The Bus Rider’s Budget Campaign with MN350

Episode summary

00:00 | Intro
04:21 | The three needs
25:51 | Levers of power
34:11 | Connections to other transportation campaigns
Urban highway removal
38:44 | Organizer role
46:19 | Outro

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Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was hosted and edited by Ian R Buck, with transcript by the indominable Mike Allen. Christy Marsden is our awesome guest booker, and technical assistance is provided by the super professional Brian Mitchell. If you’re able to help make sure this team gets paid for the hard work they do, please consider donating. We really appreciate it!

Transcript

Adrianna: [00:00:00] It’s not such a big deal if I miss my bus, if there’s another one in 10 minutes.

Ian: [00:00:03] Right.

Adrianna: [00:00:04] But if it’s not coming for half an hour or an hour and it’s super hot like today, or it’s like below freezing, that’s a really long time to wait and then, you know, and be late to work, or late to pick up your kids or late to school.

Ian: [00:00:18] Or late to a podcast interview.

[00:00:19] [Laughter]

Adrianna: [00:00:21] Shh! I wouldn’t know anything about that. Yeah.

[00:00:25] [Music]

Ian: [00:00:28] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we shape transportation and land use to make our world a better place. Coming to you from beautiful Frogtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am your host, Ian R. Buck. Today we’re having a conversation with Adrianna Jereb, the Transit Justice Organizer at MN350 about her team’s Bus Rider’s Budget campaign, fine show notes and a transcript of the episode at https://streets.mn. So, Adri, welcome to the show.

Adrianna: [00:00:59] Thanks for having me.

Ian: [00:01:01] Can you first just tell us a little bit like about men 350 as an organization?

Adrianna: [00:01:07] Sure. So Minnesota 350 is a chapter of a national organization called 350. And we’re a climate justice organization or environmental justice. And I can explain all of that, like why it’s called 350. It has to do with like trying to limit the amount of carbon that’s released into the atmosphere.

Ian: [00:01:28] Like 350 parts per million was like the target that we were trying to limit it to.

Adrianna: [00:01:32] Yeah, exactly.

Ian: [00:01:32] And we have passed that now, right?

Adrianna: [00:01:34] Yeah. So I don’t know that the name is particularly apt.

Ian: [00:01:38] Right. Right.

Adrianna: [00:01:39] But we’re still that’s still one of our main goals is trying to reduce the amount of carbon emissions. And we have several different teams and campaigns that work on various issues. But for me, working on transit has to do with that because transportation is the number one producer of carbon in the state of Minnesota and in the United States. So, it’s a big climate issue.

Ian: [00:02:02] Yeah. Yeah. And as much as we can like try to make a difference with like, you know, all of the small things, you know, like everybody knows reduce, reuse, recycle and everything. But it’s like, you know, at that point we’re kind of we’re pinching pennies while we’re burning dollars. Right?

Adrianna: [00:02:17] Yeah. I mean, it is it’s really essential and has so much to do to with more than just climate. It affects people’s daily lives so much.

Ian: [00:02:27] Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. We were just chatting before we started recording about like taking the bus over here and like, you know, the, the logistics of like, oh, what if the bus trip is cancelled and like what other options are there?

Adrianna: [00:02:40] Yeah, yeah.

Ian: [00:02:43] It definitely, yeah, it’s an everyday important thing to consider. Okay, so Bus Rider’s Budget campaign. I do get the emails for the team that is working on this, but I haven’t been able to come to any of the meetings because date nights with my spouse are on Thursdays.

Adrianna: [00:03:02] So that’s a pretty good reason to miss a meeting!

Ian: [00:03:04] I should say so.

Adrianna: [00:03:05] Yeah.

Ian: [00:03:08] So yeah. Like I’m really curious to learn more about what in particular are the goals of this campaign. I know that it has to do with the state legislature level and trying to get more money for Metro Transit, right?

Adrianna: [00:03:22] Well, the legislative session is over. So right now, what we’re really focused on is the Metropolitan Council and their budget. So I can I’ll just go into like the goals of our campaign.

Ian: [00:03:35] Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:03:35] So basically what’s happening right now is the Metropolitan Council is the body that controls the budget for several programs, but including Metro Transit. So that’s the main thing that we’re focused on and that’s why we pay attention to what the council does. And they’re already internally starting to craft the budget for 2023, like different departments, make their own individual budgets and then send those over to their regional administrator. And then council members have to weigh in and vote on it. And the public part doesn’t really come in until the very end. So for us it’s really important to get our needs in those early drafts.

[00:04:21] [Music]

Adrianna: [00:04:21] The three needs that we have identified are. First, we want to hire light rail attendants. So similar to transit ambassadors. Like there’s different names for what we are looking for. But essentially it’s like a staff person who would be on the train and their primary job is to make it a welcoming environment. And that could be a lot of different tasks, like giving people directions or cleaning things up or trying to deescalate situations or reminding people about code of conduct, things like not to smoke on the train. So that’s the first one. The second one is pretty straightforward. We want to restore bus routes and frequency because there’s been a lot of route cuts and reduced frequency.

Ian: [00:05:08] Yeah. The quarterly service changes used to be a fun thing to talk about and now they’re just really sad every single time.

