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« February 2015 | Main

Transportation Advocates Take Action


By Jennifer Harmening Thiede, Communications & Member Engagement Manager


Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, 25 legislators, and other leaders accepted the Roll With Us Transit Challenge to raise awareness and understanding of transit needs in Minnesota.


Here we are: it’s mid-March and midway through the 2015 legislative session. Both Mother Nature and transportation advocates are turning up the heat.

Successful Day of Action


In recent weeks, Minnesotans from across the state came together for Transportation Day of Action at the State Capitol, united in support of a statewide, multimodal transportation solution. Transit riders from the metro and Greater Minnesota kicked things off at a press conference speaking up for greater investments in bus and rail. Supporters heard from state and coalition leaders and had meetings with their own legislators throughout the afternoon. Later in the day, a broad coalition of advocates delivered 10,000 Move MN‬ postcards, some from every district in Minnesota, calling on legislators‬ to fund all modes of transportation in 2015. Special thanks to the TLC members who joined us at the event and who contacted their state senators and representatives that day.‬

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Transit Challenge Accepted

In early March, Transit for Livable Communities and allied groups followed up with the “Roll With Us” Transit Challenge. We wanted lawmakers considering transportation funding to experience the realities of today’s transit system firsthand, so we called on them to get around on the bus or train as many of their constituents do. A bipartisan group of twenty-five legislators accepted our challenge, with many documenting their transit trips on social media (see #HowWeRollMN on Facebook and Twitter). Some were regular riders, while others were new to the transit system.

Transit Challenge Week concluded with Minnesota's Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith highlighting the importance of investing in a modern transit system. Smith rode the #67 bus with Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck, inviting media along, and holding a short press conference with transit riders and legislators to draw attention to the transit needs in our state.


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Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Rep. Frank Hornstein, Rep. Carolyn Laine, Met. Council Chair Adam Duininck, and a crowd of transit riders gathered to speak to the press about the importance of investing in transit. 


Big thanks to the legislators who participated in the Transit Challenge:

  • Senator Scott Dibble (61, Minneapolis)
  • Senator Eric Pratt (55, Prior Lake)
  • Senator David Senjem (25, Rochester)
  • Senator Patricia Torres Ray (63, Minneapolis)
  • Representative Connie Bernardy (41A, Fridley)
  • Representative Jim Davnie (63A, Minneapolis)
  • Representative Raymond Dehn (59B, Minneapolis)
  • Representative Laurie Halverson (51B, Eagan)
  • Representative Alice Hausman (66A, Saint Paul)
  • Representative Frank Hornstein (61A, Minneapolis)
  • Representative Melissa Hortman (36B, Brooklyn Park)
  • Representative Mike Freiberg (45B, Golden Valley)
  • Representative Sheldon Johnson (67B, Saint Paul)
  • Representative Clark Johnson (19A, North Mankato)
  • Representative Carolyn Laine (41B, Columbia Heights)
  • Representative John Lesch (66B, Saint Paul)
  • Representative Leon Lille (43B, North Saint Paul)
  • Representative Sandra Masin (51A, Eagan)
  • Representative Rena Moran (65A, Saint Paul)
  • Representative Dave Pinto (64B, Saint Paul)
  • Representative Jennifer Schultz (7A, Duluth)
  • Representative Erik Simonson (7B, Duluth)
  • Representative Mike Sundin (11A, Esko)
  • Representative JoAnn Ward (53A, Woodbury)
  • Representative Ryan Winkler (46A, Golden Valley)

We encourage other legislators to take up the challenge and try transit in their home districts during the legislature’s upcoming Easter/Passover break.

Looking Ahead

The month ahead will be critical in the fight for multimodal transportation funding. There are many exciting, essential ways to get engaged and make sure your voice is heard before the session ends. Below are three big, upcoming dates to add to your calendar. If you want to see transit and safe connections for bicycling and walking funded in 2015, join us!

