Early this week the Republican majority in the House passed their omnibus transportation bill. The bill contains incredibly deep cuts to our transportation system, specifically targeted at the Metropolitan Council, which runs the metro transit system. This could have terrible consequences for the people in the greater metropolitan area, and is a huge departure from Governor Dayton’s transportation budget proposal.
The GOP transportation bill cuts funding to the Met Council by $129 million in this biennium — the entire general fund appropriation — and reduces the funding by over $50 million going forward in future bienniums. This is a staggering cut that would leave the Met Council with a deficit of at least $51 million for this year alone. Met Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh sent Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Mike Beard a letter outlining the impact these cuts could have on metro transit.
According to Chairwoman Haigh, a fare-increase approach would result in a $4 dollar increase, bringing regular-route fares to between $5.75 and $7 per ride; and a 50 to 60 percent loss in rides provided — 40 million to 48 million fewer rides a year. A system-wide approach would result in laying off approximately 550 drivers and related staff, cutting 45 percent of regular bus routes, cutting 240 peak rush hour bus trips, eliminating regular Saturday and Sunday routes, eliminating dial-a-ride programs, a $0.25 fare increase, and 22 million fewer rides in 2012 and 2013.
This would be devastating to the people who rely on our transit system. 80 percent of the people using metro transit use it to get to school and work. Seniors and the disabled rely on transit to get everywhere they need to go, keeping them independent, and out of nursing homes and other care facilities. In addition, the use of public transportation helps reduce congestion. 22 million more people in cars on our roads and highways would have a terrible effect on metro traffic. Traffic in the metropolitan area is bad enough as it is, we shouldn’t be looking for ways to make it worse.
Governor Dayton’s transportation plan fully funds transit across the state, including the $129 million in original funding for the Met Council. In total, the governor’s budget invests nearly $140 million more in transportation. Governor Dayton’s original budget contained cuts to some transit programs, but with the improved budget forecast that saw the deficit shrink from $6.2 billion to $5 billion, he restored the funding.
A strong transit system is essential to a strong infrastructure, which is necessary for a strong economy. Cuts to transit hurt our seniors, disabled, students, and workforce, and will only lead to higher costs down the road. I’m pleased the governor understands those facts. Unfortunately, the Republican proposal looks like a pothole on our economic road to recovery.
As always, please feel free to send me your suggestions, questions, comments or concerns. You can reach me by phone at (651) 296-3751, by email at email@example.com, or by sending mail to my office: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155.