News about communities, transit, parks, water issues, regional planning

Media coverage of the Met Council and the Twin Cities region


Water action week

Quad Community Press letter to the editor from Council member Sandy Rummel - April 19, 2016

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared April 17 - 22 as Water Action Week. It’s a great opportunity to continue the conversation about one of Minnesota’s most abundant – but precious – natural resources.  

There was a time when we took water for granted. In the late 1960s, our streams and rivers were highly polluted, with untreated human waste flowing directly in the Mississippi River. This crisis led our state to create the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as well as charge the Metropolitan Council with the job of treating the metro’s wastewater.

Franken urges state funding for Southwest Corridor light rail

The senator says those federal dollars go away if the state does not act. 

Star Tribune - April 17, 2016

U.S. Sen. Al Franken visited the proposed future light rail stop in Hopkins Sunday morning to warn that nearly $900 million in federal funding for the Southwest Corridor light-rail line will be lost if state legislators don’t fund the state’s smaller share this year.  Standing in front of a green Metro Transit bus that says “get on board” with the Southwest line, Franken advocated for the project, saying it would propel economic development and job creation in communities along the line.

“If the state legislature doesn’t act this session, that $895 million would go to New York or California or Washington state, the Seattle area,” Franken said. “As a senator from the state of Minnesota, I want to see those resources come here — that money come here to Minnesota.”

Franken was joined by Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck, Hopkins Mayor Molly Cummins, and Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO John Stanoch at a Park and Ride near 10299 Excelsior Blvd. located across the street from the planned Hopkins stop.

Partnership is a step in the right direction

Rosemount Town Pages -Letter to the Editor - April 4, 2016

As the member of the Metropolitan Council whose district includes Rosemount, I am very proud of the announcement of a recent partnership between the city of Rosemount and the Met Council.

In March, the Rosemount City Council voted to authorize two new solar garden subscription agreements. The city essentially helps fund the generation of solar energy, which Xcel Energy then uses in its distribution network. In exchange, Xcel passes along credits on electric bills, meaning hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the city.

This was made possible because of work through the Met Council to secure competitive bids on behalf of cities and counties all throughout the metro region, ultimately leading to a better deal for each city.

Affordable housing a must along Southwest LRT, according to strategy
Plan calls for affordable housing in the Southwest rail corridor.

Star Tribune - April 3, 2016
Montana Moore, a barista at Munkabeans in Hopkins, splits her $1,500 monthly rent and utilities with two roommates.

Despite the widespread notion that the Southwest light-rail line would cater to professionals commuting from the wealthy western suburbs, the train also will cut past working-class homes with incomes well below the metro median.

That’s why one-third of the 11,200 new apartments, condos and homes expected along the line through 2030 should be for those with low and moderate incomes, according to a Southwest LRT Corridor working group.

Those goals are designed to ensure that the metro area’s first light-rail line extending deep into the suburbs won’t cause wholesale gentrification of lower-income neighborhoods, where rapid transit is more a necessity than a convenience, said Hopkins Economic Development Director Kersten Elverum.

City leaders tout light rail, development during real estate forum

Sun Post - March 30, 2016
The coming of light rail transit and robust business and job development were the hot forum topics during the 24th annual city of Brooklyn Park Realtor Forum, held March 24 at the Edinburgh golf clubhouse.
There are many positive things happening around the city, and Mayor Jeff Lunde points to the hottest business development zone to illustrate the city’s business and job growth.
“I just tell people to drive down 610,” Lunde told the crowd of real estate agents. The development along the state highway is taking a international flavor, as Danish Nilfisk, German Würth Adams and two Japanese companies, Olympus Surgical Technologies and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, locate their offices and manufacturing along the corridor. Residents are also eagerly awaiting the opening of the new HyVee grocery store, he added.

Business, civic groups urge Dayton, legislative leaders to fund light-rail transit

Star Tribune  - March 29, 2016

A group of business and civic groups on Tuesday urged state leaders to fund transit projects in the Twin Cities metro, arguing in a letter that more expansive transit would spur future development.

The letter, addressed to Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, urged the legislative leaders to support additional transportation spending.

Council OKs solar subscriptions

Rosemount Town Pages, - March 24, 2016

The Rosemount City Council voted unanimously March 2 to authorize two new solar garden subscription agreements, one with Oak Leaf and one with SolarStone and Geronimo. Both 25-year subscriptions are being offered through the Metropolitan Council and are intended to save the city money. City administrator Dwight Johnson said electric energy rates have a history of going up over time and the city is trying to strike a balance between investing too much and too little in solar energy.


