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When In Doubt (or Daudt) Attack Rail

Category: Transportation
Posted: 03/28/17 05:01

by Dave Mindeman

Annette Meeks is the CEO of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (a puzzling title) and she shares Kurt Daudt's fear of trains.

In an op-ed in the Star Tribune, she "rails" (excuse the pun) against the North Star line. Offering a dramatic shutdown as a "solution"....

It's time to stop making excuses for this costly failure. Instead of pouring good money after bad by expanding Northstar, Metro Transit should immediately discontinue weekend service on that line. Then transit officials, in conjunction and with guidance from the Legislature and the administration, need to begin the process of negotiating with federal transportation officials in Washington to determine how we can curtail service on this rail line completely. This line, in particular, continues to hemorrhage red ink that limits transit growth. It's time to shut it down.

While it is true that the Northstar has suffered from weak usage numbers, Meeks actually gives us part of the reason in her piece...

Northstar, operating since November of 2009 on an abbreviated line from Minneapolis to Big Lake, has forced taxpayers to subsidize a rail line that clearly has little demand. It's one of the primary reasons our transit system is off the rails.

The major commuter market that Northstar had hoped to connect with was St. Cloud. But the legislature in its wisdom at the time, decided there wasn't enough money to go all the way...so they stopped the line abruptly at Big Lake. This would force St. Cloud commuters to drive to Big Lake to catch the line into the Twin Cities. I don't know about you, but if I have to drive a significant portion of the way to something, I might as well drive all of it.

Meeks faults transit for the problems that the legislature intentionally inflicted on the project. Now that Gov. Dayton is asking for preliminary funding to look into completing this 8 year old project, Meeks wants to shut it all down. (By the way, the St. Cloud reps very much support finishing the line to St. Cloud)

In addition, Meeks (who hates taxes) wants to make the commuters pay more. Increased fares, mileage based tickets, and charges for park and ride.

What?

This continual war on transit that the Republicans insist on waging has got to stop. We continue to short change the lines themselves with constant controversies, we put Federal money in jeopardy, we delay and delay which only increases the costs, and the GOP keeps vocalizing the "waste" of transit while pouring more and more dollars into the asphalt jungle.

Transit systems are how modern metro areas operate. Business supports it because it expands their labor base. Developers need it to have a stable demand for housing and business location. Commuters need it for quick and easy access to their needs without investments into vehicles.

Meeks, like most other conservative Republicans, has never looked at the broader picture. She, like her cohorts, refuses to look ahead and not at the budget here and now.

This stunted thinking has plagued Minnesota whenever Republicans have a place at the budget table.

How long do we do this?
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