Letter: Proposed transportation cuts could affect UMN students

A light rail Green Line train crosses University Avenue in Minneapolis on Monday night. According to Metro Transit, there has been about $3 billion in development along the Green Line corridor since construction began in 2010.

James Healy

A light rail Green Line train crosses University Avenue in Minneapolis on Monday night. According to Metro Transit, there has been about $3 billion in development along the Green Line corridor since construction began in 2010.

Jon Commers

The transportation proposal passed by the Minnesota House threatens to disrupt the lives of thousands of Minnesotans who depend on transit every day. The House omnibus transportation bill contains gratuitous and counterproductive cuts to Metro Transit that will multiply the transit system’s budget deficit from $74 million to $140 million over the next two years.

At a time when the state has a $1.6 billion budget surplus, legislators are considering cuts that will force a 40 percent reduction in basic bus service. I object to this proposal because it will hurt families and businesses, and supporters have offered no rationale for making these deep cuts.

The bill specifically targets people for whom transit is a daily necessity. There are many people in our region who are transit-dependent, for whom taking a car to work, school or for errands is not an option. Half of local bus riders in Minneapolis and St. Paul don’t have a driver’s license while 58 percent don’t have access to a car. In addition to steep service reductions, the House bill would require fare increases well above the increases already under consideration, effectively blocking some transit dependent riders from accessing opportunities for work, school and training in our region.

A cut in bus service of this size will put thousands more cars on the road every day, adding to rush hour congestion across the metro area. At rush hour, a bus can take 40 cars off the road and a light rail train can take up to 600. Without transit, I-35W would require an additional one and a half lanes of traffic flow to move the same number of users during rush hour. Regionally, our transit system provides 100 million trips a year. You can’t build enough roads to efficiently move that many more cars in our already congested metro.

Eighty percent of all transit riders are either traveling to work or school, meaning that hundreds of families and businesses would be negatively impacted by this service reduction. It’s difficult to understand why lawmakers who claim to value public transit would cut this essential service and leave employers and families across the region on the curb.

Jon Commers

Metropolitan Council Member

District 14, representing St. Paul

Editor’s Note: This letter has been lightly edited for style.