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of Meeting with
Hausman and John DeWitt
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
State Rep. Alice Hausman,
Investment, and John DeWitt,
co-founder Transit for Livable Communities
Johnson, chair; David Broden, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim
Hetland, Jim Olson (by phone), Wayne Popham (by phone), and Clarence
Context of the meeting--This
is another in a number of meetings the Civic Caucus has been holding over
the last several months concerning the policy-making structure for
transportation in Minnesota.
Welcome and introductions--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced State Rep.
Alice Hausman and John DeWitt.
Hausman, who is serving her 10th two-year term in the Minnesota House,
is a resident of St. Paul. She serves as chair of the Capital
Investment division of the Minnesota House. She has a bachelor's degree
from Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, and an MA in education from
Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois. DeWitt, a former financial
systems analyst with First Bank Systems, founded Insurance Testing
Corporation with two colleagues in 1990. He retired thirteen years ago.
He was a co-founder of Transit for Livable Communities in 1996 and served
on its board until two years ago. According to its website, Transit for
Livable Communities works to improve the quality of life in Minnesota
communities through a balanced transportation system that encourages
transit, walking, biking, and transit-oriented development.
Comments and discussion--During
comments by Hausman and DeWitt and in discussion with the Civic Caucus
the following points were raised:
1. Transportation governing structure in
Metropolitan Council has policy and operations responsibility for transit
and some policy responsibility for highways in the seven-county metro
area. However, the urbanized region extends far beyond that. A new
transit ways financing board covers five of the seven counties. The
Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has policy and
grantmaking responsibilities for transit in non-metro area and for
highways in the metro area. Responsibility for commuter rail is divided
between the Metropolitan Council and MnDOT.
between transit funding and service. Park and ride lots in Apple Valley,
which is in the transit taxing district, are heavily used by drivers from
Lakeville, which is outside the district. A new ramp at
in Bloomington will accommodate more drivers from Eagan, which may make it
more difficult for riders in
and Minneapolis to board light rail trains. But Hennepin county residents
are taxed to pay half the operating costs of the Hiawatha light rail line
while Eagan residents are in Dakota County, which does not contribute to
the operating expense.
Caucus member commented that accommodating more demand on the Hiawatha
line can only be satisfied by the purchase of additional cars, which will
increase both capital and operating costs and increase operating deficits.
Hausman felt this was not the way to look at this opportunity and
investment to increase the number of LRT riders.
fares continue to rise from increased fuel costs some suggest it might be
cheaper to ride trains between cities when the travel distance is less
than 500 miles. However, we don't have the structure in place to handle
such rail travel, either within
or between Minnesota and other states. Very soon, Hausman said, a
high-speed train will connect the Twin Cities area with Chicago, but we
don't have a support structure to bring people to such a train. A caucus
member noted we also lack the funding to build such a system, whether
built on existing rail beds or on new separate rail rights of way. We also
lack agreement on whether its operating costs should be significantly
subsidized by public funds or what portion of these expenses should be
paid by the states or the federal government.
revenue sources are falling short because motor vehicle sales, to which
significant transit revenue is tied, are slowing down. The same trend is
affecting highway financing. Highway revenue sources are also falling
short of original estimates because people are driving fewer miles, which
means less revenue from the gasoline tax.
Caucus member commented that the real problem to be discussed is
Transportation and not only Transit. We need to look at both and how all
transportation needs are being served to move both products and people—the
debate/discussion may be moving too much to one side and a balance may
show different issues and answers.
2. Out state transit needs are being overlooked--Hausman
described conversations she had with older persons in a small town in
They need transportation to grocery stores and medical clinics but such
services aren't provided, other than by volunteers. This is a problem not
just for older people but for anyone who doesn’t drive.
another area where transportation may be as much a factor as the transit.
