here for PDF format
for participants' responses to this summary
of Meeting (Internal Discussion on transportation)
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Johnson, chair; David Broden, Marianne Curry, Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland, Dan
Loritz, and Clarence Shallbetter
Context of the meeting:
Caucus core group is taking a break today from its weekly schedule of
interviews to look at what we might conclude from our several meetings on
Review of the state's fiscal situation--Before
getting into the main business of the day, we discussed the meeting with
Jay Kiedrowski and John Gunyou on the state's fiscal situation. Among
--Employment is central--With
45 percent of the state's revenue coming from the income tax, and 27
percent from the sales tax, a total of 72 percent from income and sales
taxes, it is clear that our state's fiscal situation is dependent upon
people working in income-producing jobs. They are ones whose incomes and
purchases are subject to the taxes that produce the state's revenue.
from Kiedrowski and Gunyou that the state faces a major challenge in
coming years in producing an adequate supply of home-grown workers.
Moreover, there's a question of the adequacy of our education system in
producing a qualified work force.
also a close tie between jobs and transportation. We need a good
transportation system to make it possible for people and goods to get to
care is a big part of the picture, particularly in the way it is driving
the expenses of state government.
Governor plays an absolutely central role on all three of those big
issues--education, transportation, and health care--to help restore
Minnesota's leadership role among the states.
spent the balance of the meeting on transportation. During the
discussion the following points were raised:
1. Greater emphasis on guiding development than
on easing congestion?--It has
been increasingly clear that under current policy , advocates for rail are
emphasizing the claimed benefits of rail to influence the placement of new
residential and commercial development, rather than rail's impact on
easing highway congestion. The question is whether there's a consensus
that funds should be increasingly placed on rail projects for development
purposes as a more urgent need than investing in highway projects that
would ease congestion.
Attention should also focus on the amount of direct and indirect public funds spent on housing, for example, to achieve
the development objective.
2. Too little emphasis on suburb-to-suburb trips?--It's puzzling why so much emphasis is placed on rail when the
terminal point is one or both of the downtowns that account for only 15 percent of the jobs, in light of the fact that much more
congestion is evident on cross-metro trips not destined for the downtowns.
3. Forgetting about movement of goods, not just
people--Good transportation is essential for the movement of
goods throughout the state. It seems as if all we're talking about is
people getting around. A strong economy requires that goods move quickly
and efficiently and that goods transportation pays its share
4. Enormous backlog of "needs" never likely to
be satisfied--We're in a fantasy world if we think that
everything drawn on a map will be built. Hard choices must be made, not
only among competing highway projects or among competing rail projects,
but between highway and rail.
5. We're making the job of setting priorities more
difficult by isolating different revenue sources--Even
as needs pile up, the state has created various ways of raising money that
make it enormously difficult to balance investments among highways and
rail and among different levels of government.
6. Availability of federal funds seems to be excessively important in setting priorities--We're kidding ourselves
if we think that priorities are set within the state, based on needs determined here. Too often new projects get undertaken simply
because of a federal carrot. If a nationally-financed public works is undertaken as part of economic recovery, projects undertaken
within Minnesota ought to relate to priorities established within the state. Federal carrots must also be carefully examined in terms
of the subsequent operating costs and operating deficits resulting from new construction imposed on state and local budgets.
7. Too little attention is given to revenue
sources within transportation itself--In recent years
transportation has been chipping away at the state's general revenue fund,
making it more difficult to supply revenue for those services that have no
other option than to seek revenue from the general fund. It's possible in
transportation, unlike many other state services, to identify users and
beneficiaries and impose fees accordingly.
8. Not enough attention is being paid to operating
high and growing part of our bus and rail system are expenses not covered
by fares, a proportion ranging from 60-80 percent of total operating
9. Straight talk is essential--Have we lost our way in Minnesota transportation? A comprehensive system of roads
has been built, and needs to be maintained and upgraded, to serve the movement of goods and people throughout the state.
In recent years, we seemingly now are interested in building a comprehensive system of rail on top of the existing system, whatever
the cost, even as the cost of maintaining the existing system increases faster than the growth rate of the economy.
10. Are we ignoring the very people who need help the
of the employers who need workers and the individuals who need jobs.
Where is the strategy to bring the job-seekers to the jobs, wherever they
are located? Why isn't more attention being devoted to expanding the bus
system, which is much more flexible than rail and can better serve lower
income people wherever they live and work?
11. Where is leadership?--We
can't help but wonder whether a key missing ingredient is leadership for
the entire state, in one location, the Governor's office. With
transportation as critical as it is, shouldn't a statewide plan be
essential? Someone needs stand above the various fiefdoms that have grown
up: one for rail; one for highways; one for rural; one for metro; one for
counties; one for cities, one for goods movement; one for people; one for
attacking congestion; one for directing development, and on and on.
12. Absence of a coordinated statewide plan for highways,
buses and rail--We
noted that MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council both prepare major plans as
required by state and federal law. But they are doing so in an atmosphere
that is incredibly fragmented, with many overlapping organizations and
Clearly, over the last several years rail transit has received considerably greater attention within the metro area,
in planning and resources. It is less clear how much comparative emphasis has been devoted to buses and to highways.
A major bus rapid transit improvement is under way on I 35W and Hwy. 77 south from downtown Minneapolis to Apple Valley,
Burnsville, and Lakeville. That corridor is one of the busiest in the metro area. Yet a much cheaper bus approach is being
utilized than rail. Why is rail, rather than bus, being touted as the preferred approach in less-congested corridors? Why was
highway lane expansion and rapid transit bus coordinated in development of I-35W but such coordinated planning was not done
for the Central Corridor and I-94 between Minneapolis and st. Paul? What coordinated planning of highways and rail is being done
for the southwest Hennepin County corridor?
We agreed that a draft
statement should be prepared and circulated to our 1,100 participants for