Adrianna: [00:05:15] It’s such a bummer. And I think that like maybe just because, you know, maybe in the past, like service changes was could be a positive thing. But right now it just feels like such a euphemism because like every time it’s like such and such route will replace this route that is, like, no longer running.

Ian: [00:05:34] And, I mean, I do have to say that, like, given the budget constraints that they were working within and like the driver shortages and everything, like, I do think that the the the cuts that they were making were the right things to focus on, you know, like if they had to cut anything, right, you know, getting rid of like routes like the 16 that like literally was just parallel to the green line almost the entire way. It’s like, okay, I get that, you know, that’s, that’s a good staffing decision to make. Yeah, but it’s still a bummer, right?

Adrianna: [00:06:09] And I mean, of course, we totally recognize that they they are facing a lot of challenges right now, but I think it’s going to require creative solutions. So like the operator shortage is something that’s been going on for months and like it’s not limited to Metro Transit. It’s something that was an issue for the District of Saint Paul, like school district, I mean…

Ian: [00:06:28] Right.

Adrianna: [00:06:29] …And it’s you know, it’s been seen around the country, too. So I’m not saying that it’s like not an issue, but it’s like it’s been going on for so long that I think it’s just like we have to figure out a way to keep the buses running and make being a bus driver or a mechanic or whatever, make those jobs like the best jobs that can be. So we have buses and trains that run on time.

Ian: [00:06:53] Treat the operators right. So that they’ll treat us right.

Adrianna: [00:06:55] Yeah. And I think that, you know, we’re trying to work with ATU, the transit operators union and help them as much as we can with like the things that they’re trying to win in their contract negotiations. Because part of the problem is it’s like being able to hire new operators but also retaining the ones that they already have. Yeah.

Ian: [00:07:16] If there’s anybody who knows what’s going to be what’s going to make it a desirable job, it’s the union, right?

Adrianna: [00:07:22] Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s a very like it’s a really strong union. They have I think they represent 2000 workers. So yeah.

Ian: [00:07:32] We love a good strong union.

Adrianna: [00:07:34] Yeah, for sure. And, and then the third goal is for the Metropolitan Council to develop a climate and equity plan. Okay. And that would be so the first two things are really explicitly about Metro Transit, but the third one is more for the organization as a whole. And I think it’s important to understand what the council is and what do they do. So the Metropolitan Council is the regional planning agency. Maybe you already don’t, you know, all this stuff, but.

Ian: [00:08:04] I, yeah, I know some of the things that they do, but like they are a very large thing and sometimes they’re kind of a black box. So like I have a vague understanding of like regional water, something or other.

Adrianna: [00:08:18] Yeah, yeah. They put out.

Ian: [00:08:20] The wastewater data that we now rely on to know COVID numbers because that’s the only place that’s reporting Covid.

Adrianna: [00:08:26] They do a lot of really important things and cover a really large part of the state. So it’s for the seven county metro region, which includes about half the population of Minnesota. And they’re, you know, besides metro transit and wastewater treatment, they also do some regional parks and trails and they distribute Section-8 housing vouchers. And they’re also the long.

Ian: [00:08:58] Capital improvement budget stuff, right?

Adrianna: [00:08:59] Yeah. Like they’re the long term planning body for the whole metro region.

Ian: [00:09:04] So any federal dollars that are coming into the metro region goes through them. And then all of our municipalities like submit applications for like here’s a project that I want to do and we all compete with each other…

Adrianna: [00:09:16] Yeah.

Ian: [00:09:17] …To get this money. Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:09:18] Yeah. I mean. It’s a tremendously powerful body that really flies under the radar. And I think it’s, you know, in part because the council members are appointed by the governor. And that process can be pretty like hard to understand what’s going on and you don’t really get to influence it…

Ian: [00:09:39] Right.

Adrianna: [00:09:39] …So, getting back to the climate plan, though, so right now, the council under the direction of the chair in 2021 announced that they were going to be developing a climate plan, which is great. It was supposed to come out at the beginning of this year. It has been delayed. They’re hoping to like unveil it in 2023. And I mean, I think, you know, it’s good that they’re like making attempts, but it’s like the climate crisis has already begun. We’re like experiencing its effects right now, like as we’re on day three of like 90 to 100 degree weather…

Ian: [00:10:20] Yeah, yeah.

Adrianna: [00:10:21] …In June, you know, time is of the essence and making sure that like they’re actually funding this plan because I think it was a Minneapolis campaign about like a budget is a moral document. And I think that’s a really cool way of thinking about it that like if you’re not putting money towards something in a budget, you’re, you’re not prioritizing it.

Ian: [00:10:40] And if you’re not, like explicitly measuring that thing to know what the outcomes are that you’re getting, then, you know, how can you how can you be assured that you’re spending your budget well, you know, in an effective way to meet your goals.

Adrianna: [00:10:54] Right! Yeah. It’s I mean, it’s it’s kind of it’s like complicated and figuring out, you know, the best way to actually influence what’s going to be in this budget has been a learning process for sure. But I think that’s really what it comes down to is like, you know, getting those things in there and then making sure that we’re keeping these powerful bodies accountable to actually following through on these promises.

