Move Minnesota and Allies Bring a Bigger Transit Vision—and Funding Ask—to MN Lawmakers in 2021
As the 2021 legislative session gets underway, Move Minnesota is committed to advocating for a bigger, bolder vision for transit this year–because that’s what our climate and communities need. When we add up the climate crisis, racial injustice, and a pressing need for an equitable economic recovery—when we talk to our fellow transit riders and to folks struggling to make a car payment—it’s clear the time for incremental change has passed. We need a real transformation.
That’s why Move Minnesota and coalition partners joined together this month to demand that Governor Walz and state legislators fully fund transit, biking, and walking networks across the state of Minnesota over the next 10 years. We brought our vision and call to action to an online rally of close to 100 people on January 25.
What We’re Proposing
Transit, bicycling, and walking can and should be so much better. But what would a well-funded system look like? Move Minnesota and allies propose establishing a new one-cent metro area sales tax to make transit faster, more frequent, more convenient, more sustainable, and more reliable throughout the Twin Cities. With these resources, in just 10 years, we could:
- build 21 additional Twin Cities bus rapid transit lines: this places nearly everyone in the beltway within a half-mile of a METRO line
- reduce wait time on core transit lines to just five minutes at rush hour
- expand suburban express service hours to all day
- eliminate transit fares
- electrify the bus system
- close existing and anticipated operating gaps
- and improve bicycling and walking connections
In addition, we propose expanding highway bus rapid transit in the metro area using some of the state’s ample highway funds.
The metro-wide investments we’re proposing would augment existing county-level funds that will support signature projects like the Bottineau Blue Line Extension and Riverview Streetcar projects.
In Greater Minnesota, Move Minnesota’s proposal would fully fund existing Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) bicycle plans, MnDOT-identified transit needs, and the still-open-for-comment Statewide Pedestrian System Plan. We endorse the work of allied groups to secure important resources for intercity rail, including a second Amtrak train to Chicago.
Why It’s Time to Go Big
This legislative agenda is larger and more specific than we’ve brought to the State Capitol in past years. In Minnesota and across the country, we need sustainable transportation that matches the scale and urgency of the climate crisis and meets our moral obligation to ensure families of every race, income, and ability can thrive. We need transit that dramatically improves the lives of people who rely on transit. And we need transit so great that a lot more people start using it.
Today, transportation is Minnesota’s leading source of climate pollution. People rely on cars for 65% of trips that are under one mile. Many families are forced to spend down their savings on car payments while others who cannot drive or cannot afford vehicles are denied access to opportunities due to slow, dangerous, or non-existent service and infrastructure. None of this is an accident or a failure of personal choice; it is because our streets and our cities have been built for cars.
Meanwhile, experts across the country agree that Americans must significantly reduce the amount they drive to cut carbon enough to save our climate. The Rocky Mountain Institute, for example, calculates a 30 percent reduction in driving rates is necessary over just the next 10 years.
Getting there requires investing in public transit, biking, walking, and rolling until these are not just possible, but are the easiest and best ways to get around.
We Can Achieve This!
Other cities including Austin, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; Raleigh, NC; Seattle, WA; and beyond are already supporting big transit investments. Not one-time project dollars or one-time emergency funds, but real, transformative investments.
Advocates and elected allies can raise this issue loud and clear to get the same results in Minnesota. And we’ll have to! Despite running on a platform of climate action, caring for kids and families, and building an equitable state Minnesota, Governor Walz has proposed a stunning zero new dollars for transit this year. But this failure of leadership is far from the end of the conversation. Beginning now, we will be calling on the MN House and Senate to step up with the transit resources it will take to secure a just and stable future for all of us. Their leadership is critical for our future.
Think about it: What would an amazing, well-funded transit system do for your commute? For your daily life? For the climate and the quality of life in your community?
*The featured photo for this piece was taken in Early 2020 before COVID-19