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 Response Page - Elkins  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Steve Elkins Interview of


Steve Elkins discusses the Metropolitan Council's 2030 Transportation Plan and the fiscal challenges it faces in the current political and economic landscape. He describes the changing relationship between the Council, local government units, and the State of Minnesota in financing mass transit and outlines the challenges of planning a cost effective transit system to meet the future needs of Twin Cities metropolitan area residents.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Steve Elkins. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Subsidies necessary.   (7.6 average response) It is likely that more than one-half of operating expenses for roads and transit will continue to be subsidized by public dollars, not user charges.

2. Increase peak fares. (6.3 average response) To reduce the difference in volume of transit riders between peak and non-peak hours, thereby producing more efficiency, the difference between peak and non-peak fares should be greater.

3. Lower fares for sports events. (5.0 average response) To encourage more first-time riders, higher peak hour transit fares should not be imposed on riders who are headed for arenas and stadiums.

4. Encourage higher densities. (6.1 average response) To make new development more transit friendly, land use regulations should be changed to encourage higher densities.

5. Use PRT in suburbs. (6.4 average response) Because suburb-to-suburb trips aren't well suited for conventional transit, new approaches, such as personal rapid transit (PRT), should be explored.

6. Reject more incentives.  (4.3 average response) More incentives to encourage people to ride transit instead of driving their own cars should not be undertaken.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Subsidies necessary. 







2. Increase peak fares.







3. Lower fares for sports events.







4. Encourage higher densities.







5. Use PRT in suburbs.







6. Reject more incentives.







Individual Responses:

R. C. Angevine  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)  (5)

2. Increase peak fares. Concern that higher rates might drive some riders away entirely rather than to a different time slot.

4. Encourage higher densities. Land use should be driven by a lot of different reasons, not just to make it "transit friendly."

Samuel Beard  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (5)  (10)  (0)

Anonymous   (0)  (10)  (5)  (0)  (10)  (10)

Robert Freeman  (7.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

2. Increase peak fares. I have a strong concern that this will price people out of transit and back into cars.

Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (0)

Todd Graham  (10)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (0)  (0)

1. Subsidies necessary.   For better or worse, the status quo.

3. Lower fares for sports events. Disagree: Current fares, peak or non-peak, are very competitive vs. downtown Minneapolis parking

5. Use PRT in suburbs. PRT = pipe dream.  Meanwhile, bicycling is real... and green!

6. Reject more incentives.  Don't you mean, "should be"?

Dave Broden  (10)  (2.5)  (0)  (0)  (10)  (2.5)

1. Subsidies necessary.   This is a definite situation so the issue really is what should be threshold levels for subsidies and what is the criteria for each type, the value of the transportation, impact on business and in the ability of people to get from A to B. There is no reason to say totally no but there needs to be consistency and reasonable criteria.

2. Increase peak fares. Increasing the differences will be helpful but the peaks are primarily due to workforce/employer criteria. The ridership needs to be linked to some form of employer flexible work hours that will allow the worker to travel at different times. This (is) frequently discussed by employers but often not addressed in coordination with transportation.

3. Lower fares for sports events. Special events are special events and should be addressed by related fee charges.

4. Encourage higher densities. The discussion of higher density is always a topic for consideration, but to move the Midwest Minnesota life style and culture to a stacked up population should not be the focus. We need to spend more time on radial and related suburb-to-suburb distribution of people. High density does not address where the jobs are, where shopping has evolved to, and the desire for outdoor life.

5. Use PRT in suburbs. Most cities with what is often said to be efficient rapid transit etc. have a natural geographic boundary. The Twin Cities has a reach in all directions with a few corridors. This is an ideal situation for innovation in modes and well as routes. There is definitely not sufficient discussion of major route stopping at distribution points to shift to another mode. This can work and does in some areas. This was part of the dialogue in the DC area when the Metro was expanded to go to Tysons Corner and on to Dulles Airport. We need to change the paradigm of discussion and dialogue to think hub, spokes, and distribution. Yes, it may add a few minutes to passenger travel but benefits will be realized.

6. Reject more incentives.  People will shift to transit if the capability is in place and designed with appropriate stops and distributions. Currently their image is not an attraction to passengers. A new image focusing on a better message and with some benefits such as flexibility, cost savings (not only driving but also parking ramp etc. costs), will be helpful.

Scott Halstead  (10)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)  (10)  (5)

1. Subsidies necessary.   Our road system carries goods and service providers while transit is primarily commuters, shopping, events and taking people to and from.  Our transit design and operation and land use is very inefficient.

5. Use PRT in suburbs. Perhaps we need more work at home employment and incentives for firms that hire employees locally to reduce the commuting.  High land values in the central cities, congestion and other factors result in businesses locating outside the central cities.  We need more concentrated business adjacent to busy highways with limited stop rapid transit on the highways or right-of-way with PRT or some other alternative.

6. Reject more incentives.  We continue to design and build very expensive, slow LRT with very high operating costs.  To build high ridership, we reduce express bus service, reduce parallel bus service and increase with high frequency feeder buses, which reduces the efficiency of bus service.  With the slow LRT transit and transferring of passengers and huge increase in capital and operating costs without any recovery from developers we are burdening the metro area.  We need to changes approaches to low construction cost, built in existing right of ways and not conflicting with other modes, fast LRT service, major development adjacent to the route with tax recovery from the developers.  We need two-way service to increase efficiency.  Based upon the high costs and low ridership, the North Star Commuter Rail should be shutdown.  Express bus service would have minimal impact upon our roads and would cost much less and be more flexible.  Minnesota needs a much better system for financing, allocating resources and designing transit. Our state, regional and local governments are failing when it comes to transit.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (10)

1. Subsidies necessary.   Unless user charges rise equally between roads and transit, the user will use the lower cost item, most likely public roads.

