Stop Linking the Green Line Extension with North Minneapolis

Out in the world, there exist all sorts of theories and ideas that are generally correct, in a broad, often academic sense. But you’ll find that those theories and ideas can’t always be applied to all possible situations in the universe.

You can say, for example, that lower taxes are good for an economy. More people having more money to do things with? That’s probably good. You know, however, that the logic can’t be extended out into infinity. Some amount of tax is probably a good idea if you don’t want your barn to be burned down by marauders, etc.

Urban/Suburban Job Disconnect

One idea that exists and that is correct in a broad sense is that there is a disconnect between inner-city residents and job centers out in the suburbs. American metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, have spread out a great deal in the past seventy years. According to the Department of Labor, in 2014 there were about 1.8 million jobs in our metropolitan area, which has about 3.5 million residents. And most of those jobs are in the suburbs. Per the Metropolitan Council, there are 308,000 and 177,000 jobs in Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively. So the central cities have about 27% of the total jobs, and about 20% of the population. That’s actually pretty good, you’d think.

But due to the geographic spread of jobs and the auto-oriented (and actively transit-, pedestrian-, and cyclist-hostile) land use and design of the suburbs, the pool of available jobs looks very different to different people. A person with a car has a much larger pool of potentially available jobs than a person without a car. A gal in Maplewood with a car can go much further than a guy in St. Paul without a car.

And cars are expensive! Low-income people are less likely to be able to afford them. A confluence of other factors will also reduce the potential earning power of low-income people applying for these hypothetical jobs, e.g. they may be recent immigrants with limited English, they may have not attended college, etc. So those jobs are likely to pay less than whatever an entry-level analyst at Medtronic is making these days.

Does it make financial sense to buy a car and pay for insurance and gas and maintenance to drive 15 miles to a job paying you $11 an hour for 25 hours a week?

For all sorts of complicated and historical and systemic reasons, poverty tends to be concentrated in our central cities. It’s not universally true, and there are plenty of low-income people in all places. (In particular, poverty is moving to the northwest out of Minneapolis proper.) But you might generally identify four areas: North Minneapolis (in particular the Near Northside) and Phillips in Minneapolis, and Frogtown and the East Side in St. Paul.

It’s not exact, but it’s something that shows up on maps.

2009-2013 ACS Poverty Map

So in a nutshell, the disconnect from suburban jobs is one piece of a large structural puzzle of disadvantages that people in places like North Minneapolis have to piece together. Many people elsewhere (in like, say, the southwest metro) have the puzzle handed to them partially or completely assembled. If you are interested in more information and also other angles about this topic, you could start here or here.

The Legend of Kenilworth vs. Uptown

If you’ve been following the process of extending the METRO Green Line out to Eden Prairie, you’ve heard many things about many topics, almost all of it terrible, because even the good stuff at this point is standing in a pool of terrible stuff and reminds you on a deep level of how flawed everything is; for example, this post is terrible and I hate that I feel compelled to write it, and I sincerely (really) apologize and am also sincerely sorry for breaking the fourth wall.

By now you certainly know that back in 2009, Hennepin County, along with the Metropolitan Council, picked an ostensibly cheaper route to Eden Prairie, skipping on an alignment through the then densely-populated and now much more densely-populated Uptown area. The route chosen through an old rail corridor turned out to be kind of a mess upon further review, necessitating (politically) a tunnel under a bike trail and existing freight rail tracks.

Non-compelling Arguments

Two years later, we’re still diddling, with the added bonus of hundreds of millions of dollars in extra engineering needed in Eden Prairie due to marshy soils (perhaps rename it Eden Marsh, at this point there’s way more marsh than prairie) though that looks to have been resolved, using this strategy.

Two weeks ago, the mayor of Eden Prairie remarked that she thought “[most] express commuters to downtown will stick to the bus system, because it’s a much quicker trip on the bus than light rail,” at which point my brain exploded. For the record, I disagree that most southwest metro commuters will stick to buses heading downtown, even if they’re a little bit faster. But what do I or anyone else know at this point, over three decades into this project?

She also stated that she thought people would take the train to, say, Hopkins, because buses don’t currently go there. That people in Eden Prairie will drive to a light rail station and park in a ramp and wait for a train and take a train to Hopkins instead of driving there in six minutes.

Really?

Another thing we’ve heard more recently is that we’re building the Green Line extension how and where we are due to that urban/suburban job access disconnect, outlined above. About 30% of households in the Near North community of Minneapolis do not own a vehicle. So in theory, there are some number of people who would have access to a larger pool of jobs. You could maybe write out an equation or something, where x number of people have y improved access to z number of jobs, over $1.65 billion dollars.

The problem is that other than some very small amount of people who are walking up to stations from, say, the Harrison neighborhood, and taking a train to West Lake to work at Whole Foods, these transit trips are ridiculous and cockamamie for what is effectively not a huge number of jobs.

There are a little over 10,000 jobs within a third of a mile of stations from Shady Oak to Eden Prairie Center, which is what we are touting as the Fertile Crescent (marshes, remember) of jobs. There are, notably, about 160,000 jobs in Downtown Minneapolis alone, which are pretty easily accessible by buses like the 5, 7, 14, 19, and 22. It takes about 15 minutes to get to Nicollet Mall from West Broadway on a bus in rush hour. (Which isn’t to say everything is fantastic for the Northside, transit-wise, which we will circle back to in a minute.)

The idea that any significant number of people from North Minneapolis are going to go wait at a bus stop, take a bus to Royalston station, get on a train, take it four cities over, get off in an industrial park or mall parking lot, and walk half a mile along this road to make $12 an hour has always been ludicrous. Full stop. That the media has been reporting this as a legitimate argument for the bad routing of the Green Line extension is lazy at best.

Northside Jobs

Minneapolis is not really a Detroit-style post-industrial dystopia or hollowed out sadscape like, say, St. Louis

There are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs already accessible by single seat transit ride from North Minneapolis in considerably less time than it would take to string together a transit trip to Eden Prairie for the vast majority of these hypothetical reverse commuters–who, for what it’s worth, would be taking a transit trip in lieu of a possible twenty minute car ride with no traffic to a workplace with free parking. There are also thousands of industrial jobs along the river within literal walking distance of many of the neediest neighborhoods, which the City’s Above the Falls Master Plan notes are “relatively high paying blue‐collar jobs that do not require advanced education,” and that “[this] is clearly a resource for residents of the low‐ to moderate‐income neighborhoods that flank the river.” The same plan also notes that less than 10% of these positions are currently held by Northside workers.

