Messages from the Council Chair

Public transportation helps drive the economy

March 2011

Metro Transit operators are responsible for driving more than buses and rail vehicles. They help drive the economy—taking customers to their jobs and other destinations, and freeing up capacity on roads and highways to make room for other commuters and the movement of goods and services.

Council Chair Susan Haigh
Not only is public transportation critical to the region’s economic vitality, it offers all-important mobility to people with disabilities and seniors who may have no other means of transportation.  It gets students to school. And, it provides another option for people who want a green, more energy-efficient way to get around.

The critical nature of public transportation, and its ties to jobs and a vital economy, is what prompted Gov. Dayton to spare transit services, including Metro Mobility and dial-a-ride programs, from budget cuts, in spite of a large state budget shortfall.

In stark contrast, however, there are proposals in the Legislature ranging from a $32 million cut to our general fund appropriation to a plan that would eliminate the Council’s entire $130 million state general fund appropriation. A cut of this magnitude would be devastating to the region’s transit system.

The bills do include strategies that would attempt to reduce the impact of cuts.  Among them, service reductions and route eliminations, the transfer of Livable Communities and Right of Way Acquisition Loan funds to transit operations and fare increases.  Under the Governor’s plan, however, none of these actions would be necessary.  The Council has voiced its unequivocal opposition to the House and Senate bills.

Admittedly, there is a long way to go in this legislative session. As negotiations progress, the Council will continue to do everything it can to detail for lawmakers what their proposals would mean for transit, transit customers and even those who don’t use public transportation.  

Here at the Council, we are committed to working with the Governor and Legislature to ensure that we avoid cuts that jeopardize public transportation, and the services that drive people and the economy.

Susan Haigh

March 2011