Transit backers warn of metro bus cutbacks

peter m and adam d
Hennepin County commissioner Peter McLauglin, left, and Metropolitan Council chairman Adam Duininck, right, share their concerns about the House transportation bill. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Mass transit supporters are warning that the Republican budget proposal in the Minnesota House would result in big cuts to metro area bus service.

Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck said the House transportation bill reduces transit funding by $122 million over the next two-year budget cycle, which would impact regular route buses and Metro Mobility services.

Transit funding would remain flat in the Senate transportation bill.

A reduction that size would force the Met Council to reduce service by as much as 40 percent, even with a fare increase, Duininck said during a state Capitol news conference Monday,

“This is a significant reduction to our bus service at a time when we can least afford it,” he said.

Business leaders are also criticizing the proposed cuts.

“The proposed bill puts our economic competitiveness at risk,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

He said businesses rely on the transit system to move their employees and customers.

Republicans in the House and Senate are also proposing to eliminate state subsidies for light rail transit.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said many Republican lawmakers speak highly of bus service, but only when they’re criticizing light rail.

“They beat up on the LRT and say ‘the buses are great,’ and then when it’s time to fund the buses, they’re not there,” McLaughlin said.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, the chair of the House transportation committee, said the proposed reduction reflects less-than-expected revenue from the motor vehicle sales tax, which helps fund transit.

Torkelson said questions about federal transportation funding and the future of the County Transit Investment Board are also factors.

“I said from the beginning it’s not my intention to ignore transit, but exactly how we address it is going to depend on some of those variables,” Torkelson said. “We’ll just have to work through these difficult issues as we work through the session.”

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