Posted: 08/23/16 12:15
by Dave Mindeman
It is frustrating when elected officials refuse to look at the bigger picture on transit. A comprehensive system has the greatest benefit for everybody, but too often representatives and commissioners get hyperfocused on their own particular piece.
Dakota County is having such a problem. The Dakota county commissioners recently voted to withdraw from the CTIB (Counties Transit Improvement Board) and stop the Dakota portion of the tax base. That has created a problem for several projects in the works, including the Orange Line BRT running from Burnsville into the Metro area. The remaining CTIB members balked at funding the project without Dakota County involved.
Thomas Egan, a Dakota County Board member, considered that "retaliation".
Egan described the Aug. 17 CTIB meeting as a showdown in which Chairman Peter McLaughlin of Hennepin County moved to curtail Orange Line funding, and the board's Dakota County contingent -- Egan and County Commissioner Mary Liz Holberg -- backed a failed amendment for full funding.
"The initial intent of the chairman was to reduce the scope of the Orange Line," Egan said. "I can't say exactly what his intent was, but I believe it was to terminate the Orange Line short of the Minnesota River so that it wouldn't even reach into Dakota County."
Obviously, Egan thought this was unfair. The Board ended up funding a large portion of the project - probably enough to keep them on track to get Federal funding help, but the situation remains muddled.
Egan's logic has some problems. Apparently, in Thomas Egan's rationale, transit is only valuable if your particular local part of it is given full attention. Which doesn't make much sense because the value of transit is the connections it allows for other areas.
Unless we fund transit that can be constructed across the entire Metro, its value is diminished. The Red Line BRT got funded by other counties besides Dakota, even though almost 75% of the line is strictly in Dakota County itself. But the only real value of the Red Line is that it connects the south metro to the Hiawatha Line and essentially the rest of the Twin Cities via the Green Line.
Transit is only valuable if interconnected. It is short sighted to look at this in a "what are you doing for me" context.
Egan cites his number as if it is the essential point....
Dakota County argues that its taxpayers' poor return on investment in CTIB will only worsen. Since the board was established in 2008, Egan said, Dakota County has contributed about 14 percent of revenue but received only 7 percent of CTIB's transit spending.
With planned light-rail transit projects, most immediately Southwest and Bottineau, the imbalance will widen, with Dakota County contributing 13 percent of funding and getting back only 3 percent, Egan said.
So, is Egan trying to tell us that the transit outside of Dakota County is not worth the expenditure? Do we want the tracks and bus lines to stop using Dakota County money at the county line?
If that is how the Dakota County Board is going to view transit projects, then we have a serious problem.....because that would mean that transit has no real value for us whatsoever.
You can argue percentages all you want but the only thing that really matters is if transit projects are funded 100%.
Too many county Commissioners are former Republican legislators. The Dakota County Board has former State Senator Chris Gerlach and former State Rep Mary Liz Holberg. The same kind of obstruction on transit that they imposed in the legislature is happening at the county level. And frankly, this is worse because the counties have more input into metro transit than the legislature. And with fewer votes needed to provide the obstruction.
This territorial obstruction is making full transit options more difficult.
Think about that when voting for Commissioners in the future.