SWLRT Belt Line Station and the Cost of Auto-Orientation

Earlier, Nate Hood outlined the blunder being committed by Southwest LRT planners at the Belt Line station in St. Louis Park.

It’s not a blunder limited just to this station – plans are to build over 3,500 park and ride spaces along the corridor. Large parking lots will displace transit oriented development at human scale at the majority of SWLRT stations.

Finance & Commerce noted that Eden Prairie’s economic development manager, David Lindahl, wants to see “larger structures with excess capacity” open from day one. Further up the line in Hopkins, the Met Council is redirecting $7 million away from Arterial BRT along Chicago Avenue in 2016 to instead fund a larger parking ramp at Hopkins Station. And I’ve noted before how park & rides investment equals walk & ride disinvestment.

Planned Belt Line Station

Planned Belt Line Station

But let’s focus on Belt Line station, since it’s one of the station areas with the most potential. It’s full of low-density industrial uses, but it’s circled by Uptown, Excelsior and Grand, and West End. What a great place to forgo parking and watch great transit-supporting mixed use emerge, right?

Nope, hundreds of parking spaces instead. Nate mentions this station plan with one of the largest planned park & rides, which directly contradicts St. Louis Park’s vision.

How much land is that, really?

This park and ride clocks in at just under 7 acres. That’s only 1.5 acres less than Target Field. And it’s roughly the same size as 1.5 blocks of the Lyn-Lake district in South Minneapolis.

Belt Line Park & Ride


6.9 acres

Note the kiss and ride at left, featuring the sensuous combination of concrete curb and asphalt pavement sure to ignite a romantic peck.

  • Dwelling units: None
  • Storefronts: None
  • Businesses: None
  • Inviting public spaces: None
  • Yearly property tax generated: $0
    (This is actually taking the place of four parcels which pay $114,940 per year on $2.8 million of value).

A Slice of Lyn-Lake

6.9 Acres

6.5 acres

Note the classical street grid, combination of new and old structures, and human habitat such as rooftop patios.

  • Dwelling units: At least 500
  • Storefronts: Over two dozen
  • Businesses: ~30
  • Restaurants: ~12
  • Yearly property tax generated: $844,615 per year on $24.6 million dollars of value (and this was prior to Lime being constructed on the block).

We have trouble truly appreciating and comparing scale between a land use that’s human-oriented and a land use that’s auto-oriented. We need to get our bearings to appreciate truly how wrong-headed it is to apply a financially-unproductive automobile-oriented land use next to stations. Let’s get the most out of our $1.8 billion investment. We can do better than park & rides, especially here.


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Matt Steele

About Matt Steele

Matt's passion is fostering resiliency in local transportation and land use decisions. He's at @matthewsteele.