Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, says government needs to be run like a business.
But there’s not a business anywhere that would succeed if it was mismanaged the way Mr. Walker has mismanaged the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS)!
Walker, who has no private sector experience, has raised prices, while cutting service- a recipe for failure!
Last year ridership plunged 9% to a 33 year low even as national transit ridership soared to a 50 year high in response to high gas prices and growing traffic congestion.
Walker doesn’t grasp rudimentary economics. You can attract riders/customers with low prices. Or you attract them by offering high level (quality) services. But no enterprise, public or private, can raise prices and slash service and operate successfully.
Yet, this has been Walker's strategy for the Milwaukee County Transit System.
From 2001- 2007, Walker increased adult cash fares by 30% from $1.35 to $1.75 and weekly pass fares by 52% from $10.50 to $16. He eliminated seventeen bus routes; reduced service on sixteen routes; ended year round downtown trolley service; and cut night time service.
This year he raised the adult fare again-to $2.00. It is now one of the highest in the nation. And he cut four additional routes! Walker proposed cutting many more routes, but the County Board restored them.
And Walker’s not done. He plans to slash service 35% more by 2010.
Walker’s brags about holding Milwaukee County’s spending to the rate of inflation. But his 2001-2007 adult fare increases were 18% more than the rate of inflation while weekly pass prices soared almost 33% more.
With gas prices expected to approach $4 a gallon, many Milwaukee residents and suburban commuters are looking for cheaper, alternative transportation. Walker’s plan for the transit system coupled with his obstinate opposition to developing a catalytic light rail system has left Milwaukee with no viable transportation alternatives. It has also shifted costs to the Milwaukee Public School District, forcing the district to raise property taxes and cut school servces to pay for Walker's shortsighted student fare increases.
The United State Bowling Congress is leaving Milwaukee. Miller’s corporate headquarters may follow. While suburban businesses face labor shortages, unemployment remains stubbornly high in the County.
Does the County Executive really believe Milwaukee can attract and retain jobs and corporate headquarters without a viable public transit system?
Does Mr. Walker really think we can connect the unemployed with employers experiencing labor shortages without affordable and efficient mass transit?
When you put a fox in charge of the chicken coup, the feathers fly.