« December 2012 |
| February 2013 »
Barb Thoman, Executive Director
The Governor’s State of the State address last night focused on providing
leadership to solve problems for Minnesota and end the chronic deficits we have
faced over the last several years. Transit for Livable Communities, a member of
the Invest in Minnesota coalition, believes that increased revenue must be part
of the solution to provide for a future that works for the residents of this state.
The Governor last night spoke of delivering jobs and support for business to
provide those jobs. More transit does this. He spoke about delivering efficient
services, maintaining a healthy environment, and efforts to keep seniors in
their homes and to make college more affordable. More transit helps do this.
Minnesotans by a vast majority support increased investment in transit—as a way
to reduce traffic, create jobs, and help make budgets balance for working
families, students, and seniors.
The Governor’s plan would broaden the sales tax and specifically fund transit
expansion through an increase in the sales tax. While it does not go the whole
distance, the Governor’s budget would put in place a stable base of funding for
metro area transit —bus and rail.
In the case of transit, there are clear indications that investing more will
have a high return on investment for the state.
As noted in our response to the Governor’s budget (see below), our coalition plan would do more.
The Governor has funded his vision. To those who criticize elements of his
plan, remember that to embrace the vision for better transit in Minnesota
without embracing the funding needed is false, empty leadership. Doing nothing
also is not an option. It is time to act. We need transit for a stronger economy.
Original Response to Governor Dayton's Budget Proposal:
Governor Dayton’s budget proposal today sends a clear signal
that transit is essential to building a stronger economy. It includes a mix of
cuts and new revenue, including for transit. The overall plan takes two major
Firstly, the Governor’s budget recognizes that building out
the regional transit system—bus and rail—will create jobs, attract top
employers, and make it more affordable to get to work and school. The build out
of the regional system will create 30,000 jobs, according to the Itasca Project
report (pdf). The experience of the Central Corridor shows that subcontractors and
workers come from all over the state.
Secondly, the Governor’s attention to the overall budget
structure hopefully will mean that we can count on steady and expanding transit
service, rather than funding battles that have resulted in whittling away of bus
service. A stable funding platform eliminates uncertainty for everyone—for businesses
and for individual families planning their budgets.
The Governor’s budget includes broadening the base of the
sales tax and adding a new ¼ cent sales tax in the metro. These funds would:
- expand bus service by 1% each year—the first
increase to basic bus service in a decade, and
- fund the Southwest LRT, Bottineau LRT, Gateway
LRT or BRT, I-35W South BRT, up to 12 Rapid Bus or streetcar corridors, and up
to 5 additional highway BRT lines.
This is a huge step forward in recognizing that we must
increase access to transit for Minnesota families, seniors, and students. We
know that transportation is the second largest household expense (after
housing) and more people are turning to transit as gas prices remain high. We
also know that more people are bicycling and walking for transportation.
We do have some concerns in these areas. As we dig deeper
into the governor’s budget and continue working at the legislature, TLC and the
Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition will be looking to make sure:
- that greater Minnesota transit service is not
left behind. Transit use is growing in Greater Minnesota and makes a huge
difference to seniors, people with disabilities, and to residents in cities
like Duluth, Saint Cloud, and Rochester, and
- that cities and counties have funds for
providing sidewalks, safer crossings, bike routes, and access for people with
The Governor’s budget sends a very strong signal about the
importance of transit. It’s a great floor for the session ahead, but it’s not
quite the whole structure we need for Minnesota to thrive.
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
A campaign is brewing in the community, with bold plans to
move legislators to action at the Capitol this session. Over the last year, Transit
for Livable Communities and our partners have been sitting at the table with
leaders from many different backgrounds, asking how transportation works for
them. We’re hearing a consistent message—that our current transportation system
limits opportunity. People are stuck in traffic or stuck at home. They have few
options for getting to work and school—or for saving money on gas, parking, and
vehicle costs. And, our economy, while improving, still needs to generate more
jobs and bring new businesses to the region.
As we’ve met with business leaders, social service
organizations, developers, people with disabilities, unions, and environmental
groups, we have heard many voices speak about the challenges they face and the
opportunities to make things better.
