With yesterday’s announcement that the price tag for the proposed Southwest LRT line (or “Green Line Extension” if you prefer) has jumped to $2 billion, there’s been a lot of chatter both inside and outside of Streets.MN about what this holds for the project.
Some have said the corridor should be dropped as it was poorly conceived. Others are taking this as an indication that the Alternative 3A (Kenilworth corridor) vs 3C (Uptown) debate should be revisited. Many top officials (including Governor Dayton and Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck) have suggested that we take a step back and review the project. Meanwhile, Nick Magrino curtly asks this morning just what should we be fighting for?”.
Whether the project continues as proposed or changes are made, there is some validity in having some sort of transit line along the corridor, as this map shows:
This map shows average jobs+population density per acre along the Southwest LRT corridor. Population data is from the 2010 Census, while jobs data is also from the U.S. Census bureau and is from a database that shows numbers of jobs per census block, with both datasets covering Hennepin County. This data was rasterized via a kernal density scheme and combined to show the average jobs plus population per acre.
Several studies going back over four decades (dating back to Pushkarev and Zupan in 1977) have looked at the relationship between density and transit. What Pushkarev and Zupan found is that, generally, an average of 5 jobs/population per acre is enough to support basic bus service, with higher levels of density able to support higher levels (and modes) of transit. As you can see on the map, the proposed Southwest corridor generally follows a swath where the average density is above 10 per acre, with nodes of higher density near Hwy 100, Opus/Bren Rd, and near Eden Prairie Center.
While people will continue to debate 3A vs 3C vs something else, or the high cost of the project, this density map shows that some sort of transit line along the general corridor would be worthwhile. If anything, instead of being curtailed to the Southwest Transit Center or Hopkins, it could even be extended further to Dell Rd and the cluster of jobs located there.