Within this area, funding will be directed at policy efforts to ensure a sustainable and highly accessible public transit system in the Twin Cities, and support community organizing efforts that engage those most affected by public transit corridors and other tranportation expansions.
Affordable housing may be concentrated in the core cities, but most new jobs in this region are in the suburbs or exurbs. For low-income workers, it’s not just a matter of finding a job but finding an affordable way to get to that job if they don’t own a car—which is often beyond their means. To progress toward economic stability, they need a fully functioning and accessible public transportation system on which to rely.
There’s excitement about the construction of a second light rail line in the Twin Cities—and there should be. But as important as light rail is, it’s only one piece of a larger, multi-modal transitways system that our region desperately needs to stay competitive and to provide options for people to get from place to place. For people with low incomes, that system is nothing short of a lifeline. They need it not only to get to work, but to get to schools, health clinics, hospitals, churches, and stores.
Growing our existing transit system requires a dedicated funding source that’s adequate to meet the need. The region’s existing bus and rail system is projected to run a $62 million deficit over the 2011-2012 biennium. Such shortfalls have historically been covered through the state’s general fund. The state, however, has a fiscal crisis of its own, projecting a $6 billion deficit over the same biennium. That bodes service route cuts and fare increases that would have an enormous effect on the lives of people living in poverty. To serve the region, we need the transit system to expand not contract.
As our region plans future light rail, high speed bus lines, and high speed commuter rail systems for the next 20 years, it’s essential that the voices of those who most depend on transit—those with low incomes or disabilities and the elderly—are clearly heard. Otherwise we run the risk of creating a system that serves distance commuters who have other transportation options, and adding yet another obstacle for those struggling toward economic stability.
Here are a few statistics that compel us to address the transportation needs of people with low incomes:
- Twin Cities households spend an average of 20% of their annual income on transportation—making transportation the second highest household expense behind the cost of housing. This number goes up the farther one lives from the central cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A well-oiled public transportation system can cut these household costs significantly.
- Since 1995, transit ridership has been growing at nearly triple the rate of the population, and almost twice as fast as the number of miles driven. In 2008, transit ridership rose 4%, while the total number of miles driven fell by 3.6%. There were a record 95 million transit rides in 2008 in the seven-county metro area.
- The Met Council’s Transit Vision plan forecasts doubling transit ridership by the year 2030 from 73 million rides in 2003 to 145-150 million. It will accomplish this by expanding the bus system—including improved coverage and frequency, additional express routes, and improvements that give transit a travel-time advantage over the single occupant car—and developing a network of bus and rail transitways that include LRTS, BRT, commuter rail, and express buses.
- The three biggest funding sources for the transit system are motor vehicle sales tax (30%), fares (26%), and the state general fund (22%). Due in part to lagging car sales, these revenues have dropped. A new quarter-cent sales tax was passed by Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington Counties to fund transit projects. However, these funds cannot be used to maintain or expand the regular-route bus system, and will likely not provide the resources necessary to build-out the transitways system over the next 20-30 years. More dedicated funding is needed to keep our system operating optimally and grow it to meet demand.
Our transit funding will help ensure that people with low incomes have reasonable access to affordable transportation to get to work and meet their daily needs.
1. Advocacy for a permanent and sustainable transit funding source
We will support advocacy and policy change efforts to ensure a new dedicated funding mechanism that will sustain and grow the Twin Cities’ public transit system.
Metro Transit relies on the state’s general fund to cover expenses, and that fund continues to fall several billion dollars short of revenue. We need a new, permanent funding source that can support not only the current transit system’s full operation, but its growth.
We will be working with key transit policy partners to support policy work that addresses the funding needs of the public transportation system, and will invite proposals from selected organizations that show the greatest promise to move this agenda forward.
2. Community engagement in transit decision making
We will support grassroots community organizing that engages those with low incomes and those who rely on public transit in the development of future transit corridors.
Transit planning efforts must include the ideas and opinions of those who use and rely on the system. Engaging these groups in planning routes, station areas, and surrounding development will ensure this system is accessible to the very populations that need it the most.
The Foundation has selected a number of organizations to support that are working on community engagement strategies in several transit corridors. The application process for this area is now closed.
3. Community-based development around the new light rail line
As a founding member, we will continue to support the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative (CCFC) is a group of local and national funders working with others to unlock the transformative potential of the new light rail transit line along the Central Corridor, between the downtowns of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
The CCFC strongly supports the light rail line because it offers opportunities to strengthen the regional economy and make surrounding neighborhoods better places to live and work. Everyone involved has a stake in making decisions about the Corridor to ensure benefit to both the region and the neighborhoods. We envision stable, thriving neighborhoods throughout the Central Corridor that reflect community identities and link all people to regional opportunities and local amenities.
Please click here to learn more about how you can support businesses in the Central Corridor during the construction phase. They need the support of our entire community.
The Foundation makes an annual grant to the CCFC for operations. Unsolicited applications are not accepted.
If you have a program that you feel fits this funding priority and would like to tell us about it, click here to fill out a short LOI.
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