Ian: [00:11:19] Yeah. So what are like the particular things that MN350 is hoping that they include in their climate action plan and equity plan?

Adrianna: [00:11:28] I think that’s something that we’re still like trying to develop honestly. Like what does that really mean and how like what specific projects should they be doing? Mm hmm. Part of what I’m hoping for is that they make climate and equity like a paired criteria, which doesn’t sound really that interesting, but I think it’s like, you know, there’s projects that they propose that, like, for example, they’re going to be building another incinerator at the wastewater treatment center in Saint Paul…

Ian: [00:12:00] Okay.

Adrianna: [00:12:01] …And there was an article about it with like people who live in that area being like understandably concerned because that like, I want to say, it’s like in either South Saint Paul or West Side. Saint Paul. Mm hmm. Yeah. Like which is an area that already has a lot of like other air pollution. And the treatment center there is like where most of like the wastewater goes for the whole metro region. So it’s like very highly concentrated. They’re already like this pollution for the whole region. And to put another incinerator in, it’s like, okay, they’re going to do the EPA like process of getting it cleared and everything. But I think it’s just like, you know, decisions like that where people’s concerns aren’t really being taken into account. And there is like a very clear climate inequity issue that like, why isn’t that the first priority like and planning for like how does the region need to adapt for climate resiliency over the next decades?

Ian: [00:13:06] Yeah. And if we, if, if we just like focus on climate action without taking equity into account, then, you know, really we’re just like we’re greenwashing, right? We’re taking the outcomes and we’re not guaranteeing that they are going to be enjoyed equally by everybody. You know, you can easily take like, ah, all of this like waste that I don’t want to have around my home. Let’s put it by somebody else’s home, right?

Adrianna: [00:13:33] Yeah.

Ian: [00:13:34] That’s not a good solution.

Adrianna: [00:13:36] Yeah. It’s like someone is suffering, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ian: [00:13:39] Which is like that is the whole point, at least for me. Like, that’s why I’m interested in climate justice is like, you know, so that we can reduce suffering in the world.

Adrianna: [00:13:49] Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s, you know, that’s like why people are working on this, like what’s important to us. Yeah.

Ian: [00:13:57] So, so you are the staff person at MN350 who’s leading this team? Most of the rest of the team are volunteers, right?

Adrianna: [00:14:05] Yeah. I’m the only paid staff person. And then we have some interns and. And lots of volunteers. Yeah.

Ian: [00:14:10] So what kind of, what kind of work is going into into this right now.

Adrianna: [00:14:15] Yeah. Right now we so it took us a while, to like, decide on our goals and right now what we’ve been doing? Well, actually, I want to talk a little bit about what went into making the goals or like coming up with these are the three things that we think must be in this year’s budget. And part of that was, since I started working in Minnesota 350 last summer, we’ve been canvassing bus and trains routes around the cities. So we’ve talked to literally hundreds of riders. And I think…

Ian: [00:14:50] Those are fun events, by the way, if anybody has an opportunity to go and volunteer with them and 350 canvassing on buses like I can personally vouch for how fun it is.

Adrianna: [00:15:00] Yeah. I mean I think it’s really great because it’s like when you approach someone and you tell them like, we want to know how we can make transit better for you. Like people are usually pretty enthusiastic to tell you about what the problems are that they’re facing. And so that’s a lot of the ways that we came up with these goals, were listening to what people told us. And I think restoring routes and frequency is one of the really big things that we’ve heard it over and over again, that it’s just if you rely on the on the transit system as your main way of getting around, like it can be very difficult if you don’t have another option or if you just even if it’s like, you know, you do have another, another option. But like Metro Transit is like something that you take every day. Like you just end up experiencing those delays and like canceled, canceled trips, things like that. And so I think that…

Ian: [00:16:00] And all of those issues are like mitigated more if you have a high frequency route or multiple routes that can like serve…

Adrianna: [00:16:09] Yeah.

Ian: [00:16:10] …You know, the destination that you’re trying to get to.

Adrianna: [00:16:13] Right! Because it’s like, oh, well, it’s not such a big deal if I miss my bus, if there’s another one in 10 minutes. Right. But if it’s not coming for half an hour or an hour and it’s super hot like today or it’s like below freezing, that’s a really long time to wait and then, you know, and be late to work or late to pick up your kids or late to school like.

Ian: [00:16:32] Or late to a podcast interview.

[00:16:33] [Laughter]

Adrianna: [00:16:33] Shh! I wouldn’t know anything about that. Yeah. So that was like a big part of what went into these goals. And then the, the first one of wanting to hire light rail attendants is also based on what we’ve heard from people who use transit regularly that like, yeah, the pandemic really has reduced ridership, which means that like code of conduct things on the trains especially have like are really just more noticeable. And also it’s, I think there’s just like part of the social contract that people behave in different ways when there’s less people around, you know, like, so there’s been issues with smoking and like there’s been a lot of reporting on honestly like the worst incidences on, on transit. And I don’t think that those are like something that people experience all the time. I don’t think they happen super frequently, but it’s like some of the more mild things like smoking on the train or I’m trying to think of other things. I think that’s the main one, honestly, just.

Ian: [00:17:38] Playing like really loud music or, you know, whatever.

