• 10 Mar 2022 10:32 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Public transit systems straining to win back riders after being crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic are getting a $3.7 billion boost to stay afloat and invest in new fleets of electric buses.

    With mask restrictions fading and workers beginning to return to offices, the Biden administration said Monday it was awarding $2.2 billion in coronavirus relief funding to 35 financially strapped transit agencies in 18 states. The money would be used to prop up day-to-day operations, including staffing and payroll as well as cleaning and sanitization to limit the spread of illness in public transportation. A federal mask mandate for public transit remains in effect until at least March 18.

    Another $1.5 billion in grants will be available under President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law — a total of $7.5 billion over five years — for transit agencies to purchase low- or no-emission buses and build bus facilities. That’s more than double the combined amount from the previous year.

    Transit agencies will have until May to apply for the Transportation Department's infrastructure grants, which will be awarded by fall. About 5% of the money must be used for workforce training to help transit workers prepare for the technological change.

    “We’re making the largest ever investment in this program for buses and bus facilities, helping to deliver better commutes and cleaner air to American communities,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

    Buttigieg was joining Vice President Kamala Harris, who has pushed the need for electric school buses, along with EPA Administrator Michael Regan and other officials at the White House on Monday. They were unveiling efforts to promote green-friendly transit and announcing a proposed rule aimed at reducing emissions from dirty diesel trucks. Transportation is the biggest U.S. contributor to global warming.

    Several transit systems already are moving in the direction of electric buses. California has committed to all-electric bus fleets by 2040, as well as New York City and Boston. Washington, D.C., has set a target of 2045.

    The effort comes at a challenging time for public transit.

    Only about 55% of transit riders nationwide have returned compared with pre-pandemic times, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The biggest losses have been in commuter rail systems serving white-collar suburbanites traveling to downtown workplaces.

    As COVID-19 cases decline, Biden has urged Americans to shed remote work, describing a return to offices as necessary to boost economic growth. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 90% of the U.S. population lives in counties where the risk of the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat, meaning residents don’t need to wear masks in most indoor settings.

    “It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people,” Biden said in his State of the Union address.

    Among the recipients of COVID-19 relief funds Monday were big-city transit systems that had been hit hard from revenue losses due to decreased ridership. New York City’s transit system, the nation's largest, garnered $769 million to steady its operations, while San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit got $270 million to bolster service and safety protocols.

    Others receiving grants were the Washington, D.C., metro system at $120 million as it anticipates a return of federal employees to offices and Houston’s public transit at $137 million, which has significantly added rapid transit bus lines.

    “These funds are crucial to avoid drastic service cuts and layoffs that would damage the economy and public health," said Nuria Fernandez, head of the Federal Transit Administration, which oversees the grants.

    At the start of the pandemic, transit agencies cut payroll and slashed services. That came even as essential workers, who are disproportionately nonwhite and lower income, continued to rely on public transportation to get to work. But three rounds totaling nearly $70 billion in federal COVID-19 emergency assistance, including $30.5 billion that Biden signed into law last year, pulled transit agencies from the brink of financial collapse.

    “The COVID funds will be vital to keeping workers connected to their offices, but, even more importantly, the long-term funds in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will provide generational change,” said Paul P. Skoutelas, president of the American Public Transportation Association. He said the money will allow transit systems "to re-evaluate routes and service plans, address equity issues and place more alternative fuels vehicles on the road to help address our global climate crisis.”


  • 10 Mar 2022 8:33 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    New Actions Will Deliver Cleaner Air, Healthier Neighborhoods, and Better Transportation

    Today, Vice President Kamala Harris is announcing major federal actions that will expand clean public transit and school buses, reduce emissions from dirty diesel trucks, and create good-paying jobs. The Biden-Harris Administration will modernize public transit that connects people to their jobs, school, health care, and loved ones, freight trucks and ports that move goods through the American economy, and the iconic American yellow buses that bring children safely to school leveraging investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan investments, as well as a new proposed rule that would set heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards. Together, these actions will deliver better transportation for the American people while reducing air pollution that has long overburdened low-income communities and communities of color. They also boost American leadership on the zero-emissions transit, trucking, and port technologies of the future—to create good-paying, union jobs, improve public health, and confront climate change. 

    Heavy-duty vehicles, like buses and trucks, make up nearly one-quarter of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions, and heavy-duty vehicles are the largest contributor of nitrogen oxides (NOx)—air pollution that is known to cause asthma, heart and lung disease, and other serious respiratory issues. Neighborhoods near highways, ports, and other congested areas are especially impacted by health problems and premature deaths associated with dirty diesel exhaust. These burdens disproportionately impact people of color and low-income households.

