Policy & Funding

At the State Capitol, a Critical Win for Transit Riders in the Metro. Big Solution Still on the Horizon.

June 27, 2019

Transit advocates smile for a group photo at the MN State Capitol holding colorful signs with messages demanding investment in transit, bicycling, and walking.

It shouldn’t be hard for Minnesotans to get to work in the morning. It shouldn’t be dangerous to cross the street with our kids. And our climate shouldn’t be spiraling out of control. We all deserve better.

Creating that better future starts with dreaming big, raising our voices together, and challenging the status quo. That’s what advocating at the State Capitol is all about.

Every legislative session, Move Minnesota and our allies stand up for funding and policies that will dramatically improve transit, bicycling, walking, and rolling for families and communities across the state.

In 2019, the legislative session ended with a mix of progress and frustration—and a lot left to fight for. Here’s what happened and what’s next:

 

A CRITICAL WIN

People of all abilities need transit options. In the Twin Cities area, Metro Mobility is a must-have way to get around for people whose disabilities or health conditions prevent them from using other bus and train options. It is also no secret that it is costly to operate. For years, both Metro Mobility and Metro Transit have faced growing demand, without the growing resources to match. In 2019, Move Minnesota and our Transportation Forward coalition partners advocated successfully for the separation of Metro Mobility and Metro Transit funding to ensure people can continue to count on each of these essential services.

By the end of the legislative session, Metro Mobility finally got its own funding through the State General Fund as we hoped, plus a one-time increase and service expansion to Lakeville. Separating Metro Mobility from the Metro Transit budget frees up critical resources for Metro Transit bus and light service too. While this combination doesn’t solve all of our region’s transit funding problems, this is an exciting win that, at least for now, protects service for transit riders across the metro.


MORE SESSION UPS

With leadership from legislative champions and an early boost from Governor Walz, transportation was a key issue this session, and a strong bill with long-term funding for transit, bicycling, and walking in the metro successfully passed in the MN House.

The final transportation bill passed with $5 million in new funding for bicycling and walking. These flexible federal dollars will support the Minnesota’s active transportation grant program.

Lawmakers funded a study that will explore extending Northstar commuter rail to St. Cloud.

Thanks to bipartisan support, a new law that requires hands-free cell phone use while driving will take effect on August 1. With support from Rochester, Duluth, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis, cities also won the right to adopt lower speed limits. Both of these awesome policy changes have the potential to make Minnesota streets safer for everyone, and especially for people bicycling, walking, and rolling.

 

SESSION DOWNS

Lawmakers ended the 2019 session with no long-term investment in transit and zero new resources to build the METRO D Line or to expand any other rapid bus routes. While the MN House backed sustainable funding for more bus routes, electric buses, and more frequent, reliable service, MN Senate leadership was ultimately not on board.

Efforts to prioritize zero-emissions buses in communities most impacted by air pollution and to decriminalize fare evasion also generated good conversation, but did not pass.

One-time funding for bicycling and walking fell far short of what it will take to make these healthy options easy and safe for all, and the session ended without the sustained investment that local communities really need.

 

KEEP PUSHING FOR CHANGE

Thank your lawmakers—and hold them accountable: The last days of the session saw massive compromises on transportation, despite many advocates and legislators fighting tooth and nail for change. Don’t go silent just because the session is over! Transportation champions need to hear our support now more than ever.

Sign up to volunteer: This work doesn’t stop when session is over. We need volunteers to help us keep up the momentum for change! Sign up here.

Grow our coalition: Move Minnesota leads Transportation Forward, a united advocacy coalition over 50 organizations from across Minnesota. It’s going to take all of us—and more—to advance a bold vision of transportation in our state and make sure no community is left out of that progress. Do you represent an organization that could join us? Get in touch! Email theresatn@movemn.org.