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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

CAE Joins In On The Fear Of Trains

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/24/17 19:29, Edited: 04/24/17 19:36

by Dave Mindeman

This Republican war on trains is drastically misplaced. Our future does not lie in more asphalt, more cars, and longer commutes. Modern mass transit is our future and Minnesota Republicans, as well as Congressional Republicans are not causing a credit card problem, but a credibility problem.

An Op-Ed from Kim Crockett, (Center for the American Experiment) in MinnPost is just another biased treatise in my opinion. Her essay is a little short on the facts and on what is needed.

First she does what all good Republicans do - she asserts that the national debt will only be increased by funding these train projects. Which, frankly, is true for just about any spending project. Defense, roads and bridges, human services...all of it will increase the debt because we do not generate any revenue - even for the things we have committed to fund.

We have been using the kids' credit card, not just for trains, but for everything. This obsession with tax cuts is the real culprit, not the things we have needed for years. And a good mass transit system will eventually pay dividends because there will be less pollution, less traffic jams, less single occupant cars, more development around rail which increases the tax base, less maintenance costs (as compared to roads), and more construction jobs. Yes, the initial investment is high...but it is not going to cost less if we delay and obstruct.

Ms. Crockett says that "most local and state officials" say no to trains. Well, that is partially true, but only from one party. The Republicans have cast their majority lot with rural Minnesota, where it is easy to demonize mass transit. And as retired Republican legislators begin to overrun county boards, it will only get worse in that regard.

Democrats overwhelmingly support modernizing our transit. Governor Dayton supports it. City councils are generally on board. And most of our Congressional delegation support it as well.

It shouldn't be a partisan issue. And this is especially true when Metro areas are already committing their monetary resources to make this happen. General funds are part of the mix, but not nearly as much as the Republican legislators try to have us believe. Metro sales taxes cover the bulk of metro transit. It is a fair funding mechanism.

Crockett also includes an opinion from the CATO institute (another GOP think tank):

"Light rail is an obsolete form of transportation that will be made even more obsolete in a few years by self-driving cars," said Randal O'Toole, a CATO Institute senior fellow and public transit expert. "Congress should stop funding light rail, including the Southwest line, as well as other obsolete transit programs, such as an extension of the Northstar to St. Cloud."

Yes, self driving cars may be in the works, but you will still have to maintain roads for them. You will probably still have single occupants. And the pollution effects have the same probabilities as human driver cars. It depends on what type of fuel you opt to buy into. So how cars that drive themselves will change any of the things that we look to mass transit to solve is a mystery...and Ms. Crockett does not offer analysis for that.

She tells us that "costs will only rise with time". Well, duh...yes, they will, which is why we must follow through on this now. We have the SWLRT project underway. We have the route laid out. Some of the rail cars have already been bought. So, kill it now?

You know there will come a time that we will want to revisit this. We don't want to come back and start over do we? Like the Dan Patch line study which was legislatively ended and which local officials want to resurrect.

These are not projects without supporters. The problem seems to be that those supporters just don't offer that same support to obstructive Republicans.

Minnesota's future should NOT be a partisan war. Other major population centers are ahead of us on transit solutions. If we want to compete with them for visitor dollars and major development projects, then we need to find better ways to move people and reduce our carbon footprint.

Ms. Crockett doesn't address that - because Republicans never do.
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Let's Be Completely Honest About Minnesota Transportation

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/14/17 07:08, Edited: 04/14/17 07:08

by Dave Mindeman

I want to follow some logic here.

When it comes to transportation in Minnesota, what are the House Republicans looking for? What is the purpose of fighting against light rail transit tooth and nail?

Because here is what I can see. Light rail has long been a priority of the Federal government to promote mass transit in metro areas. They have a lot of earmarked money that will go to metro authorities that can prove the need and the proper planning - and a cooperative state funding mechanism which Minnesota has in a metro sales tax.

The state portion is mostly a good faith contribution. The bulk of funding comes from those Federal dollars. I won't say that the state portion is insignificant, but let's say it gets a good return on that investment.

Now the caveat to this is that those Federal funds cannot be changed to fund other projects. It is legally bound to be used only for rail transit - not roads and bridges. And if we cannot use it the way it is earmarked, it will then be offered to the next metro area that meets the guidelines.

