by William Hume
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune
Public transportation is a huge and very expensive necessity for this day and age. If the dollar investment is for us and designed by us, Burnsville and the rest of Dakota County can do it right.
The first step toward independence from the unfair Counties Transit Improvement Board has been accomplished; Dakota County pulled out. Now every walkpath for individuals like me that love footwork, all bike riders, bus users and car commuters can have a tailored transit network to fit Burnsville’s needs, not subject to the long tentacles of arrogant authority existing as the Met Council. Take note; the Met Council is a collection of functionaries appointed by the governor – not elected – bureaucrats.
The CTIB is basically a kitty fund jar to be raided by Met Council for special interest projects like Southwest Light Rail. This is a planned extension of the north, west, east and south spider web of rail transit that is arguably not reaching the rider count that originally was conceived. During off-rush hour the trains appear almost empty. SWLRT does not benefit Burnsville at all. If eventually built SWLRT will cost between $2 billion and $2.5 billion. A massively impractical distribution of transit funds, that will not help Burnsville’s transit.
Estimates are that Dakota County’s tax contribution of 14 percent of CTIB funds was only coming back as 7 percent for our transit needs. Any accountant or financial planner would say that’s a bad investment.
Burnsville and the rest of Dakota County exercising a new freedom from centralized and dictatorial transit planners in St. Paul can display a fresh transit design ingenuity.
Straight outta’ Burnsville! As the hip current phrase goes, Burnsville should be a transit hub and not just another stop. The political aesthetics directed from CTIB and Met Council are based on an urban utopian philosophy that inner-city populations need to be transported to the suburbs for jobs. A second idea these councils project is that bus rapid transit will decongest the interstates. Both thoughts will never be reachable. Most jobs in the outer ring suburban cities are filled by residents of those communities. Personal automobile transportation is so incredibly desirable and historically part of American culture that crossovers to buses will only take a minute fraction off the roads.
Some of us do enjoy just sitting back on a bus ride to work or play … I sure do on many days. Here is a vision.
MVTA possibly in cooperation with the MTC Orange Line planning could agree to expand bus rapid transit in a line south on I-35. There would exist a south operational entity, beginning where the Orange Line would end in Burnsville. This is actually very possible with Dakota County operating as an additional federal funding transit zone. MTC handling express bus from Burnsville to Minneapolis. Then MVTA running farther south, Burnsville to Rochester, Faribault, Owatonna and Albert Lea. Orange Line funding is now in a gray-area of planning; due to the exit of Dakota County from the CTIB. MTC extensions should be limited. The Met Council is always motivated to expand influence and authority outreach to suburban cities. Now costs are coming into play. The southerly transit opportunity presents itself to Dakota County.
Burnsville and Dakota County in the near future must enlarge a transit system that better serves our neighborhood. That includes more buses from MVTA. This is an excellent bus operator that features many new high-tech models, with enclosed windows and climate control. Not to mention Wi-Fi.
This variety and future progression of urban transit design and independence is doable and healthy for our south of Minnesota River communities.
Progressive liberal utopian rhetoric pursues that which is unreachable, regarding urban transit. In their quest for transportation perfection they arrogantly believe all designs and answers lie with them. CTIB and Met Council are short sighted in that respect. Transit is best planned when fulfilling the desires and rider comfort of the unique and individual communities.
William Hume writes nationally about transportation issues. He is a retired infrastructure land surveyor for civil engineering and resident of Burnsville. He can be reached at [email protected]. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.