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Transit governance could change

Published (3/30/2012)
By Mike Cook
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In recent years, there has been discussion about transit oversight in the Twin Cities metropolitan area when it comes representation and equality.

Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) has developed a plan to make some broad-based changes.

A bill he had drafted, but not introduced, was heard March 26 by the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee. No action was taken, but Beard hopes the dialogue leads to greater discussion during the interim and into the 2013 session.

The bill, in part, would create a Regional Transportation Governance Board for transportation planning, policymaking and fiscal administration purposes, while a Metro Transit Commission would be created to oversee Metro Transit operations. The Metropolitan Council currently has powers in both areas.

Beard noted that a January 2011 report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor indicated transit would better be served in the Twin Cities metropolitan area if the regional planning and oversight were separate from the day-to-day transit operations.

“There had become almost an attitude of mistrust, or at least suspicion, to put a kinder word on it, between those who were actually trying to move people and paying for it, and those who were actually managing the day-to-day operations of the largest component, Metropolitan Transit.”

Board members would be elected officials from the respective counties, along with a few citizens at-large to meet federal requirements for a metropolitan planning organization. Current council members are appointed by the governor.

“Local officials probably are a little more attune to what is going on in their communities when it comes to public transportation, particularly when it’s juxtaposed against the needs for roads and bridges,” Beard said. “One size does not fit all.”

“This moves us in the right direction because transit needs to be separate from other planning functions,” said Rhonda Sivarajah, chairwoman of the Anoka County Board of Commissioners.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) expressed concern the plan could move away from more governance efficiencies.

“I hope we can move forward on doing something,” he said. “I’m not really sure this idea gets us there.”

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