The Funding Gap for Transit, Bicycling, and Walking

By Jennifer Harmening Thiede, Transit for Livable Communities

Ridership on the Twin Cities transit system has grown to record levels, and our buses and trains operate very efficiently. Continuing a decade-long upward trend, passengers boarded transit nearly 94 million times last year in the metro. And as the Metropolitan Council reports, “local bus service continues to be the workhorse of the region’s transit system.” But too many Twin Cities residents still lack convenient access to transit. And many current transit riders need more frequent, faster service and additional routes. Projected demographic changes will only intensify future demand for transportation options.

Transit use and demand also are growing in Greater Minnesota, where fewer families have access to transit, and two counties have no transit service at all. In many cities in Greater Minnesota, evening and weekend service is extremely limited if it exists at all.

There are well-developed plans for expanding transit options, but in the region and statewide, these plans lack funding. The map below is based on the Metropolitan Council’s long-range plans for transit in the Twin Cities region. Note that the only lines that have secure funding are shaded in blue.


Map Updated 02-20-13

TLC and the broad-based campaign Transit for a Stronger Economy support meeting this demand and better serving Minnesota’s working families, students, and seniors by building out the regional transit system in the next 15 years, not 40, and expanding transit in Greater Minnesota. Expanded light rail, bus rapid transit and regular bus service, along with improved access for pedestrians and people using wheelchairs and bicycles, will create 30,000 full-time jobs, help keep our air clean, and make daily commute for millions of Minnesotans faster, cheaper, and more fair.

Where we stand today:

  • No funding to expand and upgrade the bus system.
  • Recurring fights to maintain the bus service we have
  • Uncertainty about Southwest light rail and no funding for additional light rail in other areas of the metro
  • Hugely inadequate funding for safe walking or bicycling connections
  • Increasing costs as transit projects are delayed

Building a better system:

The Minnesota legislature can and should solve these problems and ensure a stronger Minnesota economy by providing funding to build out and operate a transit system including, bus, rail and safe connections by walking and bicycling and for people with disabilities. The Governor’s recent budget proposal sent a clear signal that transit is essential to building a stronger economy. His plan is a tremendous start, but does not quite meet what we need for Minnesota to thrive. See our full response to the Governor’s budget here.

How to show your support:

It is a pivotal year. If you support more options for transit, bicycling, and walking in the Twin Cities metro region and expanding transit service in Greater Minnesota, please get involved!

  • Contact your legislators in person, by phone, online—tell them you’re willing to pay more taxes to fund the vision for transit, bicycling, and walking
  • Join us for upcoming phone banking events and days of action at the Capitol; contact Whitney Lawrence for more information: or 651-789-1406
  • Learn more about the Transit for a Stronger Economy campaign and pass it on:
  • Join the conversation and spread the word on Twitter with #transit4mn
  • See our calendar at for upcoming town hall meetings in your district