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Wisconsinites fight for mass transit!

By Peter Adamczak |
January 29, 2013
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Madison, WI - Unions and community groups, including the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 (ATU), Disability Rights Wisconsin and Community Action Now (CAN) gathered inside the Capitol Building here, Jan. 23, for a press conference demanding a reversal of a 10% funding cut, increased funding for transit and the creation of a Regional Transit Authority with elected members. A Regional Transit Authority would allow for better localized coordination and organization of mass transit.

The Jan. 23 press conference came on the heels of the recently released 145-page report from the Commission on Transportation Finance and Policy that was presented to the Walker administration and state lawmakers. This report could have an impact on mass transit funding in the next state budget, which is due out in February.

According to a press release from Community Action Now, “While the coalition isn't endorsing the full 145-page report, they will highlight support for 5 key provisions.” Those 5 provisions pertain to the demands laid out above.

The failure to fully fund mass transit results in fare increases and cuts to bus and Paratransit service. During the press conference, Jennifer Epps-Addison of CAN stated, “Access to jobs and doctor's appointments is a right.”

The livelihood of transit system operators is in jeopardy as well. ATU organizer Angela Walker explains what it means for transit drivers, “Service cuts mean less work for us and more aggravation for our passengers. That gets passed on to us. Stressed passengers are angry passengers and they blame us for the shortcomings of the system.” Ms. Walker also stated, “We want more service on the road, covering areas not already served by transit.”

The fight to preserve and increase transit funding is not being ignored by all state political leaders. Newly-elected State Representative Mandela Barnes was in attendance at the press conference, as well as former 10th District Milwaukee County Alderman and current Milwaukee Public School Board candidate Eyon Biddle Sr. Both acknowledge the need for mass transit in the struggle for social and economic justice.

Mandela Barnes states, “Restoring transit funding isn't enough, we must find more ways to invest!” The condition of large urban areas, like Milwaukee, Madison or Racine, only stand to suffer from cuts in funding. Eyon Biddle warns, “Without adequate transit you will see the already fragile and challenging conditions of Milwaukee's central city further plummet. It is something that crosses color lines, gender lines and age.” All representatives of the press conference urged Wisconsinites to contact their local legislators and Governor Scott Walker's office. We must also take the fight to the streets!

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