Doyle joined business, labor and political leaders to announce the introduction of a bill to create a Southeastern Wisconsin regional transit authority.

I called it “a new day” in the longstanding debate over regional transit funding and the future of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line.

It’s not hyperbole, and here’s why: It’s because of who was in the room.

Yes, Doyle’s support is no surprise. Nor is the support of organized labor, and they were certainly well represented and made their voices heard. Rather, iit was the presence of the business executives that sent the strongest message.

 Bucyrus. SC Johnson. Northwestern Mutual. Johnson Controls. AT&T.

One after another, the chief executives of all of these companies stepped to the microphone at the press conference and told those in attendance the exact same thing – that they support Doyle’s RTA proposal and the bus transit and KRM trains it will help fund.

Their reason? Economic development and jobs, jobs, jobs … using transit to get workers to their front doors. Indeed, Bucyrus CEO Tim Sullivan pointed out that a KRM station would likely be located within a half block of its main entrance.

As Sullivan and the others spoke, I couldn’t help but think that this gathering marked a tipping point in this often too-contentious debate, one in which ridicule and scorn has too often replaced reasoned and rational discourse.

No longer can conservatives claim that support for KRM and regional transit is purely a liberal issue. No longer can they deride supporters as lefty “choo-choo train” lovers.  

No, this is now a big business issue, a conservative cause, a liberal cause, a bipartisan cause. The presence of those corporate leaders on Tuesday showed that more than anything.

That’s why I think you will indeed see the RTA bill pass and the KRM trains ultimately leave the station. And it’s why I’ll be the first to welcome the trains to South Milwaukee.

 Of course, there are global reasons for my support.

For starters, our area’s transit funding mechanism (one based on property taxes) is broken. Look no further than the “death by a thousand cuts” state our county bus system is in. We need a new way to pay for transit, and we need to join most other major metropolitan areas in making that a sales tax and RTA.

We also lag behind our peers in not having rail as part of our transit arsenal. Cities that we are competing with for jobs have rail as a drawing card. We don’t, and that hurts us.

I also strongly believe a regional approach to transit is a must if the Milwaukee area is to compete with other cities across the country. An RTA provides that.

Yet, while I believe all of these are valid arguments for an RTA and KRM, my support for both is not based on any of them. My strong support is based on the fact that an RTA will help bring the KRM to life, and the KRM is good for South Milwaukee.

Here’s why: 

  • Commuter rail is a boon for Bucyrus. Sullivan said it best when he said the KRM trains will be instrumental in attracting new talent to Bucyrus – a priority given the perhaps 500 new people the company will be bringing to South Milwaukee as a result of its acquisition of the mining division of Terex Corporation. The same argument could be made for Cooper Power, Metalcut, Appleton Electric and any other city employer. Getting workers from Point A (home) to Point B (work) and back again is perhaps the biggest argument for the KRM extension.
  • Commuter rail is a boon for our downtown. Sometimes forgotten in this debate is what the KRM could mean to our city center. Simply, a downtown station could spur a rebirth in this critically important district. Look at the numerous examples in northern Illinois – if done well and planned properly, commuter rail stations spur development. There is no argument here. Draw a six-block radius around your station, and new business and residential growth will follow there. That means a new day for a downtown that needs it.
  • Commuter rail will draw new residents to our city. So, you’ve just been hired at Abbott Labs, Baxter or some other major Lake County, Illinois, employer, but there’s no way your family can afford to live there. Nor do you event want a life in exurbia. Why not consider South Milwaukee? We’re a clean, safe, affordable community located 10 minutes from downtown Milwaukee … and maybe less than an hour from your job on the train. That’s what KRM will bring our city – new prospective homeowners and apartment renters, and demand for new housing near the station. What an opportunity.

Now, even with all those positives for South Milwaukee, I realize this is no slam dunk, and the RTA and KRM are not without their political pitfalls.

The KRM is costly – more than $200 million to get it up and running, according to the latest estimates – and it will require some sort of taxpayer subsidy going forward. Fares will not support it alone. And Doyle’s RTA plan is sure to be unpopular with some, as it calls for a 0.5% sales tax increase to pay for busses, trains and other transit options.

