Metro Transit bus tight crop (copy)

Some 600 college students on 24 Wisconsin campuses were interviewed during the 2017-18 school year and roughly 75 percent responded that it was either very important or somewhat important to them to have transportation options other than an automobile to get around.

While former Gov. Scott Walker believed he could convince young people to come to Wisconsin to live and work by buying advertisements on Chicago buses and the "El," a new study by the WISPIRG Foundation concludes that he was wasting our money.

What might work a lot better, says the organization, is if the state would invest more resources in public transit, walking and biking infrastructure.

"Car culture no longer represents the 'American Dream' to many young people," insists Emma Fisher, the lead author of the report called "Millenials on the Move."

"By rethinking our transportation spending and focusing on forward-thinking investments, we could make Wisconsin more attractive to the young people that our communities need to thrive," she adds.

Some 600 college students on 24 Wisconsin campuses were interviewed during the 2017-18 school year and roughly 75 percent responded that it was either very important or somewhat important to them to have transportation options other than an automobile to get around.

At the same time, 55 percent answered that they would more likely stay in Wisconsin after graduation if they could live in a place where trips for work, recreation and errands did not require a car.

Interestingly, Jason Ilstrup, president of Downtown Madison Inc., has embraced the study's findings.

"As Madison continues to compete in an ever more aggressive workforce market, we must do everything we can to create a quality of life young people crave," he says.

Indeed, one of the reasons Madison in recent years has become more attractive to young working families is that the city has created a modern bike path network, improved pedestrian safety and enhanced its bus system, with more improvements on the horizon.

Other areas of the state, however, keep putting their transportation plans in one basket, many of which simply call for more and wider highways where only automobiles are welcome.

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We've already seen that to rely only on motor vehicles creates never-ending costs that we don't have enough money to pay for.

As I've said in this column several times, we need to raise the money to fix the roads and highways we have and start improving public transit, from trains to buses, to give people better — and less costly — options.

From what the young people are telling us, that's what they want.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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