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Summary of Meeting with Clarence Shallbetter,
Civic Caucus, 8301 Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Clarence Shallbetter, former transportation staff, Metropolitan
Council, and Bob DeBoer, director of policy development, Citizens
Present: Verne Johnson, chair; Chuck
Clay, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Jim Hetland, and Wayne Popham (by phone)
A. Context of the meeting --Transportation
issues are likely to be front and center in the 2008 Legislature. By way
of providing background for Civic Caucus participants, today's meeting
focuses on transportation reports prepared by the Citizens League in 2005
and by the Civic Caucus in 2003.
B. Introductions --Verne introduced
Bob DeBoer, director of policy development for the Citizens League, who
was the staff person who worked on the Citizens League report "Driving
Blind: Minnesota Needs a More Transparent Transportation Policy That
Connects Prices to Costs and Benefits to Investments", issued in 2005.
Verne introduced Clarence Shallbetter, former transportation staff,
Metropolitan Council, who drafted the Civic Caucus report, "Untangling
Traffic Congestion in the Expanded Metropolitan Region.".
C. Central message in Citizens League report,
"Driving Blind" --The public expense in Minnesota
transportation must become transparent, not be hidden in various sources
and unrelated to travel behavior. The report recommended several steps,
including: (1) imposing "free-flow" pricing, imposed during peak drive
times, as an incentive to reduce highway congestion, (2) basing vehicle
registration fees on amount of wear and tear impact on roadways, (3)
remove dedicated funding from new gas tax and vehicle license fees, and
(4) enable the state to capture some of the increase in value of land near
major transportation improvements.
D. Central message in Civic Caucus report,
"Untangling Traffic Congestion" --To effectively attack the
problem of reducing congestion, the Legislature would center
responsibility in the Governor, assisted by a Transportation Commission,
instead of allowing decisions to be so widely distributed among
governments and agencies that no one seems to be in charge. The
Transportation Commission would develop and recommend a transportation
policy plan for where congestion is most severe, in a 15-county area
surrounding the Twin Cities. It would consider directing all major new
state funds into a single transportation fund. It would set priorities on
all federal funds for regional facilities.
E. Comments and discussion --During
the comments made by DeBoer and Shallbetter and in discussion with the
Civic Caucus the following points were raised:
1. Public concern over funding --There
is growing public understanding of the need for better transportation,
Shallbetter said, but the public is concerned with additional funding,
state or federal, and who pays for what and when. A transportation bill
passed the 2007 Legislature, was vetoed by the Governor, and not
considered in a later special session. The mountain of transportation
needs grows and grows. Meanwhile, conflicting interests of cities,
counties, state, rural and urban, rail builders, truckers, organized
special interests groups, and developers prevent passage of broad
2. Single-occupant trips by car to diverse locations is growing --Most
work trips are from suburb to suburb, not from suburb to the downtowns of
Minneapolis and St. Paul, which, combined, account for fewer than 20
percent of work trips, Shallbetter said.
3. Issue is much more than money --Money
is a problem, but not the problem, Shallbetter said. There is little or no
agreement on capital or operating needs or priorities. No transportation
investment guide exists. Citing several examples of bottlenecks and
insufficient road capacity and transit and bus service locations,
Shallbetter said we'll never have enough money to build our way out of
congestion. The state should focus on real work trips, cross regional
trips, and vehicle size to serve the transit need. We need to remember,
too, that trucks are an important economic part of the picture and require
great road weight tolerance. Truck traffic also is time sensitive.
4. State leadership essential --State
leadership is essential and the Governor is the one person who must lead,
Shallbetter said. The Governor should be assisted by a Transportation
Commission to collect data, make contact with all interests, and make
recommendations to the Governor on needs, priorities, and funding.
5. Single fund recommended --All new
funds for transportation should go into a single fund for use by all
transportation needs. Use of expanded sources of funding collected by the
state, beyond those that must be constitutionally dedicated, should be
placed in a single fund for allocation to projects that compete with one
another in making the greatest contribution to congestion reduction and
increased public safety, Shallbetter said.
6. Importance of transparency --The
Citizens League report focused on transparency, or visibility, of true
transportation costs, DeBoer said. The public does not see true congestion
costs, he said. Asthma from air pollution costs $500 to $800 per capita
per year. Vehicle crashes cost $700 per capita per year.
7. Diversity of trip origins and destinations --DeBoer cited
many examples of suburban counties and cities where 80 to 90 percent of
work trips are to locations outside the county of residence or where
residents of a single city would be traveling to work in as many as 19 or
20 different cities. Solo driving is increasing in spite of improved bus
and rail service. The challenge is to look at congestion costs across the
system. Toll roads or pricing lanes are essential. Use of pricing lanes
during times of congestion have the effect of producing better use of
roads during times when non-congestion times when pricing would not be in
DeBoer said pricing lanes should be open to all users, contrary to the
practice on I-394, where the pricing lanes are not in use during non-peak
times. Pricing should be true flow pricing related to the level of
congestion. Excess revenue should be used for other transportation choices
8. Consider all forms of moving people or goods
--In response to questions, Shallbetter said transportation
must be seen to include all forms of moving people or goods, not just
autos and big vehicles. DeBoer agreed and said pricing is only a starting
point in addressing the problem. The structure of decision-making also
must be considered.
9. Consider new funding sources --The
state general fund is tapped out, Shallbetter said, so new funding sources
must include user fees and revenue from benefited persons or property.
Shallbetter said the gas tax never has been used properly because it is
constitutionally protected among cities, counties and the state, and each
level of government makes its own decisions regarding needs and proper
use. DeBoer said the urban partnership is still important as is a larger
10. Congestion is a state issue --Shallbetter
stressed that congestion is now a state issue and the Governor must accept
leadership. On advancing solutions on needs, restructuring and funding,
Shallbetter said it is important to be aware of where commercial building
permits are being taken out to see where job growth is occurring.
11. Thanks --On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne thanked Shallbetter and DeBoer for meeting with us today.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.