Senate Transportation Committee Bill Hearing
Friday, March 20, 11 AM, State Capitol, Rm. 107, Saint Paul

Help us pack the hearing room when the Senate Transportation Committee hears SF 87. The bill, introduced by Sen. Scott Dibble, would significantly increase dedicated funding for transit, bicycling, and walking, while also funding roads and bridges in Minnesota. This bill has TLC's enthusiastic support and also closely aligns with the Move MN proposal. Let's make a strong showing for multimodal transportation funding on Friday and ensure SF 87 moves forward.

Move MN Phone Bank (Sponsored by TLC)
Thursday, April 2, 6-9 PM, AFSCME Council 5, South Saint Paul

Transit for Livable Communities is sponsoring the Move MN phone bank on April 2. Volunteer with us! We'll be making calls to ensure a balanced, long-term transportation solution is passed by the state legislature this session. We will help everyone get started and provide a call script—and pizza! Returning volunteers and newcomers are welcome.

Move MN Transportation Rally featuring Governor Dayton
Thursday, April 16, 12-1 PM, State Capitol Lawn, Saint Paul

On April 16, TLC and our Move MN allies need you to join us for a massive transportation rally on the State Capitol lawn! Together we will call on legislators to fund all modes statewide before the 2015 session ends in May. The event will feature Governor Dayton and other leaders. Don’t miss it!


Recognizing Transit’s Safety Benefits


By Barb Thoman, Executive Director




Most people know that public transit provides mobility, reduces pollution, and saves riders money. What we don't often hear about are the significant safety benefits that transit provides.  It’s time that transit agencies and groups like ours start making the case for shifting trips from driving to transit as a strategy to reduce fatalities and injuries on the road.  


Travel by public transit has about one-tenth the rate of traffic injury and death of automobile travel according to data in "Safer Than You Think! Revising the Transit Safety Narrative," a recent paper by Todd Littman, director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) in British Columbia.



Littman’s analysis of FHWA and APTA data indicates “transit tends to have lower crash rates than automobile travel, even taking into account risks to other road users.” Source: VTPI


In his paper, Littman discusses some of the reasons people overestimate the risks associated with riding public transit and underestimate the risk of driving or riding as a passenger in a private vehicle. The reasons include:


  • Most drivers forget about the risk that they or other drivers pose when they speed, drive while impaired, or are distracted. 
  • People who don’t ride transit may not think about the protection afforded by a large very visible vehicle operated by a professional driver.
  • Crashes involving public transit gain media attention, while car crashes are so common they are covered less often and then only locally.


Littman references other interesting research. He notes that regions with higher transit ridership and transit-friendly public policies—including Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle—had lower traffic fatality and injury rates compared to auto-oriented cities with meager transit options (his examples: Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee). It appears that the same policies that increase transit ridership—lower traffic speeds, better connected road networks, higher development density, a good walking environment—also reduce vehicle trips, trip distance, and speeds, and contribute to improved traffic safety.  



Littman’s research suggests “pro-transit policies can significantly reduce traffic fatality rates even in newer, automobile-oriented cities.” Source: VTPI


Littman’s paper also debunks some misconceptions about public transit and crime. The incidence of violent crime on transit vehicles and at transit stations is very low. For property crime, the rate of theft from private cars far exceeds the rate of theft at transit stops, stations, and park and rides. 


Littman notes that transit agencies don’t often promote the safety benefit of transit use. In a review of the web pages of 20 major transit agencies, Littman notes that their messages typically emphasize perceived risks by focusing on personal safety and security, responsible behavior, reporting crime, transit policing, and terrorism. Metro Transit’s safety and security page falls in this category.


On the websites that I briefly reviewed, Tri-Met in Portland was unusual in having a positive statement about the safety of riding transit. It reads:


Security fact: Most crimes reported on bus, MAX and WES are minor incidents and property crimes, such as vandalism. There are about three reported incidents a day, which is about one in every 100,000 trips.  


Nevertheless, Tri-Met—like other agencies—forgets to talk about the safety of riding transit as compared to travel by private car.  