Furthermore, aside from that handful of walk up riders in Harrison and Sumner-Glenwood, Northsiders are going to need to take a bus to the station anyway, and if the thing had been routed down Nicollet, Hennepin, or another downtown street, they would have been able to take the bus to the line by riding it another three minutes past Royalston to downtown.

The Jobs Argument is Ludicrous

Go back and look at the news articles and editorials (search: “Southwest Corridor” on a local news website) and you will find that the claim about Northside job access did not really emerge until a few years ago, when shrewd politicians and others figured they could just vaguely accuse people of racism for opposing a route that unhelpfully nicks the bottom of North Minneapolis. Many of these same politicians approved a terrible route for the Blue Line extension in the Bottineau Corridor, which will also unhelpfully nick the edges of North Minneapolis, one of the most transit-dependent communities for many hundreds of miles in any direction.

In a few years, North Minneapolis will get some faster buses on Penn Avenue. For the foreseeable future, that’s about all they’re going to get, mobility-wise, as we upgrade southwest metro commuters from coach buses with wi-fi to light rail trains that will run mostly empty at noon on weekdays. This is egregious.

This route was picked through a deeply and objectively flawed process that favored minutes of time savings for suburban commuters. And we all know at this point is that, yes, it is complicated. Federal dollars are tied to various things and you can’t just make up what you want to do and build it the next day. We all know.

But stop dressing up bizarre defenses of what has been a thoroughly embarrassing disaster of a process, and let’s hope we don’t repeat our mistakes. This never had anything to do with the Northside, or with equity, or any other thing that sounds valiant. Take it from former Metropolitan Council chairman Peter Bell:

The real problem would be if the group’s complaint caused the project to be delayed or derailed, Bell said. “Then of course the money would go out to the Southwest Corridor and Eden Prairie, and that would be a real environmental justice issue, in my mind.”

That’s him some number of years ago describing what would have happened if a lawsuit against the Green Line in St. Paul successfully derailed that project.

Folding a $20 Bill the Right Way

You’ll find, actually, that the biggest indicator of who this line is for has been right in front of us all along, in all the news stories and studies and City Council meeting minutes and terrible blogs and less-than-terrible blogs, often in the headlines of those things, saving us precious minutes and clicks…

…it’s called the Southwest Corridor.

Note: It’s been a couple months since the last calamitous revelation about the planned Green Line extension, and so the author has switched back to being pretty apathetic about it overall; whatever, who cares, nothing matters, just build it and be done with it and we’ll ironically take it out to Eden Prairie Center to buy a Cinnabon or something. But this specific point has just been driving him crazy for a while.


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95 Responses to Stop Linking the Green Line Extension with North Minneapolis

  1. Andrew B July 16, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Introducing my Met Council Light Rail checklist.

    1) Connects to an existing line, making the new route super-crazy long? ✓

    2) Goes through parks/wetlands/fields where nobody lives? ✓

    3) Continues past outlying city where line should logically terminate? ✓

    4) Skips all intermediate route upgrades (Ltd stop, BRT, commuter) in favor of LRT? ✓

    5) Stations are not within walkable range of homes/businesses/industry? ✓

    6) Includes surprise extra costs that should have been anticipated but weren’t? ✓

    7) Route takes at least 20+ min extra to get to destination compared to driving? ✓

    8) Includes expensive perks for suburban commuters to try and entice them to switch? ✓

    9) Has boilerplate about connecting job centers and future TOD potential? ✓

    10) Enough layers of bureaucracy and funding sources so that project can never be killed? ✓

    • Wayne July 16, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

      If this were Facebook I’d be liking this post so hard right now

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

      I’d throw out that, while the list is good, it’s not really the Met Council. Hennepin County is the one who picked the route. Steve Dornfeld had a really good write up about the process on MinnPost last year:

      http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2014/04/why-southwest-lrt-trouble-blame-county-led-planning

      • Nick Magrino
        Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

        Also, man, read that comment section.

        • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

          Yeah David has been pretty vicious to anyone opposing this process for quite some time now, hasn’t he?

          • Nick Magrino
            Nick Magrino July 20, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

            Having followed David’s commentary on this for like four years (???????????????????) I think it would be hard to describe any of his advocacy as “vicious.”

            • Wayne July 21, 2015 at 9:44 am #

              Agree to disagree. He’s much more measured these days but early on he could get pretty personal. I’m not innocent myself, but he is certainly very committed, I’ll give him that. I think he picked a lame horse with a bad limp, but he’s got convictions, which I respect.

        • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

          I also really don’t miss Paul’s input on this issue. He got personal fast. We got into it more than a few times.

          • Nick Magrino
            Nick Magrino July 20, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

            Pot/kettle, hey, can you not be a huge jerk in our comment section all the time? The passion is great but jeez

            • Wayne July 21, 2015 at 9:46 am #

              I may not be pleasant but I do try to avoid personal attacks. I can’t say the same for Paul, so I don’t particularly miss his input.

  2. David Greene July 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    We’ve been over this endless times so it’s just stupid to argue about it now.

    But North residents have said they want it.

    Full stop.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele July 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

      Except for the ones that said they didn’t.

      • Wayne July 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

        It’s always good to know David speaks for all residents of the north side despite not living there.

        • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

          Have YOU talked to Northside residents about it? I am reporting what I have been told. Sure, not everyone is going to use it. I don’t think anyone I have talked has said they *don’t* want it.

          I’ve done the legwork. Have you?

          • Matt Steele
            Matt Steele July 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

            I know multiple people on the north side who think it’s ridiculous. You know them too – they post on the forums. Which invalidates your point. And makes your claim to speak for the north side illegitimate.

            • N.M.F.W.T.N.B. July 16, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

              Obviously there is a diversity of opinion within the northside’s thousands of residents. It’s a vacuous intellectual smokescreen to pretend this prevents us from coming to large-scale conclusions. What counts is that most Northside elected officials and community organizations want the current alignment–and personally I find their arguments (which are far more intelligent than they are often caricatured as being on this website) more persuasive than yours, or Nick’s!

              Meanwhile, my understanding is that the diverse businesses on Nicollet *don’t* want it, and worry it would lead to their displacement. Your ideological preferences don’t jive with the lived reality of the community. Get over it.

              • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

                Yes, exactly. Those organizers represent significant constituencies. There are always people who oppose things and I’m sorry if I don’t remember a Northsider posting in UrbanMSP saying they don’t want it.

                I have never claimed to “speak for the Northside.” Folks there can do that very well themselves. What I *have* done is convey the messages I’ve heard that are not getting out into the conversation. And even then, it’s not just me testifying at hearings, it’s actual Northsiders!

            • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

              What a surprise that David is an at-large member on the CAC for SWLRT planning. He’s really invested in selling the idea to us but never seems to disclose that he’s actually a part of the process we all seem to find so many issues with.

