Wisconsin’s Double Standards Killing Transit

Unfair Benchmarks Hurting Wisconsin Transit

Transportation funding is increasingly being tied to performance. This means that the more efficient a transportation system is, the more it is prioritized for funding. This is a great way to ensure that our infrastructure is working well for us.

If a highway in Wisconsin is congested, WisDOT invests time and money into finding ways to reduce travel delay for drivers. In many cases, this process ends with more lanes being added to the road.

The performance measures also prioritize the customer – DOT proactively reduces long wait times at the DMV for licenses and provides phone services to warn drivers about incidents on the highway system. There is no penalty for a road if traffic does not materialize as projected.

Mass transit, however, is measured very differently.The focus of transit performance measures are not transit riders.

Instead, the state ties funding to how cost effective each agency is. Transit managers have to find ways to stretch each dollar to stringent limits set by the state legislature. Agencies often deal with this by cutting routes and personnel – to the detriment of the whole system. If a system can’t keep up with these standards, the legislature can cut its funding within three years.  This creates a vicious cycle of budget cuts, subsequent route cuts and could force systems to shut down entirely.

There are more equitable ways of measuring the performance of the state’s transportation system.

If transit performance was treated as highways are – then we would tie funding to providing a great passenger experience. This could mean ensuring an adequate number of buses and routes, buses arriving on time and informing passengers about arrival and departure times and route interruptions. Virginia, for example, decided to measure performance based on a broad range of goals related to economic development, environmental quality, accessibility and intermodal connectivity across their whole transportation system.

For more information on effective performance measurement, check out these links. If we are to create a robust and sustainable transportation system in the state, we must hold all modes to the same standards.