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Transit Vision Bill Introduced

02/28/2013

Statewide Poll and Transit for a Stronger Economy Coalition
Support Investments in Transit, Bicycling, Walking, and ADA Compliance

St. Paul, Minn. (Feb. 28, 2013)—A bill introduced today calls for increased funding for transit in the metro and greater Minnesota. The bill (HF 1044 and SF 927), authored by Senator Bobby Joe Champion and Representative Melissa Hortman, calls for an additional $300 million per year in the metro and $32 million in Greater Minnesota to meet demand for transit and for safe, accessible connections for people walking, bicycling, or using wheelchairs.

Co-authors of the bill in the Senate include Senators Scott Dibble (DFL,  61), Chuck Wiger (DFL, 43), John Pederson (R, 14) , and Chris A. Eaton (DFL, 40). Co-authors in the House include Representatives Frank Hornstein (DFL, 61A),  Zachary Dorholt (DFL, 14B),  Sandra Masin (DFL 51A), Leon Lillie (DFL, 43B),  Raymond Dehn (DFL, 59B), Paul Rosenthal (DFL, 49B), Jason Metsa (DFL, 06B), Ron Erhardt (DFL, 49A).

“We need a transit system that allows all our region’s residents to thrive,” said Senator Bobby Joe Champion, chief author of the bill in the Senate. “This bill would dramatically increase access to jobs for low income people and make it more affordable to get to work. Transportation is the second largest household expense. It costs more than health care or education. Existing transit riders need better transit options and our region needs this to compete.”

Representative Melissa Hortman, chief author of the bill in the House, said, "Across the state, people want more options and support investment in public transportation. And they want bicycling and walking to be part of that investment. This bill is an opportunity to solve problems for Minnesotans, creating a more competitive, healthier state. "

Poll: statewide support for investments in transit, bicycling, and walking.

A statewide poll conducted in January by the bipartisan team of Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) shows public transportation is broadly supported and that a majority favor including bicycle and pedestrian projects in transportation funding proposals.

  • More than 90% surveyed agree that public transportation is a good investment for the state.
  • Over two-thirds (67 69%) of those surveyed favor including bicycle and pedestrian funding in transportation proposals.
  • A majority support paying more in taxes to expand and improve public transportation.
  • The top reasons for supporting transit focus on creating jobs, reducing traffic congestion, and making sure transit options are available to all.

Transit for a Stronger Economy Coalition

Transit for a Stronger Economy includes more than 40 organizations from across the state and unites unions, developers, people with disabilities, low-income and underserved communities, and active transportation, health, and environmental interests to promote funding for transit expansion this legislative session. The coalition’s vision for the Twin Cities metro region includes expanding transit, including bus and rail, and funding bicycle and walking projects, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The coalition also calls for meeting transit demand in Greater Minnesota.

“This coalition recognizes the great need to provide safe, accessible connections to transit. Transit, bicycling, and walking add much-needed activity to the daily commute, making our communities healthier,” said Rachel Callanan of the American Heart Association.

"We must make smart investments in transit to create good jobs and address climate change," said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. "We're proud to support this effort to sustain and improve transit options in our state."

Developer Colleen Carey of The Cornerstone Group has worked on new projects all over the metro area. “Transit is a win for all of us,” she said. “It is good for the environment, good for our health, creates new jobs, improves the long-term economic competitiveness of our region AND supports the needs of our lower income households at the same time.  We can't afford NOT to invest in transit.  The Cornerstone Group strongly supports the vision of the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition.”

There will be hearings on the bill in House and Senate in March. For more about the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition,, including a list of members, visit www.transit4mn.org.

Updated 3-18-13.

# # #

Transportation and Climate Change: Building out the Transit System for a Greener Future

02/06/2013

By Whitney Lawrence, Member Engagement/Senior Organizer

“The most significant opportunity to reduce carbon emissions . . . is transportation—which in turn depends on community design.”  —Peter Calthorpe

Last week, TLC members and allies gathered in Minneapolis to take a closer look at the connection between transportation and climate change. Over 50 people attended the event, which also featured presentations from Jim Erkel of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Joshua Houdek of the Sierra Club. Thanks to all who could join us!

Transit-on-Tap---Transportation-and-Climate-Change-Event-004_WEB

The US Environmental Protection Agency affirms that "the more greenhouse gases we emit, the larger future climate changes will be." As discussed at our recent event, current Minnesota law specifies aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Using 2005 as a baseline, the goals call for decreases in GHG emissions by the following:

  • 15% by 2015,
  • 30% by 2025, and
  • 80% by 2050.

How do we get there? We will never meet the emissions standards outlined above if we do not seriously address our transportation system. Transportation accounts for 24% of Minnesota’s total CO2 output, making it the second largest contributor to our state’s GHG emissions.   

  Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 9.42.45 PM

This is consistent with patterns for the U.S. at large. The EPA reports that, with a 27% share, transportation is also the second largest end-use contributor to GHG emissions nationally.  Of this pollution, 62% comes from cars & light trucks (SUVs, pickups, minivans).

