Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Transit Equity Days

Another post from La Crosse Area Transit Advocates:

We're excited to see Transit Equity Days (January 31 through February 4) coming together! Our flyer is done and ready to be shared on social media. If you'd like a printed copy, please use this .pdf version

Our transit riders story collection tools are ready to collect! Use the online form or look for a paper version at the Transit Center and Public Library. Plus, you can ride the circulator free from the one display to the other!

Local elected officials have stepped up to support the effort by passing a County Board proclamation and a City Council resolution. Governor Evers has also proclaimed February 4 as Transit Equity Day. Mayor Reynolds will also sure a proclamation.

On Monday, January 31 at 2:30 p.m. there will be a media event at the Transit Center with MTU Director Adam Lorentz and Mayor Reynolds to kick off the week of free fares and transit advocacy.

We are also welcoming local elected leaders to schedule a bus ride, so constituents can  "Ride with Your Rep," and drivers and riders can talk about their transportation needs. 

We're working on our display which will be at the La Crosse Public Library from Monday, January 31 through Friday, February 4. A companion display, sponsored by the MTU, will be at the Transit Center and feature highlights from We Walk: A History of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 519 and La Crosse Labors, books on La Crosse area labor history by local labor leader and retired driver, Terry Hicks.

First time riders who would like a little support are welcome to email LaCrosseTransitAdvocates@protonmail.com or call 608-315-2693. We'll connect you with a bus buddy who can ride along , explain how things work, and answer your questions.

And, we encourage you to pick up a THANK YOU, DRIVERS! sticker at one of the displays or download and print one or make your own sign to show appreciation for our essential transit drivers.


Please share this event, one of hundreds around the country, with your family, friends, co-workers and personal networks. Please plan to ride the bus at least once during Transit Equity Days, visit the displays, talk to drivers and riders, and learn why good public transit is a civil right and an important way to provide and equitable and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Speak up for sane transportation policy

 Cross-posted from La Crosse Area Transit Advocates.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease." 

Sometimes, it seems like this old adage has it all wrong. It seems, more often than not, the squeaky wheel gets replaced with a quiet one bought with money from people who don't want anything to change.

The recent surprise announcement by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation--that it will drop its decades-long push to build a new highway through the marsh--does give hope that constant, relentless, uncompromising noisy advocacy can make a difference.

But, there are mountains upon mountains of projects that, without scrutiny and comment, will continue down the path of inequity, wasteful spending, unhealthy priorities, and environmental degradation. And, often, you must comment decades before a project reveals its idiocy or inadequacy, because the process is so compartmentalized and circuitous, that something decided in 1998 cannot be undone or fixed in 2023 when it is unveiled for a final review.

A new disaster-in-the-making requires our attention now. This is from Mary Pustejovsky, a Wisconsin transportation equity advocate. 

I wanted to remind everyone that Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is collecting comments on their draft 2050 plan.The website is here:
The last day to submit comments is January 24th, so there is not much time.  I am sharing my comments here in case anyone wants talking points. There is a lot more that could be said, and your comments would be helpful. The more voices they hear, the better. If it's not obvious from my comments, I think the plan is more of the same that we've gotten from them for years. It's time for them to do better.

--------------------
My comments: 

As a citizen of Wisconsin, I welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the Connect 2050 plan.


Goal 4 states that “The department will continue to prioritize reducing congestion”. A few things: it was *not* a priority from looking at most of the comments from Wisconsites all over the state. The most common priority was “alternatives to driving”, with 700 comments mentioning it, more than any other comment type (https://connect2050.wisconsindot.gov/outreach). It’s embarrassing that WisDOT states its priority is to reduce congestion yet ignores the cheapest option: reducing vehicle miles traveled. When people have alternatives to driving alone, congestion decreases. Yet in your own documents, you show VMT continuing to go up! At least Minnesota DOT has made decreasing VMT a priority. Wisconsin should look to their plans, as our states are similar and have similar challenges.


