Funding for Twin Cities transit is facing a double-whammy of lagging sales tax revenue and cutbacks in state aid, the Metropolitan Council told legislators Wednesday.
THE REVENUE PROBLEM
While transit is getting a bigger share of motor vehicle sales taxes, it's been a bigger chunk of a shrinking pie because sales slowed during the recession. Those taxes make up about half of the transit budget. "It really didn't pay off as was originally anticipated," said Arlene McCarthy, director of transportation services for the Met Council. Beyond that, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a 9 percent reduction in general fund money for transit.
THE EXPENSE PROBLEM
Transit operations face greater costs because of rising fuel prices. Met Council officials said higher fuel costs increase ridership, but also require spending more on buses or rail cars to meet the demand.
WHAT TO DO?
The Met Council may raise bus and rail fares by 25 cents to minimize cutbacks in service.
Met Council regional administrator Patrick Born said Wednesday a fare hike isn't "imminent." Any fare hike would first have public hearings and probably could not go into effect before late this year or early 2012. Any decision on a fare hike would await the seating of more council members by Dayton in March, updated economic forecasts and other actions by the Legislature, said Met Council officials.
WHAT THEY SAY
Rep. Ron Shimanski, R-Silver Lake, noted data showing that half of Hiawatha light-rail riders have household incomes exceeding $50,000.
"Could we ask them to pay a higher fare?" he asked.
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504