$ 818 million in federal funds to support Minnesota public transportation – The Minnesota Daily
The money will create jobs for students and improve transportation options on campus.
Minnesota will receive about $ 818 million for public transportation over five years, which is expected to include investments in electric buses, despite ridership declining over the past year.
The money is part of a federal bill signed Nov. 15, with $ 6 billion for Minnesota infrastructure. Although Congress has not distributed the funds, officials say they will invest in projects that make transportation options greener and safer.
Another $ 302 million of the total funds will go to replace and repair bridges, designed to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.
The Metropolitan Council and Metro Transit will receive a large portion of the funding. Counties, cities and public universities will be able to apply for grants to improve local infrastructure such as bus stops and intersections.
“These are really critical investments when we think about ensuring that students of all abilities can get to campus and move around comfortably and safely around campus,” said Kyle Shelton, director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota.
Ridership declined during the pandemic
Metro Transit public relations manager Howie Padilla said the Northstar, which connects the Twin Cities to the northwest suburbs, has not recovered to the same extent as public transit.
Padilla said Northstar ridership is 10% of what it was in 2019. By comparison, bus ridership is about half of what it was in 2019.
“While workers are slowly but steadily returning to the office, some are still working from home,” Padilla said.
Second-year university student Joey Van Deurzen said he hopes the infrastructure bill will improve public transportation for residents of the Twin Cities rather than the suburbs, such as green and blue light rail extensions, which will link Brooklyn Park and other suburbs to the city.
“Looks like it’s built to attract people from the suburbs,” Van Deurzen said. “What’s the point when you have large parts of the city where people might have a pedestrian way of life, with public transportation included?” “
From fall 2019 until the following year, when classes were held primarily online, there was an approximately 82% drop in U-Pass sales. In October of this year, sales were still 18% lower than in 2019.
University students can purchase a U-Pass which allows unlimited use of most Metro Transit transportation. The pass typically costs $ 114 per semester, but this semester the pass was offered at half price.
“There is no doubt that university students are customers of public transit. It gives them low-cost means of getting around, ”said Met Council president Charles Zelle.
Minnesota lawmakers have passed a provision in the transportation bill that requires an academic study of the impact of the pandemic on future use of public transportation. Some fear investing in public transit options where the number of riders is decreasing. According to Shelton, the study is still in development.
Bill invests in pedestrians and the climate
Shelton, director of the Center of Transportation Studies, said the new infrastructure bill will impact mobility in the city of Minneapolis.
“There’s probably more funding than what we’ve seen before in pedestrian infrastructure,” Shelton said. “It will impact both how students get to campus and how they move around campus. “
Greg Lindsey, a professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said the money will create internships and jobs for college students to apply to at consulting firms and local governments.
Lindsey added that the bill will focus on greener modes of transportation and add more bike lanes.
“It also puts the climate first,” Zelle said. “Having additional transit lanes and transit activities allows people to leave their cars at home, which are the biggest emitters of carbon. “
Michael Dunst, a recent college graduate, said the infrastructure bill established unsustainable dependence on cars by investing $ 4.5 billion in highways in Minnesota.
“We will see a lot of new roads and tracks being built in the United States, which will only further cement our path in terms of climate change,” Dunst said. “Some of the projects that I think would be forward thinking are things like dedicated bus lanes and projects to prioritize transit vehicles at traffic lights. “