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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the 
Susan Haigh  Interview of

Half-cent sales tax increase to spur major investment in transit

Susan Haigh, chair of the Metropolitan Council, provides an overview of Governor Dayton's proposal for a one-half cent increase in the state sales tax to benefit transit in the seven-county metro area. She discusses how that proposal would help finance more rapid-bus lines as well as light-rail operations, get more single-occupant cars off the road and relieve congestion. She also discusses efforts to encourage greater use of mass transit and the importance of transit to accessing available jobs. The proposed tax increase, if enacted, would further the Metropolitan Council's mission to foster economic growth in the region by helping to create a financially sustainable 21st century transportation system. 

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 Haigh. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Increase sales tax for transit. (5.2 average response) The Minnesota state sales tax should be increased by one-half cent in the seven-county metro area and dedicated to expanding the bus and light rail transit (LRT) system.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. (5.8 average response) A system of LRT lines will improve the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area business competitiveness with  other metropolitan areas in the nation.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. (4.5 average response) A significant advantage of LRT is the additional jobs that are created during construction.

4. LRT must reduce solo driver count. (6.7 average response) Whatever its other advantages, the litmus test for LRT will be its success in getting more cars off the road, that is, attracting riders who otherwise would be driving alone to and from work.

5. Increase transit to suburban jobs. (6.7 average response) To get more cars off the road we need effective mass transit options for persons whose jobs are located in suburbs, where most jobs are located and to which mass transit use today is but a small fraction of that to the downtowns.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. (6.2 average response) Job choices for people in low-income neighborhoods are severely restricted if they don't have reasonable mass transit options to get to work where jobs are most plentiful, in the suburbs.

Response Distribution:                     

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Increase sales tax for transit.







2. LRT will improve competitiveness.







3. LRT construction jobs a plus.







4. LRT must reduce solo driver count.







5. Increase transit to suburban jobs.







6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options.







 Individual Responses:

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. The expansion of rapid transit must be central to economic growth. As this occurs the issue should not be as much about the increase as how the increase can best be utilized.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. Competitive position is  a metric used in companies selecting locations-- on the transportation factor today we are marginal. The system must be established to move people of all income levels and job classes to all locations.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. Construction jobs always offer pluses but the real value is the availability and use when completed.

4. LRT must reduce solo driver count. There is a fallacy in the argument. People may need to use cars to some point and then access the LRT--this is common so we need other metrics as well. We may [reduce] more cars off part of the travel but [not] entirely, plus the use of an integrated system must be [a] factor.

5. Increase transit to suburban jobs. We need to keep emphasis on the integrated systems and also continue to look for cost effective inter- and intra-suburb routes, etc.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. The question states what seems to be the standard understanding and which is likely correct. If correct, there must also be cross links from the major lines to the jobs as an integrated system can and must provide.

Scott Halstead  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. I need to see real results.  We keep constructing very expensive, slow LRT systems, with very high operating costs that have not produced sustained jobs beyond construction of the LRT and residential development adjacent.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. I hear and read improving competitiveness.   High cost and no jobs are the facts.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. [Dollars] from Washington are not free.  We are taxpayers.  We need reasonable design, land, construction and operating costs.  When is Met. Council [going to] deliver?

4. LRT must reduce solo driver count. Show me [the number] of cars removed by Central Corridor. Nearly zero.  St. Paul is not a job destination and new housing will be minuscule.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. The poor have been moving to the suburbs to be closer to the jobs as housing costs have declined.

Michael Martens  (0)  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. Currently approximately 45% of the people working [in] downtown Minneapolis use some form of mass transit (includes car pooling).    NYC and San Francisco are in the mid 50s. We are going to pay over $10 billion to increase the % of people using transit to get to [downtown] by 10%.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. No, the [Twin Cities needs to] improve its freight transportation system much more than the people system. From MDOT study:  “As in most states, highways handled the majority of goods in Minnesota, with modal share for all inbound, outbound, local and through intercity shipments amounting to  81 percent of value and 49 percent of tonnage…with 1 gallon of diesel fuel, a truck moves 1 ton of freight 70 miles; a                                         train, 420; a barge, 760.    One recent study found that an increase in truck weight from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds could reduce merchandise traffic volumes by 44 percent and overall traffic by 17 percent.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. Those jobs are only temporary

5. Increase transit to suburban jobs. Most suburb jobs are not "transit friendly" because the density of jobs per square mile is very low compared to the downtown area. Exceptions are the Best Buy campus and the United Health campus which are designed to be transit friendly. General Mills has not generally a meaningful amount of people commuting by transit. And it is at the intersection of 2 major freeways, I394 & Hwy 169.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. There are lots of low skill jobs at the hotels, bars, and restaurants on I494 but there are no plans for transit to get people to those jobs. The MOA is an exception. Over 50% of the job growth will be in the suburbs

Chris Brazelton  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. Tax increase, if needed, should be in the zone that benefits from the plans.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. The system has been slow in developing, and uncertainty in future LRT development may be partly responsible for sluggish response in business development along the lines.

