A group of 23 legislators representing Democrats and Republicans this week are learning first-hand what it's like to get around by using public transportation, taking trains and buses to get to work, meetings and places such as day care and school.
The Roll With Us Transit Challenge issued by a number of local advocacy groups who support funding for public transportation is meant to highlight challenges faced by those who ride buses and trains everyday. It's also meant to show where transit works and where it does not. The challenge runs through Saturday.
"The goal of the week is to highlight the need fore better transit by using it for all of our daily living needs," said Sen. Scott Dibble, chair of the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee. "Although this week cannot replicate someone's actual experience, we hope that we can at least open a window into the critical situation faced by Minnesota's transit riders."
As part of Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed $6 billion transportation plan, a half-cent sales tax in the metropolitan area would help pay for $2.8 billion in improvements that would include buses that run more frequently and increased service in other areas. The suburbs often see service during the morning and afternoon rush periods, but little in the middle of the day, said Hillary Reeves of Transit for Livable Communities .
"If schedules are not set, it can be a challenge getting home," she said. "Legislators might be able to get to the capitol, but getting home can be a challenge. I bet there is a lot of ridesharing talk in background."
Funding for bus routes has been flat for the past few years, even though ridership has been growing, Reeves said. Most of the new routes and service expansions have come from shifting funds from one route to another. One example is the old Route 50, which was discontinued when the Green Line began rolling in June. Money from that route was freed up to be reallocated to other routes.
Earlier this month, the new chairman of the Met Council Adam Duininck said a better bus system is crucial to improving the region’s transit. The Met Council is exploring a number of bus rapid transit routes along highways and urban corridors as part of a plan to build a better transit system. That's part of the reason for this week's challenge, as the hotly debated transportation issue continues at the capitol.
Here were the names of the state representatives and senators who are taking part in the challenge:
Senator Scott Dibble (61, Minneapolis),
Senator Eric Pratt (55, Prior Lake),
Senator David Senjem (25, Rochester),
Senator Patricia Torres Ray (63, Minneapolis),
Representative Mike Freiberg (45B, Golden Valley),
Representative Sandra Masin (51A, Eagan),
Representative Rena Moran (65A, St. Paul),
Representative JoAnn Ward (53A, Woodbury),
Representative Laurie Halverson (51B, Eagan),
Representative Connie Bernardy (41A, Fridley),
Representative Erik Simonson (7B, Duluth),
Representative Jennifer Schultz (7A, Duluth),
Representative Mike Sundin (11A, Esko),
Representative Alice Hausman (66A, St. Paul)
Representative Melissa Hortman (36B, Brooklyn Park)
Representative Clark Johnson (19A, North Mankato)
Representative Frank Hornstein (61A, Minneapolis)
Representative Jim Davnie (63A, Minneapolis)
Representative Carolyn Laine (41B, Columbia Heights)
Representative John Lesch (66B, St. Paul)
Representative Dave Pinto (64B, St. Paul)
Representative Ryan Winkler (46A, Golden Valley)
Representative Raymond Dehn (59B, Minneapolis)
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck also are taking the challenge.
Here is a list of the advocacy groups promoting the challenge:
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Catholic Charities of St. Paul & Mpls., Fresh Energy, MPIRG, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Transit for Livable Communities, TakeAction MN, ATU Local 1005, MN Center for Environmental Advocacy, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, Summit Academy OIC, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, ISAIAH