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Transportation for America and Transportation Equity Network: New Report Documenting Devastation Transit Service Cuts and Fare Increases Have on America’s Communities

08/18/2009

Transportation for Minnesota Coalition urges Minnesota Congressional Delegation to Support Federal Fix To Transit Funding

SAINT PAUL, MN — A new report released by Transportation for America and the Transportation Equity Network shows that service cuts and fare increases in Minnesota’s public transportation systems are part of a national epidemic, making it harder for families as well as some our most vulnerable citizens to get to work and access essential services.

The report shows that outdated federal regulations and red tape are putting strains on local transit agencies around the country, forcing draconian cuts to service, layoffs and fare increases at a time when Americans need jobs and affordable transportation options most. In Marshall, Minnesota, ride passes that once cost $25 for unlimited monthly rides within a county are now $80/month because the grant funds ran out. The increase is significant for many people who came to depend on transit service. Many residents can no longer afford that, so they travel less, while some transit-dependent residents are moving to locations where transit services are more available and more affordable.

In 2009, the Minneapolis/St. Paul area faced the 5th highest fare increase in the country, with bus fares going up 25 cents over the past 10 months. Governor Pawlenty also unalloted over $1.7 million from Metro Transit’s budget on Friday. Although this won’t immediately result in service cuts or fare increases, it further demonstrates the lack of a long-term funding plan to maintain, let alone grow, the bus system.

“Increasing transit fares or cutting service hurts Minnesotans from all walks of life,” said Dave Van Hattum, Policy and Advocacy Program Manager at Transit for Livable Communities, and a member of the Transportation for Minnesota coalition. “This current crisis is not just a short-term problem. Given the scale of this recession, next year’s transit agency budgets are likely to be little better.  Even in a healthier economy, transit riders will remain caught up in a fluid, unpredictable, and ultimately unhealthy situation.”

Transit-dependent riders who cannot afford any other form of transportation, tend to disproportionately include members of racial minority groups and the elderly. For these populations, which make up nearly 48% of those households without a vehicle, cutting services on routes that provide their only access to schools, social services and jobs, can have disastrous consequences. Additionally, residents of small towns and rural communities in particular are increasingly stuck without transportation options as budget shortfalls force small local transit agencies to cut back on service in rural America.

Jeanette Porter, Transit Director with Western Community Action states, “Transportation services are not a luxury for people living in rural areas – they are a necessity. When transit providers are forced to shift so much of the financial burden onto our passengers, or agencies helping their clients, it creates a devastating cycle that is already beginning to take effect. Services are meaningless if people can’t access them and when people can’t afford to get to social events, medical appointments or jobs, their quality of life is compromised. Often people must move to a larger area where more options are available. This not only affects those who depend on public transportation, but the economic and social vitality of their communities, as well.”

“There is absolutely no excuse to cut transit service or raise fares,” said Sarah Mullins, a member of ISAIAH.  “The success of our region depends on a transit system that works for all of its residents, ensuring that all can access opportunity and participate fully in our communities. Our state agencies have developed a long-term transit plan, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we dedicate the long-term operating funds needed to make it happen.”

“With the majority of transit systems across the country facing drastic service cuts and fare increases, in addition to the passage of another infusion into the broke Highway Trust Fund, it is clear that the current funding mechanisms will not meet future needs,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “Congress needs to support legislation to allow for greater flexibility in transportation spending for operating assistance, in addition to a serious overhaul of our current funding mechanism and a renewed vision for our transportation system.”

The upcoming transportation authorization is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create the safe, clean and smart transportation system necessary to move America forward. Congress is considering legislation that cuts the red tape preventing local transit agencies from spending already existing public transportation funds on maintaining service and keeping fares affordable. Americans simply cannot afford to wait any longer for changes to our national transportation system that will save and create jobs and help us tackle long term economic, energy, climate and health challenges.

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ABOUT TRANSPORTATION FOR MINNESOTA
Transportation for America’s Minnesota Coalition is a diverse group of elected officials and organizations committed to creating a more complete transportation system—one that is smart, safe, and clean; one that provides options for everyone. The Coalition advocates for T4 America’s vision for the federal transportation bill as it contains policies that will truly benefit Minnesota communities.

ABOUT TRANSPORTATION EQUITY NETWORK
The Transportation Equity Network consists of more than 300 grassroots and national partner organizations from the environmental and economic justice, civil rights and land use reform fields. TEN works to ensure that transportation, metropolitan growth, and land use policy decisions produce equitable outcomes for all individuals. www.transportationequity.org

ABOUT TRANSPORTATION FOR AMERICA (T4AMERICA)
Transportation for America is a broad coalition of housing, environmental, equal opportunity, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations focused on creating a 21st century national transportation program. The coalition’s goal is to build a modernized infrastructure and healthy communities where people can live, work and play by aligning national, state and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. www.t4america.org

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Comments

The last little section in Africa that had urban to rural migration has joined the rest of the world in reversing that trend. Smaller cities will have scant resources to fund anything as expensive as the bus transit model.

Not that expansion of the bus transit model has had the support of voters for long. Even the best of campaigns have stalled incrementally over time.

Automated transit in larger cities is the obvious extension of these trends. But many of the effects of a rural to urban migration are not anything that polite people wish to discuss.

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