Bible-thumping Mike Beard won’t rest until he’s chased every last Minnesotan off of transit. You’ll remember the somber mood last summer when his transportation bill basically eliminated transit, proving once again that the Republican leadership doesn’t pay attention to what their committee chairs are doing. At some point, the suburban contingent of the legislative majority must have explained to their redneck colleagues that middle-class white people take the bus, too, and draconian cuts were avoided.
One piece of last year’s transportation bill (vetoed by Gov Dayton) would have required the Met Council to raise fares by a quarter. Mike Beard won’t let the extra quarter drop, and has brought it up this year as an independent bill. I’m not certain if the state has directly specified the amount of transit fares before; I couldn’t find any by searching the historical statutes but certainly the TCRT co’s fares were regulated, although possibly by municipalities rather than the state. But regardless of whether there’s precedent, a politically-driven fare increase contradicts existing policy, which states that:
Fares and fare collection systems shall be established and administered to accomplish the following purposes: (1) to encourage and increase transit and paratransit ridership with an emphasis on regular ridership
Although Mike Beard – whose occupation is “Business” – and Senate companion bill author and “Home builder/land developer” Joe Gimse are both clearly transit experts, they may need a refresher course on economics. Raising the price of a service typically does not encourage people to buy it, and since operating costs for transit do not increase or decrease by the passenger but rather by the vehicle, fare changes don’t have a direct relationship to operating efficiency. In fact, if a fare increase lowers ridership but not enough to cut frequency, it will worsen Metro Transit’s relatively good farebox recovery rate. In other words, a 25 cent fare increase will probably make transit less efficient.
So although the bill duplicitously titles the fare hike subdivision a “Farebox recovery adjustment”, the real purpose of the bill is to make transit less competitive. Unfortunately, if passed, the real effect of the bill would be to increase transportation costs for people in poverty, who are already disadvantaged by the region’s extreme job sprawl.
The bill hasn’t yet received a hearing – it was just introduced this week in both houses. Hopefully the rational minds that compose our professional legislature will recognize this bill for the destructive politicization of a public utility that it is. Seems unlikely. In fact a legislated fare hike is painless stab at transit for suburban Republicans who are ideologically opposed to transit but who have to deal with the inconvenience of constituents who actually use and support it – the fare hike will damage transit overall but will be less hurtful to relatively affluent riders (although the text currently requires a “proportional” increase for express buses, so the hike will likely be more than a quarter for most suburban riders). We’ll find out on March 12th, when the first hearing in the House is scheduled (the Senate hearing hadn’t been scheduled as of the ranting of this post).
Mike Beard’s persistence in legislating his perverse interpretation of Christian teachings in the form of unrestrained resource extraction and emission of climate-changing gasses has earned him the nickname “Bible-thumping” Mike Beard (by me, anyway). But his tenacious antipathy for public transit suggests a more fitting alliterative epithet: “Bus-bashing” Mike Beard. Eh? Eh?