With continued promises by the Metropolitan Council to address persistent racial and economic disparities across the region, ISAIAH, a non-profit coalition of more than 100 congregations from various faith traditions working in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and greater Minnesota released the following statement:
"ISAIAH believes we must work together to create prosperity, health and wholeness for all people. Every public decision must reflect our highest values and aspirations. They ought to unite rather than divide our communities and they ought to foster prosperity for all rather than a few.
"The $1.7 billion Southwest Light Rail investment has significant potential to further racial and economic equity in our region. However, based on current information available, ISAIAH is concerned that significant opportunities may be missed. The Metropolitan Council does not yet appear to be living up to its stated commitment to racial equity, which it has named as one of five priority 'outcomes' in the 30-year regional development plan.
"As a faith community, we believe this is a key opportunity for the Metropolitan Council to build a just and equitable transit system by funding measures that can truly eliminate disparities across our region. These measures are included in a People's Transit Agenda proposed by ISAIAH and ally organizations in April. Among them, a substantial increase in the quality and quantity of bus shelters that actually shelter riders, reduced fares, more frequency along higher ridership routes and streetcars. Further, we call on all parties to the Southwest Light Rail Project to take diesel train storage at the planned Van White stop permanently off the table.
"So far, the Met Council's announced 'Transit Equity Initiatives' seem to substantively address only the demand for bus shelters, and incompletely at that. Even by the Met Council's own standards, only 74 percent of stops that warrant shelters will have them by 2015 in predominantly people of color neighborhoods. This is in spite of rising ridership, and is also based on current inequitable formula for determining the need for shelter. In the central cities, stops must have 40 riders per day to warrant a shelter, while suburban stops only require 25 riders.
"ISAIAH and ally organizations that support a People's Transit Agenda look forward to working with the Metropolitan Council, City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County to ensure we do not again miss an opportunity to reduce racial and economic disparities that are holding so many in our communities back from prosperity. We stand in support of the Metropolitan Council's stated commitment to equitable decision-making in transit policy and investments but equity still is missing in the Met Council's Green Line extension/Southwest Light Rail plan."