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Thinking Forward Regarding Transportation

Category: Transportation
Posted: 11/25/15 04:26

by Dave Mindeman

Transportation is becoming a crisis of its own. Yeah, I know we have a dozen things on our plate - nobody seems to want to be talking about groads and bridges and light rail. But we are going to have to start addressing it....and soon.

With gas prices dipping below $2 a gallon, we should seize an opportunity. Yes, Middle East tensions could reverse that trend very quickly. But this small windfall for commuters will, more than likely, increase consumption and add to the wear and tear on the transportation infrastructure.

We should be thinking forward. I can hear the condescension from the GOP already, but now is the time for a gas tax...dedicated solely to transportation projects. I would also suggest that we make this tax fairly substantial - maybe 25 cents a gallon - but also make it mandatory that it sunset....that it be temporary.

Let's consider a 5 year term with this increase and then it leaves. I don't know if we have a 5 year window of lower gas prices, but we do have an immediate need for repairs and fixes. We could also consider addressing some of our commuter bottlenecks that cost us time and idling fuel.

As a gas tax, this money would have to go to transportation. Sure, we have had the legislature fiddle with these things before, but if we make a concrete budget for the projects we need right now, we can move the funds quickly and efficiently.

There is another reason for making this increase substantial and temporary. Our fossil fuel consumption needs to decrease faster. If we make repairs that make our roads more efficient, we save future dollars. If we complete light rail projects more quickly, we save on consumption, green house gases, and future money. If we reduce the bottlenecks in our commutes, it saves time, green house gases, and again, future dollars.

I know that many people will be shaking their heads at this, but a little pain for the temporary present could pay off big for forward thinking.

We could upgrade infrastructure which would be good for business, good for development, good for the environment, and a gift to the next generation.

We have taken so much away from our future; it's time we gave something back.
comments (5) permalink

Transportation Bottom Line: Delays Costs Us More

Category: Transportation
Posted: 11/09/15 12:29

By Dave Mindeman

Legislative inaction costs us money. That is a simple truth which is lost on voters at election time. It is all well and good to posture and rail against government spending but when you do that the ticking clock cost the taxpayers big time. And that's because the things we all agree we need to do get lost in the argument.

You don't have to look any farther than your daily commute. The roads you travel on. The bridges you take. The light rail you could be using as an option. Everything about that commute is going to cost you more every day. And it is not about gas prices. It is about maintenance. Infrastructure. Fixing it.

Here is a somber statement....

Fixing and expanding Minnesota's roads will cost billions of dollars more than the Minnesota Department of Transportation estimated two years ago, MnDOT officials now say. The new estimate predicts $16.3 billion in unfunded road costs over the next 20 years. The 20-year projection made two years ago estimated a $12.5 billion funding gap.

An additional $4 billion is added to our transportation costs while the legislature fails to do its job. At least half of that figure can be directly attributed to the last session and the failure of the House and Senate to enact any kind of transportation measure.

Politics is supposed to be an argument about how we get things done that need to be...it is not supposed to be an obstacle to doing them at all. Light rail projects are argued and stonewalled ad infinitum by GOP legislators, but in the mean time more seniors are losing the ability to drive...more college students are electing to use mass transit...and more commuters are demanding alternatives. While we argue, costs go up. Southwest light rail and the Bottineau extension have seen their costs increase dramatically. And while we argue about blame and cutbacks, the full project amounts keep rising and the taxpayers will have to foot a larger bill.

At least in the matter of roads, fixing them is not a matter for debate. It is going to have to be done.

But this legislature is apparently unwilling to serve the people. They would rather posture for the next election.

Somebody needs to be honest with all of us. The State of Minnesota is going to have to pay for its transportation. And shuffling money around and using budget gimmicks isn't going to cut it. Gas prices are low enough that traffic is increasing and bigger cars and trucks are being purchased. A gas tax to fix the roads we are using more is only logical. And a full budget commitment to getting roads and light rail funded is the only discussion to have.

We can continue to argue...to delay...obstruct, but the taxpayers will only pay more.

That is the bottom line.
comments (0) permalink

Millennials Will Need To Engage On Transportation Policy

Category: Transportation
Posted: 08/02/15 22:53

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.
comments (0) permalink
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