As U.S. Plans Path to Recovery, Move Minnesota Advocates for Transit
Move Minnesota has been working hard to make sure our elected officials provide funding for transit in both federal and state relief packages. Over the last two weeks, we have communicated with elected officials at every level of government and articulated the importance and urgency for transit funding. It is critical to keep our transit system running during the COVID-19 crisis so that our essential workers can continue to get to work.
Transit Center, a national partner organization, estimates that over 40% of all Minnesota transit riders are essential workers. At Move Minnesota, we affirm that essential workers are valued members of our society all the time, not just during a pandemic, and we know that the inequity of our transportation system plays out in our most vulnerable populations. Cutting bus routes, reducing transit hours, and reducing general access to transit are issues that disproportionately affect these essential workers, who are members of our communities: working class, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and many others.
With the support of over dozens organizations and partners, our coalition co-signed a letter to state leadership, underscoring the need for investments that support and strengthen our full communities. Thank you to all our co-signers! And many of you made crucial calls for strong transit funding—Senator Tina Smith’s office specifically noted that they heard from many of us about the importance of transit.
In response to all of our work and that of others around the country, Congress allocated $25 billion for transit nationwide. Thankfully, this money is not limited to infrastructure investment and can be spent on transit operations, purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), and more. Minnesota will receive $226 million for metro-area transit, $27 million for other urbanized-area transit systems, and $54 million for our rural transit systems as a result of this win.
But our fight doesn’t stop here. This time of crisis has continued to reveal what Move Minnesota and our coalition partners have known for a long time: Minnesota’s transit system has been long underfunded.
- The State of Minnesota did not allocate additional money for our transit systems in their $330 million emergency package passed last week. This, despite the likelihood that the $25 billion allocated by the federal government will be insufficient to cover transit systems’ revenue losses from tumbling farebox and sales tax receipts.
- Congress and the administration are already discussing a fourth relief bill—of similar scale to the already-passed $2 trillion package—that would focus on infrastructure investment as a spur for economic recovery. It is critical that our congress members recognize how essential transit is to our recovery and our communities and include transit investments in future funding—dependable, frequent, accessible, and affordable buses and trains mean that our neighbors can save more money for other expenses like rent, groceries, and support local businesses hurt by this crisis.
- Similarly, Minnesota reportedly still has over $1 billion in surplus funds available. There are many critical uses for these funds, and it is important to remember that transit is one of those essential industries in need of support.
Move Minnesota recognizes that COVID-19 is consuming nearly all current political and emotional bandwidth. This is understandable and appropriate. A global crisis like COVID-19 has identified a new normal: how we connect, how we get around, how we prepare our our families and our homes for stability. It is critical for us to remember that the existence of COVID-19 does not extinguish other slower-burning crises like climate change, the vast economic inequality in the U.S., and our broad failure to support our most vulnerable populations. Our coronavirus recovery must solve for needs created by this pandemic, and must also mend our broken systems by making substantial progress on delivering a world that reflects our shared values—to do anything else would be extraordinarily irresponsible as a matter of economic efficiency, common sense, and basic morality. Move Minnesota pledges to work for both present and future needs.
For more information on our sources on COVID-19’s impact on transit across the country, read:
- Public Transit Allocations from the CARES Act (Federal Transit Administration)
- Study of essential workers who ride transit (TransitCenter)
- Estimated Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Transit Agencies (TransitCenter)
View our recent advocacy letters here: