Map of the Day: The Southwest Routing We SHOULD Be Building

Much has been written on Streets.MN about the Southwest LRT project (or Green Line Extension if you prefer). Contributors have been arguing the strengths and weaknesses of the approved 3A (Kenilworth) and dropped 3C (Uptown/Nicollet) routings for years. 3A allows for direct interlining with the existing LRT lines (providing operational savings for Metro Transit) and will induce development at Van White. 3C would have served a dense, transit-riding area and support redevelopment in the Uptown and Lyn-Lake areas.

Given that a tunnel wound up being required for the project anyway, what we should be doing is building a tunnel in a location that combines the through-running capability of 3A with the dense neighborhood serving of 3C. A 3C-2 alignment option tried to do this, but didn’t score well against either 3A or the original 3C (relabeled 3C-1).

A routing option exists that is not much longer (about 2/3 mile) than 3A, is shorter (about 2/3 mile) than 3C-1, serves Uptown and dense nodes along Hennepin Ave, and still directly interlines with the Green Line, as shown in today’s map:

The author's suggested Southwest LRT alignment, including stations.

The author’s suggested Southwest LRT alignment, including stations.

Of course, if we really wanted to go all-out, we could do something like this:

The author's suggestion for combining a revised Southwest LRT line with a connecting Midtown LRT line.

The author’s suggestion for combining a revised Southwest LRT line with a connecting Midtown LRT line.


Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

, , , , , ,

62 Responses to Map of the Day: The Southwest Routing We SHOULD Be Building

  1. Chris Iverson
    Chris Iverson July 20, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    Yeah.

  2. Chris Iverson
    Chris Iverson July 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    I am curious about the history of why Hennepin was not ever considered as a serious alternative, though. I’m guessing it was cost-related and had issues at the Henn-Lyn bottleneck.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig July 20, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

      I’d have to dig deep to find the early alternatives analysis (the 1990-era one), but I believe it was a combination of local business opposition to the disruption (as if that wouldn’t have happened along Nicollet), plus Hennepin’s business and the situation at the Bottleneck. Things have changed in the past 25 years, though, and though I’d imagine the disruption opposition would still be there, I think it’s a feasible routing today.

  3. UrbanDoofus July 20, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Agreed. But why can’t NE MPLS get some love with some LRT planning before we go ahead and start planning another corridor for South/SW?

    • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

      Only if you can find a route that immediately cuts through parkland until exiting the city to serve the Anoka county burbs.

  4. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller July 20, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    If the impound lot is going to stay, this makes even more sense as it will be hard to actually implement the big plans around the Green Line Van White station.

  5. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson July 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Oooh. I’m in love with this. I’d even gladly delay a couple years if SWLRT could route this way. Damn funding processes would probably require a restart a delay a decade.

  6. Stuart July 20, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    I didn’t really engage in this discussion until this option had been thrown out, so I have never even seen this map. That said, I have always wondered why a tunnel down Hennepin wasn’t a discussed option.

    My preferred route would be slightly different. Take the tunnel more directly south after 25th street to allow the LRT to stop at the actual Uptown transit station that exists. Also, continue the tunnel beneath the bottle neck and put the “Loring” station above ground next to the Sculpture garden. Deep tunneling below this hill and freeway interchange nightmare seems obvious to me. The nightmare of a surface running LRT line going through the bottle neck is probably one of the major factors that killed this option.

    Routing up into downtown has some strong advantages, but would add considerably to run times and costs compared to just continuing north from the bottleneck and dropping into the existing rail trench. Depending on how this was done, you might even be able to get the “Van White” station in to lobby Northside supporters.

    • UrbanDoofus July 20, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

      It is pretty absurd that Minneapolis has no problem with building giant elevated freewways and viaducts, but won’t even consider elevated rail, which may have a more logistically sound solution for the HennLyn bottleneck. Ah well. Doesn’t matter now.

      • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

        Yeah the fear of tunneling or overpasses for trains blows my mind when they throw them up with reckless abandon for cars everywhere you look.

        • Peter Bajurny July 20, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

          As much as I like they hyperbole, we really don’t have that many freeway viaducts, and when was the last time we built a new one, especially in the core?

          • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

            um, 35W and the crosstown commons? Plus whatever mess they make of the rest of 35 into downtown in the next few years? Plus leaving up existing viaducts that should have been torn down decades ago like the ones that cut uptown and the wedge off from loring park and downtown?

            I’m sure there’s like 50 more examples out in car country where I daren’t tread.

            • Adam Froehlig
              Adam Froehlig July 20, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

              Most of what you’re referring to is bridges. Viaducts are technically much longer and over land. The closest we come in the Metro is 394 from the Basillica west to Penn.

              • Matty Lang
                Matty Lang July 20, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

                And the I-94 glorified off/on ramp through the North Loop, right?

                • Adam Froehlig
                  Adam Froehlig July 20, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

                  Yeah, that one too, though I believe 394 is longer.

                • Matty Lang
                  Matty Lang July 20, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

                  Never mind. UrbanDoofus made the point already. I feel much shame.

          • UrbanDoofus July 20, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

            It certainly is hyperbole, but I think the 94 entrances that chop up the North Loop are a good example, as well as where 94 emerges from the tunnel going north. Perhaps we won’t build more, and that’s fine, but LRT not having signal priority in the cities is just as bad. If a space alien landed today and looked at how we got around, they would ask WTF are people riding on the slow train? Cars can do it better, no matter how you shake it down. LRT doesn’t need to be equal, but something has to give in MPLS.

            Slow second priority trains don’t help anyone, anywhere. If we can put the trains in the air, lets give them some serious signal priority in Minneapolis, not counting blue line.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller July 20, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

              So your theory is that all of the people riding the train are just delusional?

              • Reilly July 21, 2015 at 5:49 am #

                That’s not how I read it. Implicitly, the space aliens would be coming in without context. They wouldn’t know what car-dependent planning has done to our environment, culture, and socialization. They wouldn’t realize how incredibly entrenched that mindset still is (resulting in such partial steps as non-prioritized trains). And they wouldn’t be aware of the income disparities in our society that often make transit the only truly practical option for many people (even when its functional aspects are less than ideal or complete). Looking at only the immediate events ahead of them, the space aliens may well wonder what the hell they’re seeing.

                • UrbanDoofus July 21, 2015 at 8:17 am #

                  ^Bingo. Not at all, and if people on trains are delusional, then count me as one of them because I do take them. However, when I look out the window and see pedestrians arriving several blocks down the road faster than I am, I do wonder “what the hell am I doing?” I am sure aliens would wonder the same thing without context. Why would anyone choose to go slower than in cars?

                  It’s a problem, but one we can actually address without millions of dollars in bridges, tunnels, whatever else. That’s all.

                  • Adam Miller
                    Adam Miller July 21, 2015 at 9:55 am #

                    “Why would anyone choose to go slower than in cars?”

                    Why do you?

                    Maybe because there are other aspects that factor in to your transportation choices than just speed?

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig July 20, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

      Stuart:

      I looked at some rudimentary engineering with this proposal, and I did consider a couple of your suggestions, but I ultimately didn’t see them as realistic. Because of the new development along the Greenway, there wasn’t a feasible way to bring an LRT line into a tunnel heading north from the Greenway until basically Lyndale Ave. A second issue is that the residential streets between Hennepin and Lyndale are not wide enough to be able to build a cut-and-cover tunnel underneath, which is likely what would be required to get through the Wedge.

      Deep tunneling would have to go VERY deep in order to avoid the 94 Lowry Tunnel…this would run into groundwater issues near Loring Park plus prevent some stations in between.

      I also considered a more direct routing to the trench, but the grades and bridges where 94 and Lyndale Ave cross the rail trench wouldn’t allow it to work.

      • Stuart July 20, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

        It’s all fantasy maps now, so I don’t mind making fantasy assumptions.

        When this line was proposed (and should have been built) the development on the Greenway was all but non-existant. Establishing easements for tunnel right of way should have been an easy priority if we were planning to do the tunnels.

        Deep tunneling through the hill was my thought. If they can deal with the water table between lakeof the isles and cedar lake for the shallow tunnels they have proposed now, or for the deep tunnel that was previously proposed, then dealing with the water table here shouldn’t be an issue either. Tearing down the entire freeway onramp system and implementing one of the surface roundabout options proposed elsewhere on streets.mn would also be an option.

        I’m an engineer, though not the kind that deals with this type of work. One thing I do know is that there is always a way that you can make it work. That solution is just not always practical (requires additional systems to be re-worked) or within the customer’s budget.

  7. Aaron Isaacs
    Aaron Isaacs July 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    I’m getting pretty tired of all the “we should have gone through Uptown” second guessing. If you think the Kenilworth alignment was expensive, it’s nothing compared to the cost of tunneling from Uptown to downtown. Think there was citizen opposition to Kenilworth? Try tunneling through the Wedge and see the NIMBY’s come out of the woodwork.

    Running on the surface in Hennepin Avenue simply isn’t a viable option given the limited street width. It would be so slow it would discourage any suburban ridership (and don’t respond with “screw the suburbs”. That’s selfish and immature.

    Back in 1984 Hennepin County took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire the abandoned railroad corridor to Hopkins. It isn’t a perfect route, but it’s what we have, and what is doable. Despite the naysayers, this line will be well patronized and will spur plenty of transit-oriented development.

    Instead of trying to naively criticize, it’s time to get behind this project, because if it’s killed, there won’t be a second chance for a generation. Remember that the perfect is usually the enemy of the good.

    • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

      Cost per rider. It might cost more in absolute dollars, sure. Less per future rider, almost definitely.

      Also that rail corridor isn’t so abandoned now is it? That’s one of the biggest problems with this mess is that they’re stuck with squeezing stuff in around a freight line that nobody bothered checking on the reality of moving.

      This metro deserves the crap it gets if this is the best it can put forward as a plan. It deserves to choke on its own traffic until the ‘Minnesota Miracle’ withers and dies on the vine because no one watered it with proper infrastructure investment and instead focused on continuing to prop up the suburbs with expensive giveaways that make very little sense unless you’re only thinking a few years ahead at how you can turn some more parking lots into development gold.

      Basically SWLRT and the absurdly-broken transit planning process here has actually made me actively hope that a transit project gets killed for the first time in my life. Good Job, Everyone!

    • Peter Bajurny July 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

      Yeah, 3A vs 3C is contentious enough, we don’t need to throw fuel on the fire by coming up with alternate routings at this point.

      I mean, I basically don’t like both routings but exclusive guideways are always good so sure why not Kenilworth.

      The problem is that there needs to be serious acknowledgement about how we got to such a poor choice (tunneling through the city is unthinkable but tunneling through parks is AOK) and make sure it doesn’t happen again. There are people who are very satisfied how this entire process has unfolded, and those people are wrong. We can’t just keep kicking the can down the line and saying “We’ll do better next time.” It’s already starting with the Blue Line extension.

      • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

        For anyone who tries to claim that the SWLRT was just an ‘oopsie’ planning blunder made in good faith, Bottineau should expose that for the lie it is. After all the duplicitous talk about how SWLRT somehow serves the north side, they took the route that actually was supposed to serve the north side and routed it through a park and around the actual north side.