Yet while holding the line on taxes and spending should be a focus for any elected official, there are times when increasing both is justified as an investment in a worthy effort that promises a strong return. This is one of those times … and the KRM is one of those projects.

But don’t listen to me. Listen to Tim Sullivan, Fisk Johnson, Bob Mariano and Stephen Roell — the business leaders who spoke last Tuesday.

Let’s invest in South Milwaukee. Let’s get the trains rolling. It’s time.

Transportation Development Association: Business leaders call for more transit in SE Wisconsin

Posted in Uncategorized by SERTA on January 23, 2010

FROM A RELEASE BY THE TRANSPORTATION DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION OF WISCONSIN:

ESPN has highlight reels. Now transportation policy has one too – courtesy of a just-released video from the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin. 


To view the entire TDA release, please visit: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.Iml?Article=182928
For more information on transit in Wisconsin, visit http://www.tdawisconsin.org.

Tagged with: ,

1.21.10 Wispolitics.com Milwaukee Notes

Posted in Uncategorized by SERTA on January 22, 2010

Quotes of the Week:

“This is not a want; this is an absolute need for the community.”

– Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of South Milwaukee-based Bucyrus International Inc., which hosted a press conference introducing legislation to create a Milwaukee-area regional transit authority. The bill would enable a new Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line and would authorize Milwaukee County to levy a 0.5 percent sales tax hike to fund upgrades to the municipal bus system.

Tagged with: ,

GMC: Strong Show of Support for Regional Transit

Posted in Uncategorized by SERTA on January 21, 2010

Tim Sullivan introduces the press conference in support of regional transit, January 19, 2010

Picture courtesy of the GMC

Visit the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Web site for more information on the CEO’s stand for regional transit.

Tagged with: ,

Governor Doyle, Area CEOs Rally Behind Legislation to Save Local Transit

Posted in Uncategorized by SERTA on January 20, 2010

 

For Information:

Elizabeth Kelly

414-390-5500

ekelly@muellercommunications.com

www.muellercommunications.com

Governor Doyle, Area CEOs Rally Behind Legislation to Save Local Transit, Create Jobs

¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

Business leaders support dedicated funding for transit, discuss growth plans

Milwaukee – Governor Doyle and local elected officials joined the region’s top CEOs in urging the state legislature and local community to support new transit legislation at a news conference today hosted by Bucyrus International in South Milwaukee.

On the opening day of the spring legislative session, the area’s top CEOs delivered a strong, united statement of support for the transit legislation providing dedicated funding and property tax relief for transit, stressing the link between transit and economic development as well as potential expansion plans that are dependent upon the future of local transit. 

“As business leaders, we understand the dire need to create an environment where the economy and jobs can grow,” said host Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of Bucyrus International.  “Bucyrus is looking to add up to 450 additional jobs over the next three to five years, but the number of jobs added will be directly related to the improvement of the current transit system through dedicated sales tax funding, and the addition of the KRM commuter rail.”

“In Wisconsin we are already behind many regions in transportation,” said Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson.  “Without a modern well-organized transit system of buses and commuter rail, southeastern Wisconsin will be left behind as the state’s residents are attracted to other developing regions, while those remaining in Racine and other communities will not have good access to affordable, efficient transportation to connect to jobs and other important needs.” 

“Without dedicated funding, our transit system could go bankrupt,” said Ed Zore, chairman and chief executive officer of Northwestern Mutual. “The impact would extend beyond actual transit riders and would handicap our business community, making it difficult for businesses to retain employees and customers.”

ABOUT THE GREATER MILWAUKEE COMMITTEE

The Greater Milwaukee Committee is a private sector civic organization whose mission is to contribute to the cultural and economic base of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. The organization was formed in 1948 and is comprised of the top leaders in business, the professions, labor, education philanthropy and non-profit community development.  For more information, visit www.gmconline.org or call 414-272-0588.

Tagged with: ,