Screwing taxpayers and motorists: The BRT

Milwaukee sure does love a transit boondoggle.

Commuter rail. Light rail. $810 million in federal money that would have built a fast (unsustainable) train from Madison to Milwaukee and Chicago. Downtown Milwaukee trolley car.

And now the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), another great example of wasteful spending and bureaucrats gone crazy.

BRT Renderings. Rendering from of MCTS.

Today, the Milwaukee County Board approved a BRT route  between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Complex in Wauwatosa along parts of Wisconsin Ave. and Bluemound Road.

A few weeks ago here’s what a national website, New City had to say about the project. Please keep in mind that figures used tend to vary depending on the news organization. Lots of rosy spin ahead.

A proposed 9-mile bus rapid transit route connecting downtown Milwaukee to the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, could save commuters up to 112 hours a year . According to the East-West BRT Feasibility Study, the trip is projected to take 35 minutes end to end, compared to an estimated 51 minutes on existing bus lines.

The recommended route, developed after months of public hearings and transit modeling, travels the city from east to west, crossing through downtown and the west side of the city, primarily following Wisconsin Avenue and stopping at 19 locations. According to the route analysis, within a half-mile of the stations are: 47,000 residents, 120,000 jobs, 4,800 households without a car, and 12,7000 people living below the poverty line. The analysis also estimates BRT will increase transit ridership by up to 40 percent, attracting as many as 9,000 new riders to the BRT route and other lines. If successful, the study team estimates this could take as many as 6,700 cars off the road, reducing miles driven by up to 17 million miles per year.

County officials would like to finalize route planning by August, in order to apply for a Federal Transit Administration grant to cover up to 80 percent of the costs. If successful, operations could begin by the end of 2019. Early estimates suggest the project could cost between $42 million and $48 million.

The Milwaukee Common Council earlier approved the BRT. And so did the Wauwatosa Common Council, even though there were some council members in Tosa that demonstrated fiscal responsibility and common sense.  From the Business Journal:

Ald. Tim Hanson opposed the project based on the cost vs. the improvement to travel time.

“To save 10 minutes from what is there now is a little absurd, especially considering all of the money that will be spent chasing that,” he said.

Ald. Jason Kofroth said the BRT line would have a negative impact on residents, and for parking, on Blue Mound Road. He said the stops are too far from the Milwaukee County Research Park and Wauwatosa’s retail centers. He doubted the route would spur any significant economic development, and said the regional medical center will expand without the line.

“All it is going to do is benefit the people who are already on the medical campus,” he said. “I don’t understand why they need that.”

Of course not every Tosa official showed smarts. There was this brilliant argument to vote Yes…move the project along to move the project along.

Wauwatosa Ald Bobby Pantuso said he supports the latest resolution because future city votes will be required before anything is built.

“When it comes back I don’t know if I would vote for it then, but I think there is too much on the line here,” he said. “If we don’t try to start the process we will never get to the finish line.”

Absolutely brilliant.

So now we beg the Feds for $$$. And even if they help, and they usually turn their backs on the Badgers, it won’t cover total costs, or operating costs year to year.

Wednesday night, the night before the Milwaukee County Board vote on BRT, Channel 4’s Vince Vitrano produced a balanced report on the project. Even so, it was devastating as it pertained to the project merits. Maybe it wasn’t the intent, but Vitrano’s report shot huge holes in the rationale behind BRT and made government proponents look stupid and silly.

Your tax dollars…being wasted.

UPDATE: The Milwaukee County Board voted 14-1 in favor of BRT.


7 thoughts on “Screwing taxpayers and motorists: The BRT

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