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 Response Page  - Civic Caucus Internal Discussion -  Transportation    

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the Civic Caucus internal discussion of 11-28-08.

 
The questions:


1. _8.6 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, do better choices need to be made among highway, bus and rail projects?

2. _7.8 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should more attention be given to helping people receive transportation to and from existing homes and job locations?

3. _8.5 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, does the Governor need to exercise stronger leadership on transportation?

Alan Miller (10) (9) (9)

Richard McGuire (10) (10) (10)

Jim Kielkopf (0) (0) (0)

Transportation is, first and foremost, a DEVELOPMENT policy framework, whenever
it regards NEW route, mode, or expansion construction. Growth must be embedded in any new acquisition of transportation assets, in order for any fiscally stable future to be possible, given the increased maintenance and operating liabilities that will also be acquired.

The present transportation usage and congestion levels should be considered to be at an equilibrium level, or headed that way. For that reason, where new rail (or even road) lines are built is an inherently political decision with winners and losers. Rail lines to the central cities will necessarily result in growth in jobs or homes in the central cities and along the line. Likewise, new rail or roads between the suburbs will result in growth of the suburbs, at the expense of the central cities.

Looking around at transportation, discounting the occasional bridges to nowhere, there are almost no incidences of new transportation construction which resulted in increased capacity which did not also result in increased economic growth of some kind to fill the capacity of the new transportation asset. That is why a decision of whether to place a rail line in the suburbs or in the central cities is primarily one of redistribution, not merely efficiency. In my opinion, growth should occur in the central cities and not as much in the suburbs and exurbs, and this is done by continuing to increase transportation capacity to the central cities more than the suburbs.

Charles Lutz (9) (9) (9)
In Civic Caucus transportation policy discussions, there is frequent reference to (and criticism of) LRT focused on downtowns since "only 15% of the jobs" are there. But travel to employment is just part of what generates traffic to the downtowns. Both Mpls & St. Paul centers are prime locations for sports and cultural attractions as well. I'd guess well over half the metro-area arts/culture and pro-sports trips lead to the two downtowns. My wife and I regularly use Hiawatha LRT to attend Guthrie performances and Twins games. Before LRT we always drove (and paid for parking--it's free near LRT stations in south Mpls). One wonders why transportation discussions so often ignore use of LRT for other than getting-to-work trips.

Joe Mansky (10) (5) (10)
I agree with the following points: a) leadership is lacking on the transportation issue; 2) the relationship between development and transportation is key - congestion is a symptom, not the problem; 3) an efficient transportation system (emphasis on system, which I would also define as multi-modal) is critical to our businesses and the state's economic situation as a whole and 4) not enough emphasis is placed on suburb to suburb travel.

I would continue to make the point that transportation funding is a critical element in this equation. Gas tax revenues are not and will not be adequate to fund the transportation needs of the future. A replacement revenue source is needed. Some possible alternatives might be a parking tax, a fuel efficiency tax, a carbon tax, a mileage tax or some combination of these. It is also necessary to factor in the contribution of property taxes to the transportation system.

Think about this: let's say in 2011, I purchase a plug-in electric car and use the federal tax credit to put a solar photovoltaic array on the south-facing roof of my garage and purchase a battery to store the energy produced. I use the car for less than 40 miles per day, hence I don't need to buy any gas. My system provides 100% of the fuel for my car. I end up paying $0 for the use of the roads under our present setup. How long do you think we can sustain our road network under this scenario?

Jim Wafler (4) (8) )(10)

Dan McElroy (0) (6) (4)

Dave Broden (10) (10) (10)

Question 1: There is clearly too much focus on transit and the focus of transit to the core vs. alternatives between suburbs. Also to create jobs we need to think more about moving goods and services-not enough dialogue on what needs to move and why.

Question 2: This addresses the suburb to suburb and outside the two rings of suburbs into the denser areas. As we worry about current jobs and job locations we need to keep an eye on how and where we will see expansion--even if expansion is several years in the future.

