The local news sourceFinance and Commerce reports that
The Metropolitan Council will consider spending more than $740,000 to study building a transitway linking the Hiawatha light rail line and the proposed Southwest line. Possible routes include Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway.
This is the Midtown Greenway Streetcar.
We know how this story ends. We know this will be built. We know there will be a self-congratulatory ribbon cutting. We know politicians will declare it a success. We know it will lose money. We know it will be in the Greenway, not on Lake Street. We know it will be a streetcar or a bus that looks, smells, and operates like a streetcar. We know there will be rails or track over grass. The City will somehow find the money, it always does for supposed economic development projects like stadiums and convention centers.
It is already part of the Minneapolis Streetcar Plan completed five years ago. It will cost from $87 million to $115 million according to the more recent Funding Study, a number that sounds plausible for a mostly single tracked facility where there is no real land acquisition required.
There are no important environmental impacts, it is in a former railroad right-of-way.
The only thing we do not know is when, but I will guess June 22, 2024, 8:00 am for an opening date. I choose so far into the future, since for indiscernible reasons, construction cannot begin on one project until after the opening of the previous project. This comes after the opening of the SWLRT, and probably the Bottineau line as well, and probably the Streetcars in Phase 1 of the Minneapolis plan radiating from Downtown, so this is like number 5 or 6 in line for a set of 2-3 year construction projects.
This is kabuki.
Now far be it from me to suggest we shouldn’t do more transportation plans. Some of my favorite students are transportation planners. The market is tight, I know competent people searching for jobs (or better jobs). But how many times do we need to study the same thing?
Wouldn’t it be better to spend some resources and solve real problems. How much improvements to bus stops could you get for say $740,000?
Yes, yes, we need to do this to get federal funds, and so on. But if you really believe in the project, you can go through the morass of applying for federal dollars, drive up the cost of the project, and delay the benefits, or you can start construction now and get it done. That is what Tom Lowry did.
The answer is of course, in the lack of belief. We much prefer spinning wheels and waiting for Santa Claus than building things that are sufficiently locally valuable that they are worth locally paying for.