The federal government weighs in this week on the environmental and economic impact posed by two proposals to deal with congestion along the Twin Cities' Central Corridor. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has appointed a panel to make a recommendation soon on whether the 11-mile stretch of University Avenue connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul should get a bus rapid transit lane or a light rail line. With a million more people expected in the metro area over the next 25 years, what's the best long-term solution? Peter Bell, chair of the Metropolitan Council joins to discuss.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
(00:00:06) Good morning, and welcome to midday. I'm Mike Edgerly in this week for Gary eichten by almost any measure the Twin Cities faces a transportation dilemma. If you think rush hour traffic is bad now by 2030 the Metro could grow by another 1 million people groups like The attask a project and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce suggest spending upwards of seven hundred fifty million dollars a year to create more mass transit and improve roads the attask a project says it would take 500 million a year just to keep Pace not to get ahead of the problem the chamber and the in Teske a tie Itasca project released their plans just a few months ago. But so far, there's no sign of either will get put into place still other communities around the nation are moving ahead with Transportation plans. For example, this month voters in Denver approved spending lots of money on a Transit plan that planners say Would reduce traffic by about 250,000 cars like a morning commuter stuck on 35W the Twin Cities looks to be going nowhere fast in addressing its Transportation needs Our Guest this hour is made transportation problems. One of the top agendas on his agenda Peter Bell is Chairman of the Metropolitan Council. Mr. Bill. Thanks for coming in (00:01:20) today. Mike is great to be with you. (00:01:22) Is it an overstatement to say we're going nowhere fast in fixing the transportation problems in the Twin (00:01:27) Cities. Well Mike, I think we are in point of fact making some progress but I think really everyone would acknowledge. It's not nearly enough progress or nearly quick enough for the general public. I am convinced and continue to say that it is our Region's number one livability concern and I think the public rightly expects, they're both elected and appointed officials to address it. You know, Mike transportation is is somewhat unique in public policy circles. I think for three important reasons one there's broad agreement. That it's a problem that our transportation system is not adequate to meet the demand from the left to the right. There's broad agreement on that too. I think everyone virtually everyone thinks there's a role for government in addressing this and three it in point of fact, we really do know what to do. It's just a resource availability question. I don't think you could say that for health care or K-12 education where those three things come together like with (00:02:26) Transportation. So what is it that needs to be done? If you could give us a (00:02:29) thumbnail. Well, I we I think we need to put the push the envelope in all directions. Everyone tries to pigeonhole folks. Are you a roads and bridges guy? Are you a Transit person and point of fact, I am both. I think that we need to expedite much of the construction that is planned and the the metropolitan area for roads. I the crosstown Commons area of course comes to mind the construction on from 494 on Cedar. New to Highway 100 and I think we need to move the transferred agenda forward and our transportation policy plan. We have five Transit ways that we want to advance in by 2022 busways on 31 on 35W and one on Cedar Avenue coming up to 35 the Northwest busway the central Corridor and and the Northstar all transit ways that we want to move (00:03:26) forward. You mentioned that the resource is the biggest problem one way to defeat that is to pass a tax increase of some sort of gasoline tax increase or some other mode of generating Revenue. Will your boss Governor pawlenty allow that to go forward or will it remain as no new taxes? (00:03:47) I think the short answer is no my quite candidly the governor believes quite strongly that he ran on a platform of not increasing revenues. He believes that we have adequate revenues and point of The state budget is going to grow or is anticipated to grow will have the revenue forecast the beginning of December but anticipated to grow by a 2 billion dollars and and he thinks that we need to learn to live within our means he does not think Minnesota is undertaxed having said that he is very mindful of the concerns about Transportation Statewide not just in the metropolitan region be really Statewide and is directed myself and lieutenant governor mole now to develop a transportation budget that we will be releasing shortly after the budget forecast in early December probably around fifth sixth seventh eighth sometimes in that timeframe and and your listeners I think can expect that. There will be new resources brought to bear for both Transit and transportation. Will it be adequate? No, well, we'll say that right now that it won't adjust the problem will many people say even more resources should be brought to bear absolutely, but it'll be A good healthy Next Step (00:05:01) our guests in this hour of midday is Peter Bell. He's the chair of the Metropolitan Council were talking about Transportation needs the problems facing the Twin Cities and the solutions that may come into play. You can join our conversation at 6'5 12276 thousand 6512276 thousand or toll-free 1-800-221-9460 to 208 or you may send an online question. Go to Minnesota Public Radio dot org and click on send the question. Mr. Bell. Does the Twin Cities run the risk of falling behind in other cities like Denver and Phoenix and San Diego where where voters have been asked then they have agreed to spend more money for mass transit. (00:05:50) Yes. That is a very real concern of mine. I really do believe that we need a multi-modal solution to this. I think the governor is committed to that as well. And we do see this agenda being aggressively pursued in other Metropolitan regions that I think our competitors of ours and you know, the point of fact is a simple one. If you want to be a world-class region, you have to have world-class amenities and I think how the public has