“If we put 100 percent of our electric energy into solar, and if we do it in the year 2016, then we’re really very beholden and very heavily invested in current technology today, and more particular, technology which is solar,” he told the council. “On the other hand, doing nothing, we’re missing out on some savings, so we’re trying to find that right balance there.”

Johnson said the city’s electric bills average $400,000 to $425,000 a year. The city has seen some savings through its participation with a solar farm at the Empire Township wastewater treatment facility following an agreement approved last November.

Critics of Met Council are split on how to fix it
Only thing they can agree on is that change is needed

StarTribune - March 20, 2016

Like many local government leaders, Andover Mayor Julie Trude sometimes bristles when the Metropolitan Council hands down mandates and pokes into her city’s planning.

She doesn’t like it when Anoka County does it, either. That’s why she is rejecting a plan to reform the Met Council that was put forth by a coalition of leaders from four suburban counties.

“They looked at us and thought we would nod and smile, and it didn’t happen. We feel it needs to be more of a conversation,” said Trude, who believes the plan is a bit of a county power grab.

Trude isn’t alone. This most recent of several attempts to change the Met Council shows that while cities and counties generally agree that some reform is needed, they’re splintered over just what to do and how to do it.

Hopkins boy overcoming cancer serves as honorary light rail operator

Kare11 TV - March 21, 2016

An 8-year-old Twin Cities boy took over the controls of a Minneapolis light rail train, becoming an honorary operator for the day. The opportunity came because of his dreams to see the Southwest Light Rail line come to his hometown of Hopkins and because of another challenge he faces.



8-year-old train fan and cancer patient takes Blue Line train for a spin

Eight-year-old Karlis Barobs, the cancer patient who recently offered a donation to the SWLRT got a surprise at the rail yard. 

Star Tribune - March 21, 2016

Metro Transit broke in its newest train operator on Monday. He did pretty well, considering that he’s barely had the training wheels taken off his bicycle.
Eight-year-old Karlis Barobs, a self-declared “trainiac,” got the red-carpet treatment at the Blue Line maintenance and operations center in Minneapolis, with a tour of the facility and a chance to pilot a train around the empty rail yard under the watchful eye of veteran transit trainer Dan Syverson. See full story and photo slide show:

New Metro Transit app will allow riders to pay fares by phone

Star Tribune (Blog) March 16, 2016

Metro Transit bus, light-rail and commuter rail riders will soon be able to pay their fares by using their smartphones.
Riders also will be able to access schedules, route maps, plan a trip and get real-time bus arrival and departure times. Riders will be able buy pre-paid tickets that can be used on any bus or train when the new Metro Transit Mobility App debuts in mid- to late summer.
"This will be a game changer for Metro Transit," said Adam Mehl, a marketing department specialist who has been working with the Portland-based contractor GlobeSherpa to develop the app. ""We want to give people a way to pay the way they want to."

Metro Transit police use Somali language lessons to break down barriers

Minnesota Public Radio News - March 16, 2016

Twenty Metro Transit officers sit in a classroom, carefully taking notes. They slowly try to pronounce every word instructor Ali Warsame says, from simple greetings like "hello" to more tricky phrases like "Show me your ticket" or "Put your hands where I can see them."

In late February, Metro Transit police began offering a Somali language class to some of its officers. The cops say they want to connect with the growing Somali community in the Twin Cities who ride buses and light rail.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington sat in the front row during a recent class and tried over and over to say, "How is the family?"

Minnesota Chamber sees big role for business in state's transportation-funding debate

MinnPost - March 14, 2016

Sitting in his office on the 15th floor of the Securian Building in downtown St. Paul, Doug Loon has a clear view of the Minnesota State Capitol, its 111-year-old dome swaddled in plastic as construction crews finish up restoration work.

Loon is coming up on his nine-month anniversary as head of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the single largest group representing businesses across the state. So far, he’s spent most of his time on the job traveling around Minnesota to meet individual business leaders and members of the group. But in the next two months, his work will be mostly focused just up Cedar Street from his office in St. Paul.

U of M study finds Go-To Student Pass Program provides significant benefits

Discover - March 9, 2016

A newly published University of Minnesota analysis of a program for Minneapolis high school students to use public transportation instead of traditional yellow school buses has found a range of benefits — from better student attendance to financial savings to reduced vehicle mileage and emissions.

In August 2013, all transportation-eligible Minneapolis high school students began using public transportation instead of yellow school buses under the Go-To Student Pass Program. The program, a partnership between Metro Transit and Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), enables students to take unlimited rides on regular-route buses and light rail from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily during the school year.