    To seize new economic opportunities and address these environmental injustices and climate concerns, while expanding public transit and ensuring efficient delivery of goods, the Administration is announcing a fleet of new and expanded actions to advance clean heavy-duty vehicles, as part of our electric, zero-emissions transportation future:

    • Cleaner , More Convenient Public Transit: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the single largest investment in public transit in history.  As part of the historic $5.5 billion expansion of the Low- and No-Emission Transit Vehicle Program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is announcing $1.1 billion in funding for 2022 and an additional $372 million under the Bus and Bus Facilities program. The Low-No Program helps state and local governments purchase U.S.-built electric transit buses and other cleaner models, to improve local air quality and expand affordable, accessible, transportation options in communities across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law increased Low-No program funding by ten times, compared to the prior five years.  Also, as a result of changes enacted in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the grants will dedicate funding to workforce training that helps protect and upskill transit workers – ensuring that those who work on transit vehicles today are ready to do so in the future. To keep transit workers on the job and transit services running, DOT is also announcing $2.2 billion in funding to 35 transit agencies across 18 states through the American Rescue Plan.
    • Saving Lives, Reducing Emissions: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a proposed rule that would, if finalized, dramatically reduce harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission from heavy- duty vehicles and set stronger greenhouse gas emissions standards for certain heavy-duty vehicle categories. This proposed rule would ensure heavy-duty vehicles and engines are as clean as possible while helping jump-start the transition to zero-emission vehicles in the heavy-duty fleet. When fully implemented, this rule will save roughly 2,000 lives annually, eliminate 18,000 cases of childhood asthma, and lead to 1.1 million fewer missed days of school. 
    • Electrifying School Buses: The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding $17 million to fund electric zero-emission and low-emission buses. Through the American Rescue Plan, $7 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses in underserved communities with new, zero-emission buses. In addition, $10 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses with new cleaner buses through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebate Program. This funding compliments the $5 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for clean school buses, the first tranche of which will become available in the coming months.  
    • Lower Emissions from Ports: The Department of Transportation is using new project eligibilities in the Port Infrastructure Development Program - which is now funded at the highest levels ever through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law - to advance clean port equipment like electric vehicle charging infrastructure for drayage trucks, cargo equipment, and harbor craft. Grant applicants are encouraged to submit projects that reduce emissions, strengthen resilience, improve air quality in fenceline communities, and plan for zero-emission ports of the future.  munities, and plan for the zero-emission ports of the future.
    • Innovation on Clean Trucks of the Future: The Department of Energy is partnering with industry to expand zero-emission truck technology through SuperTruck 3 Program, with the latest round of $127 million in funding focused for the first time on reducing costs and improving durability in hydrogen and battery electric trucks.
    • Leading by Example: The General Services Administration is doubling the amount of  zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicle models available to federal agencies, changing towards 100% zero emission vehicle acquisition by 2035. 

    These steps build upon President Biden’s Executive Order on Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks, which he signed in August 2021 alongside American automakers and autoworkers, launching development of smart fuel efficiency and emissions standards across all vehicles. President Biden and Vice President Harris also secured historic investments in clean transportation through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan. The announcement today of $1.1 billion for clean transit buses through the $5 billion Lo-No Program expansion, $17 million for clean school buses, and the ongoing buildout of a national EV charging network will transform bus transit from city centers to rural towns – improving connectivity and quality of life – while contributing to President Biden’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

    Together, today’s actions will:

    Electrify Our Buses
    To accelerate our transition to clean public transit, over $5.5 billion is being infused into the Department of Transportation’s popular Low- and No-Emission Transit Vehicle Program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – by far the largest ever investment in this program, and ten times larger than the last five years of funding. The Low-No Program helps state and local governments purchase or lease zero-emission and low-emission transit buses and other vehicles and expand or retrofit supporting facilities. These include vehicles that use technologies such as battery electric and fuel-cell power to provide clean, quieter, and more efficient transit service in communities across the country. In 2022, $1.1 billion will be granted to clean and electrify transit buses – representing almost a billion dollars in new investment compared to last year. This comes on top of nearly $2 billion over five years, and $372 million in 2022, provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program to be used in part for low or no emissions bus projects.  The clean buses purchased by these grants will be made here in the United States, creating manufacturing jobs in places like Minnesota, Alabama, South Carolina, and California.

    Also, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the first-ever dedicated investment in our transit workforce to support the transition to new clean technologies like battery electric buses.  Five percent of grants under the program – up to $280 million over five years – will be used to fund workforce development training, including registered apprenticeships and other labor-management training programs, to train and upskill transit workers to maintain and operate zero emission vehicles and related charging infrastructure.

    To keep all of these buses running – along with our country’s trains, ferries and other transit services – the Department of Transportation is also announcing $2.2 billion in grants to 35 transit agencies across 18 states. These funds are made available through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and will help public transit agencies pay for day-to-day operations, keep tens of thousands of employees on the payroll, and provide essential transportation services to workers across America.

    The EPA is also moving to deploy more clean school buses – awarding $17 million in rebates to fund electric zero-emission and low-emission school buses. Through the American Rescue Plan, $7 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses with new, zero-emission electric buses. These funds are reserved exclusively for school districts in underserved communities, tribal schools, and the private fleets serving those schools. In addition, the EPA awarded $10 million to replace old diesel school buses with new electric, diesel, gasoline, propane, or compressed natural gas buses through longstanding Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates. Later this year, major new investments funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new $5 billion clean school bus program will allow EPA to greatly expand the impacts of clean school bus deployment.

    Reduce Truck Emissions, Save Lives
    Today, the EPA announced a proposed rule that would reduce NOx emissions from new trucks by up to 90% by 2031 compared to today’s standards. The current regulations set under the Clean Air Act for trucks were last updated over 20 years ago. However, trucks meeting this standard are still major sources of NOx and other harmful pollutants.

    All traditional truck engines combust fuel which leads to creation of NOx – a harmful pollutant and precursor to the formation of smog and particulates. This pollution makes it difficult to breathe, triggers asthma and other lung diseases and is associated with premature death. These harmful conditions disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. Without the actions taken today and the resulting shift to low- and zero-emission vehicles, these communities will continue to bear the brunt of these emissions.

