8.02.2013

We're building for a transportation win! Join us


Advocates are already hard at work on a plan for 2014 to secure funding to expand our region’s networks for transit, bicycling, and walking. 

Transportation—the cost of getting to work, school, and other places—is the second-largest household expense, more than health care or education (only housing costs more). But, so far, this region lags behind others in making the investments to ensure that more people have transportation options that are more affordable, healthier, and that expand job opportunity and access. 

If you support increased funding to build-out the region's transit system (bus and rail) in 15 years,  expand transit in Greater Minnesota, and provide safe, accessible bicycling and walking, please join us.
 
  • Like us on Facebook:  Transit for a Stronger Economy.
  • Speak up at public meetings and in your local paper in support of moving faster on transit, bicycling, and walking. (Need information to back yourself up? Click here.)  
  • If you'd like to be more active on these issues, please contact Whitney Lawrence (whitneyl[at]tlcminnesota.org or call 651-789-1406). 

Thank you! 

5.22.2013

A hard-fought campaign. A few gains, but not the big win.


The Minnesota legislature closed the 2013 session without providing the new revenue our region needs to grow transit and make connections by bicycling and walking. There is disappointment all around.

“Minnesota had a chance to make a decisive move on transportation but decided not to take it. Instead of moving sensibly to expand our transit system, we’re stalled. No increase in local bus, minimal progress on rail. This is a huge disappointment, especially to all the people who need more affordable options for getting to work and school, and for the health and economic vitality of our region. Minnesota is not a national leader today,” said Barb Thoman, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities, speaking on behalf of the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition.

The Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition advocated for a 3/4-cent increase in the regional sales tax for transit, which would give Minnesota an economically-competitive transit system in fifteen years. 



The Governor and the Senate both supported a half-cent increase in the regional sales tax for transit. Negotiations on transportation continued until the very end, with several components of our bill (a 1/2 cent sales tax for transit, with dedication for bike/walk, plus other measures) very much in play. However, leadership in the House believed transit could wait until a future legislative session.

In the end, we did not win an increase in the regional sales tax for transit. This means:
  • Instead of an annual increase of 1% in funding for local bus, we have no new funding for local bus service.
  • No dedicated allocation of the sales tax for safe, accessible bicycling and walking projects.
  • Except for the Southwest LRT (see below) no funds to build-out the regional transit system. No new funds for the Bottineau line, Gateway corridor, other LRT and BRT, or arterial rapid bus on twelve high-volume routes.
There were some points of consolation despite the overall loss. 
Here is what was approved for the biennium, including elements pushed by the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition and/or members of the coalition:
  • No cuts to general fund allocation to transit ($130 million) plus $18 million for the state’s share of operating costs of the Blue line (Hiawatha LRT), Green Line (Central Corridor LRT, which opens 2014), and Northstar Commuter Rail.
  • A one-time $37 million general fund allocation for Southwest LRT, which keeps planning/engineering moving. The project will now need $81 million next year from the state to secure a federal match and start construction. The state’s share of the project is 10% overall.
  •  A small increase for transit in Greater Minnesota ($256,000 extra from the general fund plus $10.8 million leased vehicle sales tax). This meets only 60-65% of the need in greater Minnesota, rather than the statutory goal of meeting 80% by 2015.
  •  $500,000 for Safe Routes to Schools--the first time the state has allocated funding to this program. 
  • Language allowing Minneapolis to cover capital cost of streetcars through tax increment financing.
  • $300 million in Trunk Highway bonding for roads. This is not new money, but simply approval to bond against expected future highway fund revenue.
  •  Language that requires MnDOT to fund the new Transportation Alternatives program (which funds bicycling and walking projects, among many other categories) under the federal MAP-21 law at the same level as previous years.
  • Language that encourages the Met Council to steer some of funds it budgets for public outreach and input to on-the-ground grassroots groups and local business associations.
  • Language that facilitates efforts by MnDOT and the Met Council to work more closely with community based employment assistance firms and training facilities to meet the hiring goals set by the state's Human Rights department. Language about economically disadvantaged businesses will encourage more contracting opportunities as well.
  • Both transportation policy pieces contain reporting provisions that will help track outcomes and measure progress.
The Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition fought long and hard.

Polls taken early in the session indicated that 91% of Minnesotans support state investment in transit and a majority support including bicycling and walking as part of transportation funding. A business group, The Itasca Project released a study showing a large return on investments in transit. 

The 52 members of the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition signed on explicitly supporting increasing funding by $330 million per year to pay for more transit, including local bus and rail, safe, accessible connections by bicycling and walking, and transit expansion in greater Minnesota. The coalition represents labor, health, environmental, social service, faith-based, and community-based social justice organizations as well as developers and businesses.

Thank you to the countless volunteers who spent their time and energy working on the campaign by phone banking, showing up at the State Capitol, writing letters, making buttons and signs, and even doing data entry. A special thanks to the organizers, lobbyists and communications teams in charge of the campaign and all those who lent their expertise in the process.

