It is often said that the world becomes smaller every day. Technology continues to connect us more intimately from vast distances in both a physical and figurative way. Information sharing has never been easier, with the internet constantly at our fingertips. Getting from place to place has never been so efficient, either. Asia has been the leader in innovation, with Japan and China pioneering high-speed rail systems that presently reach speeds of almost 200 miles per hour. Efficient transportation is becoming a major issue in the world. Places with efficient transit systems in place are more appealing for development, while those that are lacking become victims of their archaic systems.
At a joint public hearing last Monday by the Dane County Public Works and Transportation Committee and the Personnel and Finance Committee, approximately 40 speakers turned out. Among them were local politicians, business owners and organization leaders. The grand majority were in support of the RTA, which was reflected when both groups voted to recommend the Dane County Board to create the RTA.
This Thursday, the process will continue. The Dane County Board of Supervisors takes on the Regional Transit Authority at a public hearing on November 5th. They are likely to decide the fate of a proposed RTA governing board, a group of elected officials with power to decide on matters related to the RTA funding.
Establishing an RTA governing board is a crucial step to improving public transit in Dane County. The RTA board would be a powerful political force with the power to institute the proposed half-cent sales tax. The RTA board is necessary to hone and develop a more concrete plan for how Dane County intends to use RTA funds. The ambiguity of the intentions of the RTA have been a major source of the gripes anti-RTA citizens have voiced.
Dane County is the fastest growing county in Wisconsin. As the county grows in population, the need for a better public transit system becomes more dire. Madison's anticipated job growth is huge compared to other U.S. cities. It's time to begin thinking toward the future of the county, and commuters as well as Madisonians can benefit from improved transit in Dane County. An urban population requires efficient and reliable transit options, and the RTA is the first step toward meeting the demands of Dane County's growing population.
Other indirect benefits of the RTA include a reduction of fossil fuel use, lower emissions, and reduced road congestion. The significant environmental impact of individual automobiles should be enough for the Dane County Board to push through and vote in favor of the RTA, but it is also a wise choice in a community sense, as a better-linked public transit system will boost Madison's economy and promote growth in the area. This is absolutely necessary in order for Madison to remain competitive as a place of urban development potential.
The Dane County Board RTA hearing is this Thursday, November 5 at 7 p.m. A group of UW students are meeting by the elevators in the SAC at 6 p.m. in their Badger red to support the RTA and encourage the County Board to make the right choice in supporting the RTA. Students need to let their voices be heard and to let Dane County know that they care about the future of transportation.
WISPIRG Public Transit Intern