        There is an extreme bias against actual urban rail in the planning process and so long as transit dollars are scarce it’s time to put up a fight and stop these lines. Blowing your entire transit improvement budget on overly-expensive lines to farm fields and parking lots in the burbs when you have a whole city full of people hurting for something better than a bus every half hour with no shelter and awful signage is … uh, inequitable? Especially when you just spent the last 50-60 years lavishing highways and other infrastructure over the same suburbs that continue to whine and complain if you don’t keep the gravy train going to make their unsustainable development model work.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller July 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

          I was elsewhere during the planning process, but is it that or is it that its a lot easier to get motivated out of the acute harms (e.g., taking some houses) that come from an urban route than it is the diffuse benefits (i.e., redevelopment, improved transit for all).

          David was at the meetings, maybe he knows, but looking at it in hindsight, its really hard to see how the community would prefer what they are getting otherwise.

          • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

            David is far too deeply involved in the process to see anything objectively anymore.

        • Peter Bajurny July 20, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

          Yeah, all the claims of “if we start over it will set us back years” and “perfect the enemy of good” seem overwrought. Yes, the perfect is the enemy of the good, but the good is the enemy of the absolute shitty.

          • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

            Seriously, they deserve to lose the years they wasted on this. And their jobs.

        • Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

          The Bottineau result is awful and should be rejected. The SWLRT route is slightly less awful but should also be rejected.

          Geez, the Hiawatha and Central Lines were OK. What happened?

          • Karen Sandness July 21, 2015 at 10:00 am #

            Really!
            If the Bottineau Line is to benefit the North Side, it should run to major North Side destinations.

      • Wayne July 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

        Also dedicated ROW that makes your line go around most of its potential riders isn’t really worth the cost savings. Plus the ROW isn’t so dedicated anyway, it seems. ):

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino July 20, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

      For whatever it’s worth, I would point out that both mine and Foster’s posts about Southwest in the past week were not technically arguing over the alignment.

      In general this subject is terrible (and all my posts and comments are terrible) and I kind of wish that I could selectively cut out parts of the discussion.

      • Adam Froehlig
        Adam Froehlig July 20, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

        Your post read to me like an argument over (and against) the entire project.

        • Nick Magrino
          Nick Magrino July 20, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

          It was to debunk a particular feigned (I want to say post hoc now that I know that phrase!) argument for the project.

    • UrbanDoofus July 20, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

      I’ll take your comment at face value and say fine, this is the alignment, regardless of whether o not I think it sucks. What is next? How else do we expand the system? Do we think the system is adequate after blue and green expand?

      • Mike July 22, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

        I think expansion efforts should be more focused on arterial BRT like what is being constructed on Snelling Ave…Give buses limited stops and signal priority and dedicated lanes in some places and you’ll actually be able to move people without spending billions

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig July 20, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      For the record: it’s been documented that I have supported 3A over 3C since the get-go. Given the ongoing and nearly continuous comments complaining about the tunnel that is now “required” for 3A, I came up with this map as a what-if since a tunnel is part of the plan.

  8. Scott July 20, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Anyone have a general idea of what the cost of tunneling in the urban core would be? I understand it is very expensive, but how expensive? I know it’s just academic, but curious what it might cost to tunnel from Uptown to the Hennepin Lyndale bottleneck or a downtown transit tunnel. Buses (and the upcoming streetcars) move so slowly in mixed traffic making them so frustrating. Obviously, Mpls is no Boston, D.C., or S.F., but wish we could have subways.

    • Wayne July 21, 2015 at 8:57 am #

      I’m curious what it would have cost to build a north-south transit tunnel under nicollet while they have it all torn up in the next couple years (vs. what it will someday cost when they finally learn how to transit plan correctly).

    • Alex July 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

      Nobody knows, but there have been some transit tunnel projects in the past 20 years or so that give us some ideas. Unfortunately most of them have been in areas of vastly different geology, so they aren’t very useful as a guide. For example, Seattle’s 3.15 mile University LRT extension is expected to cost $1.8 billion, but it runs through volcanic (which is typically unstable and inconsistent) rock and under a shipping canal. The bedrock under the Twin Cities is mostly sandstone, which is a soft, consistent, and stable rock, considered ideal for tunneling. The cost of the Hiawatha line’s tunnel under the airport gives us reason to hope, costing about $120 million for 1.5 miles of tunnels.