        • Will Lumpkins July 16, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

          I live there and Ill resonate people want it.

      • Will Lumpkins July 16, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

        ….said no northsider ever….

  3. Nick Magrino fiddles while the Northside burns July 16, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    “shrewd politicians and others figured they could just vaguely accuse people of racism” — And yet, this is more or less what you this writer doing, too! He’s advocating *against* directing public money into the historically disinvested Northside. Instead he’s raising the usual stink about how the already-booming, White-majority Uptown should get that money, and somehow dressing it up as vaguely caring about poor people in North even while offering no alternatives.

    Meanwhile, he’s ignoring the actual Northside-based community organizers, who are capable of thinking prudently and pragmatically within the confines of what they know from their lived experience–far more viscerally than Nick!–is indeed a terribly flawed system. The current alignment might not serve much beyond parts of Harrison in terms of transit access, but it will crucially provide leverage and momentum for organizations across the Northside that are trying, with very limited resources and clout, to improve their neighborhoods and the perception of their community as a whole.

    Look at the Green Line in St. Paul — it’s obviously not just a transit investment. It was also an investment in University Avenue, as a public space as well as a business corridor. That investment meant real money flowing into the communities along the route that otherwise would not have come. Yes, this is a flawed and not especially sustainable model for wealth redistribution and neighborhood equity, but it is the only politically viable solution at the moment. It’s certainly better than nothing.

    “The idea that any significant number of people from North Minneapolis are going to go wait at a bus stop, take a bus to Royalston station, get on a train, take it four cities over, get off in an industrial park or mall parking lot, and walk half a mile along this road to make $12 an hour has always been ludicrous.”

    Actually, thousands of resilient transit-dependent people already do even worse commutes than this, every single day. It’s awful but it’s better than the alternative! Nick’s attitude here amounts to, “the poors will NEVER be able to work in Eden Prairie, so why bother?” Not especially progressive IMO.

    In any case, if current trends continue, by the time the Green and especially the Blue line extensions are up and running, concentrated poverty in the metro will in all likelihood have moved to places like Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park. Let’s stop pretending that the demographics of the suburbs are the same as they were in the 80s.

    • Wayne July 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

      You do have a point about people with already terrible transit commutes probably hopping on to this maybe slightly better option, but I think you’re missing some of the point in the rest of your post. The fact this route has been touted as some major benefit to the north side to push the alignment chosen is garbage. I don’t think calling this out on that is saying anything about not needing better transit to the north side. And you also kind of conveniently forgot that a nicollet to uptown routing does pass through another very diverse (read: not majority white) area before hitting uptown.

      • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

        And *you* are ignore the fact that the Midtown line, when (not if) built, will serve those populations far better than 3C. Midtown would be much less likely to happen with 3C.

        It is better to serve two areas of rail transit need than one, no?

        • Matt Steele
          Matt Steele July 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

          And you’re forgetting that a needless transfer sucks. The fatal flaw with an otherwise decent Midtown LRT plan.

          • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

            I’m guessing folks in Phillips and Corcoran will take a transfer over no service at all.

        • N.M.F.W.T.N.B. July 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

          In our flawed, actual world of inequality, context is everything. Whittier is already attracting investment *without* a billion-dollar light rail. Its diverse communities are at greater risk of displacement than they are of the lack of access to jobs and services, as well the instability and disinvestment, that the northside experiences. In the context of current trends, LRT on Nicollet would probably herald the end of the area’s relative affordability and the demise of the area’s diversity. Whereas north is arguably still in a downward spiral, and needs all the investment it can get simply to stabilize.

        • Mike Hicks July 16, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

          You’re assuming that people would need to take the train out to the suburbs to find employment, when an urban alignment would take it past many more jobs along the way. It would open up more opportunities close to home that would almost certainly cancel out any lost access due to longer end-to-end travel time.

          • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 10:19 am #

            Again, Midtown will hit a lot of those points and enhanced bus service will hit most of the others.

            We do not need rail on Nicollet Ave. to do what you suggest.

            • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

              Midtown isn’t funded! Midtown doesn’t even have funding for design! Midtown doesn’t have funding for an environmental impact statement!

              I was backing Midtown LRT back in the 1990s, but instead all the funding got diverted to a bikeway. Fine, whatever, but there *still* isn’t funding!

              Saying “Oh, all the problems with the currently funded scheme will be solved by a scheme which we haven’t managed to get any funding for for 25 years” is *not a serious position to take*.

              How about we build Midtown LRT first, then decide about SWLRT. Deal?

        • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

          The Midtown Line is a lovely idea which should have been built back in the 1990s.

          I would strongly support a motion to fund the Midtown line by defunding the SW Corridor.

          Or, hell, run the SW Corridor straight along the Midtown line and link it into the Hiawatha Line. More complex operationally, but it would still be an improvement over the insane “tunnel under a park” route.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini July 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

        “Actually, thousands of resilient transit-dependent people already do even worse commutes than this, every single day.”

        I don’t disagree with you. Unfortunately, most of those horrid commutes are much closer to home. Of all the people with jobs who live in the area bound by I-94, 394, Xerxes, and Lowry, here’s the breakdown of where their jobs are:

        – Minneapolis: 4,500
        – St Paul: 1,000
        – Bloomington: 500
        – SLP: 400
        – Minnetonka: 250
        – EP: 250

        Yes, this tells us where people work today, not where they could. Hence the number Nick provided of jobs within a third mile radius of all stops beyond Hopkins (a whopping 13,000). If framed as a positive for North, this is a lot of money to marginally bump job access for reverse commutes.

        Nick did provide an alternate plan that would have given access to those jobs at a minor time penalty while also serving more jobs and more people – a route along Hennepin or Lyndale or whatever. Critics have also suggested dropping stops west of Hopkins (where only 13,000 jobs are) to save money. If it were me, I’d use that savings to implement all aBRT lines – the ones serving 4,500 existing workers in Mpls – & Midtown Greenway rail today (not in 202?X?).

        Whatever, the line is going to be built. It will have benefits. I don’t think it’s the best bang for our transit buck, even considering social/economic justice, by a long shot.

        • N.M.F.W.T.N.B. July 16, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

          “Whatever, the line is going to be built. It will have benefits. I don’t think it’s the best bang for our transit buck, even considering social/economic justice, by a long shot.”

          I fully agree with this. We must do things differently in the future. But the needs of underserved communities are imminent. We cannot go back to the drawing board and hope for some urban-planning-equity Jesus to descend from the heavens to usher in a perfectly equitably Minneapolis out of thin air. Nick wants to kill these projects on a vague promise that something better could be done, someday. I want to accept the marginal improvements these projects represent, while still advocating for change in how planning is done down the road.

