Readers write: COVID-19, public transit, safe driving

Review Editor’s Note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters readers online and in print every day. To contribute, click here.

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Every death from COVID-19 is tragic. Still, the wisdom of Minnesota’s approach to the pandemic can be seen in Friday’s Star Tribune state-by-state data. Minnesota ranks near the bottom in the number of deaths, 40th among states and territories with 228 per 100,000.

Mississippi had the worst death toll among states with 419 deaths per 100,000. If Minnesota had a similar rate, there would have been almost 11,000 more deaths here than the 12,800-plus we’ve had so far. . That would almost be equivalent to losing the entire population of a city like Grand Rapids with its 11,235 residents.

A better state comparison might be neighboring South Dakota, whose governor, like that of Mississippi, has refused to enact other states’ public health protections and questioned the value of mask-wearing and vaccines. . Its death toll is 22nd among states at 330 per 100,000. If Minnesota had the same death rate, there would have been more than 5,700 additional deaths here, a number roughly equivalent to the wiping out of populations the size of towns like Glencoe, International Falls or Morris.

We Minnesotans should be grateful for the state leadership provided by Governor Tim Walz, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and others, as well as local authorities, businesses, schools and health care institutions. healthcare who have made the difficult decisions necessary to save lives.

Ken Peterson, St. Paul

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Thanks to the Star Tribune for the May 20 charts and information on the one million lives lost to COVID. I would like to offer another way of thinking about all those lost souls. One million lives corresponds to approximately 1 in 332 people in the country. US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis can accommodate up to 73,000 spectators. So if you went to a big event there and walked around looking at these people, looked them in the eye, you would figure out that at a rate of one lost to 332, about 219 wouldn’t come out alive. Rather scary. Please get vaccinated and boosted.

Peter Berglund, St. Paul

TRANSIT

Many Minneapolis College students face cross barriers that hinder their success in the classroom. They work more than part-time or are parents or caregivers, and they often navigate an unreliable or unreasonably long bus journey. Service cuts due to the pandemic, as well as driver shortages, have only exacerbated the problem.

Recent research conducted with Move Minnesota shows that access to reliable public transportation is a critical component of student success at Minneapolis College. Transportation – late and unreliable buses – is one of the biggest obstacles our students face in getting a degree.

Our college is doing a lot to meet the challenges our students face. We provide subsidized bus passes, on-campus lockers for students with housing instability, a food pantry, and a student support and counseling center. However, strong transit service is a key element of student success that we cannot provide alone. Investments are needed.

Investing in public transit will serve the nearly 40% of our students who use public transit to get to campus and the 29% of students who reported missing classes due to car problems. We call on heads of state to make the necessary investments to maintain and expand the bus service that students in the region rely on. Please consider free or reduced fares for students, as well as investments in rapid transit lines.

Providing students with the opportunity to succeed is not about politics. Minnesota can empower students who need it most by investing in public transit.

Sharon Pierce, Minneapolis

The writer is president of Minneapolis College.

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We cannot afford to exclude public transit from transportation funding.

If the state invests only in roads and bridges, it will miss out on millions of Minnesotans served by public transit and the housing, commerce, jobs, and economic development it brings. We need a commensurate investment in public transit to lead our state toward a more equitable, prosperous, and environmentally responsible future.

Despite its challenges, the Green Line Extension Project has already created 7,500 building and construction jobs and generated $134 million for disadvantaged business enterprises. Those jobs filled the bank accounts of families in 65 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

Investing along transit also benefits all of Minnesota. More than $9.2 billion in development has taken place near existing and planned light rail stations, with more in the pipeline.

This investment, in turn, attracts businesses and talent and generates tax revenue that supports projects and services in every corner of the state.

No other transportation infrastructure generates nearly the magnitude of economic development that benefits the entire state than fixed-guideway transportation like light rail.

If we fail to invest in public transit — and light rail in particular — we will miss some of our greatest opportunities to move all of Minnesota forward.

We will also miss billions of dollars in federal funding. This money will instead go to other regions and cities (Austin, Texas; Denver; Memphis, Tennessee; Salt Lake City; Seattle; and others) to which we are already losing jobs and talent as they successfully build modern public transport systems.

Public transit revitalizes and connects some of the most racially and economically diverse communities in our state – communities that rely on public transit for their daily needs and continue to suffer the consequences of past racist transportation policies. and land use.

Public transit is an investment in the health of our environment. Cars and trucks are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota. High-quality transit options reduce pollution and congestion.

Minnesota’s future hinges on a comprehensive transportation system that includes both roads and public transit. We urge our leaders in the Legislature to prioritize investments in public transit to support the long-term vitality of our state and all Minnesotans.

This letter was signed by Marion Greene, President of Hennepin County Council; Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce; and Tom Dicklich, executive director of the Minnesota Building & Construction Trades Council.

SAFE DRIVING

Minnesota’s hands-free law has proven to be an insufficient measure to address distracted driving disasters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 people are killed each year on American roads in crashes caused by distracted driving, and that number continues to rise. Although many states, including Minnesota, have implemented laws and restrictions in their legislation, these efforts are not as effective as their original intention. For example, following California’s 2017 Assembly Bill-1785, which tightened restrictions on phone use while driving, a California Office of Traffic Safety report found that cell phone use while driving increased from 3.58% in 2017 to 4.52% in 2018.

Throughout my research on this subject, I have not found realistic legislative changes that would have a significant impact on the problem in question. Instead, there needs to be increased education about the illegality and dangers of distracted driving. If future drivers learn why they shouldn’t text and drive before getting behind the wheel, they can develop good habits and normalize the absence of a phone while driving. An example of this approach in effect is that Congress is providing resources to include distracted driving awareness in licensing reviews as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act in 2021. Other federal actions could include grants , additions to employment policies and incorporation into school curricula.

This problem affects every American, and to effectively mitigate the problem, we must prevent it from occurring in future generations before it begins.

Kelly Dayton, Edina

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