March 22, 2010

Commentary: Transit is about creating jobs, not ideology

By Roger Caron, President, Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce and
Jeff Van Koningsveld, President, IBEW Local 430, and co-chair of the Racine Transit Task Force

Transit is about economic growth and jobs – JOBS, not ideology.

If we want jobs and a stronger economy, we must pass Regional Transit Authority legislation in Wisconsin and not let politics hinder progress and prosperity. Let’s take constructive action that will build us up as a county and region.

Lower the volume on all the fear and misinformation and an alarming fact still rings clear: we have the second highest unemployment rate in the state. There’s no denying that we must do something about jobs and unemployment.

Nor can we deny government’s responsibility to serve the people. All transportation modes, not just roads, are the responsibility of government. Individuals can’t get our faltering bus system in order; our leaders must. The only way we can effectively develop the transit we need to strengthen our economic future is through cooperation and a regional effort.

Racine CEOs testified at an Assembly hearing in Madison recently that passing RTA legislation would be the single most productive action our representatives can take to impact job creation and cultivate economic growth while also allowing us to adequately fund bus service, the cornerstone of any regional transit system.

Ideological differences and political positioning are creating an environment that’s hindering wise investment of our resources in transit projects that leverage significant private dollars and federal funds to create jobs and get people connected to jobs. Left unused, this federal money goes to other states and regions. Isn’t it time we started to finally get our fair share of the dollars we send to Washington?

Besides allowing us to improve deteriorating bus transit, the RTA bill is necessary for securing federal funding for KRM commuter rail, which would network with buses to expand connections to economic opportunities in other areas. KRM will also help make us more competitive with places such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, and other peer metro areas in attracting jobs and businesses.

For the short term, simply building the KRM line, along with projected growth around the project, will create nearly 4,700 jobs. In addition, KRM will help support the creation of another 71,000 jobs linked to both short- and long-term development.

Although these jobs are in and near Racine and along the KRM corridor, they impact everyone. The people working them will be from all parts of the county. And, as the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission notes, everyone will gain access to over 1 million jobs within the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor as a result of better bus connections and KRM.

Some people have voiced doubt about KRM ridership projections of over 2 million passengers a year. Ridership figures are modest and based on years of highly scrutinized studies. The projection methodology and formulas (required by the Federal Transit Administration) are purposely very conservative. Ridership results for most new transit line using the same required methodology have exceeded estimates far sooner than expected, as evidenced in Phoenix, Charlotte, Minneapolis and many other metro areas.

Looking at other areas shows there are tax base benefits too. For example, in addition to helping create 91,000 permanent jobs by this year, Metrorail in Northern Virginia will also generate 2.1 billion in tax revenue, 26.8 million square feet of commercial development, and 31,000 additional residential units, according to the Urban Land Institute.

And while the naysayer might note Racine is not Northern Virginia, nor are we some dustbowl town with no vision and no future – that is unless we choose to let ideological bickering and political acrimony get in our way.

Locally, KRM train stations, including two here in Racine County, are projected to similarly spur increased property values by an estimated $7.8 billion and generate $750 million increase in retail sales over 25 years.

And the public decidedly favors RTA passage. That hearing in Madison we mentioned earlier drew a broadly representative overflow crowd, many of them from our local communities, and yielded seven hours of testimony. Just one person voiced only mild opposition, a clear indication that this is not a partisan issue. Why make it one?

Let’s tell our legislators to get the RTA bill—a jobs bill—done now. We all need to stand up and support our legislators that advocate for this very important, forward-thinking legislation!


  1. AMEN! Get it done!

  2. BS all BS

    No long term jobs from this. No development from this (look at Kenonsha) only more spending that we can not afford.
    George Meyers has a great show on CAR 25 that has information that The City does not want you to know.

  3. If it's about JOBS, then lets build a local recycling center that processes the recycled materials, not only JOBS to build it, but it would use one of our derelict industrial sites and provide sustained jobs for the future. This transit nonsense is nothing but taxpaid boondoggles for the cronies!