Adrianna: [00:17:40] Yeah. And I think, like, it’s important to talk about and understand the difference between something being unsafe versus it’s making you uncomfortable because like, there’s like a lot of discrimination and racism that goes into how people like sometimes the things that people are complaining about, it’s like, okay, that might be something you don’t like, but it’s like not really, you know, like a safety issue, right? Yeah. Like, you know, somebody sleeping on the train isn’t hurting you.

Ian: [00:18:10] Right right.

Adrianna: [00:18:10] Yeah. That said, there are real concerns.

Ian: [00:18:13] Yeah, yeah… Some of the code of conduct things do like make me wonder a little bit. Like I think one of them is like no eating on the trains or buses. And I’m like, “but I’m hungry!”

Adrianna: [00:18:23] Yeah!

Ian: [00:18:23] “I just got off my bike and I’m on the train now and I. And I like… I need to Eat!”

Adrianna: [00:18:27] Yeah, yeah. I think, like, you know, the idea of enforcement can, it’s just like it’s it’s another word for policing, right? Like enforcing code of conduct issues. And like, that’s part of why we’re trying to push for light rail attendants or transit ambassadors rather than increased policing, because that has been what Metro Transit has gone to over and over again. They’re like, oh, there’s a safety issue, hire more police. And they started like a new community service officer program, which is like housed within Metro Transit Police, which is.

Ian: [00:19:06] Like and like in order to be in that program, you have to be somebody who is actively pursuing like a license to become an actual police officer, right?

Adrianna: [00:19:15] Yeah. So it’s it’s like you have to be a cop in training…

Ian: [00:19:19] Right.

Adrianna: [00:19:20] …Or have a law enforcement degree. They’ve really struggled to hire. They are authorized to have up to 70 CSOs. And last I heard, they have 15.

Ian: [00:19:31] [Laughing]

Adrianna: [00:19:32] Well, it’s just like it’s it’s not a popular thing right now, like a lot of people have retired or are not going into policing. So, you know, like that’s part of the issue is like they can’t actually even hire in that position. So what we’re proposing is something similar in some ways, but like very different in others, that it’s more about customer service and making it a welcoming and dignified space rather than enforcing fares.

Ian: [00:20:04] Yeah. Which is something that, like I was hanging out in downtown just the other day, downtown Saint Paul, and I saw a bunch of folks with like, you know, these kind of uniforms that were like neon green, like kind of chartreuse on the shoulders. And and, you know, they’re like employees of the Saint Paul Downtown Improvement District, whatever that organization is called. And they’re just, you know, they’re there to, like, wander around downtown and help people, like, find something that they’re looking for or, you know, whatever, like help clean the place up a little bit. And it’s like, oh yeah, they’re just like a welcoming face. And it’s customer service, like you said. And, you know, so if the if the Downtown Improvement Council understands that that’s a thing that is valuable, I should hope that Metro the Metropolitan Council would also be able to recognize that.

Adrianna: [00:20:53] Yeah, I hope so, because I think, well, it’s been really successful in other places that have gotten transit ambassadors or some kind of staff person.

Ian: [00:21:03] What other what other cities have been doing that?

Adrianna: [00:21:05] I mean, I’m like personally, I’ve seen it in some places. Like I went to Philadelphia last summer and like they have a very complicated like underground like transfer station. So they just have people there to like help you figure out which tunnel you need to go down, which is like super helpful because otherwise it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to miss this train because I can’t find it”…

Ian: [00:21:29] Right.

Adrianna: [00:21:30] …So like, I’ve seen it in real life and I know that Portland also just got Streetcar Ambassadors. And what I really think is cool about their program is like they specifically hired people who are bilingual and they have their ambassadors, like carrying a backpack with snacks and water. So, like, they can offer something to people who who need it.

Ian: [00:21:55] Mm hmm.

Adrianna: [00:21:56] They also I mean, they do a lot of the things that, like we already described of, like giving people directions and just like being a presence on the train or the streetcar in that case, which is really helpful in like just creating an atmosphere of safety, because I think it can be really uncomfortable to be like waiting on a platform and no one else is there.

Ian: [00:22:21] Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:22:22] So just like having another person around makes a big difference.

Ian: [00:22:26] Yeah, yeah. Just figuring out like, oh, how am I supposed to pay for a fare on, you know, like when you walk onto a bus, there’s the driver. They can tell you how to pay for the darn thing, right? But like, you get onto the platform for the green line and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you know, there’s like three different types of kiosks that you can interact with.

Adrianna: [00:22:45] Right.

Ian: [00:22:45] And only one of them is going to give you what you want.

Adrianna: [00:22:48] It’s true. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, since fare enforcement has been like a recurring thing that’s come up with Metro Transit, that like the transit agency is like just very focused on fare enforcement. But like I don’t have the data offhand, but I think they did a survey once or some kind of study and found that a really high percentage of people who didn’t pay a fare like didn’t know how.

Ian: [00:23:18] Right.

Adrianna: [00:23:19] Yeah. Or something like the train was coming and the fare machines kind of take a little while to like pay the fare, you know? And so it was like, rather than miss the train, they, they got on, you know.

