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Supporters say universal transit system would offer parity, efficiency

The Legislature has been challenged to rethink metropolitan area transit and reform its governance. In other words, said Citizen Advocates for Regional Transit Co-Founder Jim Schoettler, address the future of transit in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  

Members of the group spoke to the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee Thursday in favor of HF3718.

Sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-Falcon Heights), the proposed legislation, which has no Senate companion, would accomplish two things, supporters say.

First, it would establish universal transit mobility as the clear goal for the metro area. This means breaking away from the traditional hub-and-spoke model focused on the central business districts in Minneapolis and St. Paul and set a new standard of ensuring anyone in the area can travel by transit to another location in a reasonable amount of time.  

The system should include, as appropriate, commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, dedicated busways and park-and-ride facilities. It should also consider ways to improve first- and last-mile performance. 

Second, the bill would restructure transit governance to make the Metropolitan Council responsible and accountable for the overall design, investment and operation of the transit system, while ensuring ongoing participation of affected communities through a comprehensive plan.

In a written statement, Emily Murray, a transportation and infrastructure policy analyst with the Association of Minnesota Counties, urged caution about the policy and precedent of requiring metro counties to turn over all their transportation sales and use tax revenue.

Bill supporters say successful implementation would reduce cars on the road, emissions and injuries as it supports access to jobs, social equity and economic development.

“I’m inspired by these citizens who challenge us to rethink how we provide these transit choice,” Hausman said.

The committee took no action. 

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), who chairs the committee, said it was fitting one of its final actions this biennium is hearing a bill sponsored by Hausman, who is retiring. He praised her service and mentorship.

Matthews Hollinshead, who serves on the Metropolitan Council Transportation Advisory Board, concurred. “She indeed has been a champion like no other.”

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