“Access to convenient transit plays a significant role in making ends
meet.” John J. Errigo, Director of Housing Development, Aeon
At the Courage Center in Golden Valley, for instance, more
than 20% of appointments are cancelled, many because of transportation issues. The president of North Hennepin Community College says his students “are a dead
car battery away from dropping out of school.” The CEO of Episcopal Homes of
Minnesota says “access to transportation is one of the most significant
deciding factors” for seniors “considering places to live.” Corporate site-selectors say that transit and the easy movement of goods
through the region are a bigger factor than taxes in deciding where to locate.
Companies that are here don’t want to pay for more parking. Many are concerned
about transportation’s role in personal health, air pollution, and climate
The people we’re meeting also see opportunities to make it
easier to get around. The possibility of a new light rail line has kindled the
entrepreneurial spirit at the New American Academy in Eden Prairie. Commuters from Hopkins and Lakeville are excited that new LRT or BRT service
will mean they can stay downtown and still get home safely after dinner or a
ball game, theater or time out with friends. Developers are finding traction in
promoting walkable neighborhoods and new projects that are bicycle friendly or
close to transit lines.
“This proposed transit
project is backed by multiple chambers of commerce. . . . They all see the
potentially transformative power of this investment and are very mindful about
what it takes to attract new talent.” Louis Smith, Southwest Corridor
In short, there are many voices saying our region needs more
transit, bicycling, and walking to build a stronger economy—as a region and for
individuals of every background and income level. Statistics and reports back
these voices up: transit use is rising
in the metro and statewide, as are the number of people taking their bicycle or
walking to get to some of the places they need to go.
“There is a great
opportunity within multi-racial and multi-cultural groups as we work together
to make sure that transportation in and around the Twin Cities becomes more
equitable and reliable.” Hashi Shafi, Somali Action Alliance
More than 25 organizations have signed on to Transit for a
Stronger Economy (see list below). What does the campaign call for? Basically,
we want to move faster on transit so the region can compete—so everyone has a
stronger economy. We want a 21-st century transit system in 15 years, not 30 or
more, with additional LRT and BRT, but also expanded bus service and the
ability for local cities and counties to put in bike routes, trails, and
sidewalks, comply with ADA requirements, and make other transit-related
improvements. We want transit systems in Greater Minnesota to be able to meet
Other regions are moving much faster than we are. Business
leaders say the return on investment in building out the transit system is
high—and gets better if we move faster.
Currently only 25% of metro area residents live near convenient transit service
and many residents of Greater Minnesota have only the most minimal service. Other
cities, such as Denver, Seattle, Dallas, and Salt Lake City, invest more and
provide more transit than we do. Los Angeles, once known for highways and smog,
is now a leader in planning for a region where people get around by transit,
bicycle, walking and driving. It’s time for the Twin Cities to step it up.
What happens if we DON’T act?
If we don’t act, our funding for transit improvements will
dry up. Instead of building a system that is working in 15 years, when today’s
three-year-olds are going to college, we’ll be looking at a system in 30 or 40
- Progress on building a regional system will
stop. Full funding for the Southwest LRT is not certain and there are not funds
to carry out plans for Bottineau, Gateway, or any additional transitways. Minnesota
would fall farther behind competing regions in attracting and keeping jobs.
- No funds to upgrade bus service, neither “rapid
bus” service on high-volume routes nor expanded bus coverage and service hours.
The bus system we have is highly efficient, it is just too small. Many routes
do not run on weekends and have limited service after peak hours.
- Very limited funds to meet local needs for safer
sidewalks, bicycle routes, ADA compliance, and local transit investments.
- Statewide, without additional funding there will
be no growth in transit service for the next 20 years. There are still a few
counties with no service and many counties with very limited service.
Transit for Livable Communities and the growing Transit
Partners Coalition it facilitates is ramping up for the biggest effort ever to
secure additional funding for transit and those key connections for people on
foot, bicycle, and using a wheelchair.
We will be asking the legislature to provide for the
build-out and operation of a regional system of bus and rail and to allow
cities and counties to ensure safe connections for people walking, bicycling,
or using a wheelchair.
Transit is a key to a legislative agenda that will be
focused on job creation, economic competitiveness, and tax reform. Join us—contact Whitney Lawrence (whitneyl[a]tlcminnesota.org) to find out how you can be involved.
