Ramsey County voted to cover Green Line labor costs

As part of its effort to ease congestion in the city, the Ramsey County Board voted Wednesday to pay $1.5 million to reimburse Metro Transit for any labor costs associated with 2012 and 2013 Green Line operations.

This is the latest step toward reimbursing municipalities that utilize Metro Transit. Through July 2017, Ramsey County faced a possible $2.9 million funding shortfall. Officials said the county could set aside money from its reserves to help offset the expense, but the matter was deferred pending negotiations with Metro Transit over the proposed franchise agreement for the $822 million Regional Transit Authority’s Green Line.

A consultant for Metropolitan Council partners estimated the losses would come to $2.7 million, the county would lose $275,000 and the RTA would lose $1.6 million from July 2012 through July 2017. A Ramsey County representative said the total loss was $2.9 million, while the Minneapolis Management and Budget estimated losses at $3.7 million. The firm also found that Metro Transit earned $11.1 million in 2013 and $12.1 million in 2014.

The county’s funding comes from a previously negotiated franchise agreement between Metro Transit and Minneapolis. If a renegotiated franchise agreement is reached by December, the county board could choose to disburse the funds.

On Wednesday, Ramsey County Board Chairman Jim McDonough said discussions with the RTA were progressing and indicated the county may decide to cover costs related to the Green Line in the future. Officials also expressed concern over the rate of fare evasion. It is unclear how such a fee would be charged as the free FareTag system is relied upon to determine how much is lost to fare evasion.

“The fare hike would add a substantially greater burden to the city, which would be a bad move,” McDonough said.

George Zimmerman, the board’s majority Republican representative, criticized the proposal. He said the association is responsible for distributing an estimated $1.4 million, or 6 percent, in revenue to Ramsey County.

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