Question 3: As we have discussed transportation is a key to not only keeping the economy moving but also to growth, public safety, quality of life etc. Transportation can be a focus for job creation across the state if we can show that we can move both people and product. The governor must show leadership of how the state is responsive to the needs of today and the future and we are inviting individuals and companies to come and become part of our state economy. The governor can set the stage for movement of both raw products (agriculture products) and finished products produced within the state and to bring products from other areas to our state. We cannot expect to have a vibrant economy in all parts of the state if we can't get there with goods, services, and people in an efficient way. One concern I have about cutting LGA to fix the budget is that it will lower the ability of many of the outstate towns and cities to be strong and inviting to new businesses or to keep current businesses. As we work to fix the economy we must not build in what look like fixes but turn out to be causes of the downturn or closing of the economy in outstate Mn. Anyone who has a rural background will recall how the lack of product flow to and from the outstate areas in the 70's downturn and prior to that in the depression had a big impact on how many areas survived. The transportation system must remain the lifeblood of all the areas of the state. That means quality transportation available to all who use it in a cost effective manner. The governor need to express this effectively--ignoring the whole of Mn to please the metro or metro plus the few denser areas will be well off track. A true statewide transportation vision is needed and people will support this effort.

Bill Frenzel (10) (10) (10)
MN needs trans. planning. Apparently has little. Ergo, planning is done by earmark from Washington, or by local officials interested primarily in development. Result is whimsical trans. system, unsuited to needs.

CC has identified guv as only player in this drama with the horse-power to lead. So far, none of them seem to want to do so.

Fortunately, MN is still lightly populated so its snarls, while frustrating, are "less worse" than most the rest of the country, but it is catching up.

Vici Oshiro (10) (10) (10)
But in spite of limitations of current system I oppose privitization and/or extensive use of tolls. Pawlenty has abdicated his leadership on transportation so we will have to rely on legislators - and they seem up to the challenge.

Joe Lampe (10) (10) (10)
This is very good material. Too much of the current approach to transportation resembles "a solution looking for a problem." Transportation planning must be based on system-wide analysis and cost-effective solutions. See Scientific American Volume 221, Number 1, July, 1969. W. F. Hamilton and D. K. Nance, "Systems analysis of urban transportation" 19--27, available at the Southdale Library, 7001 York Ave S. This is the seminal article explaining why a system like PRT is so important to the future of urban mobility. For 40 years we've known why urban transportation is broken, yet no one pays
attention.

If all federal transportation funding came in one package, with LOCAL prioritizing and distribution, there is no doubt that rail projects would end up near the bottom of the list. Rail lines are not being built based on metro-wide analysis of needs or cost effectiveness, rather they are being built because of targeted "free" federal money.

The governor should be leading on this, but methinks the current governor needs to get his thinking straight. (I'm a lifelong Republican.) Pawlenty seems to have "chase the money syndrome." The Legislature could stop this foolishness by choking off the funding and putting the rail empire people out on the street, but instead legislators are making things worse.

Fred Senn (10) (10) (10)

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10)

Steve Alderson (10) (5) (0)

The problems in your summary are very well stated. It makes sense to return planning to MN/DOT and the Metro Council and strengthen both agencies ability to direct funding to solutions that make sense based on a comprehensive approach to transportation options. The diversion of dollars to rail projects which do not move freight and only move limited numbers of people is waste. The development argument is a smoke screen. All developers seek highway access long before they worry about rail access.

Keep governors out of it. Jessie made the difference on the Hiawatha LRT and that was a decision that is going to cost more than the benefits it will provide in the long run and is now leading to misunderstandings as to the potential for rail in other corridors. The more time goes by the better the Metro Council policies of the 1970-1980 period appear. Those plans emphasized use of buses on the highways so that we build one system that benefits two modes. Your best insight is when you point out the misguided idea that somehow we can impose a separate rail system in all corridors.

We are already finding out that we cannot not afford to maintain the system we built when we built the interstates. Funding needs to be directed to maintain that system and not to pay for expensive rail additions that will become further maintenance liabilities.

Robert J. Brown (10) (8) (8)
Transportation planning must be integrated with economic development (business creation and siting) and residential development. Start with what exists (highways, light rail, railroad) and build from there based on anticipated growth in business and residential development. This required good planning agencies and leadership.

