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House cuts to transit would mean $4.00 fare increase or 45% reduction in service and 550 layoffs

03/25/2011

For Immediate Release  March 25, 2011 

Contact
Hilary Reeves, Transit for Livable Communities
651-767-0298 x115 (days); 612-554-1795 (evenings)< hilaryr@tlcminnesota.org
      

Jenna Wade, Fresh Energy
651-726-7568 (days); 612-819-7282 (cell), wade@fresh-energy.org

Saint Paul, MN (March 25, 2011)—The upshot of a week of hearings at the Legislature about transit funding is that if House measures prevail there will be a $4.00 fare increase or a 45% reduction in service and 550 layoffs, according to a letter from the Metropolitan Council to Rep. Beard, Chair of the House Transportation Finance Committee. The House bill goes to a floor vote Monday.

“While much of the coverage at the Legislature this week has focused on the Health and Human Service bill, transportation and housing costs make up more than 50% of the average household budget,” said Dave Van Hattum of Transit for Livable Communities. “These cuts will hit everyone very hard,” he said, “noting that 63% of Metro Transit riders are going to work.”

The transportation committees heard powerful testimony from a wide variety of voices in support of transit. Charlie Zelle, representing the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, spoke of corporate site selectors and the factors that determine where businesses locate. “Bold investment in transit attracts business,” Zelle said. “We see transit as critical to retain employees and businesses.”

Transit riders from the Metro—many of whom arrived by transit—and from out-state spoke passionately about the place of transit in their lives and the affect of cuts on their communities’ quality of life. Legislators also heard that rising fuel prices and dependence on oil are concerns.

Gary Ludwig, who runs the regional bus system in New Ulm, Minnesota, said legislators could cut funds, but they would end up trading “a $5 fare for a $500 ambulance,” speaking of local residents who use his service to get to medical appointments. A student from Apple Valley said she relies on Metro Transit to get to her job. Another student, originally from Indiana, said she chose the Twin Cities because of the transit system and said other friends do the same.

On Friday, the Met Council outlined what the House cuts would mean in practical terms. Using a “fares only” approach to solving the $130 million, 2-year, cut would mean a $4.00 increase in fares, bringing regular route fares to between $5.75 and $7.00 per ride. This would lead to a 50-60% loss in rides provided, or 40-48 million fewer rides per year

An alternative, system-wide approach to dealing with the $130 million cut would include a range of measures, including

  • laying off approximately 550 drivers and related staff
  • cutting nearly 45% of regular route bus service
  • cutting 240 peak rush hour bus trips per day
  • reducing Metro Mobility operating hours
  • Saturday and Sunday regular route and all dial-a-ride programs may be eliminated
  • a $.25 cent fare increase, resulting in 22 million fewer rides in 2012 and 2013.

The Senate bill cuts $32 million from the general fund allocation for transit for the biennium, with directions to the Met Council to fill the cut with the Livable Communities fund, fare increases and service cuts. The Senate taxes committee will hear the bill Friday afternoon; the Senate bill will go to the floor later next week. The budget proposed by Governor Dayton preserves general fund allocations to transit.

Sent on behalf of Transit Partners:

1000 Friends of Minnesota, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Fresh Energy, Isaiah, LISC, Minnesota Citizens for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Housing Partnership    , MPIRG , MPTA, Sierra Club, Transit for Livable Communities

House Cuts State Funding for Transit, Grabs Local Sales Tax to Fill Gap

03/23/2011

Update--March 23, 2011, 4:14 pm. The House Ways and Means Committee today deleted the CTIB ($69m biennial) shift to transit operating.  The House Transportation Finance bill now cuts ALL general fund dollars to metro area transit (i.e. $65 million per year or approximately 15% of the operating budget.) If enacted, this would lead to a service cuts of at least 15% and a fare increase of at least $.25. As noted, the Senate will consider funding bills that would lead to a $.50 fare increase.

