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2000-04-13
Waukesha, WI. Take the bus to Wal-Mart?

Federal and state taxpayers are going to help shoppers in Waukesha, Wisconsin find their way to Wal-Mart. This generous offer of corporate welfare to Wal-Mart will amount to as much as $211,191, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. According to the Waukesha Metro Transit Director, stores like Wal-Mart have been asking for what amounts to a taxpayer's subsidy to help them get shoppers and workers to their distant locations. "Fast food restaurants, Wal-Mart -- they've all at one time or another called and said 'Please provide more bus service." said the Transit official. (The WMT transit company just happens to be the Wall St. trading symbol for Wal-Mart, but the connection is purely coincidental). The new tax supported bus route will go by Wal-Mart and a new Jewel-Osco store, both of which are located outside of the commercial center along Route 164. The bus will also pass Home Depot and Target, two other stores that certainly don't need public support to attract shoppers or employees. Planners decided the current bus route, which already goes by the Wal-Mart and a Kmart is "a long, circuitous route". Some of the businesses which moved from downtown locations to the malls on the edge, admit that their employees used to be able to walk to work, and didn't need to rely on publicly supported transit, but now they depend on the bus. The manager at Home Depot complained that they have had trouble finding job applicants, but they doubt the new bus route will change that. "The bus is very close to us right now," said Home Depot's manager. "I don't see how the new route will help." Transit officials boast that the new route will stop right in front of Home Depot now. The new route ie estimated to cost $286,000 a year to operate. The city is kicking in some money, and fares will provide just over $51,500. The city expects an average of around 211 riders a day to use the route.

What you can do: This is an example of the not so hidden costs of building sprawl on the edge of town: you have to get people there. Surprisingly, it does not appear that any of the huge superstores being served by this new route have offered to cough up any money to support the annual operation. Even though taxpayers are picking up the tab to add revenue to Wal-Mart and Home Depot's coffers, the companies do not appear to have offered to help underwrite the cost. With all the stores mentioned, local officials could have insisted they chip in to pay for most of the costs -- if not the whole enchilada. Near my hometown, in Orange, MA, Wal-Mart offered to help pay for a piece of the operating cost of a bus route that would draw shoppers from surrounding towns to their store. The surrounding towns end up helping to pay for a bus route that diverts shopping sales from their towns. Just one more way that sprawl doesn't pay for its own on-going infrastructure costs. There is no reason Wal-Mart or Home Depot can't supply their own workers with an employee van, instead of expecting tax payers (including smaller merchants) to foot the bill for getting workers to their auto-dependent stores. The taxpayers of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and the nation are helping subsidize Wal-Mart operating overhead. Wal-Mart and Home Depot employees will take the bus, and leave the funding to us. This is corporate welfare on wheels.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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