Littman is right. It’s time for a new transit safety narrative. 


In California, Transit Expansion Meets Shared Mobility


By Barb Thoman, Executive Director




Last month, I got a sense of the profound transportation changes underway in California when I attended the Live Ride Share summit in Los Angeles. The focus of the day-long event was how the new "sharing economy" is beginning to reshape the way Californians live and get around. In this context, Live Ride Share brought together people from government, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and others to discuss collaboratively accelerating the proliferation and use of transportation options in the LA region.


There are many reasons to advance transportation options. High on the list for California are ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The expansion of transit—along with car sharing, bike sharing, and ride sharing—will help the state achieve those goals.


In 2006, California enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, which set a target for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The law established a system of pollution fees and a cap-and-trade auction. The pollution fees are estimated to total over $1 billion in the 2015-2016 program year and an impressive 60 percent of the revenue will be spent on strategies to reduce driving! The following table shows how that funding will be targeted.


California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding Allocation

Percent of Total GHG Funds 2015-2016

High speed rail


Transit and intercity rail capital program


Low carbon transportation options program


Affordable housing & sustainable communities


Combined total


Source: California Air Resources Board



The expansion of public transit was a priority in California’s major metropolitan regions long before the state made a commitment to address climate change. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system opened in 1972, at a time when the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region was beginning two decades of stop and go (mostly stop) planning for rail transit. In 1981, San Diego became the first US city to open a modern light rail line. The Los Angeles region, which had no rail in 1980, today has an impressive bus and rail system.



The weekend I was in LA, I rode nearly every mode of transit—all for purposeful trips to destinations I really needed to reach.


The LA region has 70 miles of light rail, one subway line, and 390 miles of regional/commuter rail, plus an extensive bus system. Local voters have approved funding referendums for transit over the past decade. Measure R, which passed in 2008 with a 2/3rd vote in favor, generates about $850 million annually for transit through a half-cent increase in the regional sales tax for transit in LA County. Measure R revenues are paying for the five rail lines under construction in Los Angeles County today.


Live Ride Share attendees hope that combining use of this robust public transit system with the innovations that allow for sharing of rides, cars, and will enable the LA region and the state of California to reduce driving and car ownership.


“We need shared mobility for an economically viable region.”

Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Council of Governments


In addition to expanded public transit, the Live Ride Share summit highlighted recent developments for shared mobility apps, services, and infrastructure. Of interest:


  • Lyft and Uber’s ride sharing services continue to expand in California, but controversies about safety training and employment practices continue.
  • Flywheel, a new app, is being used by traditional taxis in San Francisco that are battling with Uber and Lyft for market share.
  • Bike share won’t come to the City of Los Angeles until 2016. The program will be run by LA Metro, the transportation agency, with funding coming from highway express lane toll revenues.
  • The Getaround app connects vehicle owners with people who want to rent their vehicle for an afternoon, week, or weekend. It is available currently in four West Coast cities.


It was exciting to hear from others at this event who are passionate about creating an integrated system of multimodal transportation options. Clearly, Los Angeles County is ambitiously moving ahead with transit and bike/walk investments. But they also don’t yet have the bike-sharing or car sharing systems we enjoy here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. That tells me we need to keep taking advantage of the options we do have, while also pushing for more, if we want to keep pace with peer cities around the country.


Many Nonprofits Are Rethinking Transportation—Are You?

By Hilary Reeves, Strategic Advancement and Communications Director



Clark Biegler, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits


This year, Transit for Livable Communities is working with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to rethink transportation in the workplace. Specifically, we’re asking nonprofit organizations located along the Green Line (or other high frequency transit) to enroll to be certified as Transportation Leaders. As part of this new initiative, we will be establishing transportation best practices.

It is exciting to hear what some organizations who’ve signed on already are doing. Their experiences and challenges will help us together set a new standard for the ways transportation decisions impact mission, benefits, and interactions with the communities that nonprofits are there to serve.