Local units of government get suckered into costly and inefficient actions by the actions of high units of government - e.g., the feds paying most of the construction costs of freeways and then letting the states pick up the greater cost of maintenance; or states "turning back" old state highways to local units to have and maintain forever.

The real costs of transportation should be determined and then there should be major policy decisions about what percentage of that cost should be borne by the taxpayers and what should be covered by user fees such as gasoline taxes, tolls, and fares.

Austin Chapman (10) (7) (8)

Donald H. Anderson (10) (10) (10)

Transit decisions should be made on the basis of bringing the people to where they are most needed, mostly employment, not where the entertainment industry wants them. A bus system, similar to the days of the street car, would be effective, even if the central point isn't in the downtown area. Consideration should also be given to road maintenance - once a road is built it has to be kept up.

Gene Franchett (10) (10) (10)

Marina Lyon (7) (10) (10)

Question 1: I'm not sure how we define better, but I do think that planning can be coordinated better, which should help choices. I also think looking at options beyond rail -- or at least elevating other options to the same level of attention as rail -- should occur.

Question 2: Yes, especially suburb to suburb. Toll lanes/roads should be considered.

Question 3: Absolutely, positively.

John Milton (10) (10) (10)
Question 3: But I fear that the incumbent's leadership will take us in a perverse direction.

Sheila Kiscaden
I found your survey questions seem to miss the mark this time...please see my comments.

Question 1: Your discussion notes would indicate that your concept of better choices is to limit rail transit and focus on buses and highway congestion. How are "better choices" defined? I do not think I can answer the question the way if is phrased in the affirmative without implying agreement with your discussion which seems not to support rail transit, and which seems to be confused about the differences between rail for transit, commuter rail, and intercity rail. All three types of rail discussions are underway,.

Question 2: Does this imply the current boundaries of the urban sprawl? Does this include cities along the corridors to Rochester and St. Cloud...and Duluth? Shouldn't our transportation policies be connected to our concepts of land use, service delivery, and growth? This question is too limited.

Question 3: And the future of our state...by making investments? One could argue that he has exercised a conservative form of leadership by refusing to make public infrastructure and human capital investments.

Chris Brazelton (10) (8) (10)

I agree that statewide transportation planning is essential and requires leadership from the Governor. Elements must include cost effectiveness not only in construction but in maintenance and operations, consumer friendliness (many people from the suburbs won't ride busses that stop in inner city neighborhoods), environmental impact and development goals.

Clarence Shallbetter (10) (10) (9)

Ray Schmitz (9) (9) (9)

Scott Halstead (10) (5) (10)

Air Transportation - Our air transportation policies have resulted in high fares and freight costs which increases the costs to business, government and the traveling public not to mention the taxpayer subsidizing wealthy owners. Air transportation needs to be added to the transportation equation.

Our LRT investments have made great bragging rights but have done little to improve mobility. There are very few additional riders for the amount invested. New jobs are negligible. Traffic congestion relief on our highways is non-existent. Fares from new riders will only cover 10 - 20% of the operating and maintenance costs.

The jobs are in the suburbs. Minorities are moving to the suburbs but there is a total lack of transit between suburbs and many suburbs totally lack transit or service is so poor that it is totally ineffective.

There isn't a metro transit plan. Just individual units of government pushing for spoke corridors.

We are investing very large sums of money in park and ride facilities without collecting any revenue. Large capital expenditures and future maintenance costs.

There needs to be a transit system throughout the metro area so that transit carries passenger to and from to increase efficiency. There needs to cooperation between business and transit so exiting parking facilities are utilized by transit riders to reduce the investment and incentives provided to businesses to get their people on transit and off the highways and thus reducing congestion on the roads so trucks and service vehicles can more efficiently move throughout the metro area.

We need innovation in operating out transit. Bus service should be competed with incentives for improving service and ridership and reduction of operating and maintenance costs. Fares especially for high cost LRT need to have an appropriate return upon investment and cover a minimum of 40% of O & M. Total cost and new revenue analysis need to be included and in the statutes. Our fractured transit funding, planning and management needs to be corrected.