      As the trolly expert above who commented above indicates, though, the Kenilworth tunnel is likely to set back the case for transit tunnels in the Twin Cities. I think it’s supposed to cost $123 million for half a mile of tunnel, which is outrageously expensive given that there aren’t supposed to be any stations (which are the more expensive component of transit tunnels). I’m assuming this is because of swampy soils and uniquely high water table in Kenilworth. No one wanted to even look into the cost of tunneling before, because they ignorantly assumed that the high cost of tunneling in seismically active coastal cities with volcanic rock would be applicable here. Now they will point to the Kenilworth tunnel through a swamp and say that it’s incredibly expensive to build tunnels. So the chances of the Twin Cities having a competitive transit system any time soon are slim to nil.

  9. Nathanael July 20, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

    This is a good route.

    Hennepin is wide enough that you could do this cut-and-cover. Except for the messy big around I-394/I-94.

    • UrbanDoofus July 20, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

      Around there? We run the sucker on 94 for the block or so. Ha!

      I’m sure one of the bloggers here would love it. But hey, let’s move on.

  10. Thatcher Imboden July 20, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

    The downside to this alignment is that it would seem that the MCC stop is a little too far from the core, therefore many people will have to wrap around HERC to the 5th Street corridor.

    I think a downtown tunnel should have and should still get more consideration about what the long term transit vision is for the region. After a 7 weeks in Seattle, I’m really impressed with the transit tunnels both existing, under construction, and planned.

    That isn’t to say Green Line Extension isn’t worth pursuing, but it sure is a shame that a better alignment couldn’t be had. And I certainly don’t think transit advocates should have to rally around the line with how the line has been framed over the last several years…as too big to fail and gave no one a way to save face. I really side with no one, as I do believe that the suburban alignment (sans Mitchell) is pretty decent for connecting jobs and allowing for suburban growth centers…and the suburban communities are supporting TOD and growth in their communities. But the urban alignment has been bad since it was first analyzed in the early 2000s and has only gotten worse with the tunnel through a park.

    Those complaining in Kennilworth certainly don’t earn my sympathy as they’ve come off as not wanting LRT in their backyard more than thinking it should be routed through an area that would support more ridership both now and in the future. While there is a great vision for Van Whyte that will have a major, positive impact on Glenwood and the near North, that alone isn’t compelling enough to route a transit line from the SW through a mostly empty area to get into downtown when there is a very compelling community that is already dense and rapidly expanding. If the longterm transit vision was to connect the greater Uptown with quick, reliable, regional transit through a different line, then it’d be more permissible. But Uptown’s best bet for transit was SWLRT and will likely be its only real change until a new transit vision is developed and the resources can be lined up to support its build out. But that is a long time away. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start establishing that vision and plotting how to deliver it.

    • David Greene July 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      Midtown? aBRT?

      Those upgrades are already planned, if not programmed.

      • Alex July 21, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

        SWLRT, too, was planned but not programmed for 30 years.

      • Thatcher Imboden July 22, 2015 at 12:18 am #

        The Midtown LPA is an unfunded conciliation prize. Let’s rewind for a second. So the SW AA process takes place and the Midtown Greenway Coalition pushed hard for their Network Alignment and sold a false choice to the public. The process played out and the SW LRT PAC voted to support 3A with support for a Midtown Greenway streetcar. When it went to the Hennepin County Board for approval, Commissioner Opat managed to get the Midtown Greenway streetcar removed from the official LPA.

        While Hennepin County is a huge supporter of transit expansion via supporting planning, right of way acquisition/preservation, associated community and economic development, and major financial support of transitway funding, you didn’t see Hennepin County take the lead on doing the Midtown AA. Instead it was Metro Transit. So while there is now aBRT and rail slated for the Midtown corridor, it has not become a priority for anyone in a position to fund or implement it. I hope I’m wrong, but I do not see it being advanced anytime soon.

