Businesses across Wisconsin are struggling to find workers. A lack of reliable public transportation options has left qualified workers in Milwaukee and other regions of the state unable to travel to well-paying jobs in nearby communities. It’s reached a point where WisDOT Secretary Dave Ross has announced plans to develop a pilot program with non-profit groups to connect people to jobs across county lines as a temporary fix.
However, a much better solution exists. Allowing communities to come together and raise money through the creation of regional transportation authorities will allow people to access jobs, help attract and retain employees and increase economic productivity on a regional basis. Communities will have much greater control of their transportation futures, and decide exactly how their tax dollars should be spent.
State legislators need to wake up to these facts and overturn the ban on RTAs. We currently spend about $100 million a year on public transit—a number that is just a rounding error in our gargantuan highway budget. Allowing communities to raise money in a coordinated fashion will provide for new rapid transit buses, regional rail lines and last-mile connectivity options like ride share systems. Our transportation system must position our industry, businesses and workforce for success—RTAs are a key component of getting there.