taken to the Hiawatha light rail line. Our ridership is up 97% and we haven't even opened up the the four miles in the five extra stops. We'll go to the mall and to the airport we're doing things and only December 4th. We you know, the public has really taken to this even our critics if they're going to be intellectually honest have to acknowledge that this has been a success so far now we'll have to see how much of this is a novelty and will we be able to sustain it? But I'm (00:06:48) hopeful. Well you mentioned earlier that there there is a plan for University Avenue. We know what is the central Corridor between Minneapolis and st. Paul we're waiting for Federal government to release its environmental impact statement on the project. What do you think is the best way to improve Transportation there and create a mass transit option. Is it real or is it a bus way of (00:07:11) some well, we are waiting. The Plenty Administration is really waiting for the cost-benefit analysis. That will be coming out before the end of the year that will Analyze That Corridor the central Corridor and it is really the next Corridor up to bat whether that should be a rail Corridor or whether that should be a high speed bus Corridor now, it is clear that the the elected officials in Ramsey County and in st. Paul and the business Community are all clamoring for that to be rail, but this the cost differential Mike is significant if it's rail is going to be about eight hundred and fifty six million dollars if it's bus is going to be about 240 million dollars. It's about 600 million dollars difference. That's a huge difference between the two now it should. Also be stated the federal government will pay half of those costs and the operations of rail is slightly less than the operations of bus, but it's getting those Capital costs covered is going to be the real question and we're waiting to see what the cost benefit analysis rails going to have more writers to some people argue. There's more Economic Development Associated. So we'll have to (00:08:22) see and buses you end up putting more actual (00:08:26) vehicles on the road and would argue now. It depends on how you do it if you have a dedicated bus lane in the like but still it has to integrate with traffic sooner or later and many people say that that does add to the problem of congestion their arguments to be made on all sides of this issue and believe me in the inside the administration we're having vigorous intense discussions about what's the appropriate way to go but the governor's been clear. Let's see what the feds say. He used that criteria to determine the north star made sense, though. Made changes in it. You know, it's going to go up to st. Cloud instead of the big lake and who knows what will happen with the central Corridor but we will a decision will have to be made relatively soon. (00:09:10) Let's go to the phones and Jim in st. Paul you're on with Peter (00:09:13) Bell. Yeah a couple questions for you Jim. How are you? Very good. This one question. Why is it that we can't have a set of funding for the expenses of the transit system that we have and I'm talking about maybe one and a half by half a percent to maybe 1 percent of the sales tax collected in the metro area to go exclusively towards the operation of Transit. So we don't have that scrambling for funds every couple of years. I'll take my pants off the air (00:09:44) and you and we do not have a dedicated amount of money each year or each budget. Well, we're Transit, is that (00:09:51) correct? Well, we do actually we do have What's called the M vest the motor vehicle sales tax now this Attacks, it is paid on Motor Vehicle Statewide. We get 21.5 percent of that and that is dedicated to to Transit activities the difficulty with it. Some would say, it's really not dedicated Peter because the legislature in each legislative session can change that. We also get money out of the general fund and we get federal dollars about 30 percent of the cost of our transit system, which is about 300 million dollars a year about 30% of it comes from the fare box gym raises an interesting and valid point many municipalities in many regions throughout the country have a enacted a sales tax to help pay for both capital and operating cost Denver Phoenix Phoenix come to mind and that is something that has received some attention and discussion. The governor. However is very committed and and understandably. So the same look at this is going to increase the tax burden on already heavily taxed. Citizenry and that we need to be able to find the resources for Transit within the current Contours of our of our budget and that's a position that he feels very strongly about but he also he also I've had numerous conversations with him recognizes the need for a dedicated source of funding and as my friend Kurt Johnson continues to say not having to crawl over broken glass to the legislature each session to get a funding and and Transit and roads are really different in this sense the lead time you need to start a project and finish it is so long that you really need a predictable source of funding plus a Transit is not self sustaining. It does have an operating deficit that needs to be made up by public sources of funding and that needs to be predictable and and really we don't have a good predictable Source now (00:11:55) Peter Bell is our guest. He's the chair of the Metropolitan Council you can join our conversation. At 6'5 122676 thousand 6512276 thousand that's in the Twin Cities or toll-free 1-800-221-9460 for 2 to 8. You may send an online question go to Minnesota Public Radio dot org and click on send a question and rights from Minneapolis. Mr. Bell. What is being done to address the ongoing traffic delays caused by the Hiawatha Light Rail Line crossing. Hiawatha is still extremely slow. She says (00:12:31) and thanks for the the right in question. We have actually I was just talking to our Transit officials today and asking them how progress is being made in terms of the signaling and have been assured and actually antic totally though. Ann's question doesn't reflect this but I am told both by our people that that actually are working on this and again just Folks that I casually talked with that this problem is getting much better. I think Mike we had two problems. When you open up the Hiawatha light rail line. We didn't have adequate parking, you know, and that's I guess the problem you want to have if you got too many customers for your for