  4. If we can just get Lehmann to vote for RTA instead of pretending he is against it so he can get reelected.

  5. Pretty sure any job - short or long-term - is useful to Racine right now. Especially a $250 million project.

  6. We need regional transportation more than ever. Racine will never see the jobs return, we are a suburb of Chicago or Milwaukee and need mass transportation to get to wherever the jobs are. Anyone who has ever visited Europe and seen the mass transportation system there would realize the benefits it would provide here. Once gas gets to $4 or $5 a gallon many of you who oppose this will change your minds.

  7. Certainly Train Stations attract jobs - you have to look not further than Downtown Milwaukee where the train station (now called the Intermodel Station)is right in the middle of - Oh wait - there's nothing within four blocks of the Milwaukee Train Station. Never Mind!!

  8. Dustin - did you ever do any research (as I requested) into the jobs available elswhere in Racine County that the train would somehow help people get to? This was part of your justification statement so where is your data?

    Once again, the CEOs have spoken - they would also vote for free mansions, cars and boats purchased for corporate officers by the taxpayers if they could. Why is their word on use if taxpayer money taken as the golad standard? Wait, Johnson got a huge tax break on their new building - so I guess we already did pay for some of that.

  9. use "of" taxpayer money and "gold" standard - sorry -

  10. 12:35

    I can DRIVE faster to these "jobs" then the time it takes to take the train.
    I also do not need to pay any more taxes.
    If you like trains move to Chicago, trains that need more and more taxes to keep running

  11. Who will ride a 29 mph train? Anyone who can see the big picture would admit Amtrak covers the Milw-Chicago corridor very well at 79 mph. Why add another costly, unprofitable route when Amtrak doesnt run at 100 percent capacity.

    If you want economic growth, improve the freeway access to Racine.

  12. Why is there no mention of what it will cost for this project?
    What are the $$ spent per job created?
    Those CEOs would never try to sell a project to their BOD without BOTH costs & benefits.
    R Caron has spent more time on the golf course than he has spent on creating jobs in Racine.
    Anytime a RAMAC director co-writes a puff piece, you know they don't have much skin in the game.

  13. What a pathetic attempt to persuade us. This is a disaster. Ask yourself how many people will pay 15 bucks to take a train from racine to milwaukee and back? Trains failed around here along time ago and for good reason, NOBODY RIDES THEM. These are a bunch of special interest clowns who stand to make personal gain if this goes through. Do your research and you will find out!

  14. Racine Transit Task Force? OMG! Hey Jeff try walking a few miles, you could use it!

  15. Why don't boaters have to pay for maintenance of the Main and State Street bridges? Because people like Mr. Caron own boats and yachts. Everyone else gets to pay for the toys of the rich.

  16. Of course RAMAC is for it; they don't have to pay for it. WE do!

  17. Based on Dustin's logic, anything that creates a job is good. Why not create those jobs on something we actually need then? Sustained jobs are even better! This KRM nonsense is a sustained cost liability and unneeded hocum!

  18. Yes, that $250 million dollars just materialized out of nowhere and no one ever has to pay for it. It's free money. Why aren't we taking free money from the government? Why isn't an airplane flying over Racine throwing out all the free money?

  19. The Translator3/22/2010 3:01 PM

    I am ashamed that these two men have positions of authority that spew lies, falsehoods and un-American principals. How can you two stand up and argue for taxation without representation? We fought something called the American Revolution over this same issue. You say to lower the volume on all the fear and misinformation but yet you still use those same tactics to quote "statistics" which have no basis in fact. The accounting and ridership numbers used in the RTA make the Obamacare bill look good. Most business development in Racine and the surrounding communities is on the HWY 31, 20 and 11 corridors and within 2-3 miles of I-94 because it is trucking that moves most goods in this country and access to a main arterial is needed.

    Now on to bus ridership. The ridership to industrial parks in Mt Pleasant, and Sturtevant is non-existent. People do not use the bus system we have now to reach available jobs. You are advocating for a multi million-dollar money grab financed by the taxpayers who have all had enough. Your ridiculous argument is that we need to grab our fair share. When does the public get their fair share? You quote all these CEO's, some of which are worth billions. Where is their investment in the KRM?