        I also have and will continue to contend that the Midtown transit service is NOT the same as what 3C proposed. 3C was about connecting the SW burbs to Downtown via relatively aligned dense business and residential districts of Minneapolis. It would provide Downtown service, not cross-town service. While there certainly is a great transit corridor along Lake Street and could really aid growth and serve existing populations, it isn’t the same and shouldn’t be used as an apples-to-apples comparison.

        I know we have a long history of disagreeing about SW LRT, David.

    • Bill Lindeke
      bill lindeke July 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      i also side with noone

    • Jeanette Colby July 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

      To clarify, Kenilworth neighbors argued in favor of Uptown as a better route for several years. I think you were in on some of those discussions. When Hennepin County chose Kenilworth, we were put in a position of trying to make the best of what many of us thought was a poor choice. We’re now faced with both freight (carrying ethanol) and light rail in Kenilworth and a tunnel in the water table instead of under Nicollet Ave.

      • Thatcher Imboden July 21, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

        Jeanette, that is true that some Kenilworth neighbors were advocating for Uptown but others immediately said no to LRT once Kenilworth was chosen even with the then-assumed freight re-route. I wanted nothing to do with FOIA requests and such looking for alleged corruption.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig July 22, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      I looked at a more direct routing from MCC into downtown, which would effectively mean using Hennepin or finding a way to shift over to Nicollet. I didn’t include it for two reasons: a desire to serve Royalston, and difficulty in interlining with the existing LRT lines, especially at 5th and Nicollet, where the existing studies concluded it would be too difficult. It may be easier (albeit expensive) at 5th and Hennepin since there’s a parking lot on the corner that could be cut into if necessary, but I felt it was important for both lines to access Target Field/The Interchange and to serve Royalston.

      Fully agree on the desire (and even need) for a downtown tunnel.

  11. Karen Sandness July 21, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    You must be an actual transit rider to have come up with such a sensible plan.

  12. Ethan Osten
    Ethan osten July 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    Why would we spend billions of dollars to bring a train to an area of already pretty good (for the region) transit service, duplicating existing routes (the 6, the 17, the 12) with small time savings restricted, basically, to morning and evening rush?

    Just because “Uptown is dense” doesn’t mean Uptown needs a train. Uptown’s vitality and development potential doesn’t depend on a light rail stop, and it certainly doesn’t need more scarce government money thrown into it.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller July 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      For one thing, for the same reason that the buses run there: it has people who will use transit.

      It’s really kind of weird to imply that trains should only go where buses are not currently present.

      • Ethan Osten
        Ethan Osten July 21, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

        Yes, which is why Uptown is served by two high-frequency bus lines and is a focal point for a dozen less frequent ones. But it doesn’t need a train to have good transit.

        In contrast, the only way you’re going to get good transit along the SW corridor is by train. The studies demonstrated pretty conclusively that all of the potential bus routings were far worse and had none of the network benefits.

        We need to focus our new transit improvements on areas actually underserved by transit. Uptown is not one of those places. The fact that the 6 sometimes gets slowed down by traffic is just not that big of a deal, compared to the real mobility challenges that transit users face in this region.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller July 21, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

          You know what’s definitely not undeserved by transit? The empty space where the stations at the end of the southwest line are supposed to go.

          Anyway, we fundamentally disagree about how transit does and should work. I don’t think you improve transit by making your high-capacity investments in areas that have such little demand for transit that they aren’t even currently served by buses and you probably do want to increase capacity where the demand is.

          A train through uptown could serve a whole lot more people – more than use the current bus service and more than are likely to take a single round trip each work day father out in the suburbs.

