By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Early this year, Transit for Livable Communities joined Raise the Wage—a growing coalition focused on increasing Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, and indexing future increases to inflation. You might wonder why a transportation organization supports this effort. Raising the minimum wage fits right in with TLC’s commitments to equity, to livable communities, and to helping households—especially low-income households—build wealth and a better life.
We know that in many low-income families in our region, transportation costs as much or more as housing. Getting around consumes more than a quarter of their income—and in some households up to 40 percent. Affordable options are too often out of reach: in the Twin Cities metro only 10 percent of jobs and about 25 percent of households have convenient access to transit.
TLC is a lead member of the Move MN campaign at the legislature calling for increasing investment in transportation options—so families can rely more on transit, bicycling, and walking, and reduce their transportation costs.
Even so, a worker making today’s minimum wage can barely afford the cost of riding the bus to get to their job.
So, we need to raise the wage and we need to expand transportation options to make getting around more affordable.
It’s true that the Move MN funding proposal calls for increasing taxes to pay for transit, bicycling, and walking options, as well as safer roads and bridges. We believe the benefits far outweigh those costs. Increasing the metro-area sales tax will greatly expand access to transit, including increased local bus, as well as bike/walking options. (See a map of planned Twin Cities projects.) People who have these options can save as much as $4,000 per year on transportation costs. (See the Transportation Options infographic.)
Raising the minimum wage is just and fair and it will help workers cover more of their essential household costs—food, housing, and transportation. Expanding transportation funding will lower those costs—and stretch every hard-earned dollar.