UPDATED (see below) At public meetings Wednesday and Thursday, Metro Transit officials laid out preliminary plans to cut bus routes throughout the metro area because of anticipated cuts in funding from the Minnesota Legislature.
The Metropolitan Council is bracing for a loss of as much as 85 percent in Metro Transit's state funding—whenever the Legislature and governor finally agree on a 2012-13 budget to end the state government shutdown.
With the shutdown showing no signs of ending soon, the Met Council is planning service based on the most recent proposal the Legislature passed and Gov. Dayton vetoed—a worst-case-scenario reduction of $109 million for transit operations over the next two years.
If the actual budget echoes these projections, the Met Council says it will be forced to slash or limit 130 of 146 bus routes across the Twin Cities. The bus system also faces elimination of most local and crosstown routes in the suburbs, and fare increases of 25 to 50 cents per ride.
Met Council officials haven’t named specific routes for proposed cutting or reduced scheduling. Conceptual maps produced for the meetings appear to sketch out minor, major and total service reductions on the major north-south transit corridors through Fridley: East River Road, University Avenue/Hwy. 47 and Central Avenue/Hwy. 65. (.)
“The challenge we have is reducing our $129 million budget to $20 million,” John Levin, director of service development for Metro Transit, told reporters and residents at the Met Council meeting Wednesday.
With reduced operations will come reduced revenue from ridership. The Met Council anticipates losing as many as 10 million annual bus rides due to reduced routes and increased fares.
“The only way to address this shortfall is to cut deeply into the services we provide,” Levin said.
In addition to a 25 percent reduction in service hours, the Met Council expects more than 500 Metro Transit and Metro Mobility workers to lose their jobs and more than 200 buses to go unused.
“This is the beginning of a process where we’re truly expecting the worst but hoping for the best,” said Jon Commers, vice chair of the council’s community-development committee and a member of its transportation committee.
The Met Council held a second public meeting at the Minneapolis Central Library Thursday. It is also planning seven public hearings to consider testimony from community members.
Here are the dates, times and locations of these hearings:
Aug. 8 – 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Bloomington Civic Plaza)
Aug. 9 – 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Hopkins Center for the Arts)
Aug. 10 – Noon to 1 p.m. (Minneapolis Central Library)
Aug. 11 – 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. (Maplewood Library)
Aug. 15 – 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (Brookdale Library, Brooklyn Center)
Aug. 16 – 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. (Metro Transit offices, Minneapolis)
Aug. 18 – Noon to 1 p.m. (Metropolitan Council offices , Saint Paul)
The Met Council aims to make final its plans for fares and service routes by September and implement changes by early 2012.