 5. Increase transit to suburban jobs. However, lack of density in the suburbs is clearly going to make cost effective mass transit difficult.

Anonymous   (0)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (5)

Don Anderson  (2.5)  (5)  (5)  (2.5)  (5)  (5)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. Having seniors pay a higher tax would unfairly tax many seniors who rode street cars to work in their work days. Public transit should have been planned with new housing development in suburban areas and now we are paying the effect of this lack of foresight.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. What happens to those jobs when construction is completed?

4. LRT must reduce solo driver count. Witness the present LRT system — how many people find it easy to take the LRT? They have to drive to a park and ride and take the LRT? The line is not as convenient as the streetcar was.

Bert LeMunyon  (5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. There was no discussion of the downside of a tax increase.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. LRT should be based on its value to the potential riding public not on creating jobs that only last for a few years.

5. Increase transit to suburban jobs. As stated, job locations in the suburbs are too spread out to make mass transit viable.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. However, it may be less expensive to purchase used cars for low-income people than to develop mass-transit routes that meet these very diverse needs.

Malcolm McDonald  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. Mass Transit needs to be expanded in the Metro area and is certainly supportable in supporting our environment.

Anonymous   (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

Paul Anderson  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)  (5)  (5)

Steve Duske  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)  (7.5)  (0)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. Living in Watertown, MN, [where there] are roads and bridges [that] need to be fixed. Add it to the Gas tax.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. With the LRT, it is not helping Watertown, MN. All of the trail systems, we should be able to use them for mass transit. The luse line trail, the Dakota trail all old rail systems, should be used for transit. The old rail lines run through all areas of the metro. [That would] save millions of dollars and preserve the past.

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. They should be finding ways to save in construction.  Just the engineering is [expensive]. The feasibility studies alone cost thousand of dollars. That money, doesn’t go to job creation.

4. LRT must reduce solo driver count. We [are] doing good with the North Star, the lite rail to Mall of America? Do you have those [numbers]?

5. Increase transit to suburban jobs. Use mass transit on the trail systems.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. That’s life.

Dennis L. Johnson  (0)  (2.5)  (0)  (0)  (2.5)  (0)

1. Increase sales tax for transit. Taxed enough already.

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. There is no proof of that

3. LRT construction jobs a plus. So does building and improving roads.

4. LRT must reduce solo driver count. Autos: nobody will take away these wings, not even "progressives”.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. Buses will do this much cheaper and more flexibly.

Bruce Ahlgren  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Vici Oshiro  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

2. LRT will improve competitiveness. Let's have an overhead monorail across the Minnesota River.

6. Jobs for poor limited by transit options. Put that monorail into possibilities for examination.

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

I have to say, regretfully, that in 1973-77 the Citizens League, along with Dayton-Hudson and Sen John Chenoweth, killed the Senate companion (which I authored) of the bill that Rep John Tomlinson was able to pass in the House by wide margins. So cities with more enlightened leadership like Portland and Atlanta got the federal [money] for light rail that would have come to Minnesota. Once again, Minneesohtah -- not as progressive as our PR. The author is a former Minnesota State Senator.

Keith Swenson  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

Al Quie   (0)  (0)  (0)  (10)  (0)  (0)

Frank Long   (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (3)  (3)

Even with full ridership LRT is way too expensive to operate and build and can not change with population shifts. Buses are far more cost effective and practical.

Kevin Kujawa   (10)  (10)  (6)  (6)  (9)  (10)

Chuck Lutz   (10)  (9)  (9)  (9)  (10)  (8)

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

Susan's arguments make a great deal of sense but may be excessive and possibly best to lower the percentage to one quarter per cent to get through the House and Senate.

Tom Spitznagle   (0)  (5)  (2)  (4)  (4)  (3)

Just another sales tax increase and all of those problems will be solved?  I don’t buy it.  LRT is a good thing but increasing an already high sales tax rate is not.  Although it’s harder, a rebalancing of public priorities should be the first step in order to fund high priority projects (assuming that LRT makes the cut) before automatically assuming that another revenue increase is in order.

Cam A. Gordon   (10)  (10)  (9)  (5)  (8)  (10)

Jerry Fruin   (5)  (4)  (2)  (9)  (5)  (5)

Bus rapid transit is (and was) far superior to LRT in both construction and operating costs and long-term flexibility. If we want good effective rapid transit, we should go BRT and get on with it.

Bright Dornblaser   (5)  (5)  (4)  (5)  (5)  (5)

Arvonne Fraser    (6)  (9)  (6)  (10)  (7)  (7)

The whole state should help pay for LRT because it benefits [all].  I'm also unclear about [the] jobs and suburbs linkage.  What exists today may not exist tomorrow.  Planning for mass transit should be part of overall planning and development.

Carolyn Ring   (6)  (8)  (5)  (10)  (8)  (8)

Tom Swain   (10)  (8)  (6)  (10)  (10)  (9)

Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)

Kevin Kujawa  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (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.

   David Broden,  Janis Clay,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,   Jan Hively,  Dan Loritz (Chair),  Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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