Access & Choice

Michael Noble Fresh EnergyOne of the first organizations to join this new initiative was Fresh Energy. Executive director Michael Noble said Fresh Energy is “committed to all-of-the-above transportation” that provides access and choice to their employees. It’s why they signed on to be a Transportation Leader. When Michael uses his phone to reserve a car2go, for example, a question pops up: “Is this a Michael Noble reservation or a Fresh Energy reservation?” That’s because, he said, “Fresh Energy has an organizational membership in car-sharing, making it easier for staff to get to meetings around town without owning or using their own car.” Organizational HOURCAR memberships are also an option. In either case, this enables staff to commute by transit, bicycling, or walking, even if they anticipate driving to a meeting during the work day. 



For some organizations, the motivation for rethinking transportation comes from the stark picture of air quality along major highways, such as I-94. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership signed on early. Their executive director, Steve Morse, takes the Green Line every day, while other staff bicycle to work along the nearby Charles Avenue bikeway.


Exposure to Traffic_CARE
Air pollution along the I-94 corridor. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.


When we met with the Minnesota Literacy Council, Associate Director Debbie Cushman immediately thought of their seven sites across the metro. More than 2500 volunteer tutors participate in more than 100 trainings they host every year. Transportation decisions affect not only their staff of 45 but also all the volunteers who need to get to their sites.

Cushman Deborah Minnesota Literacy Council“I’m committed to helping our organization reduce vehicle usage whenever possible,” Debbie said. “I love walking to and from work, which I’m able to do about 20 percent of the time. Our staff are already pretty dedicated to the wellness aspects of biking and walking, and the communities we serve are often reliant on public transportation. We’re fortunate to have 4 of our 7 sites on or near high frequency routes. As we gain an understanding of air quality concerns in the Twin Cities, all these efforts are taking on more urgency. There’s always more we can do.”


Health & Happiness

Interestingly, the Minnesota Literacy Council and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN)—our partners in the Transportation Leadership program—share the same landlord. The tenants have formed a green team to work with their landlord on various changes. Clark Biegler, a Policy Analyst for the Minnesota Budget Project at MCN, who bikes to work and serves on the office green team, affirmed:

“The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is working with several other nonprofits to better our collective offices and work as a unified voice for our shared environmental and wellness priorities, including introducing more bicycle racks. MCN supports these efforts because they want to make our office a healthier and happier place to work.”



Kristina Geiger Minnesota Land TrustStaff at the Minnesota Land Trust also bicycle to work. At an organizational level, they also are taking other steps that fit with their nonprofit’s needs and cut down on drive time. Barbara LaMott, director of communications and operations, explains, “Because our work takes us all over the state and often requires flexible scheduling, we just adopted a new cloud-based solution to help all of our staff seamlessly work anywhere—home, office, or on the road. In addition, our location on the Green Line and on a bikeway makes it very easy to offer transit options for volunteers, board members, and staff."    

Other organizations signing on to be certified as Transportation Leaders include Minnesota Public Radio, Operation de Novo, Neighborhood Energy Connection, and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity—and the list is growing.

As we talk to diverse organizations in the metro, we’re hearing about different ways to approach benefits, innovative ways to get visitors to events, and ways that people are using the Green Line for the commute and trips during the day. We are excited to recognize the strides many of these nonprofits already are taking and help them take these efforts to the next level, while also getting new organizations engaged for the first time. Nonprofits enrolling in the program will receive an assessment of their current conditions and options, attend a Transportation Options workshop, and create an action plan with goals for shifting trips and encouraging options other than driving.

We’re having a whole new conversation about how to get around and why it matters. Join us! If you work at a nonprofit in the Twin Cities or know someone who does, urge them to sign up today.


Pictured, from top: Clark Biegler, Minnesota council of Nonprofits; Michael Noble, Fresh Energy; Debbie Cushman, Minnesota Literacy Council; Kristina Geiger, Minnesota Land Trust.




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