Governmental taxing programs never seem to die, but continue to be transfigured into another scheme to confiscate our hard-earned dollars. It was in 2011 that the State Legislature buried the discussion about Regional Transit Authorities. Today, the ghost of the RTA is about to rise again from the grave.
During the past week, community leaders began discussing the possibility of developing a regional transit system to support the Foxconn manufacturing campus, Grandview Industrial Park, other businesses throughout the I94 corridor, and extending beyond into Racine County as future needs arise.
According to Jim Palenick, Racine City Administrator, “What this really cries out for is a transit authority that can generate revenues from a much wider basis than a single, older urban core city that is taking on the burden for all of the areas around it.” Operative words and phrases in Palenick’s statement are: “authority,” “generate revenues,” and “wider basis.” Translated, the RTA would be a governing board of appointees that would be able to determine the tax rate, the types of transportation needed, and who will be taxed into supporting the transportation system in the region. Keep in mind that the cost of any such system will never be able to be self-supporting without millions of tax dollars from the Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Waukesha areas. Milwaukee’s Mayor Barrett would be strongly supportive of a RTA because it would be a source of tax revenue that would help pay for his trolley. Do Racine and Kenosha taxpayers really want to pay for his folly?
In another article that appeared in the Racine Journal Times last week, the city bus system, “Ryde,” had approximately 1.3 million riders. I do not know how accurate this ridership figure is because the reporter did not indicate how it was determined. According to the article, the cost of the Ryde system to the city is $9.8 million dollars annually. Using these figures, the cost per ride is $7.54. After factoring out an approximate rider fare of $1.50, taxpayer subsidies are approximately $5-6.00 per ride. (Since there are a number of different price levels, I estimated the average cost per ride.) However, when I am driving around the city, I often see empty buses with only an occasional rider or two. The city bus system is broken and suffers from poor management and needs to be overhauled. Since we are always going to have some sort of public transportation system in Racine, Ryde system management needs to focus on reducing operating costs and revising bus schedules to help stabilize the system.
Since when is it the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide our fellow citizens with the means to go to work? The jobs at Foxconn are expected to average $50, 000 per employee. With this kind of salary level, shouldn’t workers be responsible to pay for their own ride to and from work? How about negotiating transportation costs with Foxconn or maybe even having workers fund the full cost of their transportation. Since Foxconn is a huge conglomerate, maybe they could provide a busing system for their employees.
Even though it might be necessary to have a modest public transportation system, it should not be designed to confiscate additional dollars from the local citizenry. I also question the establishment of a regional transit authority that would have an appointed board. We are still dealing with Racine County taxes going to Miller Park. Does anyone remember how many times this tax was to have expired?
Beware of the RTA Ghost!!!