    When this rule is fully implemented, there will be numerous benefits to communities around the country, including:

    • Lives Saved: Roughly 2,000 premature deaths avoided and 6,700 fewer hospital and ER visits each year;
    • Healthy School Kids: 18,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma and 1.1 million fewer missed days of school each year;
    • Productive Communities: 78,000 fewer missed days of work each year.

    In addition to strengthening NOx regulations, EPA and DOT are preparing to redouble the Administration’s commitment to zero-emissions trucks by using the upcoming Heavy-Duty GHG Phase 3 Program to set ambitious greenhouse gas and efficiency standards beginning in 2030. Because costs have fallen and state and local policy will drive deployment, zero-emission trucks and buses are entering the market much faster than anticipated when rules were previously set. To account for this, EPA is considering technical updates to its standards for model years 2027 to 2029 to better reflect new levels of market penetration in segments with expected zero-emission vehicle deployment. 

    Clean Our Port Operations
    The ports on our coasts, rivers, and Great Lakes will need to be transformed to eliminate pollution affecting neighboring communities, address climate change, and strengthen supply chain resilience. This includes a focus on reducing emissions from heavy-duty road vehicles and rail that play key roles in port operations.

    The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the largest investment ever in the DOT’s Port Infrastructure Development Program – with the expansion designed to advance the Administration’s climate and environmental justice goals. Grant applicants are encouraged to submit projects that reduce emissions, strengthen resilience, and improve air quality in fenceline communities. These investments will touch all points of port operations – cleaning cargo handling equipment, harbor craft, and building out needed charging infrastructure for drayage trucks. The program also encourages master planning for port electrification and grid upgrades. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funded DOT to issue new grants to reduce truck idling and emissions at ports, including through the advancement of port electrification, which will complement other port investments.

    Catalyze Zero Emission Truck Infrastructure
    Through the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Departments of Energy and Transportation are making significant investments in updating the nation’s trucking fleets and freight infrastructure to be cleaner and more efficient.

    To spur investment in zero emission trucks, the Federal Transit Administration, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, is helping states purchase medium and heavy-duty vehicles through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. DOE’s Loan Program Office has been given expanded authority for manufacturing of clean medium and heavy-duty on-road vehicles as well as vehicles and components in the aviation, maritime, and rail sectors, pending future appropriations.

    To advance the build-out of our nation’s network of 500,000 EV chargers, DOT’s recent EV charging guidance to states includes eligibility to support charging infrastructure for trucks. Given the unique needs of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, DOE’s Sustainable Transportation offices are studying how to advance clean, affordable hydrogen and electrification corridor solutions to connect ports, highways, and end users, and provide clean freight solutions to move goods and materials from first mile to the last.

    Accelerate Path Towards Zero-Emission Trucks
    Through major advances in zero-emissions technology, clean trucks are becoming cheaper and more readily available. Today, the National Renewable Energy Lab published a study showing that zero emission electric medium and heavy-duty trucks can reach total-cost-of-driving parity with diesel counterparts for many vehicle types this decade and for all trucks by 2035. As technology continues to improve, and more infrastructure is deployed, more and more clean trucks will become cost-effective. That’s good for business and good for the planet.

    In order to continue to drive down costs, the Department of Energy is investing in trucking innovation and next generation clean technologies. In 2009, DOE launched its SuperTruck Initiative to partner with industry to improve heavy-duty truck freight efficiency by 50%. This year, SuperTruck 3 is off to the races with a combined $127 million in funding to industry focused on reducing costs and improving durability in zero-emission hydrogen and battery electric trucks. In addition, its SuperTruck 2 Program is set to conclude this year having developed cost-effective technology that doubles the fuel economy for 18-wheeler trucks.

    Multiple other research projects across government and industry are targeting progress in fuel cell electric trucks, batteries, and freight efficiency, including:

    • Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) – providing a real world environment for testing large battery and fuel cell electric trucks.
    • Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium – developing cost-effective technology with industry for next generation fuel cells.
    • 21st Century Truck Partnership – launching a new electrification tech team focused on removing barriers to wide-scale truck electrification and deploying technology to improve freight efficiency.

    Transform the Federal Truck Fleet
    This Administration is leading by example – acting as an early adopter by transforming its federal fleet of over 110,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. [1] Today, federal agencies are able to acquire 38 different models of medium and heavy duty zero emissions vehicles through the General Services Administration – more than double the offerings in fiscal year 2021. The President’s Federal Sustainability Plan, outlined in Executive Order 14057, also calls for 100% of all annual medium and heavy-duty vehicle acquisitions to be zero emissions by 2035.

    The federal government will work with American vehicle, battery, and charging equipment manufacturers and installers to transform its truck fleet. This will accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply zero-emission trucks and electric batteries – creating and sustaining good-paying, union jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and skilled trades. This federal truck transformation complements the Administration’s commitment to 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027.



  • 3 Mar 2022 2:24 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Expanding public transit options could bring more students from around southeastern Wisconsin to UWM at Waukesha while connecting those already on campus to more work opportunities, some regional business and educational leaders told UW System President Tommy Thompson.

    Southeastern Wisconsin lacks a transportation system that connects people across municipal lines, especially the population hubs of Milwaukee and Waukesha. Robyn Ludtke, vice president of talent development at the Waukesha County Business Alliance, said at a roundtable discussion led by Thompson that transportation is one of the biggest barriers of growth for the county.

