Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Friday, April 26, 2013

More on the Transit Bill

Representative Davnie has responded to my initial blog post on the Transit bill, and has made clear why he doesn't support increasing the sales tax to fund much-needed transit improvements.  While the changes between the initial legislation and what has passed are complex, there is a simple way to understand the problems with the House bill that Rep. Davnie supports.

Here are the transit improvements proposed by the Governor that are funded by the Senate bill, but not funded by the House bill:

  • Operation of the planned Southwest LRT Line
  • The Bottineau LRT Line, which will extend the Hiawatha line north into Brooklyn Park
  • Arterial Bus Rapid Transit on Chicago Ave, Lake Street, and 10 other high-transit-use corridors
  • Bus Rapid Transit on I-35W and up to 5 other highway BRT lines
  • Annual improvements to standard bus service, meaning more routes, longer hours, and more frequent service
And in addition to all of this, the Senate bill would create the State's first dedicated funding stream for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

If you think we should make these transit investments, you need to tell your legislators.  The Legislature could either make these investments possible this year, or refuse to do so.

There's one other necessary clarification.  While it's true that the House is increasing transit funding over the last biennium, it's very important to understand that this is simply undoing a past cut that was pushed through by the last Republican legislature.  (For what it's worth, this is the key reason to support dedicated funding for transit: it becomes a target when there is an anti-public-and-nonmotoroized transit majority is in charge of the legislature.)  In fact it appears that the $130 million for Metro Transit in the current House bill is not enough to pay for the transit lines we have now.

According to the Metropolitan Council, even with the $130 million in the current House bill, they are still $18 million short.  That $18 million is the state's unfunded share of operations funding for the Hiawatha Light Rail ($9.2 million) and Central Corridor Light Rail ($8.8 million, starting in 2014).  The Met Council has made clear that after years of inadequate budgets forcing one-time fixes, they do not have the capacity to absorb this cut.  Though the House bill is an increase over past starvation budgets, it is not an actual increase from the status quo.  If it is the final outcome, the Met Council will have three bad options: 1) cutting transit service, 2) increasing fares, and/or 3) using capital funding (which is needed to make any major improvements to funding like those listed above) to pay for operating costs.  Rather than taking the opportunity to make transit investments possible, it will actually make them more difficult.  And missing this opportunity matters, because it rolls the dice on getting this done during a state election year in 2014, or keeping transit-friendly forces in control of the Legislature in 2015.  I don't think we should take that risk.

Those are the stakes, and why I believe it is so important for all members of the Minneapolis legislative delegation to support dedicated transit funding.


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