    It is preposterous that someone living in Caledonia or Sturtevant will drive in their car 20 minutes into the city of Racine to get on a train which would take another 25 minutes to get to downtown Milwaukee, then have to wait for a bus or shuttle to take them to Miller Park instead of a 25 minutes freeway ride to get to the same location. The KRM is a logistical nightmare. Only City of Racine has come out in favor of this boondoggle. Mt Pleasant, Caledonia, Sturtevant, Burlington have all said No to the KRM.

    As I have stated on these pages many times in the past: Put this to a binding referendum. Let the people decide. Let democracy work. If it passes, I'll shut up and you build it. If it doesn’t, you don’t.

  20. We could create more jobs by legalizing prostitution and then we could tax it too.

  21. Poor one bucket into another, then poor it back. Repeat. Creating jobs without creating wealth does not work in the long term.

  22. "Ideological differences and political positioning" this phrase, among many from Mr. Caron proves that it's a good thing. IMHO, he's retiring. Out of touch do you think?


  23. 4,700 and then 71,000 jobs - what exactly are these jobs. Are we going to almost double our population?

  24. Dustin, stop living in a dream land, we just don't have the freaking money for this.

  25. Well, it looks like all 130 Tea Party attendees have found a blog!

    I bet yesterday's vote didn't make you happy either. Or elections lately, they aren't making you happy. Oh, and sorry you were the last to be picked in HS.

    Maybe you should take an Amtrak out of town! I, for one, want the train and all the good things it could bring.

  26. The basics of economy are based upon 'value added". This harebrained choo-choo is a loser.

  27. You could ride a bike faster than the max speed of the train, 29 MPH!
    This whole proposal is a joke.

  28. I work in downtown Milwaukee, and there is zero chance I will ride this train.

    Among my co-workers, nobody I've talked to about it plans to ride it either. The only people who seem to be advocating for it are people who live and work in Racine, and they won't ride it either.

  29. Dustin, this is not a "$250 million project." This is going to cost more to the tune of $350 million to $500 million before it's all over, one of the primary reasons being that Union Pacific has denied use of its rails for the system and new track will have to be laid, which initially adds at least 20% or more cost to the project.

    Then there's the KRM proponents own projection that the operation of the trains will run at an 85% deficit for at least the first 15 to 25 years. The overwhelming cost of that will be on the taxpayer's backs. More hundreds of millions of dollars spent for nothing.

    No, the overall cost for short term construction jobs and very few long term jobs is not worth it. Anon 12:13 has a much better idea.

    The "CEOs" that want this are the ones who want to ride the train into Racine (where there will be a stop at SCJ, but not at the Milwaukee Airport) from their expensive homes outside of Racine, and do it at the taxpayer's expense.

    Anon 1:32, you are correct. However, if you've seen any of the Chicago papers lately, the Metra system is freezing wages, eliminating some routes and cutting back on services because they are losing money hand over fist. If a city the size of Chicago (3 million or more) can't sustain a train system how are the 1.5 million between Kenosha and Milwaukee going to do it?

    When are you liberal tax-and-spend, hand-out driven, feel-good bleeding hearts going to realize that there is not one, NOT ONE, public mass-transit system on the planet that pays for itself ?!?!?!?! They are all subsidized !!! And this one will be one of the worst. The proponents even admit that each train car will carry less than 10% of its capacity. Wake up !!!!

  30. Anon 6:26

    You are a coward.

  31. So lets make a product and sell it. Why make jobs building something that is obsolete before it is finished? Why build something that is going to cost us our homes (property taxes)? Lets make gym shoes. I am all for job creation.

  32. The train ride to Chicago is unbearable. It is an all day affair. There are so few trains that actually run to Kenosha. You end up spending hours waiting and riding. Why do I want more of that?

  33. Diane M. Lange4/02/2010 2:34 PM

    We need to stay focused on this being a part of a much bigger picture than many choose to address on this poicy issue. The establishment of funding for the RTA and the extension of the KRM train to connect Chicago to Milwuakee will be a huge improvement in meeting our future transportation needs. Kudos to the Assembly Committee on Transportation in passing the AB-282 bill.

    Supervisor Diane M. Lange
    Racine COunty Board