your railroad or for your restaurant and we didn't have adequate parking and there was a number of reasons for that and I don't think we adequately addressed the signaling problem. That was clearly something that we didn't give enough thought and attention to and didn't do enough testing on in the like when we open up the additional four miles in Bloomington. I think you will not see a repeat of those problems. And and the only thing I can say is that my understanding is is much improved not perfect but much improved and and we have still a small ways to go (00:13:44) yet. Is there enough parking now, there will be some new spaces opening up or have already opened up at Fort Snelling. I (00:13:50) believe that's that's correct new spaces open up before snowing when we opened up the the Hiawatha line. We're going to have 600 additional spaces are going to be opening up. There and we just opened up Monday three additional spaces or three additional (00:14:04) spots. Let's go back to the phones Bob in Hibbing. You're on with Peter (00:14:07) Bell. Yeah. I just recently moved to Minnesota and you know, it seems like ever since I got here. I've been hearing about transportation problems and all of the discussion seems to be focused in the Twin Cities and I'm appalled by the idea of what I assume would be a Statewide gas tax that would benefit the transit problems in the Twin Cities, but not do anything to affect the highways up here on the Range, you know, it would be the equivalent of you know taxing people in Austin to pay for new highways and Dallas and that that's I have no problem with paying taxes to provide the services that the public needs but I have a real problem with taxing everybody to benefit a minority and I'm wondering what I'm wondering about having been in Texas as I said and on the East Coast for about In years has anybody given any thought to toll roads that you know, the people who are using the service or the people who are paying for it? (00:15:09) Mr. Bell. Yeah, the the the question of really raises some of the difficulty with coming up with a funding source. There are four really basis you need to touch when you think about funding transportation funding of any sort and he spoke to it a package has to be balanced between greater Minnesota and the Seven County region. It has to be balanced between roads and bridges and Transit and if you don't get a good mix a good balance between those four, it's simply cannot pass and and the caller Illustrated the point, you know, he'll people in Hibbing Minnesota understandably say, why are you taxing me for a Hiawatha light rail line in Minneapolis that I'll never use or maybe use just on on rare occasions conversely people in the The seven County region say why are we spending through very our gas tax money and various formula dollars inordinate amounts of money that go into greater Minnesota where the congestion is in nearly as bad as it is in here in the seven County region and the debate rages on and on and on with the various formulas that we have for dispensing $1 toll roads. We are going to do congestion pricing. We have 10 roads that we are selected for that that is something that I am a big fan of that. It will bring new resources into the system and it really does allow the user to pay for the system and I think that it is something that we're very excited about the one on 394 out near Ridgedale will be open in a year and we'll get a really a real-life test on how the public responds to (00:16:50) it. Let's go to Paul and Minneapolis. I think you have an idea about the gas tax. (00:16:54) Yes. I have a question regarding the formula and the way the state is funding the Text into out State versus the local Twin City area. Would the governor be in support of a constitutional limit to change the way that the gas tax is funded as far as the formula that is now setup is constitutionally mandated to disproportionately give the majority of the gas tax funds to outstate (00:17:20) Minnesota. Yeah, I think quite candidly that's a non-starter the a couple of things I want to say about the gas tax one is is that it's somewhat dangerous to rely too much on the gas tax the Apparently if I am to believe what I read that one of the hottest selling cars are these hybrid cars my friend was reading the other day that they don't have enough batteries for them or they're having some production problems with manufacturing the batteries for them when you get into Blended fuels in the like there's a lot of problems with relying exclusively on the gas tax. The governor. I've never had a discussion with the governor about altering the formula. I really think so candidly. It's a non-starter. It would be just trench warfare. If the gas tax Were Ever Raised I think there would be some receptivity to take that incremental increase on the gas tax and have a different formula for the increase on the gas tax, but to take the existing gas tax and recalibrate the formula for that I think is the prospects are (00:18:30) dim you're talking about with any increase dead making it higher here in the Twin Cities then in or just Oh, no just setting a (00:18:38) different formula having a different formula how those dollars are spent than how the dollars are spent that from the current gas (00:18:46) stack right Robert from Minneapolis rights. Mr. Bell might Minnesota show itself to be a national example of intelligent cutting-edge transportation and adopt personal Rapid (00:18:56) Transit. That's a question. I get quite Often PRT or personal Rapid Transit. It has a number of proponents and I think actually there is some there there the difficulty is who's going essentially who's going to go first. It is to my way of thinking still unproven technology. I think it it has some interesting prospects but is unproven the initial costs are huge and and I think in this budgetary environment to get any elected official any decision maker to make that commitment before it is proven is not likely frankly. What I would like to see with personal Rapid Transit is the federal government fund a few demonstration projects. I think that they could do that in German in the downtown area or small municipality or at a university and then you could get a real live test at scale and then I think Can make an informed decision based on something that is actually operational its heart. It will be hard to get someone to introduce it first. (00:20:07) Help me here. What does PRT look like? What is it? Exactly? (00:20:11) There's