The battle has ended, but the war over public transit is just beginning.
Metro Transit workers abandoned their picket signs this week, but bus riders around the state are still feeling the effects. After being left out in the cold – literally – for six weeks, riders are understandably reluctant to get back on the buses. Metro Transit adopted numerous new public outreach campaigns in a valiant, if somewhat futile, effort to kiss and make up.
Despite the massive inconvenience of the strike, now is not the time to bitterly nurse our wounds. State and municipal leaders must understand that Minnesotans continue to support public transit.
For the next 30 days, Metro Transit will suspend its beverage rule and allow riders to carry drinks with tight lids. It is a little reminiscent of the classic infomercial line, “Call now and you’ll receive (something you never wanted in the first place) at no additional cost!” Bus riders will certainly benefit from the policy, but it does not address what this state’s residents really want and need. Twin Cities riders ought to demand affordable, dependable, accessible and increasingly efficient public transit. We must support buses to prove our commitment will not wane in the face of conflict.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell sustained the strike despite the masses of people who are transit-dependent. State lawmakers are increasingly responsive to suburban interest groups – such as the Taxpayers League of Minnesota – and not their constituents, who are often unable to speak for themselves. Populations that were most impacted by the strike include the disabled, the elderly, the impoverished and immigrants.
Students were also deeply impacted but are unlikely to make their opinions known, now that the strike is resolved. We must all recognize that the battle has ended, but the war over public transit is just beginning. Budget cuts to transit will continue unhindered if students and others sit idly by. Metro Transit provides a necessary public service and deserves more resources to better serve our community.