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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Boost service, cut fares to save county transit system, consultant says

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Town of Yorkville - Cutting fares and restoring slashed service could be key strategies for rescuing the financially troubled Milwaukee County Transit System, a nationally known transit consultant told the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority on Monday. . . .

Rubin agreed with reports from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Public Policy Forum that praised the Milwaukee County bus system’s cost-effective management, but that found major ridership losses resulted from fare increases and service cuts since 2000. He also agreed with those reports’ warnings of a 35% service cut by 2010 without new state or local funding — a cut that would wipe out all Freeway Flyers and most night, weekend and suburban service.

But Rubin said ridership could double in five years if county officials restore the service that has been cut and lower the fares. Phasing in that approach, with service restorations first and fare cuts later, would cater to “a huge unmet demand” for transit service that is growing as gas prices rise, he said.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has spoken favorably about lowering fares but proposed several fare increases and no fare cuts. That’s because restoring service and lowering fares would require additional revenue, and state and local officials have been deeply divided about new funding for buses.

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