a lot of iterations of it. But PRT is essentially where you have a car that two or three or four people can get into it and that you can direct that car to take you essentially where you want to go where within the grid that they have and you can program the car to do that. It's less intrusive in terms of its rail. It's a very thin rail that it runs on. It's less intrusive than joining a light rail track or the like it Rose above ground. So you don't have signaling problems. It's very energy efficient. I mean the proponents of it make a strong case. I think they oversell, you know, they say let you know won't use any fuel in it takes you right where you want to go and it'll be not require. Subsidy, well, whenever anybody says, you know, I've got the answer the perfect answer. My first inclination is to run the other way, but having said that I do think there are some legitimate aspects to it. But I think that the fifth I'd like to see the feds have demonstration project for a number of different Transit ideas. (00:21:16) Let's go to Tim and Minneapolis. You're on with Peter Bell. (00:21:19) Hello. Mr. Bellamy a variant very heartened to hear your openness to a variety of solutions. I'm really excited about the light rail. I think it's well-designed except for things like the Hiawatha problem. I think that's a good example of the big fear I have about it that it is effectively perhaps crippled by some legislators built to fail the big example, I'd say that is just that you've got one line Minneapolis proved in the 30s and 40s that we could have a world-class rail line and comprehensively support that as a community. So I'm wondering why we're not building a system of lines. It will be in your word a novelty if we let it be simply a theme park. At the Mall of America, but if we build the st. Paul De Minneapolis, if we build along the university elsewhere and make a comprehensive rail line that people can use functionally rather than just for fun. We'll have a system that doesn't run fossil fuels and we'll be building for the future. We cannot afford to build more roads and get more things on the road Let's Get It Up of ground off the road. Can we just say the Minneapolis is worth it and invest that far into the future. (00:22:27) Thanks Tim Tim. Thanks for your comments. There's a number of things that you had there the I'll try to address first. I would I guess take a little bit of issue that this will just be a novelty. My real point was is that the virtually doubling of ridership will that be sustainable into the future or will some people are some people riding it just because it's a new thing in town. But even if we did nothing else, I think it would be successful are again. Our ridership is double what we projected. We've got a half a In more dollars in Revenue than we initially forecast and this is only again been open since since mid-june. I you know this cost 715 million dollars to construct that includes purchasing the cars now it needs to be added that the feds paid for half of that but with the current budgetary environment that we're in I think the legislature understandably kind of took a position of let's crawl before we walk let's walk before we run. Let's get this one system open this one line open. Let's see how it runs and that and I think I've told all my Transit Advocate friends, there is no Prospect for a second line. If the Hiawatha line is not successful now that the Hiawatha line is not just been successful but is exceeding expectations. I think that puts into play the possibility of additional lines, but the dollar amounts are just too huge the claim on the public purse too great to say that we're going to build Four or five lines. That's just not in the offing. I think we'll look at the central Corridor. We'll see about that and we will I believe in this state take it a step at a (00:24:10) time. The Hiawatha line is a great advertisement for itself, isn't it? Oh it is (00:24:15) there's just no doubt about that. I really do now I'm close to the situation. And so I think perhaps too close to to always have an accurate sense. I took it to know and Mike to the ball game this week this weekend to the to the Vikings and I did would many other people did I parked my car and my wife and I jumped on the train and we were squeezed in wouldn't be, you know other fans going there. And then after the game got on actually went downtown and did a little bit of shopping and then took our car or the right in the train back out to our car and it was a very quick and pleasurable experience. It was enjoyed by thousands and thousands of other people and and and I was listening to the conversation lot of there's a person from Mankato. That's it. You going to one of these going to come down to Mankato? It was the buzz. Everyone was talking about it. And that's what's happened. In other cities to (00:25:06) Peter Bell is our guest. He's the chair of the Metropolitan Council will continue our conversation about Transportation after this programming is supported by Ecolab dedicated to improving cleaning and sanitation standards for leading Hospitality Healthcare and food processing customers worldwide on the web at Ecolab.com and by the Minnesota state colleges and universities system educating two-thirds of Minnesota's undergraduates at seven state universities and twenty five colleges online at mnsu.edu. Let's get a check now of news headlines here Stephen John. Thank you, Mike Russian President Vladimir Putin called today for a peaceful resolution to the disputed presidential elections in the Ukraine. This says the country's opposition leader defiantly claim Ukraine's presidency Viktor. Yushchenko took a symbolic oath of office in Parliament as around The be supporters mast in the streets of Kiev demanding the disputed election be overturned Western observers said the result of Sunday's runoff election in favor of the pro-kremlin candidate was seriously flawed CBS. Anchor Dan Rather has announced he will step down in March on the 24th anniversary of taking over the job from Walter Cronkite rather has come under increasing fire in the wake of a CBS report on President. Bush's National Guard service a report based on documents that were later called into question thousands of US Marines British troops. And Iraqi Commandos are engaging araki militants south of Baghdad Insurgent violence has spiked in the areas south of the capital since the u.s. LED assault on the militant stronghold of Fallujah. The military says, it's