In 2006, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz appointed a long-range planning committee to explore ways to sustain the growth and success of Metro’s transit system in ways other than fare increases, service cuts and increases in property-tax support.
One of the top preliminary recommendations by this long-range committee is the formation of a regional transit authority (RTA).
At this time, Wisconsin is the only state in the Midwest that does not yet allow for the formation of a RTA. Local officials have begun work with the governor and state legislature to approve RTA authorizing legislation.
Ideal authorization legislation would recognize the benefits of planning, funding and operating regional public transportation systems that provide improved access to residents to get to jobs, school and other essential destinations.
Intended outcomes of the creation of a RTA in Wisconsin are to provide more stable local funding, more regional service coordination and a regional governance structure.
Discussion has started in the state legislature on the details surrounding Wisconsin regional transit authorities in the 60 plus communities that currently provide public transportation in the state.
Some of the main issues being examined are whether the proposed RTA should be county-wide or multiple municipality-based, a required or optional referendum to the public for authorization, level of sales tax needed to fund the RTA and the possible inclusion of transportation modes other than buses and paratransit.
A recent Madison college survey of area voters has shown a favorable public response to the RTA idea with the proposed taxing authority. A recent newspaper editorial has also pointed to this survey stating that despite community discussion on the specifics of RTA implementation, the community does find agreement on the general issue. The need in Wisconsin does exist to research and develop transportation alternatives such as provided by a regional transit authority to support and continue the successful growth of the community.
President/Chief Executive Officer
Hampton Roads Transit (HRT)
Hampton Roads, located in southeastern Virginia, is home to 1.6 million people and comprised of seven cities including Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach, each with different governing bodies. Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is the region’s sole provider of public transportation with nearly 19 million passenger trips taken per year. With more than 45 fixed routes and 300 buses, HRT provides neighborhood, commuter express and shuttle services. Additionally, HRT will launch Virginia’s first light rail system, known as The Tide, in Norfolk in 2010. In order to sustain these services and plan for expansion and maintenance, a steady and predictable source of revenue is necessary.
Like many transit agencies, HRT is funded by a combination of local, state, federal and passenger revenue. On the local level, the seven municipalities that make up Hampton Roads fund 30 percent of HRT’s operations through city general funds derived mainly from property taxes. In turn, HRT contracts with each city in the service area separately, and each municipality determines how much service is to be provided in their area. What does this mean for our customers? It means limited service and only for those who need it most. Reliance on subsidies from seven local governments leaves HRT vulnerable to the erratic political and economic climate in each jurisdiction. This makes it difficult for us to create truly regional connections because one city’s wants may not necessarily meet those of its neighbor. Further, reliance on this source of local funds does not allow HRT to plan for long-term projects and forces us to compete year-to-year with education, public safety and other important municipal needs. More importantly, HRT is vulnerable to service cuts or reductions, which especially hurts those who are dependent on public transportation. While HRT has had to maximize its resources to provide services to its customers, the biggest threat to public transportation in Hampton Roads is the sustainability of local operating funds.