 

  GHG-emissions-pie-charts-EPA_WEB

Understanding how and why transportation contributes to our GHG emissions is crucial to addressing the problem. First, it is important to understand that transportation is a derived demand. Put simply, people are not driving or riding the bus for fun—they are doing it because they need to get from point A to point B. 

The options we have for getting from point A to point B have a significant impact on transportation patterns and GHG emissions. The average Twin Cities commuter puts approximately 2.6 tons of GHG emissions into the atmosphere every year by driving alone to work. And, an estimated 78% of workers who drive to work drive alone. In the coming decades, cleaner fuels and more fuel efficient vehicles will help. However, reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled is the single most important thing we can do to lower GHG emissions from transportation in Minnesota.

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 9.45.29 PM

With this in mind, it is crucial that the state and region fund the build-out of public transit and well-connected networks for bicycling and walking so more people have the option to leave the car at home or live without one. Transit emits a fraction of the pollution of driving alone, and getting around by bike or on foot produces zero emissions. Unfortunately, only 25% of metro households and 10% of metro jobs are conveniently served by our current transit systems. It’s one of many reasons why TLC and the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition are spearheading a movement to accelerate the build out of the regional transit system. (Learn more and get involved at www.transit4mn.org.) 

Transportation and land use go hand in hand. Residents who live in more compact, mixed-use areas use transit at a rate that is 2-5 times greater than the rest of the region, which reduces the number of car trips they take by up to 50%.  And less driving means less GHG pollution.

The Minneapolis/Saint Paul area is one of least compact metro regions in the nation. Our land use policies and transportation investments have traditionally encouraged people to live far from where they work: the average Twin Cities commuter travels 13 miles and crosses county lines at least once reach to their job. This means they often have to drive, which significantly increases CO2 output. As shown on the featured map, people living near the core of the Twin Cities metro region—where there is higher density and greater access to transit—have a smaller carbon footprint. Land use policies that encourage transit-oriented development and communities designed for bicycling and walking will be key to helping Minnesota achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals.

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 9.50.52 PM

What else will help Minnesota put the brakes on climate change? Try leaving the car at home for one extra trip each week and make that trip by walking, sharing a ride, bicycling, or taking the bus or train. We encourage you to drive differently and to drive less whenever possible. More tips and inspiration for doing exactly that:
 

Drive-differently-drive-less_WEB

Sincere thanks to Jim Erkel at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy for contributing graphics and information for this article.


The Funding Gap for Transit, Bicycling, and Walking

By Jennifer Harmening Thiede, Transit for Livable Communities

Ridership on the Twin Cities transit system has grown to record levels, and our buses and trains operate very efficiently. Continuing a decade-long upward trend, passengers boarded transit nearly 94 million times last year in the metro. And as the Metropolitan Council reports, “local bus service continues to be the workhorse of the region’s transit system.” But too many Twin Cities residents still lack convenient access to transit. And many current transit riders need more frequent, faster service and additional routes. Projected demographic changes will only intensify future demand for transportation options.

Transit use and demand also are growing in Greater Minnesota, where fewer families have access to transit, and two counties have no transit service at all. In many cities in Greater Minnesota, evening and weekend service is extremely limited if it exists at all.

There are well-developed plans for expanding transit options, but in the region and statewide, these plans lack funding. The map below is based on the Metropolitan Council’s long-range plans for transit in the Twin Cities region. Note that the only lines that have secure funding are shaded in blue.

  CampaignMap022013_JHT_WEB

Map Updated 02-20-13
 

TLC and the broad-based campaign Transit for a Stronger Economy support meeting this demand and better serving Minnesota’s working families, students, and seniors by building out the regional transit system in the next 15 years, not 40, and expanding transit in Greater Minnesota. Expanded light rail, bus rapid transit and regular bus service, along with improved access for pedestrians and people using wheelchairs and bicycles, will create 30,000 full-time jobs, help keep our air clean, and make daily commute for millions of Minnesotans faster, cheaper, and more fair.

Where we stand today:

  • No funding to expand and upgrade the bus system.
  • Recurring fights to maintain the bus service we have
  • Uncertainty about Southwest light rail and no funding for additional light rail in other areas of the metro
  • Hugely inadequate funding for safe walking or bicycling connections
  • Increasing costs as transit projects are delayed

Building a better system:

The Minnesota legislature can and should solve these problems and ensure a stronger Minnesota economy by providing funding to build out and operate a transit system including, bus, rail and safe connections by walking and bicycling and for people with disabilities. The Governor’s recent budget proposal sent a clear signal that transit is essential to building a stronger economy. His plan is a tremendous start, but does not quite meet what we need for Minnesota to thrive. See our full response to the Governor’s budget here.

How to show your support:

It is a pivotal year. If you support more options for transit, bicycling, and walking in the Twin Cities metro region and expanding transit service in Greater Minnesota, please get involved!