Hans Sandbo (9) (9) (9)
Each question demands much discussion - however 2 in my mind means attention needs to be given as to how to get people to and from work. There are many ways to accomplish this and I would tend to subscribe to the one that expends the least amount of energy over the longest period of time. Making long distant energy-inefficient commutes is undesirable (more expensive).

Bill Kuisle (5) (0) (3)

Paul Hauge (10) (10) (10)

Bill Richard

Outstanding. Thank you!

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10)
Question 1: 10 but that should not imply a conclusion on what the better choice would be.

Question 2: 10 but with a focus on those who need help, eg. those in poor or other neighborhoods w/out cars or access to proximal and frequent public transportation.

Question 3:10 yes to form a better coordinated plan based on thorough discussion of priorities among: people transportation to work, movement of goods, land use, sprawl implications. Congestion is hot button but saving 10 minutes for travel based on I35 developments does not seem to be a significant improvement.

State Sen. Sandy Rummel (8) (8) (9)
In a recent two-day seminar at the Humphrey Institute questions were raised about oversight (or lack of it) regarding development - the impact of sprawl on cost of gov't, distribution of jobs, cost of infrastructure, impact on environment, etc. The issue came up again this week in a senate hearing regarding carbon reduction and other energy issues. Transportation is intricately connected to the all of these issues. Minnesota needs to think more systemically about its future. Met Council was once a strong tool to realize the goals of the state. Some suggest this is no longer the case.

Tom Swain (10) (5) (10)

Jim Keller (5) (10) (5)

I was surprised by the apparent slant of the discussion away public transportation, (particularly rail). It seems to me that public transportation was neglected for many years as we languished behind other metro areas and countries. I believe that the 35W corridor was overlooked in spite of the extreme traffic situation was because it would be one of the most expensive routes to develop for rail (this was stated at some of the hearings I attended re the 35W improvements.

Carolyn Ring (8) (5) (8)

State Rep. Rob Shimanski (10) (7) (7)

Thank you for this summary of transportation issues discussed by Civic Caucus. After much input, I believe you have drawn the most valid conclusions. Please share your summary with citizens and public leaders across the state.

Robert A. Freeman (7) (8) (8)

Marianne Curry (10) (10) (10)

Bert Press (3) (0) (5)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (7) (9) (9)


Terry Stone (10) (5) (10)
The Constitutional underpinning of transportation policy

To explore the excellent observations and statements of the Civic Caucus, it is helpful to review the objective of government and the authority by which that objective is pursued.