        • Thatcher Imboden July 22, 2015 at 12:42 am #

          If we wanted to better connect jobs and residents via transit to some of the areas that SW LRT would have served out in the burbs, we could start by actually running a bus to the Golden Triangle. That station does not have existing bus service within 1/4 mile. You must walk over 0.4 miles to catch the 684 express bus.

          The justification to bring LRT here should not be predicated on the idea that it needs better transit service so we must give it the best-of-class high capacity transit connection. If we want to serve other goals, like facilitating redevelopment, connecting jobs to the region, etc, and it’s along the way to other worthwhile locations to connect via a high capacity transitway, then sure by all means connect it. I do think this area will redevelop and could warrant such an investment, but not because it needs a transit connection.

          When you look at the frequency and coverage of transit service, you’d be surprised by what you learn. For example, Excelsior and Grand has really limited transit service compared to many areas in Minneapolis. It has four routes serving it within 1/2 mile: 12, 604, 615, and 114. The 12 comes 2-3 times an hour midday while the 604 and 615 each come once an hour midday. The 114 is U of M rush hour only. If we wanted to improve transit service, increasing frequency of existing buses would help.

          Reserve high capacity transit for high transit ridership locations either now or expected in the future. Having worked in real estate development and transit-oriented development both in the private and public sectors, TOD is not a given. It takes a lot of effort. To the credit of SWLRT cities, they’re ready for that challenge and are incredibly talented. They’ll make it happen. But it won’t be easy.

    • Thatcher Imboden July 22, 2015 at 12:07 am #

      I disagree with this premise for the following reasons:
      (1) Uptown is a regional destination. Uptown Association surveys showed that those who visit/shop Uptown come primarily from SW Minneapolis and the west-to-southwest suburbs, primarily St. Louis Park, Edina, and Minnetonka. Government data showed the those who lived in Uptown and LynLake areas work across the region with a substantial number of people working out in the Opus area. It should have a strong regional transit connection. Not just local transit.

      (2) Transit is about moving people and a transit agency should use high capacity transitways to connect large amounts of people to major destinations. It’s about effectiveness. Uptown has large population densities, has the land uses and street grids that supports high transit use, and has ample opportunity to grow.

      (3) Uptown, especially at the time of the SWLRT study, had more development capacity in the C alignment than the A alignment. If politics weren’t in the way, we could have sought TIF for Transit to build a damn tunnel for 3C with a contribution from the City of Minneapolis.

      (4) Transit along Hennepin and Lyndale will continue to get worse and would benefit from exclusive ROW. While someday we may see peak-period restricted parking lanes allowing transit to bypass traffic, I don’t see how the historic Bottleneck of Hennepin-Lyndale won’t continue to be a bottleneck in the future. Reliability is important for transit service and the 4 and 6 can be especially unreliable in crappy weather or on a Thursday or Friday PM rush hour.

      (5) The SWLRT study projected a substantial travel time savings on 3C. It was to be approximately 9 or 11 minutes (can’t seem to recall) from Uptown Transit Station to 5th/Nicollet versus the scheduled 21 or 22 minutes on the 6, if I recall correctly. That isn’t chump change.

      (6) LRT shouldn’t be used to build express services to remote areas of our metro. I feel just as strongly that LRT should be serving the heart of the Northside as well, instead of bypassing much of it in favor of a park. Transit should go where the people are. So if we think it’s important to support redevelopment (or in the case of Brooklyn Park, greenfield development) in the suburbs, then we should also connect it, where possible, to areas where existing population patterns and densities will create all day demand for the services. That will in turn help the redevelopment efforts.

  13. David Markle
    David Markle July 22, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    I’m glad to see that at least a few people agree with me about the fiscal and long-term planning folly of routing an expensive LRT train through a dense area without tunneling (or elevating), without which it runs as a vastly overpriced limited stop stretcar line that messes up the street grid.

  14. ron July 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Build a stadium in uptown first and you’ll get your rail line.
    That’s how things work in the MSP.