Deanna Alexander
Press Release

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander Supports Reallocating Money for Transit and Roads

Supervisor Deanna Alexander said today that she supported efforts by Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan to reallocate funding for a downtown Milwaukee streetcar.

By - Feb 20th, 2014 11:50 am

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander said today that she supported efforts by Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan asking Gov. Scott Walker work Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Chris Abele to reallocate funding for a downtown Milwaukee streetcar, and she urged Walker to strongly consider Donovan’s request.

In a February 19 letter to Governor Walker, Donovan asked that the Governor partner with other leaders to reallocate funding for originally intended for the downtown streetcar proposed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and instead and use the money to improve city streets and increase transit services to connect Milwaukee residents with suburban jobs.

“Ald. Donovan is absolutely on the right track with his request to reallocate streetcar funding and use it for street repairs and transit,” said Alexander, a member of the County Board’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee and the Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee.

“The streetcar is lacking public support,” Alexander said.  “We would be much more pragmatic to forego a shiny new streetcar plan and instead support what would have a more meaningful impact for our residents: expanding bus transit taking workers to suburban jobs and repairing the roads that are already deteriorating.”

“With limited resources, we’d all be better off with buses that go jobs rather than a streetcar that goes nowhere,” Alexander continued.  “I’ll be happy to talk about a streetcar plan when Milwaukee isn’t busy carrying the burden of being the 3rd highest taxed city in the county and when its residents aren’t calling elected officials begging for access to just-out-of-reach suburban jobs.”

Donovan suggested that Walker reallocate the $54.9 million in federal funding earmarked for the streetcar and use it for a state/city partnership to fund street paving and the Milwaukee County Transit System.

“We have far more urgent needs than a streetcar,” she said. “If it is possible under the law, I urge the Governor, the Mayor, County Executive, and anyone else who can stir this pot for some practical change to take action to give our residents what they want: jobs and  transportation to them, not toys.”

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5 thoughts on “Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander Supports Reallocating Money for Transit and Roads”

  1. Bill Sell says:

    Not too long ago, Supervisor Alexander introduced me to a County Executive employee as her “transit guru.” Given the quality of thought that went into this “Reallocating Money” term paper, I am holding her grade until the Supervisor engages in certain, specific learning activities required for a billion dollar budget manager, which by the grace of the 18th District she is.

    The money for the Streetcar must by law be used for the Streetcar. It can be changed by Congress, but “this” Congress? Oh, Supervisor, you wit and your bawdy comic relief – it is so Shakespearean. However, as I calm my convulsions of laughter, let me not to the bane of true intelligence pass up a suitable classroom assignment.

    I am in the process of writing a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel literacy test. It is my contribution to the most tragic failure of the schools in our generation – releasing Scott Walker for prime time before he was done with his studies.

    Streetcar money is capital not operations money; it cannot be used to operate buses – even “good” buses that take people to work (I laud your liberal sentiment here). That my student messes up on a fundamental principle of capitalism, this is a personal embarrassment for me. I discretely suggest MATC’s Basic Bookkeeping class; it was a fantastic boost for my tiny enterprise, imagine what it might do for the whole County.

    We could of course, with money, run a bus to serve a job center or two in Franklin or New Berlin. This is not a smart way to build transit – a two-shift bus out there all on its own with no routes crossing and feeding that bus. It may pick up the random citizen who has a job in New Berlin, but it will not pick up the hundreds who could connect to that new route by the dozens of routes that are already feeding workers to other parts of the County.

    Transit needs a Network; it is not a cab ride. As my good student, you know that it has been the Network that is under attack for a decade.

    But if you have not heard of the last decade of transit cuts, take the refresher class. Transit management courses are available; it is a highly skilled industry even though most of us think we could run a bus system, no problem. (I once suffered that delusion until they put me to work, and gave me office space and tons of challenges. I have been humbled, and am now relegated to teaching transit management, heavens forbid Sell should get his hands on a system itself.)

    Nor will a bus to New Berlin survive. Once employed, each time-frugal worker will buy a car and soon the bus that got them back to work will run empty – I warned you – and that $54.9 million streetcar money will be carbon dioxide up the tail pipe.

    I know this is a personal matter, nothing to do with my role as your “guru” but I would watch out whom you bed with (politically speaking, of course). As the transit advocate you believe you are, I’d recommend some physical distance from the fakirs who pretend to like buses when it is convenient, but will dismantle the bus system when there is no Streetcar to kick around, no commuter train, no high speed rail, no bicycle paths. And after the bus system is gone, then what? Sidewalks, of course.