Also on the interactive website, when selecting Goal 4, then Mobility, you tout “what we are doing now” by presenting a bicycle plan from 1998. REALLY? A 23 year old plan is what you are doing now? You should be ashamed of yourselves. It would have been better not to show it at all because it shows how little you are doing for people outside of motor vehicles.


For Objective 8b: Prioritize emissions reduction and alternative fuels to improve air quality.

Again, WisDOT ignores the most straightforward way to do this: reduce VMT. With fewer miles traveled, emissions go down, and air quality improves. Even electric vehicles won’t save us as they have tires that turn into micro particles that pollute our water (https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1131916_report-microplastic-pollution-from-vehicle-tires-is-a-serious-global-issue).


WisDOT states “Balance transportation needs with those of the natural environment, socioeconomic, historic and cultural resources.” Yet the federal guideline states: “Protect and *enhance* the environment, promote energy conservation, improve the quality of life, and promote consistency between transportation improvements and state and local planned growth and economic development patterns.”


WisDOT’s statement is NOT actually what the federal guideline calls for. What does “balance” mean here? If vehicular delay is reduced by 1 minute is that a “good balance” with the environment? It is so vague as to be meaningless, and allows for vehicular delay to be seen as equivalent with our need for a livable planet.


Federal guideline: 8. Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system.


WisDOT:

  • Pursue continuous improvement and expand data-driven decision-making processes.

  • Maximize technology benefits.


This is NOT the same! WisDOT should be focused on repairing existing systems rather than expanding them. We do not have infinite money, and we need to keep our existing system in good repair. Even WisDOT states that it’s important to pay attention to funding sources (goal 1).


Your section on safety is disappointing. You use the talk of Vision Zero “zero traffic deaths” and “5 Es” yet you don’t seem to properly understand them, nor how they work in a hierarchy. The standard 5 Es are: Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement. Some have swapped out Enforcement for Equity because it has been well established that the current system of traffic enforcement in our country can result in discriminatory outcomes. Still, I have NEVER seen anyone state that EMS or “Everyone” is part of the 5 Es. It is a complete abdication of your responsibility as a state transportation department to say that “everyone” is responsible. You continue to design roads that encourage speeding. You prevent ENGINEERING changes to East Washington in Madison that would provide more safety on a road where multiple people are killed each year. Yet “everyone” is responsible? That is some next level gaslighting, or maybe you truly are that oblivious to transportation research on appropriate traffic engineering measures that have measurable impact in reducing road violence. 


Your idea of safety is laughable. You state that you want to decrease traffic deaths, yet your own GOALS for 2021 were *higher* than 2020! Your scorecard (https://wisconsindot.gov/Documents/about-wisdot/performance/mapss/scorecard.pdf)  stated that the goal for traffic crashes was 127,892. In the same line it states that 2020 was 114,697.  I realize that this 2050 plan does not have individual metrics, which will be found in other plans, but you can see why I am skeptical of your “goals” and “objectives”. Your goals clearly state that you will do worse than before, then if you come in under your absurdly high goal, you will get a green arrow showing what a good job you’ve done. This is unconscionable.


Finally, the second most common comment was around funding. As I’ve mentioned previously, decreasing VMT is the fastest, cheapest way to ensure that our roads are able to last longer and stay in good condition. The next area that needs to be explored and proposed by WisDOT to the legislature is increasing fees based on vehicle weight. Any engineer will tell you that more weight causes more road damage. It is simple physics. As people switch to (heavy) EVs that do not pay gas tax, they need to pay for their use of the road. As drivers choose heavier vehicles such as oversive SUVs, they need to pay for the damage they do to roads. France is doing this and it is one of the only ways to make it fair for all road users. People who do more damage to the road need to pay for funding the improvements. It is as simple as that. This needs to be considered in all your discussions around fiscal responsibility (ie Goal 1).

