May 16, 2010

$18 car rental fee for KRM is baaaack (maybe)

UPDATE:  SERTA voted this morning to ask the feds for approval to begin preliminary engineering work on KRM. At the same time, they voted against enacting the $18 rental car fee to fund the commuter rail proposal  -- at least until the Federal Transit Administration OK's the application. More from the Journal Sentinel here.

Original post:

Remember the $18 car rental tax proposed to pay our share of KRM commuter rail?

It's baaaaaaack!

Hard to believe, eh?, especially since the Legislature's inaction at the end of the session just last month appeared to bury the Regional Transit Authority legislation once and for all.

The Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SERTA) has scheduled a discussion of the "New Starts" application to the Federal Transit Administration for Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. Members will decide today whether to submit that application -- and if they do that, they will consider "enactment of vehicle rental fee," according to the May 17 meeting agenda. The meeting is at 8 a.m. at Mitchell Airport.

A PowerPoint presentation prepared in April by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission -- which represents Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Walworth and Ozaukee Counties -- assumes an initial $9 vehicle rental fee to be enacted this month, with revenues collected beginning Sept. 1, 2010; the fee would increase to $18 in March 2012, with the expanded revenue collection to begin on July 1, 2012.

Vehicle rental fee revenues are predicted to produce $10 million to $14.2 million a year, from 2017 to 2028. Commuter fare revenues during the same period are projected to raise $5 million to $6.6 million annually. The rest of the needed operating funds would come from state and federal sources.

Last June, Gov. Doyle said he wanted to veto the car rental fee proposal, but he left it intact "because the transit authority must have a local funding source to move forward with the federal application promise." Doyle had proposed a .5% sales tax, but legislators demurred. Other proposals have included a wheel tax; that, too, has gone nowhere. Last month, the Racine County Board voted to authorize a referendum in November, asking voters: " Should any new tax to support transit or rail services, such as a sales tax or local vehicle registration fee, be permitted in any part of Racine County?" That vote would be strictly advisory, and would have no bearing on SERTA's ability to impose a car rental tax (which would be mostly collected in Milwaukee County anyway.)

Citizens for Responsible Government notes, "SERTA is proceeding with applying to the federal government for the project even though they said in December it wouldn’t be considered without passage of still more tax increases by the legislature. Those taxes failed, but SERTA may raise taxes anyway."

SERTA's meeting agenda is here; the link to the New Starts presention is agenda item 7 b.



  2. Hard to believe because the argument/logic against this tax was so strong. It's just not a reliable source of adequate finances.

  3. This question is directed towards th Liberals in the viewing audience. Did Santa not bring you the CHOO CHOOS you so desperatly wanted as children? Do you feel that resposible people that do not want KRM need it jammed down our throuts? The Liberal agenda needs to be crushed, and November is the time to start!

  4. This is nothing more than the RTA trying to pad their own budget. It's been made pretty clear that a rental car fee will not meet the Feds standard for a sustainable funding source, so this is a move for taxpayers (yes people this is a tax being imposed by an unelected, unaccountable body) to continue to fund the lobbyists and PR firm hired by the RTA. Nice!

    BTW, anyone see the report where METRA's executive director committed suicide last week by walking on the train tracks? METRA is currently under federal investigation for "financial irregularities."

  5. As the railroads opened up the West 100years ago. These new rail services may reopen our failing cities. They just be a life line we need.

  6. This isn't about trains. It's about economic development in Racine. One of the city's big problems is it's cutoff from surrounding communities by traffic. Officials always sell Racine as "halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago," but that really means not close enough to either.

    KRM connects Racine to larger economies. It will bring people from Milwaukee (and possibly Chicago, especially if they don't have to change trains in Kenosha) who are looking for affordable new housing in a historic city.

    This is where regionalism fails. Leaders always talk about combining services with Mount Pleasant and Caledonia, sharing development, not competing, etc. It sounds good, but Racine is losing out.

    MP and Caledonia don't need KRM, but they may be asked to pay for it. It's even worse for Burlington, Union Grove, etc. The rental car tax is an attempt pay for commuter rail that will help Racine develop its inner city without taxing the suburbs. How many cars do you rent a year? It's a minimal charge for most people.