Ian: [00:23:32] I have one of the things that I am like irrationally proud of myself for is being like really good at riding up onto the platform on my bike and like getting my wallet out and just like tapping it on the scanner just as I pass by and then like, and I just keep going on my bike. [Whispers] I know I’m not supposed to ride my bike on those, but it just it makes me feel so smooth and cool in, like, the nerdiest way.

Adrianna: [00:24:03] Yeah. I mean, it’s fun to, like, be able to bring your bike on the train.

Ian: [00:24:06] Absolutely.

Adrianna: [00:24:07] Yeah.

Ian: [00:24:08] I think it’s easier on the trains than on a bus because you don’t have to, like, be able to lift it all the way up onto a rack…

Adrianna: [00:24:16] Yeah.

Ian: [00:24:16] You just have to be able to do a wheelie.

Adrianna: [00:24:18] Well, and like when I. When I take the bus and have to get my bike, I’m always so self conscious of like I’m holding everything up, you know, like, yeah.

Ian: [00:24:28] But yeah, it is its own, like intimidating experience of like taking your bike on to the, onto the train for the first time. Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:24:36] Yeah. I think I feel that way about so much of using any kind of transit. And again, I feel like that’s another place where it would be so great to have, you know, just a staff person there to help explain things because yeah, like I well when I moved to Saint Paul for college and like coming from a rural town in Wisconsin, I had never used public transit before, like in my life and figuring out like how.

Ian: [00:25:05] I grew up in Saint Paul and I hardly ever used public transit until I graduated from college…

Adrianna: [00:25:10] Wow.

Ian: [00:25:11] …And moved back here, so…

Adrianna: [00:25:12] So well, then I’m like, it probably sounds familiar then that like I didn’t know how I was like nervous to take the bus because I was like, “Well, I don’t know how to pay the fare when I get on” or like, you know, how to, how to pull the cord to, like…

Ian: [00:25:27] Right!

Adrianna: [00:25:28] …Like, say, you want to get off.

Ian: [00:25:29] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Adrianna: [00:25:31] Yeah. Like it feels like second nature now. But I think, you know, it’s, it’s definitely a barrier for people starting to use transit or deciding to do it because if you don’t know how the system works, it’s. It’s intimidating. Yeah.

[00:25:46] [Music]

Ian: [00:25:51] So what what are like the levers of power that your team is trying to pull to to achieve your goals?

Adrianna: [00:25:58] Yeah.

Ian: [00:25:59] …Because like we said, like the Metropolitan Council can be quite an inaccessible organization to try to influence.

Adrianna: [00:26:06] Yeah, that’s, that’s a really good question. So right now what we’re doing is we’re going to be meeting with Metro Transit’s finance staff.

Ian: [00:26:15] Mm hmm.

Ian: [00:26:16] So that’s kind of like step one. You know, there’s there’s information on the website and stuff, but there’s only so much you can glean from all of that and.

Ian: [00:26:26] Information on Metropolitan Council’s website.

Adrianna: [00:26:29] So the council website or Metro Transit, but like specifically the council, they do publish their budget. So you can see like the full 100 page document that breaks down.

Ian: [00:26:38] Great.

Adrianna: [00:26:39] Yeah.

Ian: [00:26:39] Just some light reading.

Adrianna: [00:26:40] Yeah. So you can see like how much is in the operating budget, the capital budget, in their different departments, all that stuff. But what we’re hoping to get from the finance meeting is like a better understanding of what what’s possible and what the process is on their end. Because I think a lot of the staff at Metro Transit, like they they care about their jobs. They like what they do. And I think they share a lot of the same goals. So, you know, a big question is like, why haven’t these things already happened? So we’ve got that going on. And then as far as the council members, so their role in making the budget happens in committees. So there’s a transportation committee that that has like I want to say, seven or eight council members on it. Mm hmm. And they will get as far as I understand it, they will get a draft from Metro Transit, like the department.

Ian: [00:27:42] Mm hmm.

Adrianna: [00:27:43] And they’ll work on it in their committee, and then it’ll, like, be combined into a unified budget. And then later in the fall, there will be like a public comment period of the on the draft of the whole budget for the whole council.

Ian: [00:28:01] Mm hmm.

Adrianna: [00:28:01] And after public comment and everything, the council passes it. So aside from working with staff, we really need the council members to work with us.

Ian: [00:28:14] And the council members. Like they’re not directly elected by citizens. right? They’re they’re appointed by the governor. But do they have, like a geographic area that each of them is kind of responsible for representing?

Adrianna: [00:28:30] Yes.

Ian: [00:28:31] Am I a constituent of one of them?

Adrianna: [00:28:33] I don’t know if you get to be a constituent, but they are like in districts, so I’m not sure who’s who. Yours would be… Because I think Kris Fredson is one for Saint Paul? But I’m not sure if it would be your area.

Ian: [00:28:49] Right. But but also. Okay, hypothetically, if he is my my council member, like how much does he have to care about what I have to say as somebody who lives in his district?

Adrianna: [00:28:59] I think that’s the the really big question. It’s hard to understand what levers to pull, like you were saying. Right. Because, you know, different council members have different reasons for being on the council. They have their own, you know, priorities. And I think they represent pretty big areas. And just like with any official elected or appointed, I think, you know, the people that they hear from are people who have the most access to understanding the system and having time to like go to a meeting or whatever. And I think what we really want is for them to listen to bus and train riders like and make that like a big part of how they’re deciding things. So we want to meet with the council members. We want to, you know, even if somebody doesn’t have time to go to a meeting with them, like sending them an email, calling them and making sure that they understand why this is important, that’s kind of our first step.