an apparent attempt to divert attention away from Fallujah. A Sawyer County. Wisconsin judge is expected to set bail today for the Minnesota man accused of fatally shooting fatally shooting six hunters and wounding two others investigators are expected to give the judge pay. Work supporting charges against chai Vang vieng isn't expected to appear in court. It's unclear when he will be formally charged the 36 year old st. Paul man is accused of killing six members of a hunting party after he wandered onto private land the FBI believes a Serial bank. Robber has struck again in the Twin Cities authorities. Say a man robbed the Bremer Bank in the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis yesterday. He gave the teller a demand note then walked out into the Skyway system with an undisclosed amount of money. The FBI says the man also is believed responsible for four other robberies Skies partly to mostly sunny today in Minnesota colder generally in the 30s for highs tonight dry lows dropping to about 10 above in the far north in the Twin Cities. Now Mike sunny and 32 degrees. This is midday coming to you on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Mike Edgerly in this week for Gary eichten coming up at noon today. It's a national Press Club live broadcast featuring General James Jones. He's the commander of the European Allied command. He'll talk about the transformation of NATO underway. This is midday. Our guests in this hour is Peter Bell. He's the chair of the Metropolitan Council. We're talking about transportation in the Twin Cities, but not limited just to the Twin Cities it obviously is a regional issue and a regional problem in some cases. Mr. Bailed the last visit you made to this program was during the bus strike by drivers at Metro Transit has bus ridership rebounded from that bus drivers strike. (00:28:36) Mike is come back significantly, but not a totally when we when the strike was over the strike lasted 44 days. Was very very difficult for the transit dependent portion of our Transit customer base about 25 to 30 thousand daily customers and we Define them as people who don't have another means of transportation. It was very difficult for them. It was very difficult for our or Transit employees. They were out for 44 days. I understand. It was the longest Transit strike in in US history something I say more in sorrow than in anything else. We were down about 30% ridership and now we're still down about just about 5% We provide about 74 million rides a year on our bus on our bus system in our transportation policy plan, which will be improved in the next week or so. We want to double the transit ridership over the next 30 Years and increase it 50% over the next 20 years. And frankly we're going in the wrong direction transit ridership in the seven County region was at one point as high as about 81 million rides a year and now we're down to 74 million rides a year that was resulted from some budget cuts that we had some cutting some lines. We increased fairs and this is a supply and demand business the more you charge the fewer Riders again. (00:30:12) So will you be expanding lines in and I'm thinking of Woodbury, for example, it's not uncommon to hear someone in Woodbury. Just east of the st. Paul say, I wish I could catch a bus relatively close to my house and they cannot. (00:30:25) Yeah, we do have our number one goal with our transit system is to relieve congestion and we are giving serious consideration to some more Express buses. I can't speak specifically to Woodbury, but some Express buses that will go from some of the second and third ring suburbs. To Minneapolis and st. Paul I think most people and perhaps are not aware. I found this to be a startling statistic 40% of the people who work in Downtown Minneapolis take the bus 20 percent of the people that work in downtown st. Paul take the bus and Mike we can't build Park and rides fast enough. We simply can't put them up fast enough. If you're not there by 7:00 or 7:30, you're out of luck. That's how used that's how much you say they get and relieving congestion express bus ways is one of the ways that we plan on on doing that as well as developing those five transfer ways that I mentioned a half hour ago. (00:31:26) You can join our conversation with Peter Bell at 6512276 thousand 6512276 thousand or toll-free 1-800-221-9460 288 or you may send a question or comment online go to Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. And click on send a question Katie from Minneapolis rights. Mr. Bell MTC continues to cut bus service in Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs is this due to the subsidy for the (00:31:57) LRT know there is no connection between the two at all and people kind of asked that that are we starving the bus system so that LRT can can receive a subsidy actually, we got an additional legislative appropriation for the subsidy required for LRT. Many a Hennepin County is paying 50% of that the operating subsidy as well. So that's not the case. We did restrict some or cut some service and and what we do we are constantly and I think we should constantly analyzing our routes trying to determine which of the most efficient which are the least efficient and we have to look seriously at those that are least efficient, you know, the governor asked me a question all the time. He says Peter I'll be out at 11 o'clock at night and I'll see a huge Hawking bus with two people on it. Now. Why Peter why help me understand this Peter? Why are we running that bus what is the cost of this? Is there a better way to do this and and frankly, I don't think I have ever given him an adequate and satisfactory answer other than to say and we are doing this really scrutinizing our route service and I frankly we will be making changes in the not-too-distant future on routes. The just are underutilized. The subsidy is so high that I just can't justify it. (00:33:25) Let's go back to the phones Janice calling from st. Cloud. You're on with Peter Bell. (00:33:29) Hi Peter. I don't have a question. I just want to add my fuel to the fire that we've just got to do this to st. Cloud. I would take the transit a couple times a week if I could do it. We've traveled in the Scandinavian. It's just a wonderful way to go and I mean we could Right to the airport. Now if we could get there just just love the (00:33:51) concept Dennis. Thanks for your comment. You know, the the North Star is going up to Big Lake and and really I think the