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Minnesota Legislature

Offering discounted transit passes

Published (3/6/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Getting from Point A to Point B can be one of their greatest obstacles for down-and-out Minnesotans looking to help themselves.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), HF809 would require the Metropolitan Council, which operates the area’s largest transit system, to offer half-price transit passes to nonprofit organizations that administer a job placement program or provide services to homeless people.

“Our goal with this bill is to provide people the tools to get out of homelessness, to have the self-sufficiency to no longer be in poverty, to get in housing and to get their lives better,” said Joshua Lang, director of the human rights program at St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis.

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Division held the bill over March 3 until a fiscal note is received. A companion, SF732, sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), was tabled Feb. 17 by the Senate Transportation Committee.

Lang said the bill could be cost-neutral because more qualifying organizations might be inclined to buy passes at a 50 percent discount. A 10 percent discount is already provided for some nonprofit social service agencies. There would be no limit on the number of passes that could be purchased.

“This would mean a lot to people in my situation,” said Chuck Hinshaw, who works two part-time jobs and rides the bus almost daily.

The bill would also eliminate current law requiring the council to increase transit availability and reduce costs for transit users who are looking for a job and do not have private transportation.

“We’d like to keep that and be able to see how we can craft something that works for everybody,” said Judd Schetnan, Metropolitan Council government affairs director. “We know times are hard and we want to help.”

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