Transit at the Capitol

Posted In: Transportation
Date: 5/31/2017

On May 30, Governor Dayton signed the transportation bill into law. Read his letter to legislative leaders about this signature (pdf) As Governor Dayton writes, he signed the bill despite the fact that it "falls short of funding the needed investments in metro area transit."
 
The two-year transportation bill includes additional one-time funding, which closes the projected deficit for 2018-2019, allowing the Council to maintain current levels of transit service for the time being. It also clears the path forward on funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. The bill does not, however, address the long-term funding needed to keep up with inflation and growing demand.
 
Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck issued the following statement about the bill:

"Divided government requires compromise, but it can also produce half measures with the potential to do harm in the future. The agreement on transit that came out of this legislative session comes very close to that line.
 
"The $70 million in one-time funding for transit staves off cuts to bus service in the immediate future, but it does so at the cost of creating a larger budget deficit at the end of the biennium. The numbers are indisputable; the inflationary costs of providing transit service are about 3 percent a year, while the revenues for this service are growing at half that rate. Metro Mobility service for people with disabilities is mandated; with annual growth rates of 5-8 percent, it's running in the red. Legislators did not address these systemic problems with transit funding this year. When the one-time money runs out, our region will be facing a $110 million transit deficit.


"Governor Dayton has shown leadership on this issue - pressing for a sustainable funding solution and proposing a half-cent regional sales tax to address these funding issues.. Additionally, the governor’s plan would fund the build-out of our transit system to meet the growing demand of a growing metro region. In 25 years, we expect our region to grow by 750,000 people and demand for transit ridership will increase by 80 percent. That’s why its critically important to invest in a modern transit system now.

"This is an issue that needs to be addressed with vision and forethought; unfortunately this year’s transportation bill falls short of what we need and what our region expects."

Transportation Bill Details

 

Budget

  • One-time appropriation of $70 million total over two years (2018 and 2019) closes the projected $67.5 million budget deficit 

  • Retains base funding of $89.82 million from the General Fund for 2020/21; by 2020, the two-year projected budget deficit is estimated at $110 million

  • Includes $1 million on a suburb-to-suburb demonstration project

Policy

  • Eliminates state’s 50% share of operating costs of planned Southwest Light Rail line project, shifting those costs to Hennepin County

  • Requires the Metropolitan Council to do a vibration susceptibility study for Calhoun Isles

  • Creates a Metro Mobility Enhancement Task Force, including members from transportation network companies and taxi companies

  • Agreements on liability insurance needed for railroad and Council in shared SWLRT corridor

The final bill did not include a metro-area sales tax, which was Governor Dayton’s original proposal for transit funding. This sales tax would have generated $270 million over 2018-19, as well as stable and reliable funding into the future, providing for expanded and improved bus service throughout the region.
 
The final bill does not include harmful provisions from original drafts of the bill, including:

  • Funding cuts requiring 40% service cuts

  • Met Council governance reform to a 28-member Council composed of local elected officials

  • Restrictions halting SWLRT construction

    • Restrictions on regional rail authorities, cities, and counties on spending money to construction LRT

    • Restrictions on Met Council issuing certificates of participation to pay for SWLRT

    • Restrictions on Met Council spending money to construct light rail

  • Eliminates state’s 50% share of operating costs for all future light rail lines (now only applies to SWLRT)

  • Punitive language which would have resulted in increased bus service for opt-out providers at the expense of Metro Transit routes

In addition to the transportation budget, the bonding bill passed includes $12.1 million for the I-35W Orange Line BRT project. This provides the remaining capital needed to move forward with construction later this year. Bonding bill also includes $8.75 million for needed updates to the Mall of America transit station, which is the busiest station in the Metro Transit network.

Finally, the Tax Bill includes $126 million in Regional Transit Capital (RTC) bonds. The Council has a long practice of using these bonds to buy buses and fund bus facilities; the bill essentially codifies this practice.

In the News

More information

TRANSIT FACTS BROCHURE (PDF).
WHY IS TRANSIT IMPORTANT?

  • it moves more people on existing infrastructure

  • it improves our region's quality of life and convenience

  • it supports prosperity and opportunities

  • it helps us compete with other regions for talent and business investments

At rush hour bus move the equivalent of 1 1/2 lanes of traffic.
 

Posted In: Transportation

Tags: Transit, legislature, Funding, house of representatives, senate

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