The following have
Transit for a
African Career, Education &
Alliance for Metropolitan Stability
Alliance for Sustainability
American Heart Association
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005
Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
The Cornerstone Group
Episcopal Homes of Minnesota
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Minnesota Center for Environmental
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group
Minnesota Public Transit Association
Minnesota Young Professionals
National Multiple Sclerosis Society,
Project for Pride in Living
Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition
Sierra Club, North Star Chapter
Transit for Livable Communities
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 1189
By Whitney Lawrence, Member
On December 13th, TLC
members and allies gathered at our office in Saint Paul to catch up over
dinner, take action by writing letters to Governor Dayton, and get a sneak peek
at our legislative agenda for 2013. There were many familiar faces at the year-end
event. We were especially excited to see Senator Jim Carlson from District 38
and Representative Ron Erhardt from District 49A at the meeting. There were
also new faces, including Wynfred Russell, the executive director of African
Career Education Resources (ACER). Wynfred is a leader in his community of
Brooklyn Park and TLC is very lucky to have him and his organization on board
this year. In total, there were about 40 TLC members in attendance. Thanks for
all your valuable input and thoughtful questions, and thank you to everyone who
was able to make it on a snowy evening! It was nice to finally meet many of
TLC members and allies gathered to learn about
our legislative strategy and write letters to Governor Dayton.
TLC’s Legislative Agenda in 2013
At TLC, we are very excited for the 2013 legislative session because this year
brings the opportunity to make real, lasting improvements to transportation in
Minnesota. We believe that Minnesota families deserve more transit now – and
safe connections by walking, bicycling, and for people using a wheelchair.
Transit projects create good jobs, provide access to jobs, and make our region
a more affordable place to live and work. Currently, only 25% of metro
households and 10% of metro jobs are conveniently served by transit. Some
counties in Greater Minnesota still have no transit service. And, by 2040,
we’ll have 900,000 more people in the region. The time for increased investment
in transit, bicycling, and walking options is now!
As it stands today, the state and
metro region have no money to expand the bus system, the Southwest light rail
line is not fully funded, there is no money for planned additional transit lines,
and no money has been designated for safe walking or bicycling connections. The
limited funding for transit and affordable fares are at risk every budget
In 2013, TLC and the Transit Partners
coalition will be advocating for an additional $300 million in funding per year
for increased transit investments. This
additional funding will allow Minnesota to build out our regional transit system
in 15 years instead of 30, 40, or 50, including:
- An expanded system of light rail transit (LRT) and bus
rapid transit (BRT)
- NEW rapid
bus service and expanded regular route bus with faster, more frequent, and longer
hours of service
to shelters, lighting, and technology to make using transit safe and easier
- Fares that remain affordable, and
- A local
share for local needs, including bicycling and walking connections, ADA
compliance, and streetcar corridors.
However, TLC cannot do it alone—we
need the support of our members, allied organizations, and champions at the
state capitol to win in 2013.
How You Can Help TLC and Transit Partners Win
Members who attended the event on December 13th wrote over three dozen
letters to Governor Dayton encouraging him to increase Minnesota’s investment
in transit. Thank you to everyone who participated for taking the time to
hand-write these letters—they truly make a difference when we are fighting for
funding at the state Capitol! If you weren’t able to come to our year-end member
event, please take a moment to send Governor Dayton an e-mail here.
Three easy ways to help TLC grow options for
light rail, bus, bicycling, and walking throughout the coming year:
- Talk to your
elected officials: elected officials on the state, county and city level need
to hear from you!
- Tell your
friends and family: host a house party, or invite your friends to the next TLC
- Write a
note: send a letter to the editor or speak out on social media.
If you are interested in being an
active advocate for TLC this upcoming session please reach out and contact me
at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-789-1406.
We hope to see you soon at our
next happy hour member event—Transit on Tap—at Republic in Minneapolis (Seven Corners location) on Tuesday, January 29th. Come together from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. to
enjoy light appetizers and to talk bike, walk, bus, and rail with other TLC
members and featured guests. Space will be limited! For details and to RSVP,
visit TLC’s calendar of events.
An Interview with Marvin J. Plakut, President
& CEO at Episcopal Homes of Minnesota
Transit for Livable Communities is leading a collaborative campaign to champion
increased transit investments in Minnesota. TLC is working closely with a broad coalition
of partner organizations who want to secure additional revenue to build out our
state’s transit system in 15 years (not 30 or more). With $300 million in
additional funding annually our region could build out the regional network of
light rail and bus rapid transit, expand and upgrade bus service, and meet
local needs for sidewalks, bike routes, ADA compliance, and other local transit
improvements. The result would be greatly
improved access and huge savings for households and employers.
