Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dane County RTA Status

In light of the proposed advisory referendum on the Monona city council agenda, I did some poking around to find out what is going on with the RTA.  This task turned out to be a lot harder than I had imagined because there is very little information available, partly because not much has happened.

The Monona City council referred the matter to the Transit Committee with a vote by the council expected on September 20.

The RTA Board does not have any staff or its own website. The meetings are posted on the Dane County website. Let me repeat that: The RTA Board has NO staff. How does one go about starting a new regional transit agency with no staff? Of course, the state budget provided no funding and no one else has stepped up with any funding. Does this strike anyone else as nuts?

In terms of the RTA’s transit plan, the RTA Board has created a committee to put that together, but the committee is still in the information gathering stage and developing the principles/criteria to use in putting it together.

The Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (MPO) has created a staff advisory committee for a 5-year transit plan that the MPO prepares in close cooperation with Metro Transit staff. The scope of that effort was expanded to include development of transit service improvement scenarios for consideration by the RTA in developing the plan the RTA will take to the voters before the referendum is held. The focus of that effort thus far has been on bus service improvements.

It is also very possible that the rail plan, assuming it is part of the mix, will change given the implementation of intercity rail in the corridor.

Perhaps we should conduct other advisory referendums on matters over which the city has no control and which address hypothetical plans that don't exist. (Before anyone brings it up, yes, I supported the Iraq war refenedum back in in 2004 (?), but the supporters for that referendum had some 700 signatures). Would any of the three Monona alder sponsors support referenda on other hypothetical questions?

Or perhaps there are political motivations at work, such as in using these referenda to energize the Republican base and drive up voter turnout in November, which may be good political stratgey, but it's not a reason to hold a referendum. The RTA Board will hold a referendum in good time


  1. So to be clear, Kugle, Veserat and Wiswell want us to vote yes or no on a tax that has not been proposed to fund a plan that has not been proposed. Have I pretty much got that straight? If so, how am I supposed to believe this isn't motivated by something unspoken by these three? What's the rush? Can't we wait until we know what it is we're actually voting on?

  2. That's pretty much it. And what will this referendum mean if the RTA later proposes a mix of transit options (say, buses and trains)? Not much.

  3. I think the first reply is a little hard on Monona's alders. If this is a ploy to drum up voters in November, I don't think it was a plan by Kugle, Veserat and/or Wiswell. If anything, they are reacting to pressure by the public.
    I think it would be better for them to investigate and think about the ref, instead of just reacting, and as your other posts show, the RTA is becoming a football the right likes to kick. While those 3 alders might lean to the right, I don't see them as being this involved in Republican plans.

  4. So this is like Jeopardy, where you get the answer before you even know the question?

    I'm all for voting on this *once* we actually have a proposal in front of us. Will it be 0.5% sales tax to fund a comprehensive mass-transit package? Will it be 0.25% (it was up to 0.5%, correct?) to fund just a rail-only or an express-bus-only service? 0.1% to fund fixing the potholes on current streets? The full 0.5% so I can finally get my tunnel under Lake Monona (to be paid for in a short 13 years!!)?

    We have a vibrant election every spring where we elect local leaders. To force a referendum now on something that hasn't even been proposed is ludicrous. I'm actually kind of ashamed that 50% of our council members are actually supporting this. I thought Monona was better than that.

  5. At Monday's meeting, alder Veserat basically justified the propoal by saying that the Dane County Towns Association asked for it. Do the interests of the Towns and the city of Monona align on transportation issues? (Feel free to treat that as a rhetorical question.)

    Alder Veserat did tell me that the Monona Transit Committee is having a meeting next Wednesday, August 25 at 6 PM to review the proposed referendum.