Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SEWRPC: another shoddy job

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, in developing a key transportation plan, failed to consider key demographic data, overstated the amount of money invested in transit and misrepresented highway funding, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In one section of its 2009-20012 Transportation Improvement Program SEWRPC "purports to show that only about $227 million is going to highway 'improvements,'" ACLU-Wisconsin attorney Karyn Rotker wrote in comments submitted to SEWRPC. Buried elsewhere, she said, are estimates that, when added, put the highway total for 2009 alone at $346 million.

SEWRPC asserts in the document that transit will receive more than one-third of 2009 expenditures, Rotker wrote.

"By showing the distribution of only the 2009 expenditures -- which includes more than half the projected transit expansion costs for the entire four-year period -- the TIP hides the fact that transit expenditures will constitute a significantly smaller percentage of improvements than SEWRPC asserts," she said.

SEWRPC also failed to include key demographic data, including the following:
  • The US Census Bureau identified the Milwaukee-Waukesha region as, overall, the most racially segregated region in the country for African-Americans.
  • 60% of African-American adults in Milwaukee live in households with no vehicles, compared to 14% of adult whites in the city.
  • Fewer than half of African-American and Hispanic adults in Milwaukee County have valid drivers' licenses, compared to 73% of white adults in the county.

"Consequently, African-American and Latino residents of southeastern Wisconsin benefit far less than non-Hispanic white persons from highway expansion and major road improvements, while being far more burdened by reductions in transit service and fare increases," she wrote.

The federal stimulus bill allows surface transportation funds, not just Federal Transit Administration funds, to be used for transit development, she said.

"SEWRPC should prioritize transit development and necessary road repairs in economically distressed areas with these funds," she said. "At the same time, projects -- especially highway improvements and expansions -- that are not in economically distressed areas should be given far lower priority."

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