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Support Planned Parenthood

From Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Coulee DSA, and Cia Siab, Inc.


Join PPAWI and other community organizations to celebrate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark supreme court case that protects the right to safe, legal abortions. With the reality of a post-Roe U.S. becoming more likely, we want to spend what could be the last Roe anniversary showing our communities that we care about abortion access and will continue to support one another. Join us at businesses throughout La Crosse and Holmen on January 22 to show your support for abortion access in Wisconsin and spread the word that Roe is at risk!

We’ll be collecting donation items for women's shelters and community organizations at each location as well as monetary donations for the Women’s Medical Fund, a non-profit that provides financial assistance to people in Wisconsin who need abortions and cannot afford the full cost. Check out our different drop-off locations and donation items list below! Donation bins will be posted at each location from the 20th through the 24th.

Donation Items:

Location of donation bins:


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Climate Action Plan NOW

 

Climate action planning is starting NOW in the City of La Crosse. A team of community members will meet monthly, and there will be many opportunities for education of and participation by community members. This plan is the result of a resolution the city passed in 2019 committing to reducing carbon emissions to zero and transitioning energy to 100% renewable energy community-wide by 2050.

What exactly IS a climate action plan? Why should the city and other groups - businesses, organizations, schools, nonprofits - make one? What is involved in making a climate action plan? What are the expected outcomes?

You will have two (at least) opportunities to learn about this process and how YOU can be involved so we end with strong, comprehensive, meaningful goals and plans to meet them.

On Tuesday, January 25 at 7 p.m. the Coulee Region Sierra Club will host an online program with Ted Redmond, co-founder of paleBLUEdot llc the consulting firm working with the city on its plan. Register for access at tinyurl.com/CRSC012522

On Thursday, February 10 at 2 p.m., the Sustainability Institute at Western TC will host Ted Redmond to talk about the process of developing a climate action plan. Click this link to register or learn more at the web page.



Monday, January 17, 2022

Who We Are /How We Got Here

Friday's broadcast of Democracy Now! included a segment about a new documentary opening in theaters this weekend, Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America. The film, directed by Emily and Sarah Kunstler, is written by and features former ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson, whose talk on the history and continuing legacy of anti-Black racism and White supremacy provides the framework. 

Despite the progress made in the past sixty years, there are still miles to go in voting rights, fact-based education, fair and equal treatment under law, economic justice, and more. 

We hope to support a community screening of this important film in the coming weeks. If you would like to help sponsor, please email couleeprogressive@hotmail.com. Watch the DN! segment and visit the Who We Are Project website for more information.


 
Another great documentary that details the ongoing struggle between wealthy elites and advocates of democracy is Requiem for the American Dream, a 2015 documentary, that features Noam Chomsky and traces policies put in place by wealthy White men from the constitution though the present day. The companion book, subtitled, "The Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power," digs into the strategies, honed since the 1970s, elites have used and are using to reframe the United States to their own interests.

The book highlights and expands on the ten principles: reduce democracy, shape ideology, redesign the economy, shift the burden onto the poor and middle classes, attack the solidarity of the people, let special interests run the regulators, engineer election results, use fear and the power of the state to keep the rabble in line, manufacture consent, marginalize the population. As we watch the continuing coup of 2020, the unraveling of fundamental rights and policies by the right-wing Supreme Court, and the attacks on voting rights and vote-counting mechanisms, these resources are essential to prepare for the coming nightmare. 

You do realize that if the House of Representatives goes to the Republicans in 2022, they plan to install Donald Trump as Speaker and hold non-stop Biden impeachment hearings. This is an emergency, and these two documentaries explain why.



This year we are back on the front lines with Dr. King, fighting once again for voting rights and for economic justice.

I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here?" that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.  It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?"  These are words that must be said.

From "Where Do We Go From Here?" delivered by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, August 16, 1967.