Legislative Update #5—Transit Slashed

From Dave Van Hattum, Policy and Advocacy Program Manager

The Metropolitan Council reports that House cuts to transit would lead to either a $4.00 increase in fares or (taking a system-wide approach) cutting 45% of regular bus route service and laying off approximately 550 drivers and related staff, plus other measures.

House and Senate Committees have cut the general fund allocation to transit—the House completely and the Senate by $32 million for the biennium, with directions to the Met Council to fill the cut with the Livable Communities fund, fare increases and service cuts. See below for the implications of the House cut to transit. The Senate taxes committee will hear the bill Friday afternoon, and may make adjustments. The House bill goes to the floor on Monday and the Senate bill will go to the floor later next week.

The Met Council sent a letter to Chair Beard of the House Transportation and Finance Committee outlining what the House cuts would mean in practical terms:

If the Met Council took a “fares-only” approach to solving the $130m cut, it would mean a $4.00 increase in fares, bringing regular route fares to between $5.75 and $7.00 per ride (please see TLC’s Policy Brief about fares in other cities for a comparison). This would mean a 50-60% loss in rides provided, or 40-48 million fewer rides.

Another approach would be to take a system-wide approach, meaning
–laying off approximately 550 drivers and related staff
–cutting nearly 45% of regular route bus service
–cutting 240 peak rush hour bus trips
–reducing Metro Mobility operating hours
–Sat and Sunday regular route and all dial-a-ride programs may be eliminated
–a $.25 cent fare increase, resulting in 22 million fewer rides in 2012 and 2013

Both Transportation Committees heard powerful testimony opposing these bills from TLC supporters, County Commissioners, labor, the Minnesota Transportation Alliance and the business community. TLC will continue to support alternative funding sources to keep transit whole, including a more progressive income tax and increasing the share of motor vehicle sales tax (MVST) revenues allocated to transit (or reducing current exemptions to this tax).