Metro Transit long on riders, short on money.  In his annual State of the Region speech, Met Council Chairman Peter Bell stressed the increasingly dire situation facing Metro Transit’s budget.  Bell attributed the transit agency’s financial woes to huge declines in car sales that generate revenue from the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST) which accounts for roughly 38 percent of operating costs.

Transportation is metro's biggest concern, says Met Council.  An annual survey of Metro area residents found that 36 percent of respondents ranked transportation as the region’s “single-most important problem,” followed by crime at 23 percent and the economy at 11 percent.  The survey also revealed that 32 percent of residents reported using congestion-reducing commuting options such as taking the bus, train, carpooling, bicycling, and walking.  An additional 24 percent of respondents said they are very likely to try these options.

Rider paradox: Surge in mass, drop in transit.  The economic downturn is hitting America’s transit systems hard, despite booming ridership.  Transit agencies are resorting to raising fares and cutting service in order to reduce operating deficits.  The state and local tax collections that systems depend on to operate have drastically declined in light of the faltering economy.  Cutting service and raising fares sends the wrong signal to Main Street.  Thousands of low-income Americans dependent on public transit will be in danger of losing their jobs if fare increases and service cuts continue, ultimately worsening the already-bleak economic outlook. 

Bicycling and Walking

Power lines over the Midtown Greenway?  The Midtown Greenway has sparked an area revival, resulting in hundreds of new homes and offices being built along the 5.5-mile trail.  However, continuing growth means more electrical service in a part of the city that already uses more power than its aging grid can handle.  Xcel Energy proposes running a high-voltage power line over the Greenway, resulting in a flurry of criticism from area residents.  The Midtown Greenway Coalition is urging Xcel to look more closely at conservation measures, and local officials including City Council member Robert Lilligren and County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin have echoed sentiments for the line to be buried underground.    

Pedestrian/bike trail takes shape in Edina.  Bicycle enthusiasts and hikers in Edina have been advocating for construction of the Nine Mile Creek pedestrian/bike trail.  Thanks to their efforts, the first trail segment will be built this year.  The complete trail will run along and near the water for 17 ½ miles from Hopkins through Edina and Richfield.  Residents will be able to see maps of proposed routes on February 11 and share their thoughts with city officials.  Depending on which route is chosen, the path could run by several schools, allowing students and staff to bike to school.  Officials estimate construction in Edina likely would not start until 2011.

Bicycle coalition to receive $200,000 donation.  The SRAM Cycling Fund will award $200,000 to the Bikes Belong Coalition to get individual Americans to speak up for bike funding and its many tangible health, economic and lifestyle benefits.  Bikes Belong Executive Director Tim Blumenthal says the organization’s main goal is to engage hundreds of thousands—ideally millions—of Americans, and instruct them to pressure their U.S. Senators and Representatives to increase federal investment in bicycling.

Full Digest

Transit and Roads

Towards a transit future (The Nation)
Senate's $50 billion highway giveaway nearly dead (Streets Blog) 
How many people need to ride the bus? (Tree Hugger) 
NY's Schumer pushes for more transit spending in stimulus (Bloomberg) 
For real stimulus, fix infrastructure (Star Tribune) 
Transit ridership soars in the Twin Cities (MSNBC) 
Schumer amendment in Senate could boost transit funding (T4America) 
Tell your Senator to support transit and green jobs, not highways (Streets Blog)
Smarter transportation economic stimulation (Planetizen) 
Rider paradox: Surge in mass, drop in transit (New York Times)
Tough times for mass transit (Wired) 
Mileage tax, not gas tax, may pay for MN road work (Star Tribune) 
Transportation is metro's biggest concern, says Met Council (Minn Post) 
Metro Transit long on riders, short on money (Star Tribune) 
$7.5 billion in rail and competitive funds raided for highways (T4America)
Oppose highway robbery in Senate stimulus bill (Streets Blog) 
Realizing the potential of high speed rail (Tree Hugger)  
U.S. mass transit system is preparing to gouge riders (Tree Hugger)  
Pothole patching (Star Tribune) 

Bicycling and Walking

Power lines over the Midtown Greenway? (Minn Post) 
Nine Mile Creek pedestrian/bike trail takes shape in Edina (Star Tribune) 
Bicycle coalition to receive $200,000 donation (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News)
Bike sharing programs widespread (Society of Environmental Journalists) 
Hot green jobs: Bike mechanics (Tree Hugger) 
Basic bicycling safety (The London Cycolumnist)
10 wild and crazy bike designs (Tree Hugger)