Republicans in the Minnesota Senate let their ideology get ahead of good sense on Monday when they voted to cut $32 million in funding for metropolitan bus and rail operations from the next budget. That’s a budget decision that makes almost no long-term sense and which highlights, again, that there is no underlying vision for success coming from the Capitol.
Minnesota’s metropolitan area has some of the most congested highways in the nation. Minnesota’s solution has been to build more metropolitan freeway lanes, rather than invest in mass transit. The endless metropolitan highway projects are massively expensive and, worse, they simply encourage ever more automobile use, which increases congestion, uses precious gasoline and worsens air quality. In short, Minnesota has been digging itself a bigger and bigger transportation hole.
If lawmakers wanted to save money in the long term, they would funnel more into mass transit — specifically, non-stop bus routes from the suburbs and light rail — rather than less. (While it is true that the Senate at least seeks to preserve some funding for light rail, it remains to be seen whether that will survive reconciliation of its plan with the House, which had cut light rail.)
In turning its back on mass transit, the Legislature is committing three errors for the price of one: It is increasing pollution, increasing congestion and burning fuel that could be used more efficiently. Gov. Dayton will most likely veto the Legislature’s budget bill, after which perhaps wisdom will prevail.