thought is we're going to see how that works. We're going to see what the ridership is and and and then go from there and it's certainly very possible that it will be extended up to to st. Cloud so that this is the first bite of the apple and then we'll see this governor and I think this legislature really does want to take it a step at a time. And I think that that's the only way to do it with the dollars being what they are. (00:34:25) We'll light rail or rail period find a friendlier legislature this year last section the Hiawatha line had yet to to actually launch they went the legislators went home. I think before before it began, but but now we've had almost a year or close to eight nine months of Experience and now these legislators will be coming coming to st. Paul and hearing a lot of positive feedback. It would seem. Yeah Mike. I think the (00:34:54) short answer is yes. I think that there will be more recip tivity in the legislature for for Rail and and principally because this line is here and it's proven itself and I think really only the harshest critics would not say that it has not exceeded expectations. Now, they'll still point to the 715 million dollars. I think appropriately they'll point to the 850 some million that would cost for the central Corridor. I and raise important questions about that, you know, the the line still needs a subsidy of about 65 cents on the dollar for the for the line maybe a little bit less depending upon where ridership is and that goes on forever and and you know, they they do ask very important and legitimate questions about that. One day, you know, I think in advance Western democracies, there are very few black hats very few white hats. A lot of gray hats most issues. I described as 5149 where you really can argue either side of an issue with a fair degree of legitimacy. I would make the I think that's true for Transit as (00:36:04) well. Jim Wright's from Falcon Heights. Mr. Bell. Please comment on the possible development of the Redrock rail line from Cottage Grove to downtown st. (00:36:13) Paul. I think that that's that's going to be further down the line. If in fact that that takes off it is not in our Tier 1 the Tier 1 has the to busways 35W and and Cedar Avenue. It has the North Star and it has the the central Corridor Red Rock is not a a part of that that would be in our tier 2 or after that and and it's going to only be the the ridership numbers that I have have seen are not significant enough to make a big. Compelling case there's a number of systems that would be proper for (00:36:49) that. Is there a reason why the real seems to be Alec or rail thinking is allocated to the west of the Mississippi and not to the east (00:36:57) well, you're talking to my friends and st. Paul who make that case to me a lot and they you know, they rightly say look at Peter. We've got the North Stars in the West Metro area hiawatha's in the in the West Metro Area you're talking about to busways, you know, the Cedar Avenue in the 35W. What's over here in the East and that's a legitimate Point. I've raised that point with the governor and other Administration officials and that's why I think we're going to need to do something look very very seriously at the at the central Corridor. But the key Mike is that the indispensable ingredient for Transit. There's just no getting around it is density and you get density one or two ways through housing or artificial density through Park and rides. That's the only way you can do it and it has to have density if you don't the David don't work at all. (00:37:49) Let's go to Jimmy in Winona. You're on with Peter (00:37:51) Bell. Hi. I have one quick question. I've read a few years back worship. We were considering a light rail Transit speed train from Chicago to Twin Cities area. He would devolve, Illinois possibly, Wisconsin into Minnesota. What is the possibility of that in how would I be covered as far as financially and I need to get off the line now. So (00:38:23) okay. There's that has been discussed over the years kind of my mentor and Transit issues is a gentleman by the name of Nacho Diaz, and he was telling me that 15 years ago. He was a part of a group that went down to Illinois and Wisconsin was meeting with officials there about a my understanding was wasn't a light rail line would be a heavy rail line and a high-speed line. The cost of that were just prohibitive in addition to securing rights of way and negotiating with rail authorities that I would put that as a low priority item and something that we will not see in this region in the foreseeable (00:39:04) future. The Amtrak line does run from st. Paul to Chicago but it does take a while. (00:39:08) Yes. Yeah. It's not the bullet trains that you have in Japan or in Europe, which I have written which are fabulous. You know, the other thing I think make that this is again, I don't want to put all our problems off on the federal government. But if we ever are going to have a huge commitment to those kind of real court has I think it would need to be a presidential initiative. Someone would have to run on that and say I'm going to put 50 billion dollars in developing 20 rail connections, and I think they even have to identify what they are, you know Minneapolis to Chicago Seattle to San Diego Houston to Atlanta, you know, and here's a fifty billion dollar commitment. With the locals are going to have to put in here's what the governance structure would look like, but that's the Catalyst that it would need. That's the excitement that could get generated from that I think doing it by compacts with States will make it very difficult (00:40:00) Fred rights online from North Minneapolis. Is there a charge for parking at Park and Ride lots and if not, why not? (00:40:08) Well, there isn't and the theory again being that what you charge for you get less of and we want to encourage people as I mentioned a minute ago, these two ways you get density housing and through Park and rides and we want to encourage people to use them. (00:40:22) Let's go back to the phones and Christine and Minneapolis is on your own with Peter (00:40:25) Bell. Yes. Hi. I don't think we have time to wait for president presidential initiatives regarding Nationwide railroad connection system here as a German and pediatrician here in Minnesota. I feel strongly that we need light rail, and I think that looking at just Costs as you have presented them real 850 million and boss 240 million. We're not presenting the proper picture