    Any big tax (like a sales tax, wheel tax, etc.) would cover public transit in the county, so everyone would benefit. We'd have buses that could move people not only in Racine, but from Burlington to Milwaukee and Union Grove to Kenosha. It'd create an effective regional transit system that actually could replace cars and need to spend billions of dollars expanding roads (not to mention reducing the environmental impact).

    The problem is the people with the loudest voices don't benefit from KRM. They have cars and jobs, don't live off of State Street in Racine, and have little interest in the city's future success. Meanwhile, people with the most to gain can't organize their voice into a cohesive message, or aren't willing to take the risk.

    This isn't about jamming KRM down anyone's throat, or even about the "liberal agenda." It's a real effort to create the "game-changer" Racine needs to create significant, impactful development in one of the city's traditionally poorest neighborhoods.

    I think the real questions city officials should be asking, but probably won't, is: How are things working right now? And, who benefits from the current system?

  7. A tax for something that will not happen (KRM) so what would they do with that money? What will it be spent on?

    "The problem is the people with the loudest voices don't benefit from KRM. They have cars and jobs, don't live off of State Street in Racine, and have little interest in the city's future success."

    The folks there ARE NOT going to take KRM to find jobs or work they (mostly) do not have the education or work experience to get well paying jobs (should they exist outside Racine)
    I have no idea why so many like Dustin believes the lies of KRM. He is smarter then the ave Bear and should looking into this further.

    Other questions to ask Metra in bankrupt as is the CTA both hvy used systems the Vegas Monorail went bankrupt for lack of use. Should the RKM get built why will it not suffer the same fate?

    Want to change the game in Racine?
    Try electing a Mayor who want to be Mayor not a media star not a developer of real estate.

  8. put in the KRM rail!

  9. And lets get the companies that want it to pay for it!
    Come on J Wax write that check!

  10. How are the users of this 'choo choo' going to get to the rental cars to pay for the KRM.

    Why not put in a Momorail? People will ride just to ride and visiters might come here for that reason. Ho-hum

  11. Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper just to promote the heck out of the existing Coach USA service that runs essentially the same route as KRM? It starts at the Amtrak Depot in Milwaukee and ends at the Metra station in Kenosha, and stops wherever people need it to along the way.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Dustin, these communities are already joined through current rail and coach bus service.

    No matter how hard you want to pretend that those connections do not exist, they do.

    Pull your head out of the sand.

  14. How did all that economic development occur during the decades I grew up in Racine without KRM? The problem is not a lack of commuter rail, the problem is that production has left the country because of corporate greed. KRM will only make it easier to go from jobless city to jobless city, adding more and more expense to the tax rolls.

  15. We spend billions on reconstruction of 94 and Racine's benefit is marginal. For those who oppose KRM would you support an expressway from 94 into downtown Racine? If so can you imagine the cost? For much less we can have energy efficient rail transportation that can be easily expanded.

    A sales tax of .5 percent that would remove funding from our property tax makes sense. Much of the cost would then be paid for by visitors not residents.

  16. "The problem is the people with the loudest voices don't benefit from KRM. They have cars and jobs, don't live off of State Street in Racine, and have little interest in the city's future success."

    Yes, all those people living off of State St. who would get jobs in Chicago or Milwaukee if only the train would take them there. Yes, employers from Chicago and Milwaukee are just dying to hire from our labor pool off of State St. What a sad, sad joke.

    You insult 99.9% of Racine's people with your comments about vehicles and jobs and where they live. People oppose KRM because they are desperately concerned about Racine and it's future.

    Screw you elitists. You move here and think everyone should jump to your personal vision of some sort of Malibu of the Midwest. Sorry we don't live up to your expectations. Maybe YOU should move on.

  17. looks like they want to shut down the rental companies. I usually will rent a car maybe 3 to 4 times a year for various reasons. I will NOT rent if this goes through. We do not want this already. How about all these people who want it pay for it then! Let RAMAC, and all of their buddies pay for it. It will not bring jobs to this gang infested city. I guess it will take some to jobs outside the city though.

