Uneasy Truce Over End of State Shut Down: What the Future May Hold For Handlers and Helper Animals on Buses

If Metropolitan Council raises fares and cuts service on Metro Transit buses, what does the future hold?

There are no statistics available on how many handlers of service animals use door-to-door and fixed route transit. Though there is some mention about the effect cuts in transit will have on the elderly and on people with disabilities, I didn’t get the sense elected officials really understand the significance of their actions. The state budget compromise will negatively affect the independent living options of many people with disabilities.

Severe cuts are coming. During the state government shut down, the Metropolitan Council posted — “Transit passengers could see higher fares and significantly reduced service if a state budget settlement includes cuts to state funding for transit.”

The Pioneer Press reported “The transportation finance bill that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed in May was poised to eliminate $109 million, or 85 percent, from the transit funding originating from the state’s general fund, enough to leave council officials contemplating fare increases of 25 cents or more, layoffs in the hundreds and significant route and service reductions. In all, the mass transit system could shrink by about 25 percent, idling 200 Metro Transit buses or more.”

Now that the not so great government shut down seems to have ended, what next? Gov. Mark Dayton is not the only Minnesotan who is disappointed with the results of the compromise.

What are the long-term effects of this so called compromise, when it comes to transit service for handlers and their service animals? Legislative leaders describe the compromise as an “imperfect situation.” How will this affect us?

Will handlers and service animals be stranded during the days or nights on hot summers and cold winters? How would a service animal safely guide a handler several blocks or more when the heat index is 90 degrees or higher? Or on snow-covered sidewalks?

I wonder how handlers of service animals in urban and rural areas will get to and from appointments and work. My dog guide had to guide me to and from appointments during the 2004 bus strike. I couldn’t afford to take taxi cabs everywhere.

I am fortunate to be able to work from my home computer. Yet barriers like road construction and inadequate bus service isolate me. Transit service cuts mean people who depend on service animals and public transit will have a tougher time getting safely to and from work

More information on transit service cuts will be posted by Metro Transit by July 29. The Metropolitan Council, as of July 5 will accept public statements via phone, fax, TTY, e-mail and/or regular mail. The comment period ends at 5 p.m. on August 29..

  • Phone and record comments on the Metropolitan Council’s Public Comment Line at 651-602-1500.
  • Fax comments to the Data Center at 651-602-1464.
  • TTY your comments to the Data Center at 651-291-0904.
  • Email: data.center@metc.state.mn.us.
  • Regular mail written comments to the Metropolitan Council Data Center

390 N. Robert St., St. Paul, 55101

The Metropolitan Council will also hold seven public meetings about possible changes to door-to-door and fixed route transit, starting August 8 Check metrotransit.org for the date of the hearing nearest your home or work. The schedule includes information about transit service to some of the sites. Others are in downtown areas currently served by several routes.

The meeting schedule is subject to change. Contact the Metropolitan Council at www.metrocouncil.org about questions/changes with the above cited schedule.

Thoughts? Questions? Please share them here.

Clarence can be reached at clarence.schadegg@comcast.net

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