A report from the American Public Transportation Association out this week said that public transportation usage hit a 57-year high last year as Americans took more than 10.7 billion rides on city buses, light-rail trains, subways and commuter rail lines.
Here in the Twin Cities, Ridership on Metro Transit buses and trains increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, to nearly 81.4 million rides while the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority said it provided 2.7 million rides on its buses, the most ever.
With public transportation use on the upswing, the transportation advocacy group Transit for Livable Communities wants to keep that momentum going. It's asking public transit supporters to turn out Thursday for Move MN Transportation Day at the State Capitol.
The main event is a rally in the Rotunda at 4 p.m. to urge to legislators to pass transportation funding bills that include new funding for transit, bicycling, and walking options across Minnesota.
Festivities begin at 1 p.m. with an advocate workshop at nearby Christ Lutheran Church, 105 W. University Avenue which will provide citizens an opportunity to talk with legislators one on one.
The rally is sponsored by MoveMN, a coalition of more than 200 businesses, associations and organizations that has been lobbying hard at the State Capitol this winter. The coalition seeks to erase Minnesota’s transportation deficit and creating new funding that will enable the state to properly maintain and improve transportation assets that expand access and opportunity for all, and create living wage jobs.
The transportation system is like the heart or circulatory system," said Hilary Reeves, communications director at Transit for Livable Communities. "If it's not paid attention to, you have a heart attack. The same is true with the transportation system. We saw that with the 35W bridge collapse. We end up paying more for a lack of investment."
Last year 10 states passed transportation legislation. Both the Minnesota House and Senate have transportation bills before them. Hearings are scheduled for next week.
"We can show support for the idea that the legislature should act this session," Reeves said. "There is a real opportunity here."
A MnDOT report issued in late 2013 found that the agency will get $18 billion in funding over the next 20 years to makeover state roads. But the “Assessing Return on Investment in Minnesota’s State Highway Program” report put out by the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee said MnDOT will need $30 billion to keep pace with the state's growing population and aging infrastructure.
Minnesota ranks 38th in pavement quality, and more than half of the state’s highways and 35 percent of its bridges are more than 50 years old. Without the extra $12 billion, the report said that the amount of pavement in poor condition will rise by 13 percent and more than 200 bridges will be in poor condition. For motorists, that translates into slower travel times, increased safety issues and higher vehicle operating costs.