          • Alex Cecchini
            Alex Cecchini July 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

            Okay, fair enough. Glad there’s a middle ground that recognizes this outcome isn’t perfect, or anywhere near it.

            I won’t speak for Nick, but he wrote this piece 2 years ago. 2 years! http://streets.mn/2013/07/21/we-need-to-stop-the-southwest-corridor/

            To act like we couldn’t have come up with a workable solution that accomplished some of his goals and not delayed this project a whole lot more than it already has been is a bit naïve.

            Beyond that, there is a very real danger that $1.7bn price tags for projects like this for political reasons discussed (not just here but across the nation) will make really good transit projects and the funding for them dry up. Look at the opposition at the state and federal levels. Look at how anti-LRT sentiment and regional politics have put Midtown completely off to the side.

            • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

              These projects take a decade or more to do even if everything runs smoothly. Yes, that’s a huge process problem. But it’s even more naive to think that two years ago we could have started over and had something by 2020.

              • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

                And yes, I’m assuming a real project, not some half-assed token bus service for Northsiders.

                Note that in that article, Nick focuses almost exclusively on white, wealthy Uptown. I see no solutions proposed for anyone else.

                • Anders Imboden
                  Anders Imboden July 16, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

                  “Uptown” is frequently used to describe not just the area around Henn/Lake, but Lyn/Lake and Whittier as well (at least when talking on a regional scale). I think most people who are familiar with SWLRT know both the current and the 3C alignment(s), and the neighborhoods affected by both.

                  To claim (or imply) that Nick or anyone else criticizing SWLRT’s current overstated equity argument is secretly trying to further a “white, wealthy” agenda, is really uncalled-for. It’s a smear technique and a discursive shortcut.

                  The alternative for SWLRT–3C–would’ve served many more poor households than the current plan. For a visual reminder, look back at Yonah Freemark’s 2009 post on the subject. Map 2 (Poverty). http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2009/08/11/southwest-minneapolis-transit-route-selection-process-may-rule-out-light-rail-to-uptown/

                  • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 10:20 am #

                    And the Midtown LRT would serve just as many, if not more.

                    Every single argument I’ve heard about 3C comes down to “lots of people live in Uptown (proper).” Guess who those people are? Nobody thinks of Whittier as Uptown.

                    • Matt Steele
                      Matt Steele July 20, 2015 at 10:28 am #

                      “If not more” “But for a transfer”

                    • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

                      Better than not serving them at all, no?

                    • Wayne July 21, 2015 at 9:47 am #

                      Why do the people of midtown get a line to uptown or the river, but people everywhere else get a direct ride to downtown?

          • N.M.F.W.T.N.B. July 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

            Oh and also a Hennepin/lyndale/”whatever” alternative, in addition to being a disingenuous faux-proposal that’s not actually being discussed, would still amount to a lack of investment in North in favor of Uptown, which is what my point really boiled down to.

    • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Thank you.

  4. Alex July 16, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    It’s true that the sheer number of Northsiders whose job accessibility will be significantly improved by SWLRT is small (although I should point out that I’m considering taking a job that is about the longest possible commute in the town that I live in and pays $12 an hour).

    It’s misleading, though, to say that only 13,000 jobs south of Hopkins will be walkable, because SWLRT has always been about making a southwest metro transit network feasible, and opening the 90,000 or so jobs south of Hopkins and west of 100 to transit.

    Of course, it’s hard to sell the public on a project that has transit network improvement goals, because Minnesotans as a rule know nothing about how transit works. So they could say “The Green Line Extension light rail transit project will allow the all-day fixed route transit system in the southwest metro to have greater coverage and improve job accessibility relative to auto use,” or they could say “Look! Train help poor people!” Speaking as a marketing agent, which do you think they would pick?

    • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

      You get at the major flaws in both our planning and in the thought process of some pundits. We design service in silos. We argue about them in silos.

      We are, in fact, building a system. We ought to be discussing whether SWLRT is a good investment as part of a *system*. It is. For multiple reasons, not all of them utilitarian.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini July 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

        Is running frequent, all day, local transit lines connecting to the SWLRT stops in EP on Southwest Transit’s strategic plan? Didn’t they just cancel their only local route in favor of their ‘Uber for Bus’ idea? I’m legitimately confused, the selling point was always that the areas around each stations are so job rich, plus urbane redevelopment opportunity. I think the former is only marginally true, and I’ve always agreed that it’s hard to ask suburbs to redevelop responsibly without something like SWLRT there as an anchor.

        But to claim SWLRT is part of a network improvement seems weak. This isn’t like the CCLRT Green Line, where land uses already support it, bus routes exist and can be reconfigured to serve a higher capacity train with different stations.

        Midtown is a rail line that’s part of a network and stands on its own. SWLRT maybe counts because it continues running to the U (but I have a hard time believing the trips from anywhere west of Hopkins would continue past there). But they’re not in the same league in that respect.

        • Alex July 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

          The DEIS assumes feeder routes in SW Transit’s service area, but you’re right that the opt-out politics add an element of risk to those. But most of the SWLRT route is within the Met Council’s service area, and the TSIP identifies a number of new or improved routes for SWLRT in addition to the routes that already exist at station areas. I would say that Hopkins and St Louis Park have transit-supportive land uses already that are comparable to those along Hiawatha, if not those along CCLRT.

          Perhaps there are few policymakers trying to sell the line in terms of transit network improvements (I think I addressed that in my comment above). I haven’t seen many policymakers trying to sell the line at all since Dorfman quit commissioning, still I hear quite a bit more about it than I do about aBRT.

          • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 10:22 am #

            Well, it is an extension of the Green Line so there’s a network effect there, certainly.

      • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

        “We ought to be discussing whether SWLRT is a good investment as part of a *system*.”

        It is not. It reminds me most of the original 19th century B&O Railroad (IIRC) approach to Chicago, which (coming from Ohio) went waaay to the south, then once it was waaay to the west, it went waaaay north, and finally approached Chicago from the northwest. It was *insane*. It was a poor investment as part of a system. As such, it was replaced.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

      Treating the whole Eden Prairie area as one amorphous blob is also kinda misleading, isn’t it? The land use in that area is not really going to support transit for decades, so we’re really talking about trips with one or more transfers, using winding arterials between office parks and freeway armpit apartment building and strip malls. It’s not that hard to drive.

      I’m more optimistic about the potential for St. Louis Park and Hopkins to infill responsibly (because they already are) but why are we trying to force it on a second-ring suburb while the 5 sucks today?