That authority is the Minnesota Constitution and the objective is well stated in Article one, Section 1.
Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform government whenever required by the public good.
Clearly a transportation infrastructure that efficiently moves both goods and citizens between cities across Minnesota, moves them within the Metro Area and provides interstate connectivity is a benefit to the people; and for the public good.
Transportation anomalies
Koochiching County has 14,000 people and is losing .8% of them every year; about one person every three days. Sherburne County is adding one person every 2.5 hours.
Highway 53, serving Koochiching County, builds northward with more and more four-lane controlled access asphalt; while Sherburne County suffers massive congestion, uncontrolled access and stoplights on Highway 169. Somethingís wrong with this picture. Something other than the security, benefit and protection of the people seems in play.
Light rail is consuming the publicís attention and the transportation budget while sucking the air out of objective statewide infrastructure planning. Some viral paradigm has infected our common sense.
So whatís going on?
From the vantage point of a northern border town, the infection seems to be social planning. Our State Government seems increasingly obsessed with controlling where we live, how we live and the penalty we pay, should we disagree with its curious ideas of social planning.
There seems to be a syndrome composed of seemingly discrete, but actually related, ideas at play in State Government; all tethered by a common thread. That common thread seems to be the construct that people are irreparably harming the planet. From this notion, a number of lemmata emerge:
 That people should live densely in cities, connect to municipal utilities and use mass transit. The ostensible purpose is to provide governmental services with efficiency and lower that all-important carbon footprint.
 That arable land should be protected by downzoning. This is the zoned requirement of large parcels of land in order to build a residence on farmland. The stated purpose is always to protect farmland while the social planning goal is the lowering of population density.
 That land that is neither urban nor arable is best protected for future generations.
Arenít we smarter than to surrender our unique Minnesota identity?
In Minnesota, we have a good start on this vision of social planning:
 Three million people feel the need to live within an asphalt hour of each other and survive a population density of 500/mi2.
 Farm Counties (local agents of State Government) are busily zoning to reduce population density. Houston County, that just ordered the destruction of a young coupleís home over a disagreement about arcane soil typing, seems to be leading the charge. (Eight Legislators have just filed a petition for amici curiae status before the Supreme Court on the matter; in support of property rights.)
 Massive areas of the state, that are neither urban nor arable, have been surrendered to federal environmental protection, e.g., Voyageurs National Park, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Superior National forest. The Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) and itís international environmental players seem poised to place all of this Minnesota land under U.N. designation as an International Biosphere Reserve. Two elements of the State, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Forest Resources Council have participated in HOCP meetings; and are almost certainly clueless regarding the organizationís subtext.
While insidious in onset, the State of Minnesota can now be diagnosed with a full-blown case of toxic social planning syndrome (TSPS). It shows up in Northern Minnesota as routine violations of the International Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and Wetlands Act nightmares. It shows up in farmland counties as zealous zoning ordinances that increasingly constitute de facto regulatory takings of private property. It shows up in the Metro Area as light rail, budget deficits and other social planning artifacts.
So now it makes sense
Within this template, the drive behind light rail makes perfect sense. Light rail fits nicely with U.N. Agenda 21 and its marketing name; Sustainable Development. At the urban level, itís frequently marketed as Smart Growth. Some will argue that there are differences in the three; but they are of the same clade.
The subsidized transportation of people is a tenet of social planning. The message is subtle, but clear: ďDonít build your home on that farmland. Donít build your home on that Northern Minnesota lake. Move to the city; weíll even pick up a big chunk of your transportation costs. For good measure, weíll use taxpayer dollars to build some affordable housing for you.Ē All major Minnesota Cities are on a water body; a tribute to the power of available transportation to shape population patterns.
Social planning at taxpayer expense
Under the Minnesota Constitution, any tax dollars used for transportation must result in a public good of roughly equal value to all Minnesotans. By this standard, light rail fails miserably. Forcefully taking money from taxpayers and giving it to others for transportation is simply redistribution of wealth.
The Minnesota Metro freeway design readily identifies the need to move people and goods in a circuit around the core cities; then adds east-west and north-south elements. This is a proven nexus for inter-suburb transit; where 85% of the Metro jobs are located. Superimposing the alleged efficiencies of rail (in the absence of a social planning agendum) should yield a rail system resembling the freeway system; but with a smaller carbon footprint. The fact that the light rail transport system isnít remotely congruent with the freeway system suggests that a social agendum is in play.
Light rail as the blunt (and costly) instrument of social planning
Itís a propitious time to push back. Itís time to push State Government back into its constitutional canister. When the economy is robust, the fanciful notions of social ideologues can be entertained; albeit as some expense. In the current economic situation, a clear focus on the effective movement of people and materials is mandatory.
Letís do what works and leave the social experiments to California
Transportation dollars must be targeted to improving the efficiencies of the real world situation in the Metro Area. This means highway projects that solve immediate problems. Immediately doable projects must be selected. Strong leadership must make tenacious decisions. Speculative ideas must be scrapped to focus on a clear plan for prioritized projects.
Dedicated funding ideas like the State Lottery Amendment (serving environmental interests) and the Outdoors, Clean Water and Arts Amendment (serving predominantly environmental interests) must be avoided. The situation calls for leadership to point out that dedicated funding amendments are bad governance and that the Outdoors Amendment was a big mistake; while it is still fresh in the minds of the voters. Itís perfectly appropriate to say, ďI told you soĒ. Dedicated funding schemes have the potential to strangle budgetary agility and no opportunity to discourage them should be missed.
Our Minnesota Congressional delegation, especially the well positioned Jim Oberstar, must have their feet held to the fire to assure funding that reflects the transportation priorities set by the people of Minnesota; and not those set by gladiator-class national or international social planners.
Because a constitutional underpinning for mass transit subsidy is weak, at best, user fees need to be brought in line with operating expenses of mass transit systems. To be constitutionally consistent, we must also seek revenue balance for the air transport system and the state highway system. An equitable revenue stream to recover construction costs and provide maintenance must be sought.
Adult supervision needed
Our Minnesota Constitution, Article V, Section 3 states, ďThe governor shall communicate by message to each session of the legislature information touching the state and country.Ē Therein lies the Governorís executive responsibility to implement strong transportation policy leadership.
Partisanship, special interests, regional loyalties, home District issues and a wide range of personal communications skills fragment the Legislature. The Governor has the unique role, perspective and constitutional responsibility to present a clear transportation policy and press that policy to fruition.
John S. Adams (10) (3) (10)
--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.

"PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT" IS CENTRAL--NOT EMPLOYMENT THAT IS DEVOTED TO MAKING UP FOR THE MANY INDIVIDUAL AND PUBLIC POLICY LAPSES THAT HAVE BROUGHT US TO THE PRESENT (E.G., PRISON GUARDS, PROBATION OFFICERS, DRUG COUNSELORS, COURTS, REMEDIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS, ETC.) A REGIONAL ECONOMY FLOURISHES (AS MINNESOTA'S DID FOR MANY DECADES) WHEN IT PRODUCES AND SELLS COMPETITIVELY GOODS AND "POSITIVE" SERVICES THAT WILLING BUYERS CHOOSE TO BUY FROM US RATHER THAN FROM A COMPETING REGION.


We learned 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.

AS KOLDERIE HAS SAID FOR YEARS, OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEMS AT ALL LEVELS ARE ON "SUPPLY-SIDE" AUTOPILOT, AND CONTINUE TO DO WHAT THEY DO BECAUSE IT IS IN THEIR DNA. IT IS ONLY WHEN THEIR LIVELIHOODS ARE THREATENED WITH SUCCESSFUL COMPETITORS WITHIN AND WITHOUT THAT CHANGE OCCURS. THIS IS TRUE FROM K-12 THROUGH THE POST-SECONDARY SYSTEM. CURRENTLY PEOPLE IN BRICK-AND-MORTAR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ARE DISMISSIVE OF ON-LINE SCHOOLING, YET THOSE ENTERPRISES ARE SUCCEEDING ACROSS THE COUNTRY, AND SOME OF THEM FOR CERTAIN PURPOSES ARE VERY GOOD.

MEANWHILE THE PRESIDENT OF DUNWOODY TELLS ME THAT THEIR PLACEMENT RATE IS CLOSE TO 100 PERCENT, YET WITHIN MNSCU THE TECHNICAL COLLEGE PROGRAMS MUST SCRAMBLE FOR SUPPORT IN COMPETITION WITH "HIGHER STATUS" ELEMENTS OF THE SYSTEM. MEANWHILE CERTAIN JOBS ARE SHIPPED OUT OF THE STATE FOR WANT OF QUALIFIED WORKERS.


There's 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
job locations.

THIS IS TRUE, BUT IT'S OVEREMPHASIZED AS A SOLUTION TO EMPLOYMENT CHALLENGES FACING THE UNDEREMPLOYED AND UNEMPLOYED.

And health care is a big part of the picture, particularly in the way it
is driving the expenses of state government.

IT IS BEGINNING TO BE UNDERSTOOD THAT IT'S NOT A "HEALTH-CARE" INDUSTRY; IT'S A "SICK-CARE" INDUSTRY--AND THE SICKER WE GET THE MORE MONEY IT EXTRACTS FROM THE ECONOMY. MEANWHILE, PUBLIC HEALTH PROGRAMS STRUGGLE TO OBTAIN THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO MAKE US HEALTHIER AND KEEP US HEALTHIER LONGER. THERE SIMPLY IS NOT AND WILL NOT BE ENOUGH MONEY IN THE WORLD TO CONTINUE ALONG THE PATH WE ARE ON.