In search of racial equity, Met Council creates advisory committee

Met Council forms an advisory committee to help it confront worsening racial disparities. 
StarTribune - March 9, 2016

They will confront ways of doing business in the Twin Cities that have led to some of the nation’s worst racial disparities in income, housing and education, and they’ll volunteer their time to do it.

And they’ll be working with the Metropolitan Council, the regional planning agency embroiled in a federal fair housing complaint with two of the state’s most racially diverse cities.

Despite those challenges, the Met Council’s new Equity Advisory Committee has drawn more than 100 potential candidates ranging from neighborhood activists to college professors.

Transit-oriented development in St. Paul: connections that create value

The Line, March 8, 2016

MSP’s transit investments — the METRO bus and light-rail system, the emerging arterial bus rapid transit (aBRT) system, enhanced bus service and more — are helping to build a more populous, prosperous region.
Other cities are taking note. A recent Chicago Magazine piece heaped effusive praise on MSP’s efficient transit system and forward-thinking policies, contrasting our fair region’s transportation infrastructure with Chicago’s creaky, ineffective network. Writer Whet Moser marveled that transit-oriented development (TOD) — dense, often mixed-use projects built near major transit lines and designed with transit users in mind — actually get built in MSP.
Moser pointed to MSP’s unique system of regional governance — the Metropolitan Council — as a key driver for equitable TOD. Lucy Galbraith, the Met Council’s director of transit-oriented development, agrees.

Five energy firms score contracts for Twin Cities government solar garden projects
Government agencies in Minnesota joined to seek competitive project bids.

StarTribune - March 3, 2015

Five energy companies have won contracts to build large, community solar projects to offset a share of the electricity used by 30 Twin Cities public agencies and local governments, including Minneapolis.

Under the terms of the deals, released this week, a mix of national and Minnesota-based energy companies — BHE Renewables, SolarStone Partners, SunShare, TruNorth Solar and U.S. Solar Corp. — will finance, construct and operate the separate solar projects, which will be built on private land.

It is the first time that government agencies in Minnesota have joined to seek competitive bids for solar — an effort led by the Metropolitan Council, a regional agency that is relying on solar to help power its wastewater treatment plants and transit operations


Gov. Dayton holds first-ever Minnesota Water Summit (video)

WCCO  Feb. 27, 2016
Minnesotans are taking on the issue of water quality to make sure a crisis like Flint, Michigan does not happen in this state. About 1,000 people attended Gov. Mark Dayton’s first-ever Water Summit at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel.

“Clean, safe water is nothing we can take for granted,” Dayton said. “It’s something we must insist upon and then take the actions necessary to attain it.”


Rapid bus lines as economic drivers

Finance & Commerce - February 4, 2016

Bus Rapid Transit lines can generate economic development, attract high-paying jobs and increase property values, according to a study released last month by the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah.

The report, which aims to answer questions about economic development near BRT lines by comparing systems around the country, veers into new research territory.

Planning, design and democracy

Guest Column by Adam Duininck, Sun  Post - February 2, 2016
Running a light rail train through North Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park is a massive effort involving countless hours of planning, design, engineering and ultimately, construction.

But the most important part of the Blue Line Extension light rail line is the democracy phase.

Hugo launches water rebate program

The Citizen - February 4, 2016

Did you know that the average toilet can use as much as seven gallons per flush, but a new toilet may use as little as 1.28 gallons per flush? Or that the average washing machine uses approximately 23 gallons, but an upgraded washing machine only uses 15 gallons per load? Or that changing your irrigation controller may save the average home 8,800 gallons of water annually? 

Changing one toilet, the washing machine, and the irrigation controller in one home can save a household more than 48,800 gallons of water per year.

The city is launching a new water rebate program for residents. Hugo residents will find a new addition to their water bills: an insert describing the brand-new water rebate program. The insert reads, “I want YOU to save water and save money!” The water conservation arose from many initiatives, but the point of the rebate program is to encourage every household to save more water.

The city of Hugo received a grant from the Metropolitan Council to fund the program. 

Courage Kenny, Allina Health support the Blue Line Extension

SunPost Letter to the Editor - January 19, 2016 

Allina Health and the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute understand the importance of a robust, accessible transportation system. Our patients and employees at the Courage Kenny location in Golden Valley also know how valuable public transit services are, and that’s why we support the Blue Line Extension Light Rail Transitway Project and its planned station at Golden Valley Road.

Limited access to safe, reliable transportation has been shown to result in decreased opportunities for employment, education and recreation for certain populations and communities.This is especially true for persons with disabilities.

