Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Transit in Minnesota

Dateline: 10:58 am February 18, 2008 Filed under:

Once again, the Minnesota Legislature is convening with transportation as a hot topic. The Democrat-controlled house and senate (actually – DFL, for Democrat, Farmer, Labor) tried last year to pass a tax increase to pay for road and transit improvements, but were thwarted by Minnesota’s Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, who prefers to borrow for transportation rather than go against his promise to raise taxes.

This is a new legislative session and a new year. Once again, the DFL in the Legislature has nearly enough votes to override a veto, but not quite. A few key Republicans have joined the DFL on the transportation issue. I have always been struck by the bipartisanship within the real estate industry. Affordable housing, mixed-use, density, transit and others are not always red or blue issues. The transportation issue in Minnesota is a very good example of that.

Minnesota is woefully behind other states in transportation spending. Highway projects have languished, and transit projects move ahead at a snail’s pace. A recent presentation created by the Minnesota chapter of the Urban Land Institute, called Green Light on Transportation, puts the issue in to perspective, laying out issues of congestion and just how much we need to spend to achieve our current transportation goals.

Download the Green Light presentation here.

A variety of mechanisms are presented, including various taxes, both sales and gas. To keep Minnesota an attractive cold weather state and encourage investment here, we must improve and upgrade our road and transit system.

The presentation doesn’t even mention high speed rail links to Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago and the greater Midwest. It does discuss the link between land use and transportation, indicating the need to build denser, mixed-use communities that are better linked to transit options. This is not just a transportation and congestion issue, but also a global warming issue.

Those of you in Minnesota, take the time to download and go through the Green Light presentation. Pass on the link to colleagues, and call your representative to demand increased transportation funding. If your representative is already “on board,” find out who isn’t and contact them.

Those of you from other states, your state may well be mentioned in the Green Light presentation. Feel free to contact me to discuss the success or pitfalls of your transportation funding programs.


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