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Southwest LRT: Get Connected!


Transit for Livable Communities is co-hosting a community meeting about the Southwest LRT on Wednesday, July 25, from 5:30-7:30pm at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. The purpose of the meeting is to provide an update on the status of the project and share tools to make sure citizen’s voices are heard in the ongoing dialogue about the future of this line.

The Southwest Light Rail Line is currently on schedule to begin construction in 2014 and open in 2018, but that could change if the line fails to garner a contribution from the state of 10% of the cost of the line or nearly $125 million.

The state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is now considering applications from all over the state for the $47.5 million bonding fund authorized by the legislature. The Met Council has asked for $14 million toward the state’s 10% share of the cost of building the line.

Southwest LRT is a crucial investment for the future of this region and state. It will create an estimated 150 design, engineering, and management jobs; 3500 construction jobs, and 175 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Chambers of Commerce from Minneapolis, Twin West, and Saint Paul all have made clear that transit also is essential to job growth in the region.

Building wide and vocal support for the line over the coming months will be essential. Please join us. RSVP will help us plan!

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New federal transportation law–A missed opportunity

By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

In July, President Obama signed a new transportation law: MAP-21. The new law ran 600-pages and is effective for 27-months (significantly less time than previous transportation laws). Transit for Livable Communities and advocates for transportation reform across the US were disappointed that many of the forward-thinking provisions in the Senate bill were traded away in conference committee.

We greatly appreciate the phone calls and letters from our members over the past two years which were key to defeating some terrible proposals advanced by the US House—proposals to make funding for transit less secure and to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian projects from funding eligibility.

The bill that emerged from the House and Senate conference committee did not include House demands for approval of the Canadian-backed oil pipeline (Keystone XL) or a prohibition of the regulation of toxic coal ash. But traded away were provisions to ensure a “state of good repair” on US roads and bridges, provisions to improve freight rail, a portion of the dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, and other elements key to improved safety, accountability, and expanded transportation options.  

Click here for TLC’s statement on the new law and here for Transportation for America’s recap of the top 10 things to know about the new law. On behalf of Transit for Livable Communities and our members, I sit on the executive committee of Transportation for America (T4A), a national coalition working for a healthy transportation system that is ready for the rapidly changing economy of the 21st century. 

As you read my statement and the T4A blog, here is some background to keep in mind about the role federal funding plays for transportation in Minnesota. 

Minnesota, as with all states, receives federal transportation revenue in proportion to its estimated share of gas taxes paid, plus a subsidy from general revenues. Minnesota’s annual federal support is approximately $700 million.

The majority of federal transportation funding falls under the jurisdiction of state departments of transportation (DOT) but a portion is allocated directly to metro regions. In Minnesota, that includes the Metropolitan Council and seven planning areas in Greater Minnesota.

Federal funding is particularly important in Minnesota because the majority of state revenue for transportation—approximately $1.7 billion annually—is dedicated in Minnesota’s constitution to “highway purposes.”  Federal transportation funding supports a wider range of transportation projects for Minnesotans, from road and bridge construction and maintenance to new rail projects, bus operations and maintenance, bicycle and pedestrian projects and safety efforts.  

Federal funding facilitates a wide range of transportation projects in Minnesota.


In 2012, federal transportation revenue is contributing to the construction of nearly 100 separate projects in the metro area (plus at least 100 projects in Greater Minnesota), including Central Corridor LRT, the Mississippi River Regional Trail in Spring Lake Park and Rosemount, the widening of Highway 10 in Anoka County, and replacement of the Lafayette Bridge over the Mississippi River in Saint Paul.

At TLC, with your help, we will continue to build the movement to support multimodal transportation investments, in our state and at the federal level. Given that MAP-21 is only a 27-month law, the work begins now for a better transportation law next time. Join us!

MnDOT’s statewide plan—please comment by July 31

By Bill Neuendorf, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Every year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) oversees nearly $2.5 billion for projects across the state. The agency just released for public review a draft of the 20-year Statewide Multimodal Plan that will guide these investments. The strengths and weaknesses in this guiding document will influence all transportation investments -- from roads to trails to airports --for generations to come. MnDOT is accepting public comments until July 31, 2012—information about how to comment is here.

The MnDOT Plan is rooted in the recently completed Minnesota GO vision for statewide transportation, which calls for MnDOT to prioritize transportation investments that enhance economic competitiveness, environment health, and quality-of-life. TLC applauded the vision outlined by Minnesota GO, but also said “the money must line up with the vision and goals must be specific and measurable.” 


The Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan stems from Minnesota GO. Image credit: MnDOT


The Statewide Multimodal Plan brings the Minnesota GO vision closer to reality by beginning to shape the policies by which individual transportation programs and investments will be selected. While much of MnDOT’s vision is poised in the direction of a more sustainable, multimodal transportation network, TLC has identified concerns with the plan that, if not addressed, could undermine outcomes and the ability to realize the vision of Minnesota GO. We encourage TLC members and everyone affected by transportation investments to comment by July 31. MnDOT has put significant time and energy into this draft plan. Robust public engagement will help continue on the path toward realizing a strong vision. 


Minnesota GO planning areas. Image credit: MnDOT

Click here for our summary of concerns (pdf) regarding

  • Air Quality, Environmental Impacts & Natural Resources
  • Infrastructure investments, Land Use and Economic Development
  • Public Health
  • Accessibility, Transit & Pedestrian and Bicyclist Interests
  • Equity/Social Justice
  • Goal Setting, Accountability and Performance 

Top Ten Elements in Regional Plans: Our Peers Have Set a High Bar

By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate, & Bill Neuendorf, Director of Policy and Advocacy

The Met Council has recently begun a two-year process to update its long-range development plan for the Twin Cities region. Known as Thrive MSP 2040, the over-arching regional plan creates the foundation for four system plans – Transportation, Aviation, Water Resources, and Parks. If done well, this plan will provide a persuasive, strategic vision for the region, including greatly expanded, more affordable and sustainable transportation choices.



Thrive MSP on Metropolitan Council web site


Other regions similar to the Twin Cities have recently completed long-range regional plans or regional transportation plans. While each is unique to the region and its people, the plans emerging from our peers in Atlanta, Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Seattle share a number of key themes. Here are ten themes consistently advanced by our peer cities.

1) An inspiring, non-bureaucratic, name for the plan. Regional planning documents are now being written for the general public not just government agencies. Their names are meant to inspire action rather than be cataloged on a shelf. Salt Lake City’s plan is called “Wasatch Choice” while San Francisco’s transportation/land use plan is entitled “Change in Motion”.

2) Well defined metrics of success. Measures of progress are identified in advance and in plain English. The use of quantifiable goals increases understanding, transparency and accountability

3) Explicit attention to equity considerations. It is not good enough to assume that equitable opportunities will magically happen for people of all incomes and ethnic backgrounds. Specific steps are identified so that public investments benefit all people. One of the leading regions is San Francisco, whose plans call for equitable mobility and access “for all Bay Area residents and visitors, regardless of race, age, income or disability”.


Regional Plans for San Francisco, Salt Lake, Denver, and Atlanta


4) Future development targeted in well-defined centers. Places like Denver and Seattle identify strategic centers and corridors as higher priorities for investment and redevelopment.

5) New road pricing strategies. Innovative road pricing strategies, such as rush-hour tolls on congested highways, can promote consistent travel times, encourage transit and carpooling, and achieve the highest people-moving results from all transportation investments.

6) Reprioritization of new public investment. After decades focused on highways, regions such as San Francisco and Denver now place greater emphasis on transit and bicycling infrastructure.

7) Cross-silo innovation. Results-oriented plans realize that comprehensive outcomes can best be achieved by breaking the mold of traditional governmental departments and agencies. In San Francisco, multi-jurisdictional programs are grounded in the Three E’s of Sustainability: economy, environment, and equity.  The identification of broad contextual goals supports policy makers in taking actions that deviate from outdated programs that may no longer deliver the most effective results.

8) Making the business case. To promote implementation of the plan, peer regions have embraced input from the community and business-sector from the earliest stages. Sincere collaboration between public and private sectors has resulted in more holistic buy-in. Salt Lake City is a particularly strong example.

9) Technical assistance to local government.  Educational materials, best-practice guides, and other types of technical assistance are frequently provided to local municipalities. These materials and programs simplify and promote the implementation of regional policies at the local level.

10) New public involvement strategies. In San Francisco, for example, they are not merely holding formal public hearings. They are also seeking direct input via on-the-street interviews and collecting ideas in non-traditional places. 

Much can be learned from the bold strategies incorporated elsewhere in the U.S. Meaningful public involvement will be necessary so that policy makers include the best options to make the Twin Cities an even better place to live and do business in the years ahead.


Links to Peer Cities’ Regional Plans




Salt Lake City: 


San Francisco:



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