EDITORIAL: Pay attention to transit

Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

Another school year is under way — another semester of tuition to pay, another meal plan begun and another bus pass received.

These things are usually second nature for us, a checklist of basic items necessary for life at Marquette. But due to recent budget cuts and a decrease in ridership, it may not be long before that last item hits the highway.

The Milwaukee County Transit System is among the 30 largest U.S. bus systems, but has no regional or state transit authority governing it, and is losing funding from its few sources of revenue.

MCTS made service cuts and fare increases this year for its 2011-2013 plan. This may eliminate at least nine bus routes and services and decrease service to nine more routes across Milwaukee County.

While this may not seem pertinent to students, we should really take note of what’s going on — because it hits closer to home than we think.

Every Marquette student is required to purchase a U-Pass transit card in their student fees. This may seem like an inconvenient waste of money for students with a car or those who rarely travel within the county However, it can be a lifesaver for those without a car or access to one — a way to buy groceries, catch a Brewers game, go shopping or get to work.

According to the MCTS website, among the routes being reviewed for “service frequency reductions” is the favored 30 Route that runs down Wisconsin Avenue. and straight through campus. The “special event” buses that take students to Brewers games, Summerfest, the State Fair and other festivals could potentially be eliminated altogether in 2012.

The budget cuts that led to such proposals coincide with a 21 percent drop in ridership on such routes in the past five years. This drop is in contrast with the 7 percent growth statewide and 4 percent growth nationally of public transportation use, according to the American Public Transportation Association and the state Department of Transportation.

So, the question burns: Why should we care?

For one, not only will such cuts affect routes that students use daily and for regular entertainment, but if ridership continues to decrease because we aren’t taking the buses, who’s to say what other routes will get cut due to lack of funding?

The 30 and 10 are the most familiar bus routes that run through campus; if the 30 is already being considered for “frequency reduction,” why not the 10 as well?

And while route cuts are certainly threatening to students, they take on a larger issue for Milwaukee in general.

This question of why we should care is essential, whether we’re here in Milwaukee for four years or the rest of our lives. It boils down to the deeper issue at the root of the cuts: economics.

The Wisconsin budget cuts will further reduce available funds for public transit by 10 percent, leading to the possible loss of route quality and convenience.

Those losses can negatively impact the average consumer, who would ideally turn to public transit as a way to combat high gas prices. Choosing the bus would increase transit revenues, but it becomes an  impossible choice when routes are cut or their frequency is reduced.

Taking such things into consideration, students must be aware of the proposed transit system alterations.

We should all be taking public transit to help the environment and save on gas money. But that’s not possible for everyone.

Those who have the ability should make an effort to use public transit and prove to MCTS that our routes are worth keeping, not cutting or reducing.

For those who are concerned, don’t sit back and let the routes slip by.

While MCTS can’t control what funding it does or does not get, if we take advantage of those 10 and 30 routes on campus, just maybe the next routes to be cut won’t be those we use most.