Governor holds firm on importance of transit
This was a tough legislative session for transit. At one point, the House passed a bill that would have cut bus service across the region by 40 percent, while the Senate passed legislation with a 17 percent cut. Other provisions that passed the House would have not only killed the Southwest Light Rail project, but also halted all future light rail.
Cutting transit would have a devastating impact on the region’s economy. Eighty percent of the nearly 100 million transit trips a year are taken by people either going to work or school. More than one-third of the workers in downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul take transit to get to their jobs. About 37% of Metro Transit riders live in a household without a vehicle.
The omnibus transportation bill was also used as a vehicle to dismantle the Metropolitan Council as we know it today, remaking it as a 28-member body. The proposed restructuring would have left the most populated communities in the region severely underrepresented.
In the end, it was Governor Dayton’s veto pen that pulled legislators back to the bargaining table, allowing us and our community and business partners to make the case to keep doing the work we are today. Transit services received just enough one-time funding to keep operating at their current level for two more years, and the Southwest and Bottineau LRT projects are moving forward.
I’m going to call that a successful outcome. Discussions of how transit will be funded in the long term and the governance of the Metropolitan Council have been put off for another day. In a democracy we discuss the future, we debate the issues and we look for solutions. This session ended with a commitment to continue the discussion.
In the meantime, we continue to provide award-winning services to the public. Planning to build a better region, providing transportation options, and treating wastewater: essential services that improve the lives of everyone in this region. When we have this discussion again, we will have built on our successes and we’ll have an even better case to make to the legislature.