    Finally, as your “guru” I would appreciate if you pay attention to the transit issues that have engulfed the rest of us. If you say you love our bus system, you might write a term paper showing that love. Questions that occupy the minds of us lesser mortals go like this: “How money from Texas will help Milwaukee build a modern transit system like no other city in the world.” Or “How to rebuild public transit to the way it was before County Executive Scott Walker spent the capital funds on operations.” Or “Which large American city will be the last to get a Streetcar?”

  2. Tom D says:

    Bill Sell, great response to Supervisor Alexander’s desire to use streetcar money to fund suburban bus routes.

    I had a few more thoughts about her press release.

    MCTS got $36.6 million of streetcar money in 2009, around the same time MCTS was cutting suburban bus routes. If it is so easy to use this capital money for operations, why didn’t MCTS do it back then?

    Why wasn’t some of that $36.6 million used to provide real-time schedule information at downtown bus stops? One reason we need the streetcar is that it is so hard to use MCTS for trips within downtown, and real-time schedule data would help immensely.

    MCTS operates east-west buses along only two downtown streets: 18-23 buses/hour on Wisconsin and 1-2 buses/hour on East Michigan.

    With at least 18 buses an hour, Wisconsin Avenue should offer convenient,frequent service within downtown, but it doesn’t. The Wisconsin Avenue bus stops are maddeningly confusing–there is simply no way to tell where (which bus stop) you can catch the next bus.

    There are 7 all-day bus routes on Wisconsin Avenue, but no bus stop serves all routes, so you must choose a stop and hope that the next bus stops there (or run to the next block when it doesn’t). Providing this information at all Wisconsin Avenue bus stops via GPS-driven electric signs would be a simple, cheap, and a capital expense–an allowable use for this money.

    Finally, Ms. Alexander wants the city to fund bus routes to suburban workplaces, while the municipalities that contain those businesses sit back and contribute nothing (while they–and not the City–collect property taxes from those businesses).

  3. Bill Sell says:

    Thanks, Tom D, for your thoughtful comments. I believe I have some additional comments. Hope these help.

    The reason that purchase of new buses was the high priority for the past few years is that the County had not purchased new buses for years, but spent capital money on operations (in violation of the purpose of that money); it was a device County Executive Scott Walker used in order to keep up the pretense of balancing the County’s budget. Lesson learned – the kind of lesson that I hope we would never forget; but that was before Supervisor Alexander was on the board. For those of us who were here earlier, we must always remember to bring forward (patiently) historical facts for the young people.

    The TSAC did press MCTS to develop a map of the downtown bus stops and that is now available: http://www.ridemcts.com/docs/default-source/routes_schedules_files/mk285-wi-ave-bus-stop-map(1).pdf?sfvrsn=2 My own experience, without that map in hand, is finding myself running from one bus stop to the next until I find the route I need.

    GPS and its benefits are now in the system and they are shaking down the problems on Route #21; the system needs to “learn” the quirks of each route to make it accurate. But the learning curve on #21 will make the other routes easier to learn. Look for it March, April. Bus arrival times are part of the Annunciator system which will automatically announce each bus stop for the benefit of the passengers. Using a single database for both will keep maintenance costs lower.

    No matter what goes wrong in the state, someone always finds a way to blame it on Milwaukee. How they can blame Milwaukee which finessed a high speed rail factory in the middle of an unemployment desert, I don’t know. But low taxes induced some businesses to locate distant from available workers. As a business person, I cannot understand how such a major investment as a brick and mortar start-up can work without attention to all the details. I can attest that low taxes are not the “everything” that some elected officials without business experience seem to believe.

  4. Tom D says:

    Bill Sell, thanks for the Wisconsin Avenue bus stop map. Once you see all the stops mapped out, it’s clear there is little rhyme or reason for which buses stop where.

    It is a far cry from the 1950s and 1960s when there were just 4 Wisconsin Avenue bus routes and just two kinds of stops: #12/#23 (white signs) on one block and #30/#31 (orange signs) on the next. Each route stopped every other block, always mid-block which meant that anybody transferring to/from a NS bus (or just walking from Wells or Michigan) never walked more than 1/2 block along Wisconsin to reach their bus stop.

    On another topic, MCTS used to post annual reports online, but the latest one is for 2011. Do you know if they ever produced one for 2012?

    http://www.ridemcts.com/about-us/annual-reports

  5. Bill Sell says:

    Tom, I remember the pairing of routes on Wis. Ave. and how the consistency helped us to make quick decisions. Well, as you know, there are now many more routes. New: 14, 10, 90, Blue, most of the freeway fliers, and the Ozaukee and Waukesha buses. The solution is to find signage simple enough to point the passenger to the closest bus stop of the route they wish to travel.

    I do not know about an MCTS 2012 annual report, but I will ask.

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