Funding should match ridership

Although Metro Transit has seen ridership increase, it expects a $40 million shortfall.

As the weather gets colder into the spring semester, more students will be utilizing their U-Pass to get to and around campus. Ridership across the metro area is expected to be the highest it has been since 1984, and yet there is an estimated $40 million dollar shortfall in funding until 2008. Gov. Pawlenty will set his new budget for the state in January and the allocated money for public transportation should reflect the increased amount of Minnesotans that utilize buses, the light rail and ride share.

Last month, Minnesotans passed the transportation amendment to the state constitution, declaring that all revenue from the 6.5 percent vehicle tax would be given to fund transportation, instead of being allocated to the state’s general fund. However, the transportation amendment won’t be fully in effect until 2012 and won’t begin phasing in funds until 2008. It seems that if the amendment was passed two or four years ago, Metro Transit would be in a different situation.

The expected $40 million shortage in funds is affected by a decrease in vehicle sales. This shortfall could result in service cuts and the slowing of new projects, such as the Central Corridor light rail line that would connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, among other things. Metro Transit could also raise ride fares, as it did in 2005, to make up for the lack of funds.

However, the state should recognize that Twin Cities’ residents are using Metro Transit more than ever and ridership will likely continue to rise. It is clear that the citizens of Minnesota are in favor of dedicating more funds to transportation through the passage of the transportation amendment. Pawlenty’s budget should reflect this.

If ridership is up, funding should be up. Public transportation is essential to the daily lives of many Minnesotans. The state should be doing everything it can to foster its growth.