Ian: [00:30:10] So you’re planning on having like an email campaign, getting the word out to to general population, like, “Hey! Contact your your Metropolitan Council member.”

Adrianna: [00:30:20] Yeah.

Ian: [00:30:21] To talk about these issues.

Adrianna: [00:30:21] Right. And what we can offer really is like helping people get those meetings, know what to talk about, how to you know how to how to have a meeting like that. And, you know, we’ll we’ll see where that gets us. They also do report to the governor. So it’s like we can also make our concerns known there. Yeah.

Ian: [00:30:45] Tim Walz!

Adrianna: [00:30:46] Yeah.

Ian: [00:30:46] Listen to us!

[00:30:47] [Laughter]

Adrianna: [00:30:47] Yeah. Well, and I think to I mean, like. I I’m not a political expert, but I do. And I know enough that I’m like, well, the governor is up…

Ian: [00:30:57] But you play one on TV!

Adrianna: [00:31:01] …The governor is up for re-election. So, you know, I think it’s a time when, like the concerns of all of his constituents are going to be really important to him. So, you know, if and the council members serve at the pleasure of the governor. So, you know, obviously we’re going to go to them first. That makes the most sense. And I think that, like, there definitely is an opportunity there. But we can also go to the governor and say like, look, these are the people you appointed and we need them to listen to the people who are affected by their decisions. Yeah.

Ian: [00:31:36] It is very interesting having a governor who his hometown is outside of the seven metro or the seven county metro area.

Adrianna: [00:31:44] Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s kind of I mean, topic for another time. But like the process of appointing met council members is very strange because really it’s like their decisions mostly affect the people who live in the seven county metro region, but the person who appoints them is elected by everyone who lives in the state.

Ian: [00:32:05] Right.

Adrianna: [00:32:06] Yeah.

Ian: [00:32:07] Which, you know, that’s how a lot of transportation stuff in Minnesota feels. It’s like, Oh yeah, I would love to have some, like regional rail options or even just like commuter rail options, right? You know, here in the Twin Cities. And who’s going to mess that up for us? Well, it’s state legislators from, you know, Greater Minnesota who only want roads and bridges.

Adrianna: [00:32:34] Yeah.

Ian: [00:32:34] And if it’s not a road or a bridge that I can drive my car across, then it ain’t going to happen.

Adrianna: [00:32:39] And it’s I think it’s so disappointing to because there’s real consequences. And, you know, even if someone who lives in the north of Minnesota or south or west or, you know, greater Minnesota doesn’t matter where it’s like, even if they never use transit in the cities, like improving our systems here is good for the whole state. Like it reduces carbon emissions for the whole state.

Ian: [00:33:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that’s, that’s where you can have the greatest impact, you know, like the amount of effort that, that, that would have to go to to allow people who live in really remote rural areas to reduce their vehicle miles traveled, right? We’re not going to get as much bang for our buck as doing those things, spending that money in the metro area. Right?

Adrianna: [00:33:27] Yeah. I mean, I think there’s definitely like there’s a need for public transit in rural Minnesota too.

Ian: [00:33:32] Absolutely there is.

Adrianna: [00:33:33] And there’s creative solutions. But like one really interesting example to me is like so in theory, people like people tend to think that most of the traffic on I-94 is from people traveling through the Twin Cities.

Ian: [00:33:48] It is most definitely not!

Adrianna: [00:33:50] Yeah, it’s mostly people like from the Metro who are just trying to get from place to place, right? Yeah.

Ian: [00:33:55] Just going like two or three exits.

Adrianna: [00:33:57] Right. And it’s like, okay, we could, we can replace those trips with public transportation.

Ian: [00:34:04] Mm hmm. Mm Hmm.

[00:34:04] [Music]

Ian: [00:34:11] And this really goes to show how interconnected all of our transportation systems are and how a lot of these advocacy campaigns kind of feed into each other and and work off of each other. Because the second episode of this podcast was all about urban highway removal projects, specifically the Twin Cities Boulevard Project.

Adrianna: [00:34:36] Cool!

Ian: [00:34:36] And yeah, like, oh, living in Frogtown, if we can get rid of I-94 for like, I will be so, so happy. I’m, I’m literally going to like, cry from joy if we manage to get that to happen.

Adrianna: [00:34:48] Yeah, it would be. I mean, it’s it’s strange because I recently moved so I now live like just a few blocks away from the highway…

Ian: [00:34:56] Right.

Adrianna: [00:34:57] And…

Ian: [00:34:57] And you’re still within like the you’re right at the western edge of like the terminus of that project. The bounds of that project.

Adrianna: [00:35:05] Yeah. And, but it’s just strange because I’m like a, you know, being like two blocks away, you can hear the highway noise constantly. And it, it does make me think about like the air quality, you know? I mean, again, like I grew up in a rural place, never had to worry about, you know, like the air. But yeah, and there’s so there’s so many equity things with that too that like the highway displaced so many people of color. And like also there’s a lot of like neighborhoods that are primarily people of color who live along that corridor. So it’s like, you know, being forced to breathe the worst air, deal with the most noise pollution being cut off from like being able to cross the highway. Yeah.

