Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Group Pushes Higher Wheel Tax for Transit

Higher vehicle licensing fee pushed as County Transit System considers 10% budget cut.

Bus. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

Bus. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

The Milwaukee County Transit System is considering reducing bus service by 10 percent in 2020 to deal with a $6.4 million budget deficit. But members of a transit advocacy group are pushing for a hike in the vehicle registration fee, or wheel tax, to plug the gap.

To balance the budget this year, the transit system has already reduced travel and training expenses, cut advertising, eliminated administrative positions and canceled requests for new positions.

The transit system operates largely with state funding, with some federal and local aid. Because the state controls the amount of money that flows into transit, there’s not much that can be done on a local level, Dan Boehm, the MCTS managing director, said.

The County Board of Supervisors will examine all county budgets, and a decision will be made on any cuts in service by fall.

MCTS will examine each bus route to determine where changes can be made, Boehm said.

In the past, County Executive Chris Abele proposed increasing the wheel tax, since most of the fees help fund MCTS. Boehm said raising the wheel tax is about the only option the county has left.

Nick DeMarsh, a member of the Milwaukee Transit Riders Union, an organization of bus riders and transit advocates, said the group plans to connect with county leaders and push for an increase of the vehicle registration fee.

The Milwaukee Transit Riders Union wants to see bus service improved not reduced. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Transit Riders Union.

The Milwaukee Transit Riders Union wants to see bus service improved not reduced. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Transit Riders Union.

DeMarsh said bus riders have been through a lot, with fare increases, cut lines and reduced service.

“The possibility of cutting service means the death of service in Milwaukee,” DeMarsh said.

The union hoped that a new governor would give transit operations a chance to improve.

Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed budget includes a transportation funding increase. If it went through, MCTS would receive an additional $1.6 million for 2020.

DeMarsh said he hopes that county leaders start recognizing the importance of transit in Milwaukee. It helps people get to their jobs and is essential to reducing emissions, he said.

If any changes are made, DeMarsh said the union would like to see an improved transit system not a reduced one. The union would like a more efficient system where buses come more frequently as well as service lanes dedicated to buses.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

More about the 2020 MCTS Budget

Read more about 2020 MCTS Budget here

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