If products cannot be delivered out state economically and timely then
businesses cannot survive and transit becomes more important—as one
3. Create a
is working on a bill to be introduced in the 2009 Legislature that would
create a Minnesota Transit Authority. Key provisions: pull Metro
Transit out of the Metropolitan Council and non-metro transit out of MnDOT
and give those responsibilities to the new Minnesota Transit Authority.
The Authority would assume all responsibilities of the regional rail
authorities. The opt-out transit agencies would remain although subject
to subsidy per ride limits. The recently established Counties Transit
Improvement Board (CTIB) and its ¼ cent sales tax would also remain
Minnesota Transit Authority would be responsible for development and
operations of all bus service, LRT, commuter rail and any Minnesota
portion of interstate high speed rail in
Minnesota Transit Authority would have nine members:
--the mayor of
or a member of the Minneapolis City Council chosen by the City Council
--the mayor of St. Paul or a member of the St.
Paul City Council chosen by the City Council
commissioner, chosen by the County Board.
commissioner, chosen by the County Board.
--three county commissioners from
Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington Counties.
--Two residents from greater
appointed by the Governor, one from north of the metro area and one from
south of the metro area
would be selected from among the nine appointees.
revenue sources for transit would be continued. The state sales tax would
be increased statewide by another one-fourth of a penny and dedicated for
transit operations statewide. The new tax would be on top of the
one-fourth-of-a-penny enacted in the five largest metro counties in 2008.
4. A transit emphasis will help correct other
problems – DeWitt explained that the state's emphasis has
traditionally been on easing traffic congestion. But today we face
multiple challenges including petroleum availability and price, global
warming, an obesity epidemic, and an aging population. Transit can play a
critical role in addressing all of these. Gov. Pawlenty’s Climate Change
Advisory Group evaluated reductions in driving of 18%, 28% and 43% by 2025
but failed to make any recommendations. The group did unanimously
recommend that 60% of the Twin Cities growth be accommodated in the
already developed area. But Met Council staff informed the group that our
region’s transit system could accommodate no more the 30%. The Met
Council’s goal is to double transit ridership by 2030. This will increase
transit’s modal share from 2.3% to 3.3% when population growth is factored
in. This leaves us far short of where we need to be.
5. Why not put decision making on highways and
transit into a single transportation organization?--Hausman
said that while such an effort would be desirable, it is impossible to
achieve so long as gasoline taxes and motor vehicle license fees continue
to be dedicated by the constitution to roads and highways. She said
highway interests are much too powerful to ever permit these user revenues
to be placed in one fund to support all transportation modes.
Caucus member noted that recent actions by the Legislature seem to be
producing more dedicated funds and more funding silos, not fewer. The
member cited a constitutional amendment enacted in 2006 that divides up
the state sales tax on motor vehicles between transit and highways and an
amendment proposed in 2008 to increase the state sales tax specifically
for outdoors, water and the arts.
best of all worlds, Hausman replied, she would agree that all funds should
be non-dedicated, but the dedicated approach seems the only way to
generate new revenue in a political environment dominated by lawmakers
opposed to any form of tax increase.
puzzling, a Civic Caucus member said, why leaders of budget, finance and
appropriations committees in the Legislature are so willing to let state
revenues be ever more fragmented among various dedicated funds, which, in
turn reduces the influence of the Legislature over revenues and spending.
5. Who'd be responsible for covering operating
deficits?--The speakers and
members of the Civic Caucus discussed problems associated with covering
the difference between operating expenses and fare box revenue. Currently,
one caucus member noted, taxpayers need to supply approximately 70 percent
of the funds needed to operate transit in the metro area. In the
alternatives discussed, for example, would local jurisdictions be
responsible for operating deficits of transit lines within their
borders? Would the state pick up the tab for all operating deficits?
Would fare box user fees cover all operating expenses of some transit such
as peak period services that benefit many employees in the downtowns who
might otherwise be faced with parking charges for their autos? What new
revenue sources can be explored? A specific question was raised about
whether land owners located near transit stations should pay some of the
transit expense when such owners receive windfalls because of transit
improvements. Such a principle could also apply to land that benefits from
access to freeways. One person inquired whether beneficiaries and users
should pay all operating expenses.