    It was the latest in a series of listening sessions that Thompson is holding at UW System campuses across the state as he winds down a nearly two-year-long tenure as interim president.

    “What I really want to hear is ‘What is the need? How can the university solve problems?’” Thompson said Tuesday at the UWM at Waukesha gathering.

    Ludtke and a few others among the roughly 30 attendees cited transportation as one of the biggest needs.

    “We know that once (the students) are here in Waukesha County, our employers are ready to serve them. Our communities are ready to welcome them,” Ludtke said. “How do we get them here?”

    While UWM and other system institutions may not have oversight or capacity to create regional transportation networks, universities can help by way of research and forging partnerships.

    One example is the FlexRide Milwaukee transit project, led in part by UWM, that is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. FlexRide is testing a new way to connect workers from Milwaukee, including three segregated neighborhoods on the north or northwest sides of the city, to places of employment in Butler and Menomonee Falls.

    Other roundtable attendees included company executives and school district superintendents, some of whom talked about finding ways to increase awareness of higher education to students in high school and even earlier in the K-12 system.

    While virtual outreach and mailings help, some school officials talked about the importance of opportunities to bring K-12 students to college campuses for programming.

    “I do think we need to reimagine that transition in a kid’s life from 10th grade through college,” said Corey Golla, superintendent of the Menomonee Falls School District. “We’ve got kids who are seniors in high school who are probably ready to be freshmen at UW-Milwaukee.”

    Golla applauded UWM for its partnership programs and said his district was talking to the university about more potential dual enrollment opportunities in which students earn college credit while still attending high school.

    UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said he hoped to organize a meeting between university leaders and superintendents in Waukesha and Washington counties to talk more about partnership opportunities. One of the higher-profile educational partnerships at UWM is the  initiative in which the university works with Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee Area Technical College.

    Other needs brought up by attendees included making it easier for students at two-year colleges to transfer credits to four-year institutions, and for UWM to offer more options for “badges” or credentialing programs that allow students, including those in mid-career, to earn educational certificates.

    Mone noted how the university was currently looking at curricular realignment through the 2030 initiative, which is intended to guide UWM into the next decade and beyond. Participation in partnerships like M³ and the Higher Education Regional Alliance also are helping to address issues like making it easier for students to transfer credits.

    Another UWM program, TechEd Frontiers, is an example of an offering for mid-career professionals to learn new skills online and on demand. UWM has also helped to address a regional need with the College of Nursing expanding its program to the Waukesha campus in fall 2021.

    Higher education overall has come under scrutiny in recent years over rising costs and the weight of student debt. Estimated enrollment declines caused by shifting demographics, as well as a steady decrease in state support, also are among worrisome issues.

    Thompson pointed to the importance of community feedback to help address concerns.

    “It seems to me this whole afternoon has been about how we can do things better working together – more information, more collaboration and more partnerships,” Thompson said in closing the session.

    “I think the university has to take the lead on this,” he added. “We have to be student-centric. We have to make sure our universities are what students need and want. We have to get them on our campus. We have to go to them. We have to create partnerships.”


  • 3 Mar 2022 2:13 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    All Ryde buses on Friday, Feb. 4, had a seat reserved for Rosa Parks. She was born Feb. 4, 1913, and died in 2005.

    City of Racine

    RACINE — On Feb. 4, every RYDE bus had a seat reserved for Rosa Parks, honoring the Civil Rights icon on her birthday, which also is National Transit Equity Day.

    Every seat had a flyer that honored Parks and a red rose.

    Willie McDonald, RYDE Racine general manager, said he was concerned that someone might come along and ruin the memorial, but his concerns did not materialize and the riders showed respect.

    “We got great feedback from that, from the bus operators and from the community, our riders were saying to the bus operators how much they loved it,” McDonald said.

    Trevor Jung, the city’s transit manager, said that Feb. 4 has become the day to celebrate transit as a civil right.

    Equity in transit was the topic of conversation at a virtual panel discussion hosted by the African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Racine on Feb. 22.

    Nikki Payne of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission moderated the discussion and was joined by McDonald and Jung for a discussion that encompassed many topics related to the challenges in transit, transit equity, and planning for future transit needs.


    McDonald has been a RYDE employee for 32 years, starting when it was still called the Belle Urban System. He started off as a part-time operator and worked his way up to general manager. He said he has seen a lot of changes along the way.

    He explained when he started, “the system was flourishing” in the city. There might be five buses on route during peak-use times, so no one had to wait long for a bus, maybe just 20 minutes.

    However, there was no service to the outlying communities.

    Now there is some service to the outlying communities — Sturtevant, Caledonia, etc. — but fewer buses on individual routes due to a shifting of resources.

    The challenge for city transit is to provide the services the community needs within their budget, which is frequently a balancing act.

    Jobs in outlying areas

    McDonald explained the service to the outlying communities is important because there are job opportunities for Racine folks there.

    For example, night service was added to the Grandview Business Park to get third-shift workers to their jobs and second-shift workers home. “That’s doing pretty good,” he said of that line.

    The challenge, of course, is funding and “all the municipalities play a role in that,” he said. He pointed to Foxconn as an example of an issue that has to be addressed so that those in the city without vehicles could take advantage of any potential jobs should the property be developed.

    McDonald said there is a good relationship between transit and the outlying communities, which was one of the improvements that occurred over the years.

