It is Hard to Stop a Train

It’s hard to stop a train.

When the KRM Commuter Link (Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee Commuter Rail) system faces a hurdle it cannot overcome, the rules are changed to allow the project to proceed.

On Monday morning The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority voted 7-2 Monday apply for federal approval of preliminary engineering work on the KRM.

Originally that vote would not have been enough for the project to proceed.  KRM proponents had said that the Milwaukee County Transit System’s finances had to be righted before the feds would begin to look into another transit system involving Milwaukee County. State Legislative efforts to green light a new sales tax for the MCTS failed earlier this year.

From today’s JSOnline

But Federal Transit Administration officials changed their position Friday afternoon, said Ken Yunker, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The federal officials said they could allow preliminary engineering to start but would not allow final engineering to move forward unless the bus system’s funding issues were resolved, Yunker said.

The SERTA is already empowered to enact a car rental tax of up to $18. However, every time a possible vote on the project is scheduled, the public speaks up and the plan is scuttled.

Yet, thanks to the ‘change of heart’ from the federal government, tax dollars can be spent on preliminary engineering for the KRM project, despite the uncertainty regarding mass transit in Milwaukee County and the public’s lack of appetite to fund an entirely new system.

Members of the SERTA are merely using taxpayers’ money to create more and more ‘evidence’ they can use as justification for hiking taxes even more. Does anyone doubt that the preliminary engineering on the KRM project will will come back showing that this is a great bargain for taxpayers? 

Then several months after the fact, like Obamacare, Milwaukee Bus System Bike-rack usage, etc., we will find out that ridership projections do not mesh with reality and taxpayers will need to cough up more money to keep this project alive.

Today’s actions are just further evidence as to why regional transit authorities are bad news for taxpayers. Like the new Milwaukee County tax, efforts to create several new Regional Taxing Transit Authorities across Wisconsin died when the Legislature skipped town last month. 

Candidates for elected office who court the support of taxpayer groups would be wise to reject creation of new RTAs in the future.

By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Institute Perspective