  18. Orbs - read your comments they make absolutely no sense.

  19. Yes, buses and rail do connect regions – sort of.

    For the past five years I have offered professional trainings in Racine that have attracted people not only from Racine and Kenosha but also Milwaukee, Chicago and even Indiana and other states.

    Attendees are able to arrive on time and ready for the program if they have a car and they can drive, if the traffic is not too heavy, if they are confident in driving in high-speed traffic and if there is little road construction.

    If they want to take public transportation, it is another story. Earlier this year, a young professional living in Chicago wanted to attend one of my Saturday training programs. Her car was being repaired and she asked about the availability of public transportation – which she often used in her home town.

    I told her that she could catch an Amtrak train in Chicago for Sturtevant. Then she would have to find the one bus that could take her into Racine city to the program site; few buses run on Saturday. She could take a taxi – if she could find one – but it would be expensive and she would have to plan her travel time just so. Then she would have to return to the train station – trying to find another bus or taxi that would be available close to the time when the program was finished.

    In the end, she told me, “Not this time.”

    This is one of many tourists and learners who didn’t come to Racine to spend money in the city’s restaurants, coffee shops or stores, and perhaps decide to come back another time to enjoy the city’s tourist attractions, special events, theater performances and hotels. She may now think of Racine as an inconvenient place to visit and opt for other choices when she makes travel plans.

    Multiply that one person by 10 or 30 or 30 – just on one Saturday, mind you – and the numbers start to add up.

    Public transportation – and lots of it – is far from elitist.

    It offers the opportunities for large numbers of people to travel quickly, easily and cheaply to and from work and school with no worries about car purchase, car maintenance and fuel costs. There are no costs or concerns about parking a car. They have more choices about where to live and where to work because a longer commute doesn’t have to dominate their decision-making. They can read, work or socialize while traveling. People who are disabled, or have poor eyesight and prefer not to drive at night don’t have to give up traveling to their favorite places.

  20. BAD ARGUMENT ....Kenosha already has the Metra and the city continues to DIE! Chrysler is leaving and it will get worse. This train nonsense is obscene and has nothing to do with business unless you include monkey business.

  21. Karen-

    Your client also could have taken the Metra to Kenosha and hopped on one of the Coach USA busses conveniently scheduled around the Metra schedule. The bus would have dropped her off at any of several places downtown, hopefully one was near your program's location. She'd have the same challenge with KRM, unless you're conducting your program at the State Street Depot.

  22. Anon 10:00
    You have the answer right there. Coach USA should be marketed more. They make it to Milwaukee quickly and at a very low cost (about 3.25 each way).

    Those that insist on a train ride try Amtrak. It can make the commute from Chi-Milw in nearly 1/2 the time KRM will take. What executive is going to spend nearly 3 hours each way from Chi-Milw on KRM?

    KRM is not needed, Amtrak serves the area very well. Are roads are not congested like Chicago.

  23. Orbs... You are soooo right on ALL your comments, on various subjects. I appreciate what you say that others dont have the guts to say. It all starts with city hall & the police. Time to clean house!

  24. The opposition has their head in the sand or other dark places, they don't leave Racine, they sit behind their computer keyboards and try to stop anything and everything progressive. Just once go beyond Kenosha and see what other cities and metro areas have to offer.

  25. 2:01

    What Cities? lets have the names and when we look into them we see cost overruns and tax hikes.

  26. 2:16 since you have never been out of Racine you wouldn't have a clue where to look or what to look for. The truth is you just oppose anything and everything that might make Racine a better city.

  27. Extend 794 south to hy20 then west to 94. Should give much better access then.

  28. Anon 7:10
    Good call, how about extending 794 all the way to Waukegan?

    Anon 2:01
    There are very progressive people that oppose KRM who live here and can see the fiasco that KRM is.


    Gee and they have a train!!

  30. Let's build the train for 10 or 30 people to come here on the weekend and buy coffee in downtown Racine.

    My God, get over yourselves!

