Businesses fight for bus funding in transportation bill

- Transit riders have a new powerful ally on their side fighting funding cuts at the State Legislature. That friend? Businesses.

Both the Minneapolis and St. Paul chambers of commerce are meeting one-on-one with riders, trying to get help to save their bus routes.

"I rely on the bus to get to and from work,” said Justin Golownia, a Metro Transit rider. “If I didn't have the bus I'm not really sure what I would do in the interim."

Business leaders aren’t sure either. That’s why Maureen Failor from Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is trying to save the buses.

"And we're just talking with the rider about the proposed transit cuts - 40 percent," said Failor.

Those cuts could possibly come from the Capitol. The House transportation bill currently in conference committee comes in $119 million below the Senate's budget.

Metro Transit says it could cut bus service by up to 40 percent, affecting every single route in the system.

Business leaders say it's not practical.

"Transit is critical for downtown Minneapolis,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. “About 40 percent of our workers are using some mode of transit and our bus system is the backbone of the transit infrastructure that gets our workers to workers to work every day." 

The Chamber is driving riders to the new website, StopTransitCuts.com, to connect them with their lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Governor Dayton today said transit funding has to be part of any transportation bill he signs.

"To turn our backs on that is going to force more cars onto already congested metro highways and it's going to constrict the economic growth of this region in a disastrous way,” said Dayton.

Many riders already get it.

"And then you have all of these people off the road right now and you put them all on the road and the traffic is just going to be awful,” said Dawn Montag, a Metro Transit rider.

Now businesses want lawmakers to get it.

The House Transportation Finance Chair, Paul Torkelson says he is looking for ways to include transit into the budget package, but none of those details have been worked out yet.

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