    Jung has been on the job as the city’s transit manager for about six months. Prior to that, he was a City of Racine alderman and chairman of the Transit Committee.

    He pointed out before the pandemic, RYDE transported “well over a million riders a year.” The system is now building back after taking a serious hit due to the pandemic.

    Jung said the city’s bus system has to do more than just wait for old customers to return. Instead, they will have to take action to attract new customers.

    One of the actions is eliminating the aspect that makes taking the bus unattractive: waiting at the bus stop, which is even more cumbersome in the winter.

    RYDE is currently in the process of incorporating automatic vehicle locator technology on the buses, which would allow people with the app to see exactly where their bus is in order to eliminate time spent waiting at the stop.

    “Instead of waiting on your bus and not necessarily knowing when it’s going to show up at the stop, you’re going to be able to look at your phone and see when that bus is going to arrive so you can plan your trips according,” Jung said.

    Vision 2050

    What will transportation look like in 2050? The transit system? Even the population? How will today’s toddlers commute to work or recreation when they are grown-ups?

    SEWRPC is asking these questions as part of what it is calling Vision 2050.

    Payne explained the far-reaching exercise is a requirement of the federal government that has gathered data from nine advisory committees, thousands of participants, and community partners.

    There were also contributions from people with disabilities, communities of color, and poor/working class communities to “make sure we got their feedback as we pull this altogether.”

    SEWRPC is a regional office serving seven counties with more than 2 million people within the service area.

    That is approximately 35% of the state, Payne noted, so it is an important project.

    As part of the project, SEWRPC looked at other regions similar to southeast Wisconsin to determine if their challenges were similar. The challenges included racial disparities, slow job growth, and slow population growth.

    While the region does have bus service, there are other public transportation systems it does not have, including rapid transit and a commuter rail, that are found in other major cities.

    High rates of poverty result in populations that require public transportation to get to jobs, school, medical appoints, etc.

    Payne presented data from the study that showed the disparities that exist between minority and non-minority populations:

    • People of color are 4.5 times less likely to have a high school diploma than their white peers
    • People of color are 2 times less likely to have a bachelor’s degree
    • People of color are 4.1 times more likely than whites to have incomes at or below the poverty line

    These disparities will require broad-based, equitable solutions, especially in transit that is so necessary for both people and businesses if the workforce is going to be strong.

    Payne displayed a visual representation to highlight the difference between equality and equity to underscore what would be needed.

    Three people of various heights were shown standing on blocks that were equal in size in order to see over a fence. However, the one block was insufficient for the short person and barely sufficient the medium-sized person.

    In the equitable representation, the tall person was given just one block while the short person was given three blocks so all could see over the fence.

    Jung explained it was important to talk about transportation with the context of equity because transportation is about providing access to opportunities, such as employment, health care, places of recreation, and generally about expanding the experiences that are available to people.

    “So regardless of what ZIP code you live in, what neighborhood you live in, transit — in many respects — is a way for you to access the rest of your community,” he said. “And because of that everybody deserves a right to a fully funded and operational transit system so they can live the life they hope to live.”


    The issue of public transit went beyond serving those who cannot afford personal vehicles.

    As was noted several times, the young people of today are looking for transit alternatives and are not necessarily tied to personal vehicles like generations past.

    In the region, Payne explained, the population is leaning more toward the senior side and, according to the U.S. Census data, 44% of the region SEWRPC was examining was 65 years old and older.

    “So one of the identified challenges is attracting young people to remain in the region to work and live,” she said. “We have to make sure that we’re providing opportunities for those that are here and making sure to keep them here.”

    Jung later added that the bus not only takes people where they want to go, but “it’s the environmentally friendly choice of getting from point A to point B, and many of today’s youth will be looking for that option when choosing a place to live and work.”

    The city is in the process of replacing 25% of its diesel buses with electric buses, a $9 million investment in the transit system. The investment was made possible through a grant from the state, paid in part by Volkswagen as part of compensation for U.S. emissions guidelines it both ignored and lied about ignoring.


  • 23 Feb 2022 1:17 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Post Date:02/17/2022 3:38 pm

    As part of its response to the pandemic, the federal government apportioned transit agencies throughout the country with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to assist with daily operations and capital projects.

    During the City’s 2022 Budget Process, the Janesville Transit System (JTS) proposed using a small portion of its ARPA funds to implement a fare program. The purpose of this program was to offer local non-profit agencies that routinely purchase reduced fare tokens the opportunity to receive complimentary tokens. Agencies then distribute the complimentary tokens to their clients or students to provide transit services to those in need. In turn, the program helps JTS bolster ridership as it responds to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.  

    Following the approval of the City Council, the JTS Fare Program extended $600 worth of complimentary tokens each to six partner agencies, ECHO, GIFTS, House of Mercy, Salvation Army, Tokens for Teens, and the YWCA. Partner non-profits noted that the donation helped provide vital transit services to clients, allowing them to maintain access to employment, appointments, and community resources.

    “We appreciate the donation as it allows us to provide homeless participants in our motel voucher program transportation that helps them complete their action plans to look for employment and housing,” stated Jessica Locher, Executive Director of ECHO, Inc. “It also helps us assist our general population by providing them transportation to employment.”

    “These organizations serve numerous Janesville residents, many of which are also JTS riders; their support and ongoing patronage of JTS is much appreciated. I was delighted to implement this program to serve those in need of transportation”, said JTS Transit Director Rebecca Smith.

    For questions, contact the Janesville Transit System at (608) 755-3150.


