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Some cuts could mean "significant reductions in weekday regular route service, elimination of Saturday and Sunday regular route service," Met Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh wrote in a letter to legislators.

Brendan Sullivan, Special to the Star Tribune

Weekend transit service threatened

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE and PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • May 4, 2011 - 8:06 PM

Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh told legislators on Wednesday that proposed budget cuts to Twin Cities transit could have "devastating effects," including the elimination of weekend service.

Haigh's comments came in a letter to the heads of the House and Senate transportation committees as they began efforts to reconcile bills to cut transportation funding.

Some cuts could mean "significant reductions in weekday regular route service, elimination of Saturday and Sunday regular route service," Haigh wrote.

While her letter didn't mention fare increases, Met Council officials said that they remained a possibility along with service reductions. Haigh previously said the cuts could result in a 25-cent fare increase alongside service reductions.

Republican legislators who favor cuts say drastic service reductions or fare increases could be avoided by shifting money from other programs at the Met Council and by using more transit sales-tax revenue to operate the system rather than expand it.

The House bill would reduce spending on Twin Cities bus and rail transit by nearly $130 million over two years. The Senate bill would reduce the spending by $32 million.

Gov. Mark Dayton has called for holding metro transit spending steady.

Senate-House conferees on Wednesday dealt with non-controversial areas of the two bills and will take up contentious spending issues later.

As legislators look for savings, Haigh made a reference to a recently approved labor contract between the Met Council and bus and rail employees. News of the accord was announced on Wednesday. Members of the union representing the workers approved a two-year contract that includes a wage freeze and shared responsibility for increases in insurance costs.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 represents about 2,200 transit employees. Most members are operators, while others are mechanics and clerical and technical employees.

The pact won approval of 78 percent of the members who voted on Sunday and Monday. The previous agreement expired last July 31. The newly ratified contract runs from Aug. 1, 2010, to July 31, 2012.

"I'm very pleased to have reached an agreement," the council's regional administrator, Pat Born, said in announcing the deal. "Our employees recognize our financial situation, and we appreciate their willingness to be part of the solution. Everyone recognizes that health-care costs continue to rise at a rate much higher than inflation. As a result, the agreement establishes a labor-management committee that will further explore health care design and costs."

Pat Doyle • 612-673-4505 Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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