  31. Karen, Your seminar sounds great! But since we are living in the 21st Century, (not the 19th)..Let's explore options for your ONE client. Just like many businesses that are changing with technology that requires neither Rails nor Roads. You could offer your Seminar online.."Virtually", or even "on demand". Then this person who was going to consume huge chunks of money just to ride assorted rails, buses and cabs would instead have more cash in her pocket to invest in her families groceries, small business or her own future, and wouldn't have to rely on Welfare transit, imagine her sense of empowerment and self fulfillment.

    Combine that with fact "We", the overtaxed Wisconsinites, won't have to spend a fortune to build a mostly empty, over subsidized Choo-Choo, that is not even convenient for her or us. We all win because the Govt. doesn't have to spend a fortune so your business can teach ONE more client...on a Saturday, when she won't even pay full fare!

    When you set up your seminar business why didn't you set it up in Kenosha downtown near the KRM station? (No room at the jail?). Why has virtually no other businesses set up near the METRA station in Kenosha or Waukegan? (Except the Jail). Karen is your business currently located near the State St Station? Are your seminars offered at the Walgrens, Save A-Lot or Merchants Moving? How much effort would it have taken for your student to ride a train to Kenosha, wait for the KRM, pay a second fare on KRM, and then get off at State St. Then bus? Cab? OR walk? If your person needs a Seminar that bad her life is pretty messed up already!

    It would be much less expensive to your fellow taxpayers, if you set up a satellite seminar location in Kenosha; or beter yet DRIVE to her and offer one in her town. (You could take the Government provided ROADS in YOUR personal automobile, AND you can leave on YOUR schedule. This will actually be the most environmentally friendly choice, because your car will be 1/4 full in stead of only 1/16th full like the train you propose we buy for you. It's not "selfish" of us to not want to build YOU a train.. It's selfish of YOU to demand we build you this boon-doggle. We are trying to save you from yourselves.
    Dustin your point that it MIGHT bring people from Milwaukee and Chicago especially if they don't have to change trains, is valid. BUT the KRM WILL require a train change and a separate fare to be collected. If we wait a few years eventually METRA will expand to us! If we build the KRM..METRA will cancel the line from Waukegan to Kenosha..knowing that WE will be forced to pay to extend the line. They might even cut off Waukegan to save more money knowing that we will have to fund the connections in order to not lose Millions of dollars from our initial investments, and then METRA will be able to spend their savings on other parts of their line.

  32. Karen, you said, "I told her that she could catch an Amtrak train in Chicago for Sturtevant. Then ... find the one bus that could take her into Racine ... She could take a taxi – if she could find one – but it would be expensive and she would have to plan her travel time just so. Then she would have to return to the train station – trying to find another bus or taxi that would be available close to the time when the program was finished."

    It is obvious you did not provide her with all the options. Under any circumstances, the KRM will NOT go south beyond Kenosha. So, she would have to find transportation outside of Racine's influence to get at least that far. Then, instead of taking the very expensive AmTrac into Sturtevant, she could have taken the METRA into Kenosha, then taken the very INexpensive coach (bus) from the train station in Kenosha right on into Racine, then picked up a local bus to her final destination. All of these run on and coincide with set schedules. You did a pretty good job of laying out the worst case scenario and sabotaging her travel plans.

    I agree that public transportation is important. But, that transportation needs to service ALL of the major population areas of the county. This is why smaller buses that run on LP or natural gas are so important. Plus, they are not restricted to the 29 mph speed that the KRM will be and buses could take people to the Milwaukee Airport, which is not in the plan for the KRM (which is with out a doubt the dumbest part of the plan). And in the long run, a net work of buses would employ a lot more people than a straight-line train, cost a lot less to implement, be more efficient, serve a larger area and cost less to maintain (there is very, very little wear and tear on an engine that burns LP or natural gas). This would also justify the entire county footing the bill for it because the entire county would have access. Those areas not affected by the KRM are not going to be happy about having to pay for something they can’t use. We won’t even go into the taxation-without-representation part of the argument.

  33. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.