We had an amazing Transportation Forward Day at the State Capitol on April 4. Months of volunteer phone banks to drive turnout paid off as over one hundred people gathered to join Transportation Forward’s push for funding to improve transportation options for everyone in Minnesota.

Speakers at the event included Lt. Governor Tina Smith, Rep. Frank Hornstein, and Sen. Scott Dibble, as well as Dave Van Hattum, Kenya McKnight, and Justin Fay from the Transportation Forward coalition. Each stressed the importance of everyone who came out to participate in grassroots democracy by meeting with legislators and telling their personal stories about why this issue matters.

As the speakers and participants made clear, Minnesota’s transportation needs have become increasingly urgent. In the metro and across the state, there is clear and growing need for better public transportation, increasing demands for safe routes for biking and walking, plus hundreds of aging bridges and thousands of miles of roads that need repair and maintenance. These issues affect everyone in Minnesota, but the harm of inadequate options is felt most acutely by Minnesotans who have the greatest need. People of color, seniors, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and young people have the most at stake and badly need our decision-makers to do the right thing in 2016. We need better options that work for everyone and meaningfully improve our communities.

Throughout the afternoon, coalition staff and volunteers acted as guides to bring attendees through the Capitol complex, which is under construction and more difficult to navigate than usual. Thankfully the weather was clear and sunny as participants crossed University Avenue from our gathering place in the basement of Christ Lutheran Church to attend meetings with legislators in the State Office Building and the new Senate building.

Volunteers also were on hand to gather dozens of participants’ personal stories and struggles with today’s inadequate transportation system. “When we speak to legislators, it is easy for the urgency and gravity of these issues to get lost in the minutiae of facts, statistics, and funding mechanisms. Our Real Stories help make clear to decision-makers that having access to reliable transit or safe routes to school can make a huge difference in the everyday lives of millions of Minnesotans,” said Dave Van Hattum, Chair of Transportation Forward and Advocacy Director at Transit for Livable Communities.

Here are a few of the messages that Day at the Capitol advocates delivered to the Minnesota Legislature on April 4:

I strive to lead a car-free lifestyle for the health and well-being biking brings to me. Light rail in concert with buses makes that a possibility for me in Minnesota’s extreme seasons. My freedom, financial security, and success are the result of the forward planning Minneapolis has taken with multimodal infrastructure. Let’s continue to improve, expand, and bring this to all of Minnesota. —Jeremy S.

Thank you for meeting with us today and I’m glad to hear you support funding for transportation options. . . . If there’s a transportation bill this year, bike, pedestrian, bus, and rail funding need to be a part of it. If a bill passes without them, I’m sure you understand there won’t be another chance for a generation. —Tyler S.

Keep the buses improving! More routes, more frequent service, and better pay for drivers! —Susan D.

I am especially concerned for my numerous outstate relatives who have lost or will soon lose their ability to drive. They MUST have alternatives! —Thomas B.

There is more action to come this legislative session. We encourage our supporters to stay involved and help us keep the pressure on state lawmakers to pass a transportation bill that provides long-term funding for all modes. Check out our events calendar for upcoming phone banks and other opportunities to make your voice heard. And be sure to visit Transportation Forward’s Facebook page for more fantastic photos from the event!

This recap of Transportation Forward Day at the State Capitol was originally posted by Transit for Livable Communities.

Photo credit: Val Escher