Ian: [00:35:51] Yeah. I was listening to the first few episodes of NPR’s show Untangled Roots, is all about the Rondo neighborhood and like, just like realizing that that the Rondo neighborhood was this like really ideal, like 15 minute walkable neighborhood, which is exactly the kind of neighborhood that we’re trying to create now, you know, with our new urbanist sensibilities in 2022.

Adrianna: [00:36:22] Mm Hmm.

Ian: [00:36:23] And like they had built that for themselves in the Rondo community. And then of course, like that’s what it had to get destroyed in order for us to have a highway that comes straight through Saint Paul. Right, because it was a community made by black people. For black people.

Adrianna: [00:36:39] Yeah.

Ian: [00:36:40] And so like, that’s what we’re going to destroy.

Adrianna: [00:36:42] It’s it’s messed up. And I think I mean, it’s good that more people are learning about the history. And I think that there is really like a huge opportunity to actually transform that, that corridor.

Ian: [00:36:57] Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:36:57] And like this time around, make sure that it’s actually like benefiting the people who live nearest to it.

Ian: [00:37:04] Mm Hmm.

Adrianna: [00:37:04] Yeah,

Ian: [00:37:05] Yeah, absolutely. And, and that is a goal that is shared with your campaign.

Adrianna: [00:37:10] Yeah. Yeah. Like bringing it back around. Yeah. I mean, but it’s cool to talk about like, you know, other transit related projects in the city because.

Ian: [00:37:21] All of these things tie into each other.

Adrianna: [00:37:23] Yeah,

Ian: [00:37:23] Yeah. I mean, even like this is another slight tangent. But like when I was talking to Brian Nelson from All Aboard Minnesota, you know, one of the one of their goals for passenger rail is to have a direct heavy rail connection between Union Depot and Saint Paul and like Target Field Station area in Minneapolis. So that like any trains that stop in the Twin Cities, you don’t have to choose whether it’s going to stop in Saint Paul or in Minneapolis and then have to like make some weird transfer to get to another rail, you know.

Adrianna: [00:38:00] Yeah.

Ian: [00:38:01] And like getting rid of I-94 and making a Twin Cities Boulevard is like that would be a perfect avenue for putting heavy rail through as part of that project. So like all of these things, like they tie into each other, they work together super perfectly and making sure that our transit system is prioritized when we’re making all of these decisions is super duper important. Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:38:30] Yeah. I’m like, I think there are so many connected like goals and values to a lot of these projects.

[00:38:44] [Music]

Adrianna: [00:38:44] I’m glad that there’s like many people working on different things because like personally I’m just like really interested in all of it. But like, there’s only so much time in a day.

Ian: [00:38:54] Right, right. Yeah. Let me tell you, since. Since starting work on relaunching this podcast, I have had to miss out on so many, like, in-person events and like protests and, you know, direct actions that I, I’m like, I wish I could be out there, but I need to edit this episode.

Adrianna: [00:39:11] Yeah.

Ian: [00:39:13] And it’s, it’s such a hard thing to, like, accept that, like, oh, this is a better use of my time. Me personally is making sure that other people know about these opportunities, even if I can’t go to all of them.

Adrianna: [00:39:28] Yeah. And I think that’s I feel like that’s the organizer part of my job is recognizing I have limited capacity and time and energy as a single person.

Ian: [00:39:38] Right. And that’s why you have a team behind you!

Adrianna: [00:39:40] Yeah. And, you know, like, that’s why it’s so important to, like, bring others in and make your community bigger and connect with people. Because something like our Bus Riders’ Budget, like, has the potential to affect thousands of people. And like just for an example, like we did a canvass in downtown Saint Paul a couple of weeks ago. And, you know, we also have interns now, so like training the interns on how to canvass. Like the one of them was kind of like, you know, I don’t want to bother people I don’t like. I want to bother them by asking them questions, which is a.

Ian: [00:40:15] Good instinct, you know?

Adrianna: [00:40:17] Yeah. And I mean, I understand it. It’s like kind of that social contract, again, of like we’re sometimes trained to like, you know, keep your head down and don’t bother anybody. But what I was I was telling him, I was like, you know, what we’re talking to people about is it’s an invitation. Like, we want to hear their input. And also this is something that they stand to benefit from. So try to think about it that way. And then like the very next person that we talked to was like, “Oh, that’d be great for me!” And just like, you know, signed our petition, I think about it like people stand to gain from this. People who use transit, BIPOC people in particular, like there’s low income people, like disabled people. There’s, there’s, I think a lot of room in like a topic like transit or like an issue like transit that like people who have been marginalized, who are not served by the current system very well. Like we’re the ones who stand that stand to gain the most from like improving it. And like, I know we all have limited time and resources, but I also think that like it’s worth inviting people in and saying, like, “You – this is something that could be good for you.”