  • 17 Feb 2022 3:30 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Shown are members of the CUSH Transportation Task Force and community leaders, from left: Marty Hutchings, Dick Christiansen, Rich Mich, Alderman Anthony Kennedy, Ray Cameron, Mobility Manager Lauren Coffman, Judy Malek, Director of Transportation and Parking Nelson Ogbuagu and Kris Delfrate.


    February is Public Transportation Awareness Month in Kenosha.

    This designation was made official by a recent resolution sponsored by Kenosha Transit Commission Chairperson and Alderman Anthony Kennedy with a proclamation by Mayor John Antaramian.

    The initiative is particularly significant for Congregations United to Serve Humanity, which is concerned with the welfare of Kenosha’s residents who rely on public transportation.

    To highlight its concern, CUSH is sponsoring a month-long “Public Transit Ride Along” initiative. During the month of February CUSH is encouraging community members to invite their elected officials, including Kenosha alderpersons and County Board supervisors, to ride the bus with them for part of their day.

    “The CUSH Transportation Task Force is largely made up of community members who depend upon public transit, and they feel it important for elected officials to experience Kenosha’s transit system first-hand to better understand the limitations and length of time needed for someone who uses the bus as a primary mode of transportation,” according to Lori Hawkins, CUSH community organizer.

    This is not the first time that CUSH has organized events to raise awareness about transportation concerns, Hawkins said.

    “The CUSH Transportation Task Force has sponsored successful ridership events in the past and has helped to prompt the expansion of some routes, thanks to willing collaboration by local government,” she said.

    Among the current issues identified by CUSH is the possibility of moving the bus transfer center from Downtown to a more central location to save time and the number of transfers needed to get to various destinations.

    Community members wanting to find the names of their elected officials to invite on a “Ride-Along” can visit www.myvote.wi.gov. under “My Voter Info” and “My Elected Officials.”

  • 17 Feb 2022 3:22 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    City buses converge at the Downtown Transit Center before starting their routes.

    By Miles Maguire

    At least 40% of the Oshkosh population consists of people who do not drive, according to new estimates from the state Department of Transportation, a situation that creates challenges for individuals as well as the community as a whole.

    Among the 10 largest cities in Wisconsin, only Milwaukee and Racine have such a large percentage of residents who do not drive. No other part of Winnebago County has so many nondrivers. In fact in some nearby areas, like the the Town of Oshkosh, the portion of nondrivers is calculated at 0 to 10%.

    These figures are contained in an online mapping tool that DOT released late last month. The app is intended to help elected officials, planners and policymakers identify places where there are concentrations of residents who do not drive and then to look for ways to improve public transportation options.

    The presence in Oshkosh of a large university campus and the largest prison in the state may make the local situation look more alarming than it actually is, DOT officials acknowledge. But they and public transportation advocates also say the reality is that more than a million Wisconsin residents do not drive.

    Comparing large Wisconsin cities

    Milwaukee, 40% or more nondrivers
    Madison, 30-40% nondrivers
    Green Bay, 30-40% nondrivers
    Kenosha, 30-40% nondrivers
    Racine, 40% or more nondrivers
    Appleton, 30-40% nondrivers
    Waukesha, 30-40% nondrivers
    Eau Claire, 30-40% nondrivers
    Oshkosh, 40% or more nondrivers
    Janesville, 20-30% nondrivers
    Source: Wisconsin DOT

    In Oshkosh the DOT analysis indicates that almost 27,000 residents do not drive, including 17,000 who are 15 years of age or older. Even subtracting the 2,000 inmates at Oshkosh Correctional Institution, the city still has about 15,000 residents who are old enough to drive but do not.

    Ridership on city buses fluctuates from quarter to quarter and was hit hard by the pandemic. But in the first quarter of 2020, before the full effects of COVID were felt, the total number of riders was 168,178, or about 1,800 per day.

    “We know that people who are transportation-dependent have poor health and economic outcomes,” says Denise Jess, executive director for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. “That has implications for a community, but it’s also an economic development issue, especially in the age when we need work forces so badly.”

    Jess has been legally blind since birth and says she knows “the world of being a nondriver quite intimately.” She served as co-chair of the Wisconsin Non-Driver Advisory Committee (WinDAC), a panel that was set up to make recommendations to DOT and that was responsible for making the new online app available. 

    Every aspect of her life, she says, has been affected by her inability to drive, including where she went to school, what kind of job she could take, where she lives and how much time it takes for her to accomplish routine chores that drivers would never have to think twice about. 

    But she believes that the problem is bigger than most people realize and is misunderstood because too many think that “[public] transportation is a charity case” that only affects people with disabilities or low incomes.

    Comparing nearby communities

    Algoma, 20-30% nondrivers
    Appleton, 30-40% nondrivers
    Black Wolf, 10-20% nondrivers
    Fond du Lac, 30-40% nondrivers
    Fox Crossing, 20-30% nondrivers
    Menasha, 20-30% nondrivers
    Neenah, 20-30% nondrivers
    Omro (city), 20-30% nondrivers
    Omro (town), 10-20% nondrivers
    Oshkosh, 40% or more nondrivers
    Oshkosh (town), 0-10%
    Winneconne (village), 20-30% nondrivers
    Source: Wisconsin DOT

    A large part of the nondriver population includes children who are not old enough to drive, “But even if you factor out the 15 and under crowd, we’re still at 22%” of the population not driving, Jess says. 