Testimony focuses on jobs, students, seniors, disabled, and business
Senate Bill Hearings Thursday, March 24, 1 pm, Room 123  

Saint Paul, MN (March 23, 2011)—Nearly three hours of testimony before House transportation committee Monday indicated the breadth of support for maintaining existing transit service and holding firm to the promise of new transitways. Nontheless, the House committee voted to cut the general fund contribution to metro area transit by $80 million over the biennium and backfill with $69 million from a regional ¼ cent sales tax for transitway development and with approximately $9 million from the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Fund.

If passed into law, these moves would halt transitways (e.g., the Southwest, Bottineau, Cedar Avenue, Gateway, and Rush Line). The affect on the Central Corridor is unclear. Given anticipated shortfalls in another primary source of transit funding—the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax—and rising fuel prices, there likely would be fare increases and service cuts to come. 

The Senate bill, to be heard Thursday, would cut $32 million over the biennium to metro area transit and would require that “efficiencies” and a $50-cent fare increase be imposed before other measures were used to fill the gap in funding.

On Monday, testimony came from a wide variety of voices in support of transit. Charlie Zelle, representing the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and the Itasca Group, spoke of corporate site selectors and the factors that determine where businesses locate. “Bold investment in transit attracts business,” Zelle said. “We see transit as critical to retain employees and businesses.”

County commissioners from the metro and across the state denounced the attempt to divert regional sales taxes. A commissioner from Freeborn County said the move “establishes a dangerous precedent.” The Association of Minnesota Counties representative said the House bill addresses the budget challenge by reverting to “short term money grabs from local governments.”

Lisa Weik, Commissioner for Washington County District 5, said that her constituents continue to wait for transit while park and rides overflow. She is particularly concerned about senior mobility. Washington County is one of the five counties that voted to impose the ¼-cent sales tax for transitway development.

Paul Krause, a commissioner from Dakota County, also rejected the idea of taking the revenue from the ¼-cent sales tax, saying “If this isn’t stealing, I don’t know what is.”

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who chairs the Counties Transit Improvement Board, which oversees the revenue from the ¼-cent tax, said the House proposals “are the actions of a state that doesn’t believe in its future.” Commissioner McLaughlin presented a list of contractors for Central Corridor and Union Station projects, noting that the payroll for Central Corridor is $380 million.

Ramsey County Commissioner, Jim McDonough, described the broad coalition that supported the vote for the ¼-cent sales tax, saying, “I know I would not have voted for that tax if I thought the legislature would come back and steal $69 million dollars of it.”

Mike Schadauer from Mn/DOT, testifying on behalf of Commissioner Sorel, said that cuts in the general fund and possible shortfalls in revenue from the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST) are “concerns for transit service across the state” and would lead to cuts in service and job losses. Representatives from the Metropolitan Council testified that cuts to transit would lead to the loss of 99 peak hour buses, at least 234 jobs, and a reduction of 7 million rides per year.

Margaret Donahoe of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance said, “This is about jobs,” noting the hit construction trades have taken in the recession. She said there are other options the committee should explore.

Transit riders from the Metro—many of whom arrived by transit—and from out-state spoke passionately about the place of transit in their lives and the affect of cuts on their communities’ quality of life.

Lisa Black, a disabled woman from New Ulm, Minnesota, described the options and costs of getting to the Committee hearings via public transit. The cheapest option would cost $122 round trip. She was joined in testimony by Gary Ludwig, who runs the regional bus system. Ludwig said legislators could cut funds, but they would end up trading “a $5 fare for a $500 ambulance,” speaking of local residents who use his service to get to medical appointments.

A student from Apple Valley said she relies on Metro Transit to get to her job. Another student, originally from Indiana, said she chose the Twin Cities because of the transit system and said other friends do the same. A long time employee of a Fortune 500 company said that he has seen his company lose prospective employees—when the company was based in Mendota Heights—and attract them because of transit when the company moved to downtown Saint Paul. “We are in a highly competitive field and need to attract top talent,” he said.

“Despite rising gas prices and large pent up demand for expanded transportation choices, the House bill halts progress on transit without exploring other funding options,” said Dave Van Hattum of Transit for Livable Communities

Video from the House Committee Hearings on March 21 can be found on The Uptake. http://theuptake.org/2011/03/22/mn-stealing-local-rail-transit-dollars/ 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Bridges Still at Risk

03/22/2011

March 22, 2011 (Saint Paul, MN)-- Today, one out of every eleven bridges that motorists in Minnesota cross each day are likely to be deteriorating to some degree; and 8.8 percent of bridges statewide are rated “structurally deficient” according to government standards.