IN THIS MONTH'S CITIZENS LEAGUE NEWSLETTER I THOUGHT THAT ARTICLE DISCUSSING HEALTH CARE COSTS WAS RIGHT ON THE MARK--THAT AT LEAST 5% OF OUR HOSPITAL-MEDICAL SPENDING CAN BE TRACED TO (1) TRAUMA--ACCIDENTS, ETC.; (2) WAR; AND (3) CHRONIC AILMENTS THAN CAN BE REDUCED OR AVERTED BY CHANGES IN LIFESTYLES--A PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGE.

THE PROBLEM FACING THE PUBLIC HEALTH BUSINESS IS THAT WHEN IT'S SUCCESSFUL, NO ONE NOTICES!


The 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.

C. Transportation policy--We 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.

THE PRICE OF URBAN LAND IS LARGELY THE CAPITALIZED VALUE OF THE BENEFITS OF (A) ACCESSIBILITY (TO JOBS, SCHOOLS, SHOPPING, RECREATION, ETC.), WHICH WE CALL GEOGRAPHICAL "SITUATION,"

PLUS (B) A PRICE FOR "SITE CHARACTERISTICS"--I.E., (1) WHO ARE THE NEIGHBORS AND DO I WANT TO LIVE NEXT TO THEM? (2) PHYSICAL/ENVIRONMENTAL SURROUNDINGS--HOW NOISY, SMELLY, DIRTY, WET, LOW-LYING, IS THE PLACE ETC.?, AND (3) AESTHETIC FEATURES--QUIET ELEVATED SITES OVERLOOKING LAKES, RIVER VALLEYS, GOLF COURSES,, FORESTED AREAS, ETC.

IF THE REGION'S ECONOMY EXPANDS, THEN NEW FACILITIES (HOUSING, STORES, SHOPS, JOBS, ETC.) WILL BE ERECTED TO ACCOMMODATE THE GROWTH. IF A RAIL SYSTEM IS DEPLOYED, ITS PRESENCE AND USE WILL INFLUENCE WHERE THE NEW LAND DEVELOPMENT WILL OCCUR, BUT THE DEPLOYMENT IN AND OF ITSELF DOES NOT MEAN THAT THERE WILL BE NEW LAND DEVELOPMENT BEYOND WHAT WOULD HAVE OCCURRED WITHOUT THE RAIL. IT MEANS ONLY THAT THE LAND DEVELOPMENT WILL BE OF DIFFERENT KINDS AND AT DIFFERENT LOCATIONS.

TO THE EXTENT THAT SOME EXISTING LAND USES WOULD RELOCATE FROM PRESENT SITES TO SITES SERVED BY RAIL MEANS THAT GAINS IN ONE PLACE (SERVED BY RAIL) WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LOSSES AT OTHER PLACES (NOT WELL SERVED) AND A PREMATURE REDUCTION OF THE CAPITAL VALUES OF HOUSES, SHOPS, AND OTHER FACILITIES AT THOSE FORMER LOCATIONS.

THIS IS ESSENTIALLY WHAT HAPPENED AFTER WWII WHEN WE SUBSIDIZED SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT ON A MASSIVE SCALE, WHICH STIMULATED THE PREMATURE DEPRECIATION OF CENTRAL CITY HOUSES, JOB SITES, RETAIL FACILITIES, ETC. THE SAME KIND OF OUTCOMES CAN BE ANTICIPATED, BUT PROBABLY TO A LESSER EXTENT, FROM A HIGH LEVEL OF PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN RAIL.

BUT IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT IF A RAIL SYSTEM IS DEPLOYED AND A LARGER SHARE OF PEOPLE USE IT RATHER THAN DRIVE, THEN A SECOND ROUND OF EFFECTS CAN BE EXPECTED TO OCCUR THAT ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE EFFECTS THAT WOULD FOLLOW IF WE CONTINUED ALONG OUR PRESENT COURSE.

