By Bill Clements
Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis — The transit board representing five counties in the Twin Cities area has become a member of Rail~Volution, a national group that aims to promote development of community transit systems.
The Counties Transit Improvement Board in the Twin Cities area has agreed to pay the annual $15,000 fee to become a partner of Portland, Ore.-based Rail~Volution, said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who also is chairman of CTIB.
Hennepin County was going to join Rail~Volution, McLaughlin said, but, “we decided it was more appropriate for the whole region to belong rather than just one county.”
Rail~Volution does good work, McLaughlin said, adding that he plans to attend the group’s 16th annual conference in Portland next month.
According to the Rail~Volution website, its aim is to “create a national movement to develop livable communities with transit. Livable communities are those that are healthy, economically vibrant, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable.”
McLaughlin said he likes the move. “We’ve become part of a body of people who are practitioners on the transit side and on the development side, a group that works on these issues on a national basis,” he said.
In addition to Portland and the Twin Cities, the partner-members of Rail~Volution are Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Maryland, San Francisco, Seattle and South Florida, as well as the Federal Transit Administration.
Since April 2008, five counties in the Twin Cities area — Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington — have used a quarter-cent sales tax and a $20 motor vehicle sales tax to invest in and advance transit projects by awarding annual capital and operating grants.
In its first year, CTIB awarded $86 million in grants for transit capital and operating expenses. McLaughlin said CTIB should award $88 million in 2011. And the CTIB is scheduled to pay 30 percent of the $957 million cost of the 11-mile Central Corridor light rail transit project in the Twin Cities.