Rebates available for water-saving fixtures

White Bear Press, January 20, 2016

Residents of White Bear Lake and White Bear Township who replace water-guzzling toilets and washing machines can get some rebate help thanks to a new grant. 
The two municipalities teamed up in an effort to reduce the gallons of groundwater flushed down the Mississippi River and successfully won $73,000 in grant monies for a new program initiated by the Metropolitan Council.

Why the 2016 legislative session will be critical for Southwest LRT

MinnPost, January 14, 2016

By now, Adam Duininck’s presentation is etched mostly to memory, but he uses a few slides as a visual aid. The slides show existing and proposed train lines — orange, blue, green, red — shooting out from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul like veins carving through the metro, connecting places like the Twins ballpark to the state Capitol, and the University of Minnesota to the corporate headquarters of Target.

“Why do people take trains?” Duininck, chair of the Metropolitan Council, said at his 20th presentation to a group in four months. This crowd included nearly 40 members of the Regional Council of Mayors. “It’s not just to move people around because it’s some kind of a social experiment. We want to accommodate future growth, we want to connect people to jobs, which means into the city and out into the suburban areas.”

Duininck is meeting with labor unions, chambers of commerce, planning commissions, legislators — basically, anyone who will listen — to make the pitch that the state should invest more in transit in the upcoming legislative session.

New study finds positive economic development benefits associated with bus rapid transit projects

Transportation for America, January 12, 2016

Bus rapid transit is a type of bus service that travels faster and more reliably by providing level boarding, triggering traffic signals, providing pre-board fare payment and running in dedicated lanes separated from traffic, among other typical characteristics. For the first time, a new peer-reviewed research study, unveiled this morning, provides compelling evidence that BRT — often with a price tag far lower than other transit investments — can provide ample economic benefits for cities large and small.


Met Council plotting ways to diversify staff

Finance and Commerce - January 7, 2016

The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday began outlining strategies for diversifying its workforce and boosting equity across its ranks in line with a broader push spearheaded by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Council members at a Committee of the Whole meeting expressed strong support for a more intentional approach to inclusion, noting racial and gender gaps in the agency’s 4,000-strong workforce. The aim mirrors a state-level diversity and inclusion council launched by the Dayton administration last year.


Metro Transit admirably tackles racial disparities

How tackling climate change will pay off

Tina Smith, StarTribune Opinion - December 23, 2015

Minnesota is already a leader in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but we can — and certainly will — do even more. Much of Minnesota has experienced springlike temperatures this December, often in the 40s. Warmer weather has become the norm; since 1998, the Earth has experienced 10 of the warmest years on record. And 2015 is expected to break last year’s record as the warmest yet.

This is why we all should be celebrating that nearly 200 countries have reached consensus on a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The Paris Climate Agreement puts the world on a path to avoid the worst effects of climate change by keeping any increase in global temperature below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gov. Mark Dayton and I strongly support bold action to tackle climate change. Doing so will be good for our environment, good for our health and good for our economy.


Met Council aims to deepen equity focus with new panel

Karlee Weimann, Finance & Commerce - Dec. 7, 2015

A new equity advisory committee formed by the Metropolitan Council will zero in on racial and other disparities in the agency’s projects, policymaking and hiring practices.

The 21-member group, accepting applications through Jan. 4, sprouted from discussions that started last year between council members and staff. The Met Council decided to explicitly incorporate equity
into its policymaking, a move that lines up with a recently updated public engagement plan.
Primarily, the committee will help steer the council’s investment strategy. That could include selecting where to build Metro Transit bus shelters and transit stations, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck said. “For us, this is a really important part of just doing ongoing civic engagement that’s authentic and connected to the community,” he said. “Having this equity advisory committee is a big part of that.”


Doing nothing is the costliest transit plan for Twin cities

Revised price for Bottineau light-rail line should be kept in perspective.

Editorial Board, Star Tribune, October 30, 2015
Investing in transit projects is expensive, but doing nothing to address growing gridlock would prove even more costly to the Twin Cities economy.

That’s the thought Minnesotans should keep in mind as they consider the nearly $500 million increase in the estimated cost of the proposed 13-mile Bottineau light-rail line (also called the Blue Line Extension) that would travel from Target Field in downtown Minneapolis to near Target’s corporate campus in Brooklyn Park.

The revised $1.48 billion price tag is not the result of any mismanagement by the Metropolitan Council, which would build and operate the line. The higher cost reflects the additional data now available after 15 percent of the engineering and environmental work has been completed. Previous estimates were based on just 1 percent of that work being finished.

