A new coalition of business leaders that launched at the Minnesota Capitol Tuesday plans to lobby state lawmakers to support a “comprehensive transportation system,” which could include $120 million in transit improvements for Greater Minnesota.
The group, calling itself “Keep MN Moving,” is co-led by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, and East Metro Strong. According to a Tuesday press release, the coalition will focus heavily on improving the state’s bus system, specifically its arterial Bus Rapid Transit services, which experienced success in the 2016 launch of the A Line.
“Buses are the backbone of the transit system in our state. A big part of Keep MN Moving’s ask is to enhance and improve the bus system across Minnesota,” the group said Tuesday.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson made similar arguments during the campaign, and suggested that the state should focus “on a world-class, best-in-the-world bus system.”
“[It’s] flexible because you can move the path from one spot to another, depending upon where people build businesses, rather than trying to force them into trains that don’t give us a good return on investment,” Johnson said during one debate.
Keep MN Moving will also advocate for the full funding of “Greater Minnesota transit needs,” as well as the “core Metro Transit operation.”
The West Central Tribune points out that funding 90 percent of the public transit needs in Greater Minnesota would come with a $120 million price tag, according to a 2017 report from the Department of Transportation.
“We believe there’s growing momentum for transit investments that strengthen our economy and make our state an even better place for businesses and employees,” Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, said Tuesday. “We want to end the us-vs. them discussion that’s been occurring and bring Minnesotans together around transit plans that will move us forward.”
Transportation is an often deeply partisan issue in the Minnesota Legislature, especially as the incoming administration has reignited talks of a gas-tax increase and the state prepares to break ground on its $2 billion Light Rail Extension, which Republicans oppose.
But Keep MN Moving argues that the state has an economic interest in improving its public transit because it is currently “losing talent and the next generation of employees to places with better transit.”
“We know that when we provide quality transit, people from all walks of life use it to make their lives better,” East Metro Strong Executive Director Will Schroeer said Tuesday. “Green Line rail and the Line A bus, to give just two recent examples, produced booming ridership as people use them to get to work, school, shopping, and play.”
During a press conference at the State Capitol, Keep MN Moving was asked about Gov.-elect Tim Walz’s (D-MN) proposal to raise the gas tax, but said they don’t a formal stance on the issue.
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