TO THE EXTENT NEW TRANSIT IS DEPLOYED IN THE FORM OF A "NETWORK" RATHER THAN IN THE PRESENT "HUB AND SPOKE" FORM FOCUSED ON THE DOWNTOWNS, IT WILL ENHANCE THE VALUE OF THE INTERSECTIONS ON THE TRANSIT SYSTEMS AND REDUCE THE RELATIVE VALUE OF CURRENT INVESTMENTS IN THE DOWNTOWNS--WHICH IS WHY DOWNTOWN PROPERTY INTERESTS PROMOTE DOWNTOWN-SERVICE IN NEW TRANSIT INVESTMENTS.



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.
SEE PREVIOUS COMMENT.

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.

AND TRUCKS WILL CONTINUE TO BE THE PRIMARY MODE OF GOODS MOVEMENT, HOWEVER PIPELINES, FREIGHT RAIL (FOR BULK CARGOS), AND BARGE TRAFFIC WILL CONTINUE TO BE IMPORTANT FOR THE STATE AND UPPER MIDWEST REGION.

OTHER FORMS OF "TRANSIT--I.E., MOVING PEOPLE" ALSO NEED TO BE INCLUIDED IN THE DISCUSSION, E.G., TAXIS, VAN POOLS, METRO MOBILITY, SCHOOL BUSES, SPECIALIZED BUSES CARRYING FOLKS FROM THE RETIREMENT CENTER TO THE MALL, ETC.


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.

A NEW PUBLIC RHETORIC FROM THE BULLY PULPITS COULD HELP: I.E.,(1) WE CAN' T CONTINUE TO CONSUME AT RECENT LEVELS WITHOUT STEPPED UP PRODUCTION, AND (2) WE HAVE TO PAY FOR WHAT WE GET--AND RECENTLY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CONSUME WITHOUT PAYING FULL COSTS (I.E., BY BORROWING, AND PASSING THE BILL ONTO THEIR KIDS; BY NEGLECTING MAINTANANCE OF PUBLIC INFRASTRUDTURES; AND BY DAMAGING NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS, ETC.

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.

I'M RUNNING OUT OF TIME, BUT HAVE MUCH TO SAY ON THIS AS WELL.

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.

AGREED.

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.

WE'RE MAKING PROGRESS HERE, BOTH IN THE TECHNOLOGIES AVAILABLE, AS WELL AS IN CONVINCING THE PUBLIC THAT THEY NEED TO PAY MORE FOR WHAT THEY GET--WHICH RAISES ANOTHER ISSUE CONFRONTING STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (IN LIGHT OF THE PENSION AND HEALTH CARE OBLIGATIN OVERHANG): WE MUST MAKE SURE THAT WE GET FULL VALUE FOR WHAT WE PAY. THAT HAS NOT BEEN HAPPENING.


8. Not enough attention is being paid to operating expenses--A 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 expenses.

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.
Why?
10. Are we ignoring the very people who need help the most?--Think 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?

WE NEED TO GET OUT IN FRONT OF THIS PROBLEM BY REDUCING THE FRACTION OF "PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP THE MOST." THE WORLD IS CHANGING FASTER THAN MANY (MOST?) CITIZENS UNDERSTAND THAT WORLD WHILE EQUIPPING THEMSELVES TO DEAL WITH IT AS PRODUCTIVE WORKERS AND EFFECTIVE CITIZENS.

WE MUST STOP WASTING KIDS AND DESTROYING THEIR LIVES, WHICXH IS HAPPENING ON A MASSIVE SCALE. THE COSTS OF THIS NEGLECT IS ENORMOUS, AND THE MONEY ALLOCATED TO PICKING UP THE PIECES IS NOT A SIGN OF A HEALTHY ECONOMY.


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.

SEE FIRST COMMENT. WE ARE TACKLING THIS LEADERSHIP VACUUM WITH THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA TAKING THE LEAD.


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 serious
gaps.

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. AGREED. WE NEED A COMPREHENSIVE "SYSTEM PLAN" WITH A STATE AND LOCAL FISCAL STRUCTURE THAT SUPPORTS THE PLAN WHILE DERIVING APPROPRIATE REVENUES FROM THE ECONOMIC OUTCOMES THAT IT SUPPORTS. 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?


 

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  


©
The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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