  • Contact your legislators in person, by phone, online—tell them you’re willing to pay more taxes to fund the vision for transit, bicycling, and walking
  • Join us for upcoming phone banking events and days of action at the Capitol; contact Whitney Lawrence for more information: whitneyl@tlcminnesota.org or 651-789-1406
  • Learn more about the Transit for a Stronger Economy campaign and pass it on: www.transit4mn.org
  • Join the conversation and spread the word on Twitter with #transit4mn
  • See our calendar at www.tlcminnesota.org for upcoming town hall meetings in your district

 

2012: A Big Year for Bus Rapid Transit in US Cities

By Aaron Isaacs, TLC member 

Recent TLC blogs have reported on a number of local highlights for transit in 2012. (Not to miss: Dave Van Hattum’s “Twin Cities Transitways Update.”) In this new guest post, Aaron Isaacs recaps a very full year nationally for bus rapid transit (BRT) and notes advances in streetcars, light rail, and commuter rail. 

JeffreyJumpBRT-creditChicagoTransitAuthority

Bus Rapid Transit services were launched or expanded in Chicago and several other cities across the US in 2012. Photo credit: Chicago Transit Authority.


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

After a long gestation, bus rapid transit is finally taking off.  Many transit systems are adding bus rapid transit as a higher speed, limited stop service in traditional local bus corridors, incorporating typical light rail improvements such as full-fledged stations with real-time departure displays, off-board fare collection, and distinctive, high-amenity buses. Traffic signal priority is common and a key feature of this service.  Bus rapid transit typically operates in dedicated on-street bus lanes, although there is usually some mileage in mixed traffic. 

BRT advocates have pushed for BRT on exclusive rights-of-way, such as along abandoned railroads. But when that type of corridor has been available, light rail usually has been the mode of choice.

For the Twin Cities, the launch of a new Cedar Avenue BRT line will begin service in 2013, but 2012 saw several new BRT openings across the country:  

In Chicago, the Jeffery Jump, a limited stop service, uses a new on-street bus lane on the southeast side of the city, supplementing local service. 

The Las Vegas Sahara Avenue Corridor, a 12-mile BRT line, is part of a “Complete Streets” reconstruction, with wide sidewalks, landscaping in the median, dedicated bus lanes in certain areas of the corridor, and street trees. It operates with double-deck buses and raised station platforms that minimize the first step into the low-floor buses. 

Monterey, California, has implemented the 6.75-mile JAZZ BRT. In addition to the usual amenities, each bus shelter has a pair of video cameras to deter crime. At each stop a bar code can be scanned with a smart phone and it will link the person to a live recording of a performance from that year’s Monterey Jazz Festival.

Stockton, California, of all places, has opened its third BRT route, the 6.3-mile Joaquin Hammer Lane Corridor, with off-board fare collection and signal priority. They report a tripling of ridership compared to the local buses that preceded the BRT.

San Antonio’s new Primo BRT has CNG-powered buses, free Wi-Fi, and LRT-style bike racks inside the bus. An innovation to consider adopting here is the rear facing, self-restraint wheelchair spot. The passenger in the wheelchair backs up against a bulkhead and doesn’t need to be belted in by the driver--quite a time saver.

SanAntonioBRT-collage-WEB

New BRT vehicles in San Antonio are designed to make boarding easier and faster for passengers, including those using wheelchairs and boarding with bikes. Photo Credit: Via Primo

 

Streetcars

Modern streetcar pioneer Portland, Oregon, doubled its mileage with the opening of the 3.3-mile Eastside Loop. Following Portland’s lead, there has been a wave of streetcar studies and construction starts across the nation, and some of those will open in 2013.

Portland-Streetcar-2012-WEB

Celebrating Portland's streetcar expansion, November 2012. Portland's streetcar vehicles are made in the U.S. Photo credit: Portland Streetcar, Inc.

 

Light Rail

Established light rail systems keep expanding. In Dallas, the Blue Line Extension (4.5 miles) and the Orange Line Phase 1 (5.4 miles) bring their system to 58 miles.

DallasBlueLineLRT_WEB

With the Blue Line Extension in 2012, Dallas added 4.5 miles of LRT service to the city's growing transit system.
 Photo credit: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)

Los Angeles opened the 6.5-mile Phase I of its Expo Line LRT, bringing the system mileage to 60. Ironically, it uses the right of way of one of the former Pacific Electric “Red Car” interurban lines, which was run out of business by auto competition in the 1950s.

Sacramento and Pittsburgh each added one-mile extensions to their existing LRT systems.

 

Heavy and Commuter Rail

Miami’s heavy rail metro finally reached the International Airport, increasing the system to 22 miles. 

Both the West Coast and the East Coast saw an expansion of commuter rail lines in 2012. Seattle’s Sounder rehabbed a run-down branch line to extend service to Lakewood, Washington. On the opposite coast, Boston’s MBTA made a further extension beyond Providence, Rhode Island, down the high-speed Northeast Corridor to Wickford. Although known for Amtrak service, six local transit authorities run commuter trains over most of the Northeast Corridor.

 

 

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