    Young people “have transportation needs, too, pretty demanding ones that parents and caregivers have to get them to.”

    “Because our transportation system has historically been designed around private automobiles, not having access to a car can make it very challenging to get to work and school, to get medical care and meet the other needs of daily life,” says Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson.

    “To better meet the needs of nondrivers, we have to understand where they live and what mobility resources they can access, and that’s what this tool will help policy makers do,” he says. 

    Thompson hopes that local planners will use the mapping tool and “really factor in” options like bus routes and pedestrian pathways as they make land use decisions.

    Brooke Berrens works at UW Oshkosh’s Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations and considers herself a nondriver. She is a new member of the city’s Transit Advisory Board. 

    She uses the local bus system, GO Transit, a few times a month and says she is personally satisfied with the service it provides. But in speaking with other riders, she has learned how the lack of access to a car can set off a chain reaction of negative experiences.

    She described one woman who had hoped to attend a free meal event but “could not get there in time through waiting for the bus and transferring because of the limited time window.”

    “The city has a robust transit system,” says Transportation Director Jim Collins. “GO Transit provides safe, reliable, accessible, affordable bus service throughout the city.”

    About 86% of the city’s housing units are within a quarter mile of a bus route. That’s a “pretty decent number,” says Jess. But it’s also a figure that hasn’t changed since 2018. 

    One of the features of the new mapping tool is that it allows other kinds of indicators, such as poverty levels, to be loaded in to test whether public transportation is serving low income populations. In Oshkosh there does not appear to be any disparity by income. 

    “We always have work to do to make sure that the transportation options we have in the city, whether it’s GO Transit, paratransit, rideshare, or the accessibility of bike and pedestrian options, are actually meeting the needs and circumstances of people in our community,” says Lynnsey Erickson, a member of the Common Council who serves as its liaison with the transit board.

    “There are gaps for people who work second and third shifts, have language or cultural barriers, and those who do not have the means for bus passes,”  she says.

    “We have also seen how reducing barriers shows the demand for various transportation options, like the 87,000 free rides GO Transit provided to students in Oshkosh in 2021 through funding from the city, school district and private funders.”

    Citizens who have ideas for improving public transportation will get a chance in the relatively near future to make suggestions. “We will be updating our Transit Development Plan within the next couple of years, and I’m hopeful we can hear from even more people in the city to make sure we’re meeting the needs we have,” Erickson says. 

    One issue in the Fox Valley is that public transportation systems don’t reflect the way that individual communities are economically connected. Oshkosh has a link to Neenah and from there to the Valley Transit system that is based in Appleton. But some transportation leaders think that the region needs to do a better job of coordinating service across jurisdictional boundaries.

    Thanks to last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, there will soon be money available to improve the alternatives for nondrivers. For transit, “we’re looking at about a 30% increase,” Thompson says.


  • 16 Feb 2022 12:29 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    An Eau Claire bus seat "reserved" for Rosa Parks in honor of Transit Equity Day. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

    Wisconsin transit agencies commemorate the civil rights icon on Transit Equity Day.

    Bus riders in some cities across Wisconsin on Friday might notice something new on their trip: a seat adorned with a rose and reserved for Rosa Parks, the civil rights legend known for her role in desegregating buses.

    Officials in Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Appleton, Eau Claire, Madison, La Crosse, and Racine are commemorating Parks’ birthday for Transit Equity Day, and Gov. Tony Evers has made a statewide declaration for the occasion. At a Friday morning press conference, transit advocates and local officials said the day will help draw attention to the importance of improving public transportation to ensure all people, especially disadvantaged individuals, are able to fully participate in their communities. 

    “There’s a lot of red roses riding around our community this morning with below-zero temperatures, but, by God, I think it’s a good deal and a good way to recognize Rosa Parks and to recognize equity in our community,” said Paul Swanhorst, president emeritus of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1310 in Eau Claire.

    Parks, a Black woman, was best known for refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus at a time when people of color were forced to sit in the back of buses. She was arrested for her resistance, but her story set off a chain of events that led to federal courts ruling that racially segregating public buses was unconstitutional. 

    ‘More and More Important’

    While buses are no longer segregated, decreased funding, overlong routes, and poor planning have made public transportation unworkable for many people, said Cathy Van Maren, a transit advocate in La Crosse, which has been celebrating transit equity all week.

    “We have areas including parks, polling places, elders housing, and workplaces where there is no bus service,” Van Maren said. “This is not the fault of the transit providers. It results in part from not prioritizing transportation and transit equity in planning, zoning, policies, and budgeting. But the good news is that that all can change.”

    While Park’s refusal on Dec. 1, 1955, to vacate her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama so a white person could sit there provided a vital spark to the Civil Rights movement, today her action lives on as a symbol of the importance of public transit in highlighting socioeconomic and other societal inequities, people gathered to celebrate Transit Equity Day in Eau Claire said. 

    Today, Park’s action “recognizes seniors, people who rely upon mobility devices, and others who are visually, physically, or hearing impaired,” Eau Claire Community Services Director Renee Tyler said. “We are committed to supporting the independent movement and accessibility for all.” 

    Racine Mayor Cory Mason also paid respects to Corrine Reid-Owens, a Black woman and local civil rights leader dubbed “Racine’s Rosa Parks.” The city’s transit center is named after her.

