In recent news, the Minnesota House of Representatives introduced a bill that will dramatically cut funding to public transportation. Early estimates from the Metropolitan Council are that all 151 Metro Transit bus routes will either face reduced service or elimination. To get a scale of that that would mean, the Met Council noted:
In 2016, the Metropolitan Council provided more than 100 million trips. More than 82 million of those rides were Metro Transit bus, light rail, and Northstar commuter service. Ridership has continued to grow, with an average of nearly 300,000 weekday rides.
80 percent of riders are going to work or school; nearly 40 percent of downtown Saint Paul and Minneapolis workers use transit. More than 15,000 Park & Ride spaces across the region serve commuters who ride a bus.
My Relationship With Public Transportation
I have to admit something to the general public. I’m 31 years old and I don’t know how to drive. Part of it a general fear of driving. It’s one of the few things that makes me really anxious, because I know driving safely is a huge responsibility. At least it is to me. That said I’m working through it and hopefully will learn soon. Part of it is that I’m an adult with a full time job and goes to college on the side. It’s hard to find the spare time.
Not being able to drive has never been a huge issue for me. I’ve gone to high school, work, college, and dates just fine. I’m lucky enough to have a wife that’s been incredibly loving and tolerant, while taking over the lion share of driving. I have great friends that drive me around to hang out and not making me feel ashamed. Oh yeah and Lyft…WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!
Most importantly, I’ve always been able to depend on our bus system. It’s how I get to work everyday. I use it going across St. Paul to go to college. I also take pride in the fact that I’m doing my part to reduce my carbon footprint. Its not a perfect system, but the positive outweigh the negatives for me.
What Cutting Service Would Mean
If the estimates the Met Council produced are correct, a lot of Minnesotans will be affected. Cutting service would change my daily commute to work for example. I’m one of the lucky ones because I have flexible hours, so I could work around it. But there are plenty of people that don’t possess my luck in this respect.
For many Minnesotans, public transit is crucial to keeping a steady job. If their service gets reduced, that could mean the difference between being paid or not. Once your employment gets affected, larger consequence will loom. It affects people’s ability to hunt for job or housing. Moreover, it’ll take away their freedom to live their lives as they see fit. There’s no reason in my mind why someone’s ability to see family and friends, go to school, or even enjoy a park is to be threaten, just because they use public transportation.
What To Do Next
Luckily, legislation has not been approved in either the Minnesota House or Senate. Find your local representative and call them immediately! Remember to be respectful. There’s a near 100% chance you’ll speak to a volunteer or an intern. They’re not getting paid and likely have college loan debt. They have enough on their plate. While being respectful, let them know why public transportation cuts are a bad idea. Ask when the next town hall is scheduled then attend. The goal is to make sure they know how critical public transportation is and hold representatives accountable they don’t.