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Short Term Fix for a Long Term Transit Funding Problem

March 27, 2009

Transit cuts and fare increases may have been avoided – at least until 2010. Met Council Chair Peter Bell recently presented the Met Council’s 2010-2011 transit budget to the Senate Transportation Committee. The budget avoids any service cuts or fare increases in 2009. Unfortunately, it relies almost entirely on one-time funding options and direct cuts to transit-supportive programs to balance the financial books. $44 million (more than 2/3 of the total) of the funding solution is one-time money from the stimulus package, redistributing funds from an upcoming regional property tax levy, and drawing down reserves. Most egregious, the plan includes a second fare increase in 2010 and the possibility of service reductions.

Transit for Livable Communities is asking legislators and the Governor to develop a funding plan that can build a 21st century regional transit system that improves and expands our transit system. Rather than continued postponement of real investment in transit, we advocate securing new revenues from a combination of sources.

In any case, we need a long-term funding solution for our transit system. We need more choices in how we get around--especially now. Cutting funding for the bus system, one of the primary ways for families to save money on transportation, simply doesn't make sense in an economic crisis. Minnesota is renowned for its strong economy, but we need good transportation to ensure that residents can reach (and keep!) their jobs.

This is too big of a problem to pass on to our children. The Metropolitan Council's solution is like sticking a finger in the first hole of a leaking dam. It gets us through the year, but it doesn't begin to address our long-term transit funding needs. Transit for Livable Communities will continue to work with state agencies, elected officials, and our allies and members, to pursue a solution that addresses our long-term needs and positions Minnesota for a strong, vibrant future.

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