A new report from Transportation from America released today shows that Minnesota ranks 34th nationally in terms of the overall condition of the state’s bridges, with one being the worst, 51 being the best. The report includes a list of the most heavily used structurally deficient bridges in Minnesota, ranked by average annual daily traffic (ADT) counts. Nine of the ten bridges on the list are in Ramsey or Hennepin County.

“The Fix We’re In: The State of Minnesota’s Bridges” finds that drivers in Minnesota are regularly traveling across heavily trafficked bridges with “poor” ratings – bridges that could become dangerous or closed without repair.

After the devastating I-35 bridge collapse in 2007, Minnesota took a proactive step in 2008 by passing the Trunk Highway Bridge Improvement Program, providing $2.5 billion in state funds over ten years to rehabilitate or reconstruct structurally deficient bridges, prioritizing those with higher traffic volumes and those classified as “fracture critical.” This effort has greatly improved Minnesota’s network of bridges, but problems remain.

“It really shows the scale of the problem, when after a multi-billion dollar bridge repair effort, Minnesota is just above average. And we have some rural counties with one fifth or more of their bridges structurally deficient,” said Andrea Kiepe MN Organizer with Transportation for America.

Regardless of the amount of wear and tear experienced by a specific bridge, most bridges are designed to last roughly 50 years, yet more than 185,000 highway bridges nationwide (out of 600,000 total) are 50 years old or older. By 2030, that number could double without substantial bridge replacement, and it has the potential to triple by 2050. Minnesota’s average is 35.2 years old.

A recent story in the LaCrosse Tribune indicated that drivers have been ignoring weight limits that Mn/DOT posted last June on a 69-year old bridge in Winona, Minnesota, after the discovery of nine corroded gusset plates. The bridge over the Mississippi River is not slated for reconstruction until 2014.

“We have big problems with the condition of our existing bridges and highways. Yet, we continue to fund new interchanges and highway and bridge widening projects. Minnesota can’t afford anymore to make huge spending decisions without looking at the big picture—from pavement conditions to multimodal options. We’ve been expanding highways for decades. Now we need to focus on road and bridge repair and on the network for other modes of getting around: transit, sidewalks, bike routes,” said Barb Thoman, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities. 

Congress has repeatedly declared the condition and safety of our bridges to be of national significance. However, the current federal program is not designed to ensure that transportation agencies have enough money and accountability to get the job done.

“Obviously, safety is the main concern. But repair work on roads and bridges generates 16 percent more jobs than new construction,” said Andrea Kiepe. “Given the turbulent economic situation in America, the federal government should reward states that take the ‘fix it’ approach.”

“Additional funding for bridges will enhance mobility, economic development and safety on roadways throughout all of Minnesota. Moreover, bridge upgrades always leverage funding from local, state and federal sources, demonstrating that it is only through a collective and concerted effort that we will be able to ensure that present and future generations have access to the high quality infrastructure that is required of a successful 21st century civilization, ” said Ryan O’Connor, with the Association of Minnesota Counties.

“Preserving Minnesota’s existing transportation system is crucial to ensuring regional prosperity, safety and a higher quality of life,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “The economic and social cost of neglect is simply too high. It is time for our policymakers to shore up our infrastructure and ensure Americans get the most bang for our transportation buck.”

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T4America logo

 

 

Transportation for America (T4 America) is the largest, most diverse coalition working on transportation reform today. Our nation’s transportation network is based on a policy that has not been significantly updated since the 1950’s. We believe it is time for a bold new vision — transportation that guarantees our freedom to move however we choose and leads to a stronger economy, greater energy security, cleaner environment and healthier America for all of us. We’re calling for more responsible investment of our federal tax dollars to create a safer, cleaner, smarter transportation system that works for everyone.
Transit for Livable Communities is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to reform Minnesota’s transportation system. Through advocacy, organizing, education, and research, it promotes a balanced transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and thoughtful development. www.tlcminnesota.org

 

 

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