Madison Peak Oil Group supports RTA

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Madison Peak Oil Group reissues the following statement (first release in February 2008) prior to the public hearing on a Regional Transit Authority (RTA):

What: Dane County Joint Committee Hearing of Public Works & Transportation with Personnel & Finance
When: Monday, October 26th at 6:30 pm
Where: Room 201B City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Madison

The Madison Peak Oil Group (MPOG) vigorously supports the creation of a Dane County Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) as well as Wisconsin legislation to catalyze creation of RTAs statewide. Mass transportation must play a central role in reducing our excessive and ruinous dependence on petroleum, and RTAs have proven to be the best dedicated funding source.

The petroleum age will come to a close this century; worldwide production is probably near an all-time peak. MPOG is highly skeptical that any combination of non-petroleum energy sources will substitute for current levels of petroleum consumption; thus deep reductions in overall energy usage will be essential. And we must focus on reducing automobile dependence itself rather than trying to “feed” our cars with other energy sources: (a) most petroleum is used for transportation at present; (b) passenger vehicles are the largest user; (c) automobile-centric transportation systems are inherently inefficient; and (d) alternative energy sources will probably be needed for more important purposes (like producing food). We must reconfigure our communities and lifestyles so we can access most of our day-to-day and week-to-week needs and destinations via proximity, walking, bicycling, and mass transportation. Investments in transit will prove crucial.

Mass transit modes are well-suited for non-petroleum energy sources; many systems are already electrified. For reasons of scale, further technological improvements (in batteries and hybrid drives, for example) are likely to yield a much “bigger bang for the buck” when invested in mass transit systems rather than automobiles.

There are other excellent reasons to cut our petroleum consumption: (a) petroleum imports entangle the United States in exploitative foreign policies and regional disputes; (b) these imports worsen our hemorrhagic trade deficit; and (c) petroleum is a major source of greenhouse gasses.

Unfortunately, light rail has become a central – and contentious – feature of the Transport 2020 planning process. While rail transit in selected Madison-area corridors would probably improve overall system performance, MPOG recommends that citizens and units of government devote far more attention to the RTA itself. An RTA is the essential enabler of regional public transportation; no other equitable, politically-acceptable mechanism can generate the necessary revenues.

MPOG further recommends that use of RTA funds for streets and highways be strictly limited. For too long public monies have been lavished on roadway expansions, thereby powerfully subsidizing automobile and petroleum dependence. A sensible, frugal rebalance in spending priorities is urgently needed. MPOG expects bus service will continue to be the main “workhorse”. And whilst aggressive expansion of transit into ring communities surrounding Madison is essential, it must not occur at the expense of core bus service within Madison. To the contrary, improvements within Madison are needed to meet the needs of a large and growing population of transit-dependent residents. These “first adopters” must be rewarded for choosing to live in higher density areas where walking, biking, and energy-efficient mass transportation are most viable.


The Madison Peak Oil Group, a group of people working in the energy industry, exists to build public awareness of peak oil and to create visibility to policymakers. The Group maintains a blog at