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Transit is a GO in Governor’s budget


Barb Thoman, Executive Director



Update: 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 steps forward.  

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 disabilities.

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.

Transit for a Stronger Economy


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 change.

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 Investment Partnership

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 demand.

Why now?

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 years. Specifically,

  • 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] to find out how you can be involved.  


The following have signed-on to

Transit for a Stronger Economy

African Career, Education & Resource, Inc.   


Alliance for Metropolitan Stability 

Alliance for Sustainability 

American Heart Association

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota 

Conservation Minnesota 

The Cornerstone Group 

Envision Minnesota 

Episcopal Homes of Minnesota

Fresh Energy

Hope Community


Local Initiatives Support Corporation Twin Cities

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG)

Minnesota Public Transit Association

Minnesota Young Professionals Environmental Group

National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest

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

TLC Members & Allies Gear Up for a Busy Legislative Session


By Whitney Lawrence, Member Engagement/Senior Organizer

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 you!



 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 cycle.

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
  • Improvements 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 in 2013

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 event.
  • 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 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


Seniors and Transportation Options

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.

Residents of Episcopal Homes of Minnesota (L); Marvin J. Plakut, President and CEO (R).


TLC: Why are transportation options essential for the Minnesota seniors you serve?

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.

Meet Lars & Jill: New TLC Board Members

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!
















Lars D. Christiansen 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.



Jill 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.



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