Thursday, November 20, 2008

WisDOT requests 3% transit aid hike

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is requesting a 3% increase in transit aid for the next biennium, the largest it has sought in several years, but still a pretty cheesy increase compared to the new money WisDOT wants to spend on unneeded highway expansion in the area (more on this later).

WisDOT's request would increase Milwaukee County Transit System assistance by $1.6 million, to $67.3 million in FY10; and an additional $2 million in FY11.

In its request, WisDOT laid out its rationale:

With the high price of fuel, increasing highway congestion, and increasing environmental concerns, transit ridership in Wisconsin and the nation are at an all-time high. One notable exception is Milwaukee County which has cut service and increased fares. Even with record ridership, demand for transit services still outpaces availability as costs, mostly due to fuel costs, have increased at a much faster rate than general inflation and funding. Transit providers have been faced with reducing and discontinuing service, increasing fares, increasing local taxes, and, in many cases, have not been able to implement much-needed new services. The inability of funding to keep pace with costs has also prevented the establishment of new transit services in areas where they have not existed in the past, despite high demand. For these reasons, the requested percentage increase for transit operating aids is higher than what is being requested for most other programs.

In CY 08, the program provided an average of 36.5% of operating costs. While this represented a slight increase from 35.9% in CY 07, it has been decreasing steadily from 37.4% in CY 06, 38% in CY 05, and 39.2% in CY 04. In addition, these percentages do not take into consideration reductions in service, discontinued service, and increased local taxes that have resulted due to funding increases not keeping pace with costs.

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