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Millennials Will Need To Engage On Transportation Policy

Category: Transportation
Posted: 08/03/15 04:53

by Dave Mindeman

My son is 18 years old and about to enter college. He does not have a driver's license and he doesn't want a car.

It is not because his parents don't want him driving out on his own. In fact, we are scratching our heads as to why he isn't obsessed about cars like the previous generation seemed to be.

He claims that he can get what he needs on the internet and there is always public transportation. (at least he assumes so)

It would seem he is not alone....

In fact, younger people are less likely to drive -- or even to have driver's licenses -- than past generations for whom driving was a birthright and the open road a symbol of freedom. Research by Michael Sivak of the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan found that young people are getting driver's licenses in smaller numbers than previous generations.

Alright, if that is the case, what does it mean for policy?

Well, it means one thing for certain. Our future transportation policy discussions need to adjust. Roads and bridges need to be maintained but the next generation is assuming that they will have other options. And judging by the current legislature in Minnesota, we are failing them miserably.

The debate on Southwest Light Rail is a case in point. We dragged our feet on moving this forward. We let costs escalate. We didn't reach a consensus fast enough. And in the end we nearly let it die.

This rail line will fall into an all too familiar pattern. And that means we lose options and fall short of expectations. The Hiawatha didn't expand beyond the Mall of America. The NorthStar got cut off at Big Lake. The Green Line was the closest to full expectations and the higher than expected ridership followed.

Southwest will have to cut back as well, but it must move forward. Light Rail in Minnesota needs to have full implementation - the millennials will demand it.

Millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than older Americans. They are also the first generation to fully embrace mobile Internet-connected technologies, which are rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving.

They seem to be embracing a future that our current leaders are not prepared to give them.

I am afraid that these millennials have assumed that their transportation needs will be there....and I am not confident that the current generation of leadership is on the same page.

At some point, this new generation will have to engage on this issue themselves and become more politically involved.

For the sake of transportation solutions, I hope that this happens soon.
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DFL Senate Offers Way Forward On Transportation NOW

Category: Transportation
Posted: 05/30/15 23:33

by Dave Mindeman

The DFL legislators on the Transportation Committee have put forward a letter to Governor Dayton, released to the House GOP, proposing a strong compromise bill for Transportation that would hopefully be considered for special session.

The basics.....

The DFLers dropped their plans for a sales tax on the price of gas. The leaders propose the more traditional per gallon gas tax, adding a dime to the current tax, cutting projected revenue from this source by one-third. The new DFL plan would replace this lost revenue by agreeing to a House Republican idea to dedicate the sales tax on auto parts to roads and bridges. The DFL plan would seek to ensure that this is made permanent with a change to the state constitution.

This incorporates the major components of both the House and Senate revenue plans while reducing the gas tax proposal and bringing in the House GOP proposal of dedicated sales tax revenue.

Since the incorporation of the GOP part of this would require taking money from the general fund and a probable hole in the next budget, the DFL Senate is offering a major concession to move transportation forward.

In addition, the proposal proposes a .25% Metro tax for transit. A transportation need that the House GOP proposal ignores and which puts several transit projects at risk.

Considering the impasse that is already developing on the basic budget issues, this transportation proposal will probably get tabled.

But let's be clear, the Democratic Senate has made the offer for an area that Greater MN wants action on. If the House GOP refuses to move again on this important Greater MN need, I hope that the outstate groups will be clear about that understanding.

If we are going to wait on transportation needs for another year and try to negotiate these difficult issues in an election year, the problem in movement is clearly emanating from the GOP.

Dems are offering an opportunity, they are willing to meet it halfway... where will the House GOP be on this?
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The MN House GOP Revolving Credit Card In Transportation

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/14/15 05:28

by Dave Mindeman

The Minnesota House Republicans like to talk a lot about the average family budget. They like to make comparisons to family budgets and our own state budget. And all of this talk often involves some criticism of taxes. The average family budget cannot take an increase in taxes. They just can't.

But you know what gets most family budgets in the most trouble? Debt. Credit card debt. Mortgage debt. Payday loans. Borrowing from friends. Debt is something to be careful with...to manage properly. And, quite frankly, should only be tapped into when absolutely needed.

Republicans are always careful about raising taxes that will put a strain on those family budgets. But when it comes to debt, they are the equivalent of your friend who uses one credit card to pay off another credit card. Or taking out a loan and stretching it out over years because it will keep the monthly payment down - even though the total amount of money paid can double or triple in regards to the original loan.

That is what the MN GOP House is doing with transportation funding. They are avoiding what we should pay now by adding to debt that we must pay later. And while that may not involve a tax increase, we do pay more. We pay for that bonding. We pay interest....we pay brokerage fees....we pay other administrative costs. And since we lost our AAA bond rating in 2011 (down to AA+), we also pay a slightly higher interest rate than we did before.

But just like families who don't think about the long term effects of debt, the House Republicans are ignoring that aspect of the budget. The budget debt service - the percentage of the state budget that goes to paying down our debt and its interest - has nearly doubled since 2000 (1.8% to 3.4%). Granted, that is probably not an unmanageable number considering current interest rates. But why do it if it is not necessary? And especially - why increase it beyond regular bonding proposals?

When it comes to transportation, the state of Minnesota has traditionally relied on user fees to pay for the MNDOT budget. Yes, there are trunk highway bonds which are regularly used, but the borrowing is usually kept to a minimum. But what the House Republicans are proposing is a significant increase in bonding for this purpose. And, in addition, they are going to shuffle money in the regular MNDOT budget and push it to roads and bridges at the expense of already proposed projects - a lot of them mass transit related. Which puts more future projects in jeopardy.

But the worst flaw in this "plan" is that it does not increase or create consistent revenue streams for transportation. It is obvious that we need an infusion of increased money (both Democrats and Republicans agree on this point at least) into transportation. And the critical problem is that this money needs to be a constant going forward. Our transportation needs are growing (along with our economy) and the MNDOT budget is not going to level off any time soon.

Gov. Dayton and the MN Senate understand this and have budgeted accordingly. Only the MN House holds the state back in this regard.

So, in essence, this House GOP effort to save you an increase in taxes in the short term....is costing you (and the next generation) much more in the long term.

That is not sound fiscal stewardship. It is a revolving credit card of poor judgement.
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