    “Corinne Reid-Owens, who is memorialized by the name of our historic Transit Center, was a leading figure in the civil rights movement, championing issues like fair housing and education locally,” Mason said in a statement. “Racine is a stronger community today because of leaders like Parks and Reid-Owens who had the bravery and determination to create change.”

    Those commemorating Transit Equity Day also said improving public transportation is a major factor in fighting the climate crisis because mass transit produces less pollution than a fleet of cars transporting the same number of people.

    “It’s becoming more and more important as we address climate change, and we are once again turning our attention to how public transit is going to be the movement of the future,” said Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), who introduced a Transit Equity Day resolution in the Legislature.

    Gregg May, transit policy director with 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, said improved public transit is needed now more than ever—and not just in urban areas. He pointed to recent findings from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that rural areas are just as much impacted by poor public transit and that a third of Wisconsin’s population is considered “non-drivers.”

    Jackie Pavelski, a former Eau Claire City Council member and a transit advocate, said rural areas around Eau Claire would benefit economically from a regional transit system. Those areas often struggle to attract jobs and people because of transportation challenges, she said.

    “Providing transit access is not only important in places like Eau Claire, but in some of our smaller and rural communities as well,” Pavelski said. “Hopefully we can move in that direction going forward.”


  • 14 Feb 2022 1:00 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    FTA Provides Almost $5 Billion of Public Transit Formula Funds

    Today, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provided almost $5 billion to public transit agencies, states, and Tribal governments to support public transportation across the country. These funds represent partial public transit formula funding apportionments for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. FTA will issue final FY 2022 formula apportionments after Congress completes action on the annual Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill.

    To view FTA’s formula funding apportionment tables, please click here.

    APTA Launches Smart Guide to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

    The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (P.L. 117-58), commonly referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides more than $108 billion for public transit and $102 billion for commuter rail, Amtrak, other high-performance passenger rail, and freight rail over the next five years. These bold investments in public transportation will help our communities and nation tackle climate change, advance equity, meet growing and evolving mobility demands, and create jobs. With enactment of the IIJA, the public transportation industry is uniquely positioned to address these challenges head on.

    APTA’s Smart Guide to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides information and resources to aid members in navigating the many aspects of this new law. It includes APTA’s summaries, funding and formula apportionment tables, and detailed section-by-section analyses of the public transit, passenger rail, Buy America, and other important titles of the IIJA. It also includes U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) formula apportionments, guidance, memoranda, regulations, and competitive grant opportunities.

    The Smart Guide includes more than 50 documents and related links, and we continuously update it as more information about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and DOT grant opportunities becomes available.

    To view APTA’s Smart Guide to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, please click here.


  • 11 Feb 2022 12:01 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Milwaukee County Transit System Logo

    Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) announced today that it has chosen the Umo Mobility Platform by Cubic Transportation Systems as its new fare collection system following a competitive process that began last May. Umo (pronounced YOU-mo) is a national fare collection system that will connect MCTS riders to not only its bus services but to other forms of transit across the region as well. The new fare collection system is expected to launch in fall of 2022.

    The communities MCTS serves will benefit from improved transportation equity. The new fare collection system is made to fit the needs of all transit riders, including those without smartphones or who don’t have a bank account. Riders can choose to pay for their transit trips whichever way they prefer, including via contactless credit cards, mobile phones using the new app, a new smart card reloadable online or at retail outlets, or cash on board the buses. More plentiful retail locations based in a larger number of neighborhoods, multi-lingual capabilities, and options for the visually impaired further boost access to transit. With fare capping, riders will pay the lowest price, no matter how many times they ride.

    “Making public transit more accessible is key to achieving racial equity in Milwaukee County. To create more connected communities, we must reduce the barriers that keep our neighborhoods, and their residents, separated today,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “MCTS is working to reduce barriers to accessing public transit by introducing flexibility in transit fare collection to accommodate the needs of all potential riders.”

    MCTS Managing Director Dan Boehm said, “The ability to fare cap means riders can purchase as much or as little as they can afford, and still get the discount of a weekly or monthly pass. The new system recognizes when riders reach the equivalent of a pass, and automatically rewards them with free rides for the remainder of the period. Now, everyone can access a faster, more convenient way to pay and travel to jobs, education, entertainment and other destinations.”

    New System Connects Riders to Other Modes of Transportation Across the Region
    The fare collection system has the potential to support seamless regional connectivity for commuters traveling to and from Milwaukee County and eventually throughout the southeastern Wisconsin region.

    “We are excited to partner with Milwaukee Country Transit System,” said Bonnie Crawford, VP and General Manager, Umo. “MCTS sees the future of transit and the potential to connect its community to all mobility options using one app, whether they are riding the bus, grabbing a scooter or booking a ride-share, just like other major cities.”

    Because the platform is cloud-based, it works faster than the current fare collection system, offering immediate on-board payment validation via mobile app or smart card. The mobile app will also provide real-time bus tracking and trip planning. To use Umo, passengers create an account via the app and then add funds to their account using their credit or debit card or with cash at more than 200 retail locations.

    Community Education to Begin in Spring
    In the coming months, MCTS will begin educating its rider base how the account-based system works and introduce them to the comprehensive features and benefits found on the Umo mobile app and fare card. On-bus validators are expected to be installed later this fall. This new system will eventually replace the current M-Card and mobile app. The education campaign will include a timeline of when the old system will be phased out and the new one begins. There will be an introductory period allowing riders time to transition to the new system.

    For more information about the Milwaukee County Transit System, visit RideMCTS.com.


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