      • Alex July 16, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

        I disagree that the land use in that area won’t support transit “for decades.” True, the Golden Triangle, with its heavy reliance on stubbornly sprawling industry, will be a tough nut to crack. But the jobs in the Opus, Eden Prairie Center, and Edina-494 areas are mostly retail and office, which are compact enough to be good markets for transit. While sidewalk coverage and intersection density need to be improved, surely adding sidewalks and cut-throughs are less technically demanding projects than a light rail line.

        And I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that transit mode share in the southwest metro will ever approach that of downtown Minneapolis, or even that the success of SWLRT depends on good mode share in the suburbs. But transit in the metro, along with all the environmental and urban development goals that are furthered by it, won’t be improved if transit is only usable to get downtown.

        Now, I’d agree that it would be worthwhile to try freeway BRT before building LRT to Eden Prairie. And I’d agree that in terms of the sheer number of riders benefited, a more urban line would be better than SWLRT. But we know that it’s really hard to build urban LRT, and no one seems to care about freeway BRT, while SWLRT has momentum right now. The sad thing is that its momentum is being disrupted more effectively by transit “advocates” and DFLers than by anyone else.

        • Nick Magrino
          Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

          Not decades as in like 70 years, but certainly at least multiple decades, right?

          Even being very hypothetical and generous and thinking about the sprawl retrofit watercolors we’ve all seen a million times, it’s just really hard to imagine infill in a place like Eden Prairie Center (maybe the best opportunity) getting to the point where people are actually going to be using transit for most trips, and I think most people would agree that building transit that people would use for most trips is probably the highest and best use of fixed rail transit.

          Sure, you’ve got a train to get to Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, but do you really think any huge number of people are going to go carless in market rate Eden Prairie TOD in the next twenty or thirty years? Even if you get a little outlying village of a few thousand people, people are still going to drive to Costco. I realize your comment is more about job access, but again, if you’re thinking about a commute bounded by, say, an hour each way, this is a job access bump of what, several percent?

          “And I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that transit mode share in the southwest metro will ever approach that of downtown Minneapolis, or even that the success of SWLRT depends on good mode share in the suburbs.”

          Isn’t the last one what I’m suggesting? idk anymore

          • Alex July 17, 2015 at 11:38 am #

            No, the success of SWLRT depends on downtown Minneapolis, which is the only area in the Twin Cities with land use capable of supporting rail (except maybe the U of M and downtown St Paul, in the order of ability to support rail). But of course you can’t just plop down a train in downtown Minneapolis and say “There! I fixed it!” The train has to go to a non-rail supportive area to pick up riders. The Mall of America doesn’t have good transit mode share, and neither does the airport, and neither does Longfellow for that matter. Was Hiawatha a bad idea?

            So once you accept the fact that you’ll need to build to some marginally rail-supportive areas to get rail to rail-supportive areas, you start thinking about what other goals you can use to justify spending all that money. Your goal apparently is for transit to serve most trips in all LRT station areas. Good luck with that. Other goals, which I think the line would serve, would be to provide the line-haul service that makes all-day fixed route transit viable in the southwest metro, or to encourage the nascent urban zoning codes there (Eden Prairie, by the way, has a relatively good code which office buildings have already been built on).

            • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

              Midtown Greenway route can support rail too. And the rail is conveniently already present and in a trench. But noooo.

              • Alex July 21, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

                OK, maybe Midtown too. But it’s hard for rail to be successful in a place where the parking is mostly free. And Midtown would also need connections to less viable areas to be successful.

  5. mplsjaromir July 16, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    3C is still a terrible route and our regional planners did well by not picking it.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

      It was pretty not great, to be honest.

  6. Eric July 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

    The Kenilworth Route was chosen because of ignorance and requirements in order to get federal funding.

    The route we know today as the Kenilworth Corridor was owned by the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway (M&StL), and then the Chicago & Northwestern Railway (C&NW). In 1984 the C&NW abandoned it’s Cedar Lake Yard (where the Kenilworth Trail and Cedar Lake Trail meet) and Kenwood Yard (near 21st Street). In 1985 the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority bought the right-of-way from the C&NW to preserve it for future rail transit. However, the tracks were not abandoned, but lightly used. In 1998 the Kenilworth Corridor reemerged in importance as a railroad corridor when the 29th Street Railway Trench (today the Midtown Greenway) was severed at Hiawatha Avenue for the Highway 55 and Hiawatha LRT (Blue Line) project. The 29th Street Railway Trench was used by the Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W) to access St. Paul, and the next best route was the Kenilworth Corridor. Planners and city leaders believed it would only be temporary, but obviously that was not the case. A freight reroute plan through the center of St. Louis Park to make way for light rail in the Kenilworth Corridor was a horrible idea from the start, and that it got serious attention from the beginning shows the idiocy of those planners. And because we are desperate for federal funding, we have to follow their requirements. Those requirements are to have quick commutes for suburbanites to downtown, and the Kenilworth Corridor fit that requirement. Now that the public knows how ridiculous this route is, planners and the Met Council have tried to sell it as an equity train by connecting North Minneapolis to the job rich southwestern suburbs and the potential transit oriented development in the Linden Yards area. Linden Yards is currently owned by the city with giant hills of dirt and rubble, frequent truck traffic, and a moderately used (around 20 trains per day) railroad corridor owned by BNSF Railway. Going back to the Midtown Greenway and the potential Uptown route, this right-of-way was originally owned by the Milwaukee Road as part of their transcontinental mainline. The TC&W was the last to use it, between 1994 and 1998. This right-of-way is also owned by the HCRRA, but instead of light rail the Met Council, Metro Transit, and the city of Minneapolis want streetcar in this corridor (even though it isn’t streetcar, because it doesn’t operate on a street) between the proposed West Lake Station and the Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station. I don’t know what the maximum speed or number of stops this “streetcar” line will have, but it seems like it would be a missed opportunity to route the SW Line through there as far east as the Uptown Transit Station, and would then turn north and operate underground along Hennepin Avenue into downtown. Yes there are some challenges with this idea, but I think it would be much more worth it than routing light rail through a forest and with a population that barely ever takes public transit. I don’t know how the Met Council concluded that ridership would be less on an Uptown route than the Kenilworth route, but it sounds like a complete lie. Plus the Uptown route would bring some much needed relief to the clogged Hennepin Avenue. I take the Route 17 bus from downtown to my therapy clinic near the Calhoun Beach Club, and at the worst it takes 30-40 minutes, but usually its around 20-25 minutes.

    If/when the SW Line is built, I’ll be there for opening day. But at the way its going right now, I’m not sure how I’ll feel. Probably not as good as when I was a kid riding the Hiawatha Line on opening day.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele July 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

      #epic

    • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

      The Midtown line is not planned to be a streetcar. It is planned to be LRT.

