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How Should Southwest LRT Be Funded?

With several proposals before the Legislature, Patch wants to know what ideas, if any, you favor.

Last legislative session, the big question about Southwest Light Rail Transit was whether there was enough political will to fund the project. The tables appear to have turned this year, though. With at least three funding proposals floating around, the focus has lately been more on how to fund it than whether it deserves any money.

Edina Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-District 49) introduced Senate File 257 and Senate File 258, which would provide $118 million and $37 million, respectively, in bonding money for the 15-mile light rail project.

Watch Franzen explain her bills in the YouTube video above.

Gov. Mark Dayton, on the other hand, has proposed a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would set up a dedicated revenue stream for transit—some of which would likely going toward the Southwest project.

The competing proposals have forced transit legislators to take a hard look at the best path forward. On Friday, Minnetonka Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-District 44) told Finance & Commerce that bonding is the best option because sales taxes are more appropriate for immediate needs, not long-term investments. (Bonoff added that she doesn’t think the state should bond for the full $118 million that remains of the state share because she doesn’t think it makes sense to borrow money until it’s needed.)

However, fans of Dayton’s transit tax increase like that it creates a dedicated funding stream for transit and remove it from the hands of the Legislature—where it’s sparked intense debate and faced repeated setbacks.

Patch wants to know how you think Southwest LRT should be funded. Are you willing to pay a higher transit tax? Do you think the state should borrow the money? Is Southwest LRT even worth funding? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

James Ishmael February 15, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Yes, Mr. Lampe, I agree. I have nothing against the Light Rail, if it would do only one half of what it promises, but it will not. It's costs out weigh its value. Build it from St. Cloud and other Minnesota towns 75 miles or more from the Metro to the present Metro Stations. You are a ray of hope on this cloudy issue.
David March 06, 2013 at 10:58 PM
As another posted commented about light rail during the last campaign, some questions for those supporting this boondoggle: Part 1: Can you share with us which transit system line in the state is operating in the black without taxpayer subsidies? Or name any in the five state area that are operating in the black? Can you point out any real economic activity? Specifically, provide examples of newly operating “powerful economic engines” that exist where LRT is operating today? If there was to be all this economic activity, wouldn’t you think private enterprise would already be willing to support the cost of a train? As a taxpayer, I am not getting sucked in again over empty promises. In fact, I am still waiting to see that “powerful economic activity and redevelopment” around the HHH Metrodome promised by WCCO Sports reporter, Sid Hartman and others, in the early 80’s. Other than a bar named Hubert’s, the economic activity in that area looks sort of thin. It is apparent to many taxpayers that the Met Council is simply replacing existing bus routes, some successful and some not, which is hardly a recipe for new self-sufficient development.
David March 06, 2013 at 10:59 PM
part two: Who is auditing the estimated ridership numbers for 2030? The Met Council? Or is it other faceless special interests of LRT? Bold assertions were also made at the start of the Central Corridor, yet it appears to need subsidized tickets to maintain ridership. I believe these subsidies are a direct result of LRT failing to meet ridership estimations. The taxpayers are left with the bill. Even if ridership meets that quota, can anyone explain why the opportunity cost comparison of busses appear to be MIA? Anyone disagree with the obvious fact that buses can do the same job (transportation) at a fraction of cost of $1.2BB train route? (Has anyone even heard of a billion dollar bus proposal?) Wonder why? Why is no one putting a number on the efficiency of capital usage comparing trains vs busses? It doesn’t exactly take a transportation engineer to realize the ROI of capital spent on busses is significant better vs capital spent on trains. ROI Example: we can easily reallocate underutilized busses to other routes for maximum capital usage. During slow periods, we can reallocate or using DFL’s favorite word, easily ‘redistribute’ buses. ROI Example: Speed to adjust: Bus transit management can respond within the hour to move transit capital to new areas where the specific need exists. (ie. State Fair Time or highway construction, bridge repair)
David March 06, 2013 at 10:59 PM
LRT Proponents will say you can move train assets, too, but can you move a train for less than the cost of a quarter tank of gas? It is all about opportunity cost. What about the 800 pound gorilla in the Met Council Chamber? What do you do with a train and tracks and depots when the demographic need changes? If we maintain a bus system, you can simply change the bus route. Ever try to change railroad tracks and bridges? Imagine the horror if the same people that designed US169 are in charge of this. It has been almost 18 years and MNDOT is still ‘fixing’ 169 to make it drivable. Again, taxpayers getting stuck with the tab. How many believe if we build the train once, the train exists permanently forever? Let’s not even get into the repair and replacement cost of infrastructure due to frost wedging. The train infrastructure will deteriorate like our MN roads, whether they are used or not. Taxpayers again will be on the hook for replacing every bolt, track & bridge. Even if 75% of road traffic is removed from city streets, deterioration issues with roads still occur and MN taxpayers will need to continue to pay for repairs of roads in addition to rail infrastructure. Is there Federal financial help already lined up to pay for replacement maintenance in the out years? In 1982, how many of you thought we would have been replacing the Metrodome? I didn’t.
David March 06, 2013 at 11:00 PM
There is no "Free Money" from the Federal government for this. Neither the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) nor does the Federal Government create wealth. Only productive taxpayers create wealth through work, productivity and savings. The state is constantly fighting deficits. They are worse with Dayton at the helm passing out goodies to his cronies and special interests. The last time I looked the Federal Government is 16 Trillion in debt, that is $16,000,000,000,000!!! But that is concern for future email. In short, what does a train do that a bus cannot do at a fraction of the cost? Until these questions are answered and fully understood, discussed and debated by the taxpayers there should no approval to move forward.

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