March 07, 2024

Bus Strike: an update

The bus strike is now into its fourth day. By most accounts, traffic congestion really wasn't an issue on Thursday and Friday. This is hardly surprising -- it's not like we've all got SUVs in the garage we can hop into when the buses stop running. A lot of the fellow bus riders I work with walked or hitched rides with fellow coworkers; this is only a temporary solution. On Saturday I had to get over to Seward so I had to bike through the puddles and the Franklin Ave. traffic. Had to conjure up the alertness and adrenalin that comes with riding city streets (and which falls into abeyance in the winter) real fast.

On my way back, I passed an access road to the Light Rail garages, where some folks from Amalgamated 1005 were working the picket line with a smoking barrel of damp wood providing a bit of heat. I stopped and asked them how the strike was going. Dumb question. "It's going," a man said gruffly, summing it up -- no one wanted this strike, the bus drivers least of all. "Did you read what the guy in charge of the Minnesota Taxpayer's League had to say? That public transportation wasn't worth it?" I asked. "Yeah, I read that," an older woman said, approaching us with her sign. Her face was grim. I tried to convey that I was behind them and that everyone else I know who's a bus rider is behind them. I think they appreciated hearing that.

So what did the illustrious David Strom, head of the very powerful special-interest group Tax Payers League of Minnesota have to say about transit? In a press release published on the group's website, Strom wrote,

Transit just isn’t that important to the smooth functioning of the Twin Cities transportation system.

That’s the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the lack of chaos engendered by the bus system strike. Even in areas highly transit dependent—such as the central business districts of St. Paul and Minneapolis—there just doesn’t seem to be much difference in traffic when buses are running, and when buses are not.

Strom completely misses the point. Congestion wasn't as heavy on Thursday and Friday precisely because many of those who ride the bus don't have cars they can just jump into. They walked, or the biked, or they carpooled, none of which would have an effect on congestion. As if transit exists for the sole purpose of easing congestion -- making it a smoother ride for those who do have cars (like Strom). It's a self-centered conclusion to draw, as self-centered as Strom's call to take the entire Minnesota transit subsidy -- 300 million dollars -- and use it for building roads in the Twin Cities.

To quote further,

Transit is a bad deal for taxpayers. This experience should spur lawmakers to seek new ways to serve transit-dependent communities, through encouraging carpools, more cabs, and even providing subsidized automobiles to lower income families to increase their mobility. Why keep lower-income folks dependent upon an inefficient bus system when we can open up the job market of the entire twin cities to them through automobiles?” Strom suggested.

Come on! Does he really expect me to take cabs everywhere? Does he really expect me and my friends to organize carpools for grocery shopping, trips to the doctor, trips to our night classes? Does he honestly believe that providing subsidies to lower-income families can buy cars will cost less than a good public transportation infrastructure?

Public transportation is a good deal for Minnesota. It helps the environment, it does curb congestion, and it allows those who can't afford a car or cab trips everywhere a decent quality of life. What would happen if the transportation system in Minneapolis was decimated? How many people would lose their jobs? I for one would have to move away -- I can't afford the monthly costs of a car -- and I'd have to go to a city that did have a good public transportation system.

If anything, this press release proves that the Taxpayers League is out of touch with what's best for Minnesota, and only in touch with what's best for their own pocketbooks. It's pretty fucking out there. Yet, it made the news -- the Star Tribune reported on it yesterday. We've got to counter this, folks. I asked those bus drivers standing out in the cold yesterday on Franklin Avenue who would be the best people to write to. They said it would be most effective to write to the Met Council directly, and to Pawlenty. So I'd encourage everyone who reads this to do so -- if you're a bus rider, write them and tell them how the strike is affecting you, how you value the work bus drivers do, and how you want them to receive a fair contract. Tell them that you are losing patience -- with the Pawlenty administration -- and that you hold them responsible for the continuing strike.

Peter Bell Mears Park Center • 230 E 5th St. • St. Paul, MN 55101 Phone: 651-602-1000 [email protected]

Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
Telephone: (651) 296-3391
(800) 657-3717
Facsimile: (651) 296-2089
E-mail: [email protected]

Posted by jason at March 7, 2024 01:05 PM
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