Third parties, though, are a tough nut to crack, and your intrepid reporter was in attendance as Johnson gave a very sensible lecture to the IP audience. I was curious how the third party crowd would react . . . Is the Independence Party for or against well-funded mass transit? Their official party principles seem rather libertarian, emphasizing things like local control and personal responsibility. How does that fit with a Light Rail train?
But first, a few quotes from Curt Johnson's speech (apologies in advance for the rough crib notes version of the talk):
Nothing is ever going to cure congestion except a really bad economy [ . . . ] If you want to move somewhere with predictable travel times and no traffic, move to Toledo. [ . . . ] Beyond a certain point, congestion is a problem. Choice matters. Having an alternate system matters. [ . . . ] Right now, the State of Minnesota has two transportation systems. One[, roads, and the gas tax,] is equipped with a fiscal faucet, and it's always on. And. even so, for the first time we barely have enough money to keep the potholes filled.It was a nice speech, and I thought he did a great job of making such a complex situation simple and straight to the point.
Transit is even worse. Transit advocates have never been equipped with anything other than a bucket. [ . . . ] We will make no progress on transit in this region unless transit has a faucet too.
We in Minnesota are better than anybody in the nation at admiring our problems. [ . . . ] It's particularly Minnesotan to be stuck in inertia.
[Then Curt Johnson talked about LRT programs in "conservative" areas of the country, like Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Phoenix, Dallas and Denver. He pointed out how only here, in Minnesota, has transit become such a partisan issue.]
Something's gone wrong in Minnesota in the last 10-15 years where we have lost our confidence in our ability to invest in the future.
Of course, then the people in the audience started peppering him with questions about PRT, people's inherent desire to be "independent," how nobody likes being around other people on a bus or a train, and how we should really be building a monorail.
But those were just the outliers. I think about half the audience was pretty receptive to his arguement, and I'd like to think that even the Independence Party is getting behind mass transit in the Twin Cities.
Peter Hutchinson made an appearance. I do like him, but I can't stand the fact that his run for governor will cost the DFL candidate the election -- and likely put Pothole Pawlenty back in the Governor's office. If Hutchinson gets more than 7% of the vote, I'll eat my hat.