October 25, 2004
the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and members of the Minnesota
We in the Civic Caucus believe straight talk on
transportation is most needed as the 2005 Legislature
approaches. Reliance on facts, not emotion.
Traffic congestion in the Twin Cities is almost certain to
be one of the Legislature's most pressing issues. A recent
report of the Itasca Project vividly points out the looming
crisis and significantly higher expenditure levels that we are
facing. More recently the Minnesota Chamber of Commerceissued
its report proposing significant user fees.
The Civic Caucus welcomes these important contributions
from the two organizations. They both build on the key
recommendations contained in a 19 page report issued by the
Civic Caucus last year. The Civic Caucus is a non-profit
voluntary association of individuals in the Twin Cities
metropolitan area. James L. Hetland, Jr., first chair of the
Metropolitan Council, and Clarence Shallbetter, who served on
the transportation staff of the Council, are members of the
Civic Caucus. The Caucus includes some former past presidents
and former staffers of the Citizens League. A summary of the
Civic Caucus report is attached. Complete copies of the report
may be obtained
from Veme C. Johnson, Civic Caucus Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We concur with many points made by the Itasca Group and the
Chamber of Commerce, but our report makes additional important
recommendations we feel need to be considered.
The Civic Caucus' report had five critical findings:
1. Congestion should be the primary focus of all
transportation improvements, because it iscongestion that poses
the threat to the economic future of our area.
2. Funding must be increased substantially. The present
level of funding is totally inadequate toreduceólet alone
maintainócurrent congestion levels.
3. User taxes should be the primary source of additional
revenue. We recommend an eight-cents-a-gallon increase in the
state gas tax, a four-cents-a-gallon increase in the federal gas
tax, an increase in state vehicle license fees, special peak
hour user fees for single-occupant vehicles on super lanes, and
benefit charges on the increase in land value brought about by
transportation improvements. The Chamber also recommends
increases in the gas tax andother sources.
4. Reducing congestion for suburb-to-suburb and central
city-to-suburb rush hour tripsówhich account for six times as
many rush hour trips as suburb-to-downtown-requires (1) shuttle
services between park and ride ramps and large employment
concentrations and (2) car andvan pool matching for employees.
5. Leadership by employers is essential. They can provide
staggered work hours, carpool matching services, and shuttles
from park and ride lots, as well as provide employee subsidies
to lower transit fares and entice more employees out of single
occupancy vehicles. Some employer expense might be offset by tax
credits or deductions.
We strongly urge that other major civic organizations
understand this vital issue and reach recommendations. Only
through broad leadership will the needed resources be assured.
Congestion is the most critical transportation issue facing the
state, especially in the growing metropolitan area that now
includes all or parts of 15 counties. Minnesota can't afford to
allocate transportation dollars for activities that will not
have a significant impact on reducing congestion. If it can't
ease congestion, it shouldn't be funded.
Some interests might seek a new freeway lane, an
interchange for land development, a busway, or
LRT line. Fine,
but all must pass the congestion test. If a transportation
improvement is proposed for
other reasons, such as influencing the location of future
housing and businesses, then let theimprovement be paid as a
development expense, not a transportation expense.
The Itasca and Chamber reports seem to assume separate tax
sources or appropriations for highways and transit, while others
advocate a separate dedicated transit fund. But transit and
highways are part of the same system. They aren't mutually
exclusive. Transit is riding, not driving, in any type of
vehicle on any type of right-of-way, with any type of driver,
paid or not paid. It includescarpools, vanpools and shuttles
from park and ride lots.
LRT is one of
many options. LRT, however, needs to be justified by its ability
to entice single-
occupant cars off the road, thereby reducing congestion.
In a time of extreme financial difficulty, with exceedingly
limited funds for all government functions, this state cannot
afford the luxury of separating funding for transit and highways
as if they were different public services unrelated to one
another. Funding should be based on a project's ability to
reduce congestion, not whether the project is deemed to be a
highway or transit project.
Our report to the Legislature addresses congestion as the
No. 1 priority. We advocate specific user- funded tax increases
and the capture of part of the land value benefits resulting
from access to highways and transit stations. The Governor
should be charged with deciding how to apportion the funds among
competing transportation-related proposals, including transit
and highways. General sales and income taxes should not be used.
Revenue from the general fund, including_sales taxes on motor
vehicles, should not be used for transportation except to
provide transportation services to those unable to drive.
Veme C. Johnson,