because there's enormous environmental externalities associated with bus as it is right now, even if we're switching to hybrid and PCA has published at 53% of excess cancers risk in Hennepin County's due to Transportation right now. So we need to do something about it and we need to think about sustainable Transportation. (00:41:18) Thank you Christine. Mr. (00:41:19) Bill Christine. I think raises some very legitimate points. I get that argument often that there are these externalities that happened the impact on pollution that you get from a trance and particularly a rail Transit the economic development the results from from that there's a whole host of them two questions one is that they are hard to quantify and to the people that pay them don't get the benefits so that you know that It's not exactly true. But you're asking people to write a direct check today in terms of higher taxes for the benefits that they may kind of sort of get and that they don't they're not real clear about in a political context. I think it makes it very difficult. But those those factors are not lost on this Administration this morning before I came over here. We have one of our high speed. Excuse me, one of our Light Rail trains, we sold and add to Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Heart Association and they're doing a campaign called do it which is exercise ten minutes three times a day and they're promoting that with our our light rail system because it is clear Transit Riders are more fit. They walk to the trains often. They walked from the trains. They are there is a bit more of an active lifestyle that's associated. We have bike racks in there and the like So Christine I think raises an interesting point, it's hard to Quantify that it's hard to get a dollar figure for that and and no one is really writing a check for that. You know, people have enjoyed Better Health and the like but it's a bit of a mismatch but those arguments I think are valid and are not lost though. I to be counted. I think they are secondary considerations rather than primary considerations. I don't want to mislead your (00:43:08) audience in Denver. It's been said that the new rail proposal that the voters approved in November would take about 250,000 cars off the road or at least that's the goal. Should that be our goal here to create some option? That isn't just well that is intended to get to to leave fewer cars on the roads. And (00:43:29) yeah, it's got an impact on congestion and the growth of congestion I think is unsustainable here. We traveled I think in 1970 18 million vehicle miles a day in this region now, we travel 56 million vehicle miles. We have more people driving more cars over longer distances than ever before and people are pounding the table to do something. The fact of the matter is though make no matter what we do. We will only slow the growth of congestion. The fact of the matter is congestion will be worse five years from now than it is today. No matter what we do. It will be worse ten years from now than it is today. No matter what we do. We can only slow the growth. It is a byproduct of a vibrant growing economy and thank God we have a vibrant growing economy here in the Twin Cities regions of the country that don't have any congestion don't their living standards tend to be lower. That's just a fact of life. Unfortunately. Let's (00:44:30) go to Matt in Hutchinson. You're on with Peter bill. (00:44:33) Yes, I am. Thanks for taking my call. I was I live in Hutchinson and both my wife and I work in the city. She works in downtown st. Paul. I work in Eagan and I just like to say that I'd love to see the light rail get extended from like the Mall of America into downtown st. Paul because I drop her off at the mall and she takes the express bus in the downtown st. Paul and I continued on in the Egan and one of the thing I was curious about is if if it's been thought about with having like a monorail system that would run on top of the buildings or something like that because I've seen them like when I was in Tokyo, they have like a monorail system that runs on top of the buildings and things like that and I didn't know if that's been something that's cause people's minds or anything like that. (00:45:30) Well Matt, it really hasn't that to answer the last part of your question first that kind of monorail system really has not at least come on my radar screen to answer the first part of your question. If in fact we did build anything in the central Corridor, it would go just for your listeners to know go from the Union Depot in downtown st. Paul to the state capitol down University of minute down University Avenue to the University of Minnesota underneath the university. There's a tunnel that goes underneath would be about a hundred million dollars to construct and then hook up with the Hiawatha line and downtown. So people couldn't fact and I would imagine if that happened. We'd probably have a park and ride someplace on the eastern part of st. Paul where people could from Wisconsin and from the East metro area the East Metro suburbs Woodbury in the lake could drive in and and hook into that (00:46:29) how much thought is given to actually putting a rail system underground. I understand our geology is favorable to Tunnel building around here and it would seem to be a an interesting (00:46:43) thought. I think the first of all I'm not I can't say with any degree of certainty how much thought has gone into that. When I've explored that subject just kind of in a cursory way. The thing that people come back to me as cost. I mean the it is unfortunate acronym color mentioned this earlier. Why does cost have to be such a predominant Factor but it is at the end. The day it would be disingenuous for me to say that many of these issues do come down to two issues of cost (00:47:15) Ross rights from Minneapolis. Mr. Bell. Could you identify paid Light Rail Raider ridership versus overall Light Rail ridership. I think he means how many freeloaders do we have riding the Hiawatha (00:47:27) line? Well, that's a good question. We have a good point. We have a voluntary system the question you always have to ask here. Are is your pay collection mechanisms going to net two more dollars than the cost of those processes that you have. My understanding is that week because we do check there are fines that are attached if you do ride the Hiawatha line and don't pay and you're stopped you're at you have to show proof proof of purchase. And if you