Metro Transit to develop a bold new vision

Date: Monday, October 30, 2023

A smiling transit customer with a bus in the background.Metro Transit has launched a collaborative effort to develop a bold new vision. The goal is to create a new strategic framework in 2024 by working with staff, riders, and partners.

Metro Transit Forward will establish the goals we want to achieve, the principles we want to see reflected in all our work, and influence future budget proposals,” said Lesley Kandaras, Metro Transit’s general manager. 

Metro Transit is starting this process in November by hosting events to share updates and gather feedback on agency priorities that will be reflected in a new strategic plan and agency vision. All are welcome to attend. For more information, email [email protected]

  • Thursday, Nov. 2, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., virtual
  • Tuesday, Nov. 14 , 9:00 to 10:30 a.m., Union Depot, Veteran’s Gallery Room
  • Thursday, Nov. 16, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., Minneapolis Central Library, Pohlad Hall

The strategic vision and framework will build on Metro Transit’s current initiatives, including Network Now, the Safety & Security Action Plan, the Great Workplace Project, and the agency’s work to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the risks of climate change. In addition, it will align with the regional Transportation Policy Plan, which in turn is part of Imagine 2050, the Met Council’s regional development guide. The guide will be published by the end of 2024.

Entry pillars to a transit station are painted with colorful birds.

Ridership growing, safety improvements making headway

Metro Transit’s ridership continues to recover from a large decrease in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 4.1 million rides were provided in September, the highest monthly ridership total since early 2020. Overall ridership grew 17% in the first eight months of 2023 over the same period a year before.

Metro Transit has also made gains hiring for a record number of vacancies in bus operator positions. This allows for building back service, which in turn increases ridership. Additionally, Metro Transit continues to advance the Safety & Security Action Plan, which includes new policies and investments. Successes include:

  • The launch of the Transit Service Intervention Project, a coordinated effort to connect riders in need to resources and increase code of conduct enforcement.
  • The addition of supplemental security at stations that saw an increase in illegal and disruptive activity during the pandemic.
  • Continued facility improvements, like repairs at the Lake Street/Midtown Station and a new mural that will deter graffiti and vandalism at the I-35W & Lake Street Station.
  • Continued engagement around a revised code of conduct that will lay out clearer expectations for riders.
  • Strengthened recruitment for both police and non-police personnel.
A C Line electric bus charges up in Brooklyn Center.

Legislative action makes new investments possible

Metro Transit’s new vision will be supported by action the 2023 Minnesota Legislature took to restructure transit financing in the region. Lawmakers authorized a new ¾-cent sales tax in the seven-county metro that eliminates a structural operating deficit Metro Transit faced year after year, which required repeated filling with one-time state appropriations.

While this is a significant source of funding, most of it is already committed over the next 30 years to essential operations, investments, and obligations prescribed in the state law:

  • Improvements to regular route service, public safety, and accessibility, as well as additional and replacement bus shelters.
  • Planning and project development, and operations and capital maintenance, for Metro Transit’s bus rapid transit network.
  • Investments in the zero-emissions bus transition; micro transit projects; active transportation (walking and biking); and wage adjustments for workers.

“Fundamental to our approach is taking care of the assets we already have,” said Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle. “We embrace the requirements of the legislation, many of which were already part of our long-term plan, but this also gives us a chance to grow our vision and embrace new opportunities.

Significantly, the law also ends county responsibility for sharing the cost of operating transitways, a savings of $49 million to the counties in 2024. In addition, the Met Council is now responsible for all capital maintenance costs of transitways, including replacement of light rail vehicles.

“Transit is a critical regional investment that helps drive the economy,” Zelle said. “It reduces the number of vehicles on roads, reduces carbon emissions, and benefits the economy as people travel to work and to shopping, health care, entertainment, and other destinations. Funding for a well-maintained and robust transit system benefits everyone.”

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