      It is easy to call people ignorant when you’ve never met or talked to them. Everyone is aware of all of these issues.

      It’s completely wrong to say that people called for equity only after complaints about 3A rolled in. People had been calling for 3A as an equity investment before many of the people here were even aware of the project.

      • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

        Midtown LRT is a great idea, but I was pushing for it back in the early 1994-1998 period, and they decided to build a bikeway instead. It gets no respect.

        Cancel SWLRT and build Midtown LRT and I’d be happy. Or reroute SWLRT through Midtown LRT, connecting to Hiawatha LRT, that would be fine too.

    • David Greene July 16, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      3C was droppped partially because buses already cover the area quite well. Who is going to walk from 24th to Uptown Transit Center when they can just hop on a bus on Hennepin?

      It is in fact a legitimate decision to try to fill major gaps in our transit system before doing upgrades to places that already have decent transit. Those upgrades will happen in time.

      • Mike Hicks July 17, 2015 at 6:39 am #

        This argument was used against the Central Corridor, where aggregate ridership across the Green Line, 16, and 94 has basically doubled since light rail began operating.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller July 17, 2015 at 9:21 am #

        “Who is going to walk from 24th to Uptown Transit Center when they can just hop on a bus on Hennepin?”

        You know that the answer to this is, “lots of people,” right?

        There may be good arguments why those people should not be the focus of a huge transit spend, as there is another, cheaper-to-provide option there, but let’s not pretend that they don’t exist.

      • Eric July 17, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

        Like I said in my earlier post, its advertised as the Midtown Greenway Streetcar, when in reality it will technically be light rail.

        The bus service in Uptown is great in terms of accessibility, but in terms of mobility its terrible.

        I’ve been to quite a few Met Council meetings and spoken with transit experts on the subject. Whoever decided it would be a good idea to reroute freight trains through central St. Louis Park is honestly kind of idiotic. All you have to do is go to the area and realize that it was a terrible idea from the start and should have never been considered. Now we’re trying to go cheap with these light rail extension projects by running them through forests but that is backfiring. The SW Line should go down the Midtown Greenway and underneath Hennepin Avenue. The Bottineau Corridor should go underneath where people actually live and work. No matter what the cost.

        Upgrade existing services for the people who actually support and depend on transit before you try to build where people and the physical environment are hostile towards public transit.

        • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

          You know, despite the extra circuitousness, the SW Line should initially run down the Midtown Greenway and merge right into the Hiawatha Line. That’s a sane route and it doesn’t involve any tunnelling at all. Building a Hennepin or Nicollet subway afterwards can be done if deemed advisable.

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman July 20, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

            And who in their right mind from Eden Prairie, or even Uptown, would ride it if it took that long of detour to get downtown?

  7. Nick Magrino
    Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    General note: This entire Uptown vs. North Minneapolis thing here is p forced. Like literally the point of the line was to serve the southwest metro, it is called the “Southwest Corridor.” It also does not serve White Bear Lake, because White Bear Lake is in the northeast metro.

    The Bottineau Corridor was our chance to serve North Minneapolis better, and we failed in doing that, and I wrote a pretty extensive critique of that last week, in fact.

    http://streets.mn/2015/07/06/the-other-other-bad-light-rail-alignment-the-blue-line-extension/

    Both Uptown and North Minneapolis got the shaft, and the misdirection of self-righteousness here is pretttttttttty crazy.

    • Self-Right July 17, 2015 at 7:04 am #

      It’s not misdirection, it’s simply the reality: transit projects don’t exist in a vacuum. Their impact goes way beyond their potential to connect people to jobs. They are massive re-allocations of wealth that take place in a politicized world of geographic inequality. That wealth is real and is of such a scale that it will have far-reaching consequences: It will affect property values, the perceptions of neighborhoods and their long-term trajectories, and drastically alter what sort of development happens nearby in the long-term. For any ground-level organizer in North (especially near North) the economic and political boon this project represents is an absolute no-brainer.

      And all these secondary benefits (if they even count as that–the creation of new construction jobs, for example, is pretty darn direct) vastly outweigh the direct benefits that could ever stem from *one* new transit line–if this was purely about transit connectivity, we’d be talking about improving and expanding the many bus lines that already exist (and to be clear, we should also be talking about that). Did this project get put in motion with the ‘essential’ goal of serving wealthy commuters in the burbs? Maybe. But even if that’s true, steering the project such that it also directs wealth and long-term transformative investment into a disinvested, underdeveloped, polluted neighborhood is about as good an outcome as could be hoped for.

      I ‘get’ that this feels like some sort of corruption of the apolitical purity of transit planning that the urbanist echo-chamber would prefer, but unfortunately, the rest of us don’t have that luxury. Bottineau is perhaps a different story but your refusal to think about these projects as anything but a transit connection, as well as your inability to understand the concerns of those living the reality on the ground in North, really undermines your credibility when it comes to debating how to fix inequality between neighborhoods in this city.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller July 17, 2015 at 9:27 am #

        “For any ground-level organizer in North (especially near North) the economic and political boon this project represents is an absolute no-brainer.”

        See, this is the kind of rhetoric that loses me. I’d completely understand if you said something like, “sure, this has only a marginal impact, but it’s better than nothing and the northside wants to take what it can get.”

        Because that’s totally reasonable. A few people who live in Harrison will get a train they can use and hopes that it will add future investment to their community. That’s something. But it’s a pretty tiny slice of the overall pie, and as to the latter, remains really speculative.

        But an “economic and political boon?” That sounds more like a Bouttineau route that actually runs serves existing communities instead of skirts the park.

        • jeffk July 17, 2015 at 10:26 am #

          It’s sad that so many people think so narrowly. “Yes, this is monumentally stupid overall, but my community will see a small benefit, so I’m for it.” That’s how we built the monoric infrastructure we have.

          And I know that North feels like they have to take every scratthey can get. But their support and lobbying efforts would have been put to much better use fighting for a reasonable Bottineau alignment rather than approving of a dumb alignment so long as they get a scrap. And by setting the dumb, through-the-woods-to-suburbia precedent, it can’t have been made any easier to do Bottineau right.

          • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 10:29 am #

            You’re seriously underestimating the work of people in North. They have been active on Bottineau for longer than most people here, I’ll wager. Hell, the Bottineau alignment was chosen with deep involvement of the community.

            Equity demands that we do, indeed make investments where we have disinvested before. If that means wealthy, white areas have to wait a bit longer, so be it. It’s time we put our actions in place of our words.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller July 20, 2015 at 11:00 am #

              Which is why we’re building to train lines that will almost completely avoid those disinvested areas?

              • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

                Were you at the meetings? I was.

                Given the choice between Penn and BNSF, the community was split 50/50.