don't show that you get a ticket as a result of that I think is about 60, or maybe it's $75 that you get for not paying for that and I think we're at about 9:00. Five percent when we check that. When are we have Transit Police when the transit police check that I think it's at about 95 percent compliance. (00:48:16) Let's go to Bill and Crystal you're on with mr. (00:48:18) Bell. Yeah. Thanks for taking my call. Just one quick comment. My wife and I rode the transit and its length or the other day and it really is a great thing and we need four five six seven lines and Twin Cities who are going to do anything, but my second question is mr. Bell. I was wondering if you are in the in the tradition of elmarie Ole Anderson who is willing who always said that government should invest in it society and we would never lose and instead of a mr. Pawlenty who is in the tradition of the taxpayers league who just wants to cut down the size of government and you yourself have said during this hour so many times we cannot afford that we have to take this one step at a time and we just cannot Do what we would like to do. The reason is of course is that we are Shackled by mr. Pawlenty and the right-wing Republicans adherence and allegiance to the taxpayers league. They'll think absolutely what's your philosophy. Mr. Bill (00:49:26) Bill. Thanks for for the question. I think it's an important issue that that that you raised a quite candidly. I don't believe that the governor adheres to all the issues of the taxpayers league. I think that he disagrees with them on many things not the least of which is the North Star accord or and I think the governor when I first to he when he first appointed me as the chair of the Met Council, he was very very clear that the Hiawatha line was here and he wanted me to open it and do it efficiently in the like I could give a number of areas where I think that he would disagree with the text. We will see there's a number of things that he agrees with the taxpayers league on one of which is the we are not under attack. Student in Minnesota and the fact of the matter is if you look at all the constituency groups with very legitimate ideas, very legitimate projects and I want to stress that they're very legitimate. But if you added up the total cost of those there would be little money that the average citizen would have for anything else and so you have to draw a line someplace and and I think that this Administration has drawn reasonable lines now that's subject to debate. That's what politics are all about. But I think the governor has has been reasonable and prudent in his approaches to Transit and transportation. I think people will be well he is going to look to commit more money to both roads and bridges and Transit and that will be evident when we release our budget and in a month or so. It will not go as far as many people would like to see but it will move the ball forward and I think that's the that we do in government government is the art of the possible and that requires all types of compromises. And I think that this Governor is committed (00:51:23) to who is their Common Ground sir? Do you think as we move into the next stage of discussion about something like another version of Light Rail? (00:51:34) Oh, I don't know. No, I'm not prepared to say that. I think that the opponents of Light Rail still even with the success of Hiawatha still raised concerns and those concerns don't get the back of my hand. I you know, when you're going to spend eight hundred fifty million dollars for anything like the central Corridor boy if we're going to debate anything, we should that we should be debating that my God. I'm a region at the University of Minnesota where we increased the tuition 14% They took a hundred eighty five million dollar cut a last time K12 has demanded Special education has demands Corrections. The list goes on and no I think that they'll still be some debate in the legislature about a rail and the viability of rail. (00:52:21) We have just about a minute or so left. Mr. Bell. Do you do you predict that there will be another rail line in the metro area eventually a light rail line as opposed to a heavy rail. (00:52:32) Boy that's shoving you out on a (00:52:35) limb here. See you (00:52:36) and I'm sewing it off you shove me, but to be candid with you. I think there probably will be at some point. I think there probably will be (00:52:46) and in our callers today all of whom I maybe not all but most of whom seem to favor rail. Do you think that's that's a fair representation of public opinion on rail at this (00:52:57) stage? No, I don't think it's a fair representation. I tend to think it's more of a select group of folks. But having said that I think real has or is in the process of capturing the imagination of people in the Twin Cities area, and I think that that's likely to (00:53:15) continue. Mr. Bill. Thanks for coming in (00:53:17) today. You bet. Thanks for having (00:53:19) me Peter Bell is chair of the Metropolitan Council and he was in our studio today. This is midday coming to you on Minnesota Public Radio. (00:53:29) I have a question for you guys about turkey and Kind of a bizarre (00:53:32) one trying to crack the code of holiday cooking tune into turkey confidential Lynn roseto Casper culinary slew than the host of The Splendid Table (00:53:42) will save the day (00:53:44) or at least save your Thanksgiving meal. Join me carry Miller for a special mid morning from 9 to 11 on Thanksgiving Day then stay tuned for giving thanks with Jon Burge at noon. This is 91.1 knnow Minneapolis. St. Paul programming is supported by Minnesota's certified registered nurse anesthetist focused on providing Integrity professionalism. Advocacy and quality anesthesia care for their patients in rural Minnesota and the Twin Cities Twin Cities weather for today. Mostly sunny skies, the high around 35 degrees. It will be Breezy and cool as a result winds are out of the Northwest at 10 to 15 tonight partly cloudy and colder the low about 15 tomorrow partly cloudy the high about 35 heading into Thanksgiving Day partly cloudy the high around 30 degrees the winds West out of the at about five Thursday night Thanksgiving night cloudy 30% chance of snow the low around 20 and then on Friday, we should see mostly cloudy skies a chance of freezing rain or snow in the morning and a chance of rain in the afternoon High 35 to 40 on Friday and then the weekend partly cloudy skies, not much mention of precipitation.