Transit Riders, Faith and Community Groups Call For Expanded Public Transportation Funding
One hundred transit riders from ISAIAH, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and other members of the Move MN coalition joined with state leaders, including Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, State Senator Scott Dibble, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck, and State Representative Frank Hornstein in a rally outside the State Capitol, calling on the legislature to guarantee expanded public transportation as part of a comprehensive, multimodal transportation plan.
People from rural, urban and suburban communities braved subzero temperatures to journey to the Capitol on public transportation to send a strong message that every Minnesotan ought to have access to safe and convenient public transportation to jobs and schools. Despite the cold, spirits were high, with transit riders chanting “This is how we roll!” to the beat of a bongo drum.
“Over the past ten years I’ve seen routes cut that I used to rely on to get to the suburbs for work,” said Harry Maddox, transit organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “I once lost a job because the bus came late. We need better funding so people can get between the suburbs and cities.”
Over the past ten years, metro area bus ridership has increased 14% and outstate ridership has increased 25%–but funding for buses has stayed flat.
“It’s become clear that our state’s transportation system is failing the people who live, work and go to school in our communities. St. Cloud is changing; Greater Minnesota is changing, and people across the state need a full range of transportation choices,” said Rev. James Alberts II, pastor at Higher Ground Church of God in Christ in St. Cloud. Rev. Alberts was among several dozen ISAIAH members who took the “Action Train” from St. Cloud, a three-hour journey to the Capitol. “Our communities cannot wait any longer for our state leaders to invest in a statewide transportation system that reflects the people it serves and promotes human dignity.”
In the Twin Cities metro area, only 10% of jobs and 25% of households have access to convenient transit, placing us behind Denver, Seattle, Portland and even Milwaukee.
“Minnesota’s roads, bridges, and transit networks form the backbone of our economy. After decades of decline, we must invest in these systems to protect Minnesota’s long-term economic vitality,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “It’s crucial that this session we invest in a modern transportation system – including a comprehensive mass transit network. Collectively, new resources will help drive continued business and job growth, and protect the quality of life enjoyed by all Minnesotans.”
Transit riders from faith and community groups invited elected officials to join them for the Public Transportation Challenge the week of March 1-7. Senator Scott Dibble was the first to accept the challenge.
“Transit and transportation is fundamental for people to be able to build successful lives for themselves and their families. It’s as basic as getting to jobs, school and other opportunities,” said Senator Dibble. We can make an investment that will give Minnesotans a large return: more opportunity and shared prosperity.”
The rally was organized by ISAIAH, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and other members of Move MN, a statewide coalition of more than 200 businesses, organizations and local governments committing to fixing Minnesota’s long-term transportation problems by securing a comprehensive transportation funding solution.