6. Responsibility for asserting the state's
interest--Hausman and DeWitt were asked who will represent the
state's interest in transit, under the proposed Transit Authority, given
the fact that they feel transportation is so key to the economic
development of the state. The proposed Transit Authority, it was noted,
would be dominated by local officials, with no overall state
participation, except that two appointees would be selected by the
said that cities with successful transit systems like Denver and Portland,
OR, have all done so with so-called independent transit boards. In
different regions, these boards may be elected, appointed by the governor,
or a council of governments (COG). A Civic Caucus member said that
persons on such transit boards formed as a COG are wearing two hats.
They're representing the units of local governments that elected them,
such as cities or counties. And they're supposedly representing the
larger area covered by the transit boards. But they're only accountable
to the localities or the districts where they were elected. DeWitt said
many of these local officials have more interest in transit than some
statewide elected officials.
the discussion of representation, Hausman said that the Metropolitan
Council--which runs Metro Transit and which plays a central role on roads
and highways in the metro area, too--is appointed by the Governor. The
Council, she said, is more interested in serving the Governor than the
interests of the metropolitan area.
Caucus member said that British Rail in the United Kingdom is run by a
board of all public members, not local officials, and has been partially
7. Paying attention to the importance of moving
goods as well as people--Commenting on the need to help people
in small towns get to their destinations by transit, a Civic Caucus member
noted the economic viability of some small towns results because of the
difficulty in transporting products to small town stores. Without those
products the small town merchants can't stay open.
8. How to set priorities when faced with a
mountain of needs--A Civic Caucus member noted that in
transportation--both highways and transit--there never seems to be enough
money to cover the needs. Their growth appears to outdistance growth in
the overall economy. In addition, so much of the investment in
transportation benefits localities- specific cities or even interchanges
or station stops not the total economy of the metropolitan area or of the
state. The difficulty, therefore, becomes one of setting priorities
intelligently, which means, the member said, establishing a governing
structure that equitably represents all parts of the state and can weigh
all options against each other in light of their contribution to agreed
upon goals. Such goals might include congestion reduction, increased
mobility, and the relative contribution to improved air quality. But we
seem to be moving in other directions, with separate governing structures
and separate funding sources for transit and highways that are
insufficient to keep up with the escalating mountain of needs.
Acknowledging the needs problem, Hausman said she had been informed that
it would cost about $15 billion to add one lane to the 694/494 beltway
around the Twin Cities.
9. Doing a better job of organizing transit
services already provided--Hausman
cited a host of different bus services serving greater Minnesota that
arrive daily at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Such buses
have no scheduled stops along the way, because they're only serving the
localities where the service begins. One of the caucus members noted a
fleet of coach buses from throughout the Midwest came to the Twin Cites to
transport visitors to the Republican national convention in St. Paul.
Hausman observed this large movement of people to St. Paul from hotels in
Minneapolis and the suburbs was largely coordinated and provided by
response to a question about the transportation of low income residents to
jobs outside of the downtowns, Hausman noted that almost all of the new
jobs in our region have been created in the suburbs that are essentially
inaccessible to the transit dependent. The Minnesota Department of Human
Services is increasingly concerned about connecting the aging residents of
Greater Minnesota to the goods and services they need when they can no
10. Where will additional money come from?--It
was noted that the Governor and State Legislature will make key decisions
on sources of money for transit and highways, no matter what the governing
structures. Currently, different dedicated revenues serve, separately,
(a) state highways, (b) county state aided highways and roads, (d) city
state aided roads, (e) metro transit, (f) five-county transit ways, and
(g) transit in some cities and counties in greater
11. Thanks--On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne thanked Housman and DeWitt for meeting with us today.