Our streets should be welcoming places that create opportunity for all. Instead, our streets reflect systems of racial and economic injustice. To begin to remedy this, Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature must invest to build opportunity and fairness across our communities. We can begin to accomplish this by investing in bus-rapid transit in this year’s bonding bill.

Community conversations are rightly focused on the need for systemic change in this moment — George Floyd’s death is part of our long history of injustice, and we need systemic solutions. Our discriminatory and harmful systems of police enforcement need reform; land use systems that segregate neighborhoods by race need reform; systems that harm our climate and perpetuate horrifyingly inequitable health outcomes for black and brown communities need reform.

Our transportation system also creates and reinforces injustice for communities of color. It, too, needs reform.

Investing in transit is essential to building a more racially just transportation system. Our transit riders are disproportionately people of color, and investing in transit lifts up communities of color and begins to reclaim our streets as democratic and just spaces.

Thankfully, we don’t have to look far to find important and impactful projects to support. The B Line, D Line and E Line are three bus-rapid transit lines we could invest in right now that will have an enormous impact on people’s lives. They will provide faster, more frequent and more reliable service along Lake Street, Chicago Avenue and Hennepin Avenue — all communities whose residents and businesses have been directly impacted by George Floyd’s murder and the aftermath.

These lines need $75 million in investment, a critical benefit for all of us, but especially communities of color who make up more than half the people riding buses along these routes. Two of these lines are shovel-ready and will provide immediate construction jobs.

Transit connects people to the important places in their lives. If we fund these lines, transit will move people faster, saving riders hundreds of thousands of hours a year that they can spend with their loved ones or pursuing their dreams. If we fund these lines, transit will allow people to get there cheaper: An annual transit pass costs under $1,500, while car ownership puts families $9,000 in the hole each year.

This means that if we invest in a transit system people can depend on, families can take the money they would have spent on a car and put it toward things like education, rent and healthy food. If we fund these lines, our communities will be more stable, because the tens of thousands of essential employees who rely on transit can get to work.

And investing in the B, D and E lines is not just about investing in new riders and new lines. These critical lines will substantially replace and improve upon the current 21, 5 and 6 bus routes. These are three of the four highest ridership routes in Metro Transit’s system, and 52% of riders on these lines are black, indigenous or people of color. Bus-rapid transit investment is about helping real people now. The sooner we invest, the sooner we make a positive difference in peoples’ lives.

The protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder were clear: We need systemic change across the board to begin to deliver racial justice. Investing in transit creates more opportunity for all of us and is a tangible way that Minnesota can do more than pay lip service to our communities of color. People in our communities need the state of Minnesota to invest $75 million in the B, D and E lines. It is time to act, so that our streets take a tangible step toward becoming the places of opportunity we envision they can be.

 

Aisha Gomez and Hodan Hassan are members of the Minnesota House; Jeff Hayden and Patricia Torres Ray are members of the Minnesota Senate; all are Minneapolis DFLers. Angela Conley is a Hennepin County commissioner. Andrea Jenkins is vice president of the Minneapolis City Council.