The Minnesota Public Transit Association (MPTA), a public advocacy group dedicated to increasing funding for public transportation and expanding service throughout Minnesota, held their inaugural Transit Showcase event at the Kirby Bus Hub last Saturday through the assistance of UMD’s MPIRG chapter.
Speakers at the event included MPTA Program Coordinator Heath Hickok and lobbyist Sherry Munyon, who highlighted the purpose and goals of their organization. Other speakers included Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) General Manager Dennis Jensen and former Duluth City Council President Jeff Anderson, speaking on behalf of Representative Rick Nolan, expressing Nolan’s support for public transit in Minnesota.
A common theme among the speakers’ presentations was the importance of public transportation to students and to the economic welfare of Minnesota communities. Jensen also announced the five millionth use of the U-Pass system, which since 2000 has provided UMD students with free bus fare. The lucky rider, Nicholas DeShaw, was unable to attend the event.
MPIRG UMD Campus Organizer Steve Wick was presented with a certificate of appreciation for MPIRG’s role in making the event possible. MPIRG has been active in promoting public transit throughout the state, including expansion of light rail systems in the Twin Cities and raising awareness of the Northern Lights Express high-speed rail line, to be built starting in 2015. MPIRG at UMD has also worked with the DTA to collect student opinions on current transit options and to get more students to walk, bike, or ride to campus.
Hickok said that the goal of MPTA is to express to people throughout Minnesota how important public transit is for their communities, and to bridge the gap between state legislators and their constituents to bring about change. One of their latest successes is a constitutional amendment that dedicates all sales tax revenue from motor vehicles to highways and public transit. The goal of the Transit Showcase here in Duluth and similar events that MPTA has planned throughout Minnesota is to get citizens engaged and invested in public transit as a vital part of Minnesota’s future. MPIRG is proud to be a part of this statewide movement towards greater transit options for all Minnesotans.
By Maxwell Helmberger, UMD MPIRG Chapter