Counterpoint: Kersten and her critics are wrong on housing plan

Mike Maguire, StarTribune, October 10, 2015
As the mayor of a successful suburban city, I value good data — it helps to develop a community plan and a path to prosperity. As in business, planning community success in a competitive and changing marketplace requires that we in local government understand the demographic and market trends that will affect our cities and the region we’re part of.

Two recent commentaries criticized the Metropolitan Council’s housing plan with different but equally tired and unproductive perspectives.

6-acre solar array unveiled at Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment plant

SW News, October 8, 2015
The Metropolitan Council, in conjunction with SunEdison, Oak Leaf Energy and Xcel Energy, unveiled a new 6-acre solar panel array at the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment facility in Shakopee on Tuesday. The array will provide 1.57 megawatts of power to the facility, replacing 10 percent of the facility’s total energy needs with solar power.  “This is a great example of how public and private entities can work together,” Laura McCarten, regional vice president for Xcel Energy, said at the ceremony.

As Minnesota stalls, some states ramp up transportation funding
It’s important to stay competitive with critical infrastructure investment.

Star Tribune Editorial, October 6, 2015

Minnesota lawmakers hit the brakes instead of the accelerator on transportation funding this year, and that’s regrettable. But there’s some consolation in knowing that not every state has stalled on critical infrastructure.

Fifteen states passed major transportation packages in 2015. Seven raised gasoline taxes. Eight raised various driving fees. Four launched bonding programs to finance new roads or transit projects. Republicans controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature in 10 of those 15 states, including six that raised taxes. Among the highlights:


Solar farms grow at wastewater plants in Minnesota

Midwestern Energy News, August 21, 2015

In early June, workers began the installation of a $3.5 million solar farm next to the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee, Minn.  It's part of an ambitious plan by the Metropolitan Council  -- a government agency dealing with mass transit, wastewater, parks and affordable housing for the seven-county Twin Cities region -- to use marginal land it owns for photovoltaic solar installations. Along with Blue Lake, the council is also doing a solar farm at another wastewater facility in suburban Empire Township.


To save water quality, think before you flush

Treatment plants can't handle some of those products being discarded
Star Tribune, August 21, 2015
You flush, and it goes away. Or does it?  There’s more going down the sewer pipes than you might imagine, and some of it is damaging stuff.

Newspaper headlines report the presence of drugs in our drinking water, male fish producing eggs, and the alarming fact that tiny plastic beads may be killing our lakes. It’s easy to ignore our role in all of this. We just assume that someone, somewhere, is dealing with our waste — if we think about it at all.


Mobility-based housing programs seek to move low-income families to low-poverty neighborhoods

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis - July 27, 2015
When housing voucher recipients relocate to areas of greater opportunity, the positive outcomes can be long-lasting and substantial. When Rita Ytzen, a senior program supervisor at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), discusses her organization’s relatively new initiative to help low-income families with children move to low-poverty areas, she uses words that evoke optimism and fresh starts.

“The hope is that if we can help impoverished people move to areas of greater opportunity, they’ll have access to better schools for their children and a safer environment in which to raise their families,” she says. “We want to help people who want to help themselves. We want to give them a second chance.”

Seizing the Moment to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

National Housing Institute Roofline blog, June 3, 2015

Regional agencies like the Met Council guide billions of dollars in public investments—investments that shape the structure of opportunity and disadvantage across regions. The new fair housing rule provides a path forward to begin to channel these investments in ways that counteract decades of inequitable growth patterns and move us towards the vision of regional equity.


Minnesota business groups back transportation tax hike

StarTribune, May 6, 2015

A group of regional chambers of commerce in both the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota came out Wednesday in support of transportation-related tax increases to pay for road, bridge and transit projects.

"Investment in transportation is critical to Minnesota's competitiveness, so we also support an increase in revenue that allows us to properly plan and build a transportation system that will ensure regional competitiveness, vitality and economic growth in our state," read a letter to legislative leaders signed by the presidents or executive directors of regional business groups including chambers of commerce in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Mankato and Marshall.

But despite all the acrimony over costs, delays, routing, and now what looks like engineering ineptitude, calling it quits on light rail in the corridor, or converting it to a rapid bus line, would be the wrong thing to do. Here’s why:



Today’s arguments about the Met Council were had at the time of its formation.

Star Tribune Opinions, April 10, 2015
Back when the Metropolitan Council was formed, nearly 50 years ago, some of the same arguments about its members’ selection were raised as those in the letters on April 9. Appointments by the governor, elections by districts and other methods all were all discussed. In the end, the gubernatorial appointment option was approved.

One rationale was that another layer of campaigning and campaign spending would prove excessive, draining and perhaps confusing for voters who already faced choosing among candidates for state, legislative district, county, city and special district offices.





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