Ian: [00:41:27] And yeah. And when, when you are a person who is not well served by the current system, right? You know, that just makes like just everything in life just a little bit harder, right? Sometimes a lot harder. And and, you know, so because of that, like, it’s going to be even harder for you to advocate for yourself, for your own needs within this system of, you know, an inaccessible Metropolitan Council, etc., etc.. So having an organization like MN350 that is reaching out and you know, allowing people to grab those, those levers of power and influence decisions in a way that benefits them.

Adrianna: [00:42:13] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m like, I’m definitely not saying we have all the answers or we have it all figured out, but like, you know, we’re we’re really trying to understand, like, what’s going to be effective at moving those levers of power and like being able to tell someone like, you know, you can make a difference in this, not to be cliché, but like your voice does matter.

Ian: [00:42:36] Right.

Adrianna: [00:42:38] I think that’s really powerful. Yeah.

Ian: [00:42:40] To what you said about like, you know, only being one person and only having the capacity for for so much, you know, but also like we really wouldn’t want the the decision making process to be influenced by just like a single person, right? We do. We do. We do want there to have to be a coalition of folks, you know, who are all working together and, like have a common goal, right?

Adrianna: [00:43:10] Yeah. Yeah. That, that makes a lot of sense. And I feel like that is important too because, you know, like I have my ideas, but it’s really important to share those and like get consensus on things and hear from many people that, yes, this is important and then be able to have a larger group where we’re all working together for the same thing. Yeah.

Ian: [00:43:36] Yep, yep, yep, yeah. We all. We all think that we could do super well if we were just like dictator for a day. That’s not a good that’s not a good goal. It’s not a good system.

Adrianna: [00:43:48] Yeah. And I mean, I think with that example, too, it’s just kind of like I think, you know, sometimes it does feel like, well, I know that I’m right or whatever, but it’s not enough to be right. Like you also have to generate enough people power to actually get the changes you want.

Ian: [00:44:04] Yeah, yeah. But we don’t want tyranny of the majority either.

Adrianna: [00:44:08] What?

Ian: [00:44:11] Like we don’t want to leave behind groups that are a smaller portion of the broad community, right? We need to make sure that everybody’s needs are met, which is why it’s important to have equity as one of the like the goalposts, right? The measurable things that Metropolitan Council is, is working on.

Adrianna: [00:44:36] Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, like you raise a good point of just because there’s a majority doesn’t mean that like that majority’s ideas serve everyone. I can think of a lot of historical examples on that!

Ian: [00:44:49] Yeah.

Adrianna: [00:44:51] But what I, I’m proud of with the campaign that we’re working on is that like, of course, there will probably be disagreement about these three needs, but in my opinion, like these three things everyone can benefit from, right? You know, even if it’s not, you know, one person’s highest priority, everyone benefits from buses that run on time. Like that feels like a fact to me.

Ian: [00:45:18] Yeah, we hold that truth, at least to be self evident, right?

Adrianna: [00:45:21] Yeah.

Ian: [00:45:23] All right. I think I have run out of questions to ask. Do you have any other final thoughts that we didn’t touch on before we. Before we say goodbye?

Adrianna: [00:45:33] I guess. Well, I would ask people to hop on our website and find our petition so that you can share your support for our campaign and send it to the council members.

Ian: [00:45:44] Mm hmm. And so that’s https://mn350.org?

Adrianna: [00:45:47] Yes.

Ian: [00:45:48] Very good. Even 350 does touches on a lot of things like you’re working in the transportation sector. But Hm. 350 is got a variety of different teams that are working in different areas to help de-carbonize them. So folks, I think, you know, if they go on to your website, they’ll probably find something that interests them.

Adrianna: [00:46:10] There’s there’s definitely something for everyone. Yeah.

Ian: [00:46:14] Adri, thanks for joining us.

Adrianna: [00:46:16] Yeah, I was glad to be here.

[00:46:17] [Music]

Ian: [00:46:19] Thanks for joining us for this episode of Streets.mn Podcast. This show is released under a Creative Commons attribution, non commercial, non derivative license, so feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it and you are not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was hosted and edited by me, Ian R. Buck with transcript by the indomitable Mike Allen. Christy Marsden is our awesome guest. Booker and technical assistance is provided by the super professional Brian Mitchell. If you’re able to help make sure this team gets paid for the hard work that they do, please consider donating at https://streets.mn/donate. We really appreciate it. If you have feedback or ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn. Speaking of future episodes this fall, we’ll be starting the Streets.mn Book Club. The first book we will be reading and discussing is How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh. Expect that episode to come out sometime in October. Until next time, take care!

About Ian R Buck

Co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, podcaster, and teacher. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation. "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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2 thoughts on “The Bus Rider’s Budget Campaign with MN350

  1. Ian R Buck Moderator   Post author

    I’m really enjoying the way that so many of these episodes tie together and feed into each other. We’re forming the Streets.mn Podcast Cinematic Universe here!

  2. John Dillery

    Please focus more on the problem of bad working conditions affecting how many people want to drive buses or trains. Talk to the bus and train operators. Pay is very important but it isn’t enough by itself. Making working conditions better for the bus and train operators is in large part the responsibility of the community.
    Here is one way you can help to improve the working conditions for the bus and train operators:
    When riding, please behave well always, be considerate of others, be patient. The transit service you save (and improve) will be your own!

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