                Now I’ll agree that the choices were limited and probably wrong. But I’m not sure the community wouldn’t have been just as split on a pure W. Broadway alignment. W. Broadway was eliminated a looooong time ago.

                I really hate it when people assume Northsiders aren’t involved in their communities. They are some of the most involved people I know.

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam Miller July 20, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

                  I’m not assuming anything about community involvement.

                  I’m also not assuming that the community sentiment as interpreted from unrepresentative involvement in planning processes is correct/good/inviolate either.

                  Maybe the northside really wants to train routes that barely serve its fringes. That’s not going to stop from thinking that the northside would get a lot more benefit from routes that actually connect to its existing communities.

                • Peter Bajurny July 20, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

                  I don’t think anybody’s said that the Northsiders aren’t engaged in their own communities, it’s just that…

                  OK. Look. You can’t just refute every argument about none of this passing the sniff test with “well the Northside wants this.” The reason everybody fights you on this helping the Northside isn’t because we don’t think the Northside is involved, it’s because it doesn’t make sense to any of us. And furthermore, when you use the Northside as reasoning in 3A vs 3C, you’re saying that somehow it’s monumentally better to transfer to SWLRT at Roylaston than downtown, where you have easy access to so much more of the metro area. Either route will bring people to the suburban jobs you think they’ll be going to, even if, as others have pointed out, it makes way more sense to refocus land use or provide access to areas that aren’t so transit hostile.

                  So why is improved bus service to nothing in Royalston a game changer for the Northside whereas improved bus access to downtown and access to all of our rapid transit lines is not?

                  Sure, there’s a lot of white, young, middle class southsiders looking at this and saying it doesn’t make sense. But that’s not because we’re racist and hate the Northside. It’s because it doesn’t make sense. So either there’s some intrinsic piece that we’re not seeing, and having that piece it will all fall into place, or it doesn’t make sense. “Northside wants it” isn’t a panacea that removes the need for all critical thinking of the topic at hand.

            • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

              I bet it was chosen with the input of the parts of the community that don’t already ride the buses up there, right? Because none of these decisions would make any sense to a person who rides any of the northside buses daily unless they’re coming from further up in the suburbs.

        • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 10:28 am #

          Re-read Self-Right’s post. This is about *waaaay* more than “a few people who live in Harrison.” The impact of SWLRT goes beyond one neighborhood, or a handful.

          • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

            Bad routes cost a lot of money to operate and “poison the well” for future construction.

            Look at Northstar. Frankly, Minneapolis to St. Cloud is a pretty good route. Minneapolis to wherever it currently stops is not. By building it halfway, they “poisoned the well” for future commuter rail funding.

            DO NOT DO THAT WITH SWLRT, PLEASE.

  8. Pat C July 16, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    If everyone would just buy a car we wouldn’t have to talk about this.

  9. Daniel Herriges July 16, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    SWLRT as planned now is a travesty whether it helps North Minneapolis a little or not at all. I am all about social justice. I’m also all about playing the long game. What is the goal of our regional transit network? Is it merely to provide a transportation alternative for people without cars, while assuming that cars will indefinitely remain the dominant mode for those who can afford them? I think that’s aiming too low. Automobile-oriented development has a colossal price tag—fiscal, social, environmental, public health (I am sick to my stomach every time I read about another person killed by a car), and yes, social justice. Car-dependence hurts low-income communities the most. The ability for Northsiders without cars to get to some fraction more jobs in a car-dependent metro is peanuts compared to what should be the goal over the next few decades: ceasing to be a car-dependent metro.

    I want transit to serve to expand the share of areas where it’s perfectly reasonable to not own a car—by choice, not by necessity—and keep expanding that share until it’s the majority of the metro, at least by population. It’s been about 70 years since we started the radical experiment of transforming the whole region to favor cars over all other modes of transportation (make no mistake: it was and is a radical experiment, one undertaken all over North America). Is it that unreasonable to want to undo the resulting mess in my lifetime?

    OK, so utopian rant aside, I am a pragmatist. But pragmatism doesn’t always mean saying, “What’s the best outcome we can achieve within the system we have, not the one we wish we had?” That’s dangerous, because if you take the system you have as a given this time, what about next time? And the time after that? Pretty soon it’s been decades of, “Well, this is the best we can hope for within the constraints of how things are done” with no serious attention paid to fundamentally changing how things are done.

    Alex Cecchini, in an earlier comment, says: “Beyond that, there is a very real danger that $1.7bn price tags for projects like this for political reasons discussed (not just here but across the nation) will make really good transit projects and the funding for them dry up.”

    This. We don’t have the money to build a transit system that can fundamentally compete with the automobile—or be the backbone for a development pattern that makes the automobile less necessarily—with the process we have and the expense at which we’ve been building light rail lines so far. We will never have that money, not the way we’re doing things—the way we’re doing things is prohibitively expensive and ultimately unviable, and the most we’ll ever get from it is a handful of lines to suburban park-and-rides that might or might not attract some TOD in their immediate walksheds.

    For a fraction of what SWLRT will cost, it would be possible to create a comprehensive network of high-frequency bus lines, some of them true BRT with dedicated ROW, serving North Minneapolis in a profoundly more transformative way than this and Bottineau combined. I don’t mean politically possible. I know it isn’t. I know how the funding works. I mean possible from a budgetary standpoint and from an engineering one. So we’re asking the Northside—the most transit-dependent population this side of Chicago—to settle for this train? Why? They should be insulted, when you consider what we could actually do for them with this money in a system which allocated it rationally (and with true concern for social justice, not just making sure suburban constituents feel they got their piece of the pie).

    I don’t say that because I think the perfect should be the enemy of the good; I say that because I don’t see a way to fundamentally change the utterly dysfunctional process by which these things are prioritized, planned, approved, and funded, all while shrugging and going along with it. I welcome alternative suggestions—I mean that, it’s not sarcasm. David Greene and others here defending the project we have as the best one we could have gotten, but acknowledging that the system is dysfunctional: how do you propose to fix the dysfunction in the future? What’s your road map for that? I just don’t see how tweaking things around the edges will help. And 3C vs. 3A is ultimately a matter of tweaking around the edges.

    I’m not naive, just very dismayed by the whole thing from the start. I don’t think there’s enough anger to get any pitchforks out in the streets—not over this. But I still think angry words among those of us who follow this stuff and care serve a purpose other than just venting.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino July 16, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

      You mention it, and I should have mentioned it in the post, there is maybe a political risk in saying southwest is for the Northside, because other than that it’s not, you’ve basically told everyone that it is, and then in five or ten years (God willing) when we’re maybe thinking about what we want to do after the Blue Line extension, will there be an appetite for more “Northside service”? We will have just ostensibly allocated some number of billions of dollars (Blue & Green extensions) saying that it’s for the Northside, but I dunno, do most people really know the difference? How many Minnesotans think Northstar is light rail?