Episcopal Homes of
Minnesota is a member of this growing coalition. Active in the Twin Cities
community for more than 100 years, Episcopal Homes of Minnesota’s mission is to
enhance quality of life for seniors by providing homes and services that
support each individual's physical, social, and spiritual needs. Why does
transportation funding matter to an organization focused on housing and continuing
care for seniors? President and CEO Marvin J. Plakut explains.
Episcopal Homes of Minnesota (L); Marvin J. Plakut, President and CEO (R).
TLC: Why are transportation options essential for the Minnesota seniors
MJP: When seniors consider places to live, access to
transportation is one of the most significant deciding factors because the lack
of transportation is a huge hurdle. If residents cannot get to basic things
like their church, to shopping for food, to the drug store for medications, to
their doctor for appointments, or to visit friends . . . Without those features
one is completely isolated. Add transit to
the mix and the picture dramatically improves for seniors whose mobility is
fairly limited as it is.
TLC: The senior population in the Twin Cities area is expected to more
than double by 2040. How can we plan to meet the transportation needs of this
growing number of seniors?
MJP: With more limited mobility that goes along with aging
there needs to be increased convenience of transportation. In other words, for our seniors we need more
transportation options at more convenient locations. And, my view is that as we increase density
along University Avenue a number of these things will fall into place. Certainly the new Central Corridor light rail
line, coupled with the existing bus service, is nice progress towards meeting
these challenges. But we need more light
rail throughout the entire metro area and beyond.
Seniors at Episcopal Homes of
Minnesota (L & R)
TLC: This spring Episcopal Homes is beginning new construction to
expand senior housing options along the Central Corridor light rail line. How
did transit factor into your decision to expand at that location?
MJP: We were always confident of our location at University
and Fairview because we have substantial waiting lists for our facilities. The new Central Corridor light rail line
simply made our site that much more appealing.
We are delighted to be doing a major expansion at this time and we
anticipate our new facilities filling fairly rapidly when they open in 2014.
TLC: Given the response you’ve seen, would you plan to build more
senior housing along future transit routes?
MJP: Increasingly seniors are coming to us saying, “I want
to get on your waiting list because of the new light rail line.” University Avenue, between the Capitol
building on the east and MN Highway 280 on the west, is our home. We would definitely like to build more
housing along this stretch, particularly at light rail stops.
Drawing of Episcopal Homes of
Minnesota’s planned expansion of senior housing along the Central Corridor
light rail line (L); senior at Episcopal Homes of Minnesota (R)
TLC: Have transportation options also been a key issue for Episcopal
Homes as an employer?
MJP: Transit is one of the key features that attracts employees
because of their ability to get to the job site. In terms of being able to find and keep a
stable work force, transportation options are vital.
All photos courtesy of Episcopal
Homes of Minnesota.
This month, Transit for Livable Communities welcomes two new
members to our Board of Directors. We are excited about the passion and
expertise Lars D. Christiansen and Jill Johnson bring to our board and look forward
to working closely with them both in the year ahead!
is Associate Professor of Urban
Studies and Sociology at Augsburg College. He has been involved in
transportation advocacy in Minneapolis and Saint Paul for the past decade, including
serving on the Boards of Nice Ride Minnesota (2009-2012) and Saint Paul Smart
Trips (2010-2012). He is a member of the Hamline-Midway Coalition's
Transportation Committee (2009 - present), and in that capacity Lars is lead
organizer of the Central Corridor Friendly Streets Initiative. His
scholarship focuses on urban sustainability and resilience, transportation
systems, public engagement, social movements, Pragmatism, and social
theory. A member of the League of American Bicyclists and Adventure
Cycling Association, Lars enjoys bicycle touring and mountain centuries,
and commutes by bicycle year-round.
Johnson is an Environmental
Sustainability Senior Analyst at Target. Her work focuses on enhancing
sustainability efforts within Target's overseas supply chain. Jill received her
Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, during which
she held positions with the Scowcroft Group and the Foreign Commercial Service.
Prior to Georgetown, Jill served in the Peace Corps in both Mozambique and
Uzbekistan. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Women's Studies at
St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.
. . .
As TLC embarks on another busy
year of growing options for bus, light rail, bicycling, and walking, we also
extend sincere thanks to Greg Pratt and Bill Smith, who recently wrapped up their
terms of service on the TLC Board of Directors. Both Greg and Bill have been, and
continue to be, wonderful allies for the organization. We wish them well and
look forward to collaborating with them in new ways in the future.