The MN GOP House Republicans make a couple of false arguments. First, they insinuate that they are protecting rural Minnesota's roads and bridges. They have falsely stated that somehow light rail takes money away from those needed road and bridge repairs. Federal funds for light rail can go nowhere else - it is how the funding operates. Secondly, they make this fantasy argument that by rejecting light rail funding, that somehow they are giving some kind of windfall to the taxpayers of Minnesota. Not true. In fact, they are not saving taxpayer dollars here or anywhere. That money is appropriated for that purpose. It doesn't go back into the US treasury. It doesn't get rebated back to the state. It will simply go to another project in some other state. And Minnesota's portion of the tax payments go with it.

Rural Minnesota absolutely needs road and bridge repairs. But it is an issue that is separate from metro transit. It must be funded via the gas tax money or the general fund or some other statutory method. But the MN GOP is disingenuous to be making rail transit an us vs them false equivalency. It is an "alternative fact", and the GOP needs to be honest about what they are saying.

Minnesota has the 3rd largest state road system in the country. That requires enormous investment. But we are squandering our opportunities to fund this properly - and we are blaming the wrong things for not meeting those needs.

Frankly, going forward, the revenue we generate now will start to dwindle to a trickle when it comes to the gas tax and earmarked transportation money. Cars are using less gas - companies are using alternative fuels. But we will still need road and bridge repair.

Unless we begin to approach our transportation needs in an honest, straightforward, and non-political way, we are going to go back to the days of ever increasing budget deficits....year after year.

I don't want to do that again....do you?
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Doubts About Daudt On Transportation

Category: Transportation
Posted: 04/12/17 23:35

by Dave Mindeman

On March 17th, Kurt Daudt and other GOP legislators sent a letter to Elaine Chao at the Department of Transportation which said this about the Southwest Light Rail project:

In that March 17 letter, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and 83 other GOP legislators asked Chao to deny a full-funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that would provide nearly $900 million to build the line. They described Southwest light rail as a "grossly wasteful project" that would be "counter-productive" to state interests.

Daudt is an idiot.

To outright reject $900 million for a needed transportation project simply because it is for light rail is stupid and irresponsible. Kurt Daudt is, in essence, telling us that the metro light rail project...and quite frankly, any light rail project....gets no support from him or his colleagues.

900 million dollars is a lot of money. It would pay for over 80% of the project. A project that is ready to go...a project that has already gone through the bruising planning phase, has preliminary plans in place, and jobs ready to start. Yet, GOP legislators have the gaul to snuff it out.

Daudt is a backwards thinker.

There is little doubt (I have trouble with that word these days) that SWLRT is a necessary component to a full service light rail system for the Twin Cities. But, as Governor Dayton says it a rebuttal letter....

He noted its "strong support" from several key business organizations, as well as the cities and counties along the route. He also said he will protect the longstanding financial commitments that have already been made to the project.

Former Senate Minority leader David Hann opposed SWLRT representing a district in which it would run through...and he was electorally defeated because of that opposition.

But Daudt doesn't care. This guy (who wants to be governor) continues to divide the state along geographic lines. He protects his majority by convincing rural Minnesota that he alone looks out for them. That transit is taking money from greater Minnesota transportation needs.

What Daudt never concedes is that transit funding mostly comes from Federal transportation dollars. Dollars that are appropriated for projects such as this. Those dollars won't come to Minnesota for rural roads and bridges....it will go to a different state for a similar project.

Daudt is foolishly wasting a return of Federal tax money to Minnesota.

We send more in taxes to Washington, DC than we get back in Fed supported projects in Minnesota. Light rail transit is a huge opportunity to get some of those dollars working for this state.

And light rail is NOT some bloated, wasted endeavor. Minnesota businesses are clamoring for transit projects. It is good for business, good for workers, and good for developers. That is serious economic activity that we can gain by simply letting this project go forward without needless GOP stonewalling.

I "doubt" that "Daudt" could ever be governor - because he will never meet the needs of ALL the citizens of this state. He depends too much on dividing us on a geographic basis. That is a losing strategy for him and for the state of Minnesota.
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