Strong Transit Funding Passes in MN House
In Minnesota, past legislatures have repeatedly ignored long-term transit funding, driving up vehicle pollution in communities of color, fueling the climate crisis, and limiting our ability access to access jobs, education, and healthcare. But every year brings a new chance to disrupt that pattern. Right now, as we’re nearing the end of the 2021 legislative session, important transportation funding and policy decisions are still on the table at the State Capitol. We’re seeing exciting signs of progress, especially in the Minnesota House, but there’s still no guarantee that lawmakers will deliver the change our state needs before the clock runs out on May 17. Where do things stand?
Move Minnesota is pushing hard for a transformative investment in transit, bicycling, walking, and rolling this spring. Along with our allies and grassroots advocates, and as part of comprehensive statewide proposal, we’ve called for a new one-cent metro sales tax that would dramatically improve transit throughout the Twin Cities in 10 years or less with:
- 21 new Twin Cities bus rapid transit lines
- 5-minute rush hour wait times on core transit lines
- suburban express service all day
- free transit fares
- electric buses
- better bicycling, walking, and rolling
In recent weeks we’ve celebrated big steps forward with strong legislation passing in the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee and then passing in the full Minnesota House! Our thanks to all supportive House members. This new legislation authored by Rep. Frank Hornstein includes a critical half-cent sales tax for transit, biking, walking, and rolling. Although it is not the full investment we’re seeking, the House proposal would be a significant down payment toward the system-wide transformation that our climate and communities urgently need.
The House bill also takes important additional steps to make Minnesota’s transportation system more sustainable. With support from Move Minnesota and allies, it:
- sets a goal to reduce statewide vehicle miles traveled by 20 percent
- calls for Metro Transit to fully transition their bus fleet to clean electric buses by 2040
- requires that electric buses be used to serve areas with the worst air pollution—often these are communities of color and low-income communities in Minnesota
- prioritizes fixing existing road infrastructure over road expansion
In the Minnesota Senate, it’s a different story. The Senate’s transportation bill includes drastic cuts to base funding for transit operations and Metro Mobility services and would end Northstar commuter rail altogether. It tries to cannibalize the one-time emergency federal funds intended to carry Metro Transit through the heart of the pandemic—fully ignoring the need for ongoing resources. This short-sighted proposal will hurt the existing transit system and everyone who relies on these services, and ultimately undercuts any opportunities to improve and expand service for new and existing riders at a time when transit is ready to bounce back post-pandemic. Not good!
Over the next 11 days, legislators on the House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee will try to iron out these significant differences and work to pass a compromise transportation omnibus bill before the session ends. These decisions will help determine the kind of transportation system—and the kind of future—we have when the pandemic is over.
Move Minnesota has worked to mobilize grassroots advocates and a broad range of allied organizations to influence those pivotal decisions. Special thanks to the Transportation Forward coalition and the many partners who recently joined together to send strong messages to Governor Walz and legislative leaders about the importance and urgency of funding for transit, bicycling, walking, and rolling. See supportive letters from:
- Climate allies
- Disability community allies
- Labor union allies
- Business and economic development allies
- Local government officials
- Transportation allies
As negotiations continue, Move Minnesota and allies will keep advocating for the transportation funding and policy changes that will improve daily life for Minnesota families, protect our air and climate, expand access to jobs and resources, and create a better future for all of us. Make sure lawmakers know this is important to you too! Take action now.