5. Use PRT in suburbs. In the days of the streetcar one couldn't easily (move) from one neighborhood to another without going downtown or to an intersection where you would transfer to another line. A similar approach using bus lines or rapid transit would accomplish the same.

Anonymous   (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Peter Hennessey  (7.5)  (0)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Subsidies necessary.   Under current attitudes, which hold that transportation is a "service" to be provided by government, then yes, it will continue to be supported from general revenues.  But of course there is an unthinkable alternative. Government could get out of the business, get out of the way of entrepreneurs, and bring back competitive private enterprise, motivated by profit and therefore interested in efficiency in its operations and serving their customers' needs.

2. Increase peak fares. Commute patterns are set by factors other than fares. You can charge higher rates at peak commute times, but all you will do is drive more people back to their cars, mad at being taken advantage of in such a blatant fashion. If you want people to give up their cars, reduce fares. This is because people perceive the cost of a trip as the additional out-of-pocket cost, such as gas and tolls, not the total cost of ownership, which includes purchase price, license fees and insurance. Also, the transit company will not tell my employer when I have to be on the job. Until I have the flexibility to show up at work when I want to, nothing the transit company does with the fares will change the commute patterns. But wait -- Portland, OR runs a light rail system that is free within city limits -- and still people don't use it much; they still like their cars better. (Strangers don't sneeze and cough in your face in your own car, you can listen to whatever you want on your radio, you don't have to fight for a seat, you can stop at the store on your way home and not be limited to the amount you can carry in your ecologically sound personal shopping bag, etc.)

3. Lower fares for sports events. Having done it both ways, sure, mass transit works if you are by yourself or maybe with just one friend. But forget transit is you are taking a family or several friends. In that case taking a car is cheaper and of course always faster, especially if you are coming from someplace other than close proximity to the venue.

4. Encourage higher densities. Higher densities of what? Residences? Offices/ factories? Both?  All these problems had been worked out by the turn of the century a hundred years ago. The history of the 20th century is how we deliberately screwed up a scheme that had worked very well, both for the cities and for the suburbs.

5. Use PRT in suburbs. We already have PRT. It is called a car. Your car. Or a taxi. It is there when you need it, where you need it, ready to go wherever you need to be, by whatever route you choose, on your schedule, not someone else's.

6. Reject more incentives.  A hundred years ago cities had competing private mass transit companies, adapted to local needs. Then the Ö "progressives" (ruined) it Ö by driving them out of business in the name of "orderliness" and "efficiency." All they managed to do is to covert a thriving competitive free market to a suffocated and inefficient "regulated utility," interested in and motivated not by serving its customer base but by protecting the monopoly for its management and for the union representing its employees -- customers and tax payers be damned. You won't solve this problem until you take government out of private business.

Clarence Shallbetter  (2)  (9)  (1)  (2)  (na)  (5)

In an era with little growth in general public revenues it is difficult to justify continuing to increase the funding of transit compared to other public goods that have little or no revenue raising capability such as health care and education. This is acutely the case when transit is an alternative way of travel for those going (to) income-producing jobs in the peak period into concentrated areas of employment where there are significant charges for parking. At those peak times we should look at charging fares comparable to those charged for parking cars. The "marketing" of transit does not justify large public subsidies for those going to expensive entertainment activities such as athletic games in public arenas. During those times the fares for transit should be much closer to the alternative of driving a car and parking close to the arena.

Donald Mark Ritchie  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Great interview. Thanks.

Robert J. Brown  (7)  (7)  (3)  (na)  (10)  (0)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (8)  (8)  (8)  (9)  (7)  (9)

Wayne Jennings  (8)  (5)  (8)  (6)  (7)  (2)

(Question 6 confusing stated as a negative.) Thoughtful presentation with several complicating factors rarely mentioned. A systems approach is warranted but cost effectiveness isnít the entire picture. Otherwise, public transportation would be eliminated or even more severely cut back during off-peak hours.

Carolyn Ring  (8)  (8)  (5)  (8)  (10)  (5)

John Milton  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (0)

Too bad we let the bad guys rip up our streetcar system, and too bad the Metro Council took so long to embrace transit.

Jerry Fruin  (9)  (8)  (3)  (5)  (5)  (3)

Margaret Donahoe  (10)  (5)  (8)  (8)  (2)  (3)

Arvonne Fraser  (9)  (7)  (4)  (8)  (4)  (8)

Tom Swain   (8)  (9)  (5)  (9)  (8)  (0)

Chris Brazelton (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (0)

1. Subsidies necessary. We need to make the case (clearly and very publicly) for the high cost of expanding and maintaining roads to those who think our subsidies only go toward mass transit. Most people don't read these studies.

2. Increase peak fares. Not so much that it drives people back to individual cars.

3. Lower fares for sports events. Again, it has to be cost effective for the rider.

5. Use PRT in suburbs. Explored, and used only if cost effective.

Nathan Johnson (7.5) (10) (5) (10) (10) (10)


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;  David Broden, Charles Clay,  Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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