    • Jeanette Colby July 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      Thank you, Daniel (and Nick, for the original post). Very well said. To illustrate your point:

      Accommodating an LRT stop at the existing SouthWest Transit commuter bus station and adding 480 new park-and-ride spaces adds $30 – $40 million to the budget, per a Met Council presentation in September 2013.

      For $35 million we could have enhanced bus service on Penn Avenue North serving urban and suburban neighborhoods and downtown with an estimated 9,000 daily rides (2,000 new-to-transit). For another $69 million, we could have enhanced buses on Lake Street & Marshall Avenue providing about 22,500 daily rides, with about 22% new-to-transit. (Met Council figures.) That’s $104 million — or less than 1/16th of the SWLRT budget — for vastly improved bus service for 31,500 daily rides.

      For $1.75 billion, we could have a MUCH better Metro-wide bus system that would serve FAR more people in much more geographically dispersed areas. Not as flashy as rail, but many more people would have access to good transit. Not “half-assed token bus service” as someone said earlier. (Ask SouthWest Transit bus riders if they think their cushy, wi-fi connected, air-conditioned bus service is half-assed. Northside reverse-commuters shouldn’t have to wait for SWLRT; they should have this type of service today.)

      As Nick implies, SWLRT is for “choice riders” in the Southwest suburbs. This has never been disputed, even if dedicated people like David Greene want to try to make it work for the city, too.

  10. Anders Imboden
    Anders Imboden July 16, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    It would be possible to go tit-for-tat with SWLRT proponents (/3A proponents) trying to debate each point and counterpoint with empirical evidence, but why bother? Increasingly it seems our divisions go beyond numbers or data — there’s some deeper disagreement here that taps into a lot of different emotive areas, including our perceptions of what is considered fair, when (or whether) to “cut our losses,” and maybe more easily discussed: what the region’s priorities should be when it comes to investing in transit.

    On that last note, I encourage everyone to read Jarrett Walker’s latest piece on “The Ridership Recipe.” Of particular relevance to this debate are the basic premise of ridership vs. coverage (an inevitable tradeoff), and the idea of specialization vs. diversity.

    My own view is that post-Hiawatha and Central Corridor, we seem to be investing in (or discussing investing in) projects that focus too much on coverage (areas on a map) or typologies of people (choice commuters, reverse commuters, etc.). Our plans for enhancing transit service in the areas where we know people will ride, where more growth can occur to support further ridership, and where we could get the most value for our $$$, are woefully insufficient: we can’t even roll out one aBRT line per year, and aBRT as planned isn’t even that aggressive in terms of service improvement. The proposed streetcars will, if anything, diminish service quality for many transit dependent populations.

    It’s a sad state of affairs in an otherwise maturing city.

    • Anders Imboden
      Anders Imboden July 16, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

      And of course I forgot the link: http://www.humantransit.org/2015/07/mega-explainer-the-ridership-recipe.html

      • Rosa July 17, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

        That post is great. It really is about what we want transit to do – the problem is, the public doesn’t really agree and a lot of people on all sides won’t or can’t say what they actually prioritize.

    • mplsjaromir July 17, 2015 at 8:08 am #

      “I am clear minded pragmatist, wheres my opponents judgement is clouded by an unrealistic ideology”

      • Anders Imboden
        Anders Imboden July 17, 2015 at 11:59 am #

        The whole point of referencing the Human Transit post is that there are fundamental choices we’re making about our priorities re: transit service planning, and in this debate, we seem to fall on opposites sides of that dividing line. You can argue facts and figures all you want, but that’s not what’s driving the disagreement — it’s priorities.

        If you disagree, please do chime in, but maybe with some sort of counterpoint or argument, not just crass trolling.

        • mplsjaromir July 20, 2015 at 9:33 am #

          Who is ‘we’ in this argument?

          99% of people in Twin Cities know very little about the details of this plan or transit planning in general. I assume that is a conscious decision. Anyone who would bother reading streets.mn and posting a comment is definitely woke to the concepts of frequency, density, linearity, etc.

          Neither of these groups actually make a difference. It comes down to the lawmakers who push these projects. Transit dollars would have the greater immediate impact in already transit friendly areas. Unfortunately that is unpalatable to the body politic.

          With SWLRT the project can be touted to benefit the entire Southwest Suburbs, even if that is not true. Not getting a large, wealthy, and politically potent geographic region a tangible upgrade would be foolish.

          I think long-term this project will do great things in terms of land use, short term I agree that SWLRT is not ideal. If Uptown ever wants to get serious about having reliable transit, the area needs to realize giving up a few hundred on street parking spots is worthwhile.

    • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      You’re setting up a false choice. For one, the funding mechanisms for LRT/transitways vs. aBRT are almost completely separate. We can’t just take money for SWLRT and dump it into aBRT.

      Yes, we can talk about the way things *should* be all day, but in the end we do indeed have to work within the system we have, while advocating for change to that system. One does not contradict the other.

      • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

        But you don’t really want to change the system you’re so deeply imbedded in, do you?

    • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

      “My own view is that post-Hiawatha and Central Corridor, we seem to be investing in (or discussing investing in) projects that focus too much on coverage (areas on a map) or typologies of people (choice commuters, reverse commuters, etc.). Our plans for enhancing transit service in the areas where we know people will ride, where more growth can occur to support further ridership, and where we could get the most value for our $$$, are woefully insufficient: ”

      I have to agree 100%. But then I’m still hung up on the failure to build the Midtown LRT, which has got to be the best return-on-investment out there right now (it’s already grade-separated! It’s a very busy corridor!)

  11. jeffk July 17, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    Good God I can’t believe people are still arguing for this monstrosity. I’ve gone from being resigned to it as an imperfect compromise to actively rooting against it, and the equally awful northwest alignment.

    If this is about jobs for people in North, why not spend a billion dollars helping them establish jobs in their own neighborhood?

    • David Greene July 20, 2015 at 11:09 am #

      Because that as yet is not politically palatable.

      Again, we can do both.

    • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

      Because David’s not on the planning committee for those things, so we need to stick with the thing he’s a part of.

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  1. Best of Neighborhood News 7/20: Discriminating Institutions, Zen Stories, and Loving Your Hair - Twin Cities Daily PlanetTwin Cities Daily Planet - July 20, 2015

    […] will actually mean new housing and access to jobs for North Minneapolis. One writes says “the LRT has nothing to do with the Northside“; another writes says, “let’s find ways to make it happen,” including the […]