Our dedicated coalition and volunteers fought until the end and have set the stage for 2014. We will continue to fight until we get the new funding for transit, bicycling and walking that Minnesota deserves!

Take a short rest – we have a lot of work ahead of us!


Thanks to Ethan Fawley (Fresh Energy), Sherry Munyon (MPTA), Russ Adams (Alliance for Metropolitan Stability), and (from Transit for Livable Communities) Dave Van Hattum, Hilary Reeves, and Barb Thoman for contributions to this summary. 

Photos from the session. 
 
Transit Action at the Capitol

 
Rally at the Capitol
Press conference speakers:  Patrick Sullivan, Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire,
Kenya McKnight, Barb Thoman, Val Escher
Press conference speakers: Avi Viswanathan, Dane Smith, Katie Gulley, Pastor James Albert II, Gary Sjoquist
 
Phone banks!
House hearing on Transit for a Stronger Economy bill. (Credit: Sierra Club Northstar Chapter)
Postcard delivery to the Governor
Rally at the Capitol

Bike Alliance of Minnesota Day at the Capitol 

Mini-Lobby Day at the Hill

5.17.2013

Still hope for a bold transportation bill this session!

By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate, Transit for Livable Communities


Transit-Action-May15-023-WEB
Taking action: This week at the Capitol, supporters called on legislators to fund transportation now.

In a surprise move a week ago, freshman senator Melisa Franzen offered an amendment on the Senate floor to the Omnibus Transportation Funding bill to provide new funding for roads and transit. That amendment passed and, soon after, the entire bill was adopted.  HF 1444 (previously SF 1173) includes a phased-in half-cent increase in the metro area sales tax for transit, and a phased-in increase of 5 cents in the state gas tax. The amended bill also includes a small percentage for bicycle and pedestrian connections, and increases transit funding for Greater Minnesota, meeting 70 percent of the need. Together, these investments will put Minnesota’s transportation system on the right path for the future. The question now is whether these elements make it into law this session.

TLC and the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition have advocated all session for a funding bill that will greatly expand transit, and safe, accessible bicycling and walking connections. This past Wednesday, the coalition gathered outside the Governor’s office and marched to Speaker Thissen’s office. The walls of the Capitol echoed with voices calling, “Transportation Now!”

5.15.2013

Minnesota Should Act Now on Transportation

light rail train photo
Courtesy of Metro Transit

Much of the focus at the Minnesota Legislature this session, appropriately, has been on education and the need to prepare a world-class work force for Minnesota to compete. Legislators who have committed to solving problems for Minnesota should not forget transportation. It’s the second largest household expense (after housing), and affects everything from jobs to economic vitality to health care.

5.10.2013

BREAKING: 
Senate Passes Funding for Transit, Roads & Bridges, and Bicycling, Walking

Update:  Bill passes. 35-27
Update:  8pm:  Senate passed the amendment but still debating transportation finance bill. 

May 10, 2013 -- Late this afternoon on the Senate floor, Senator Melisa Franzen (DFL) District 49 introduced an amendment to the transportation finance bill to phase in increases in both the metro area sales tax for transit and the gas tax. The amendment passed, dramatically reviving hopes for action this session on behalf of transportation needs statewide.
Updated 5/13/2013

MN Deserves Better!
Transit Action at the State Capitol




On Friday, the Senate revived hopes, passing a transportation finance bill that includes significantly increases funding for transit, bicycling, pedestrian, and accessibility improvements. Now, all eyes turn to the House and Governor Dayton. 

The Senate action is inspiring, but the transportation bill is not yet law. We need you on Wednesday to get a strong finish for transportation this session.

If this momentum falters, we face a bleak future of fighting cuts. Other states across the country are not waiting to make investments in transportation. Minnesotans cannot afford to wait either: jobs and key projects are at stake, and our region cannot fall further behind.
   
Take action: March for transit, bike, ped & ADA funding!

WHAT:         We need you to show up at the Capitol and march with us! We must show our elected officials that we're paying attention and we want a strong transportation bill to get to the finish line. 

WHEN:         Wednesday, May 15, 11:30 AM-12:30 PM

WHERE:       MN State Capitol, outside Governor Dayton's office

RSVP:          Follow this link or call Whitney at 651-789-1406.

4.18.2013

Transit and transportation funding take a big step forward

From Ethan Fawley, Fresh Energy
Minnesota Capitol

After a bumpy couple of weeks, transportation funding got a big lift yesterday in the Senate. The Senate Transportation Committee passed a comprehensive transportation finance bill 11 to 4. One Republican (Senator John Pederson of St. Cloud) joined all of the committee’s DFL members in support. The bill will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee tonight.

The Senate bill includes a uniform ¾-cent sales tax in the seven-county metro region dedicated to transit (and some to walking and biking). It also includes more than $20 million a year in new funding for transit in Greater Minnesota and a little funding for Safe Routes to School. This funding for transit,