I have long been a supporter of transit investment. I have lived in London, a wonderful city with a great transit system, and I understand how wonderful it can be to meet all my needs without a car. I also find it appalling that my Minnesota has been so loathe to build a bigger and better transit system. Transit investment is also good for the environment. Transit is one of the reasons New York City has the lowest per capita energy usage of any U.S. city. I’m living proof. In the month after purchasing a house near the only light rail line in Minneapolis, I put gas in my car just once. In the three years since, I have driven only 5,000 miles per year, instead of around the 10,000 I averaged before living near light rail.
One glimmer of hope is the Regional Council of Mayors, a group of twenty-plus mayors from around the Twin Cities brought together by the Minnesota District Council of the Urban Land Institute. They have signed a written plea to increase transportation (roads and transit) investment statewide. I hope someone listens and the legislature and governor raise the necessary funding in some way.
Denver did it in 2004 with a statewide referendum called FasTracks, which will raise $4.7 billion through a six-tenths of a cent sales increase to build several rail lines in the Denver metro area by 2016. Similar to the Minnesota Regional Council of Mayors, all Denver metro area mayors supported FasTracks. Although the Colorado governor opposed it, the voters passed it. Let’s hope Tim Pawlenty understands that if Minnesota is to remain competitive in the world economy, we do need to invest heavily in roads and rail. Transit funding goes hand-in-hand with the mission of his newly-created Climate Change Advisory Group. Our cities, suburbs and entire state will benefit.
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