Søüthstår: What If the Southwestern Suburbs Were Served by Commuter Rail?

On Monday I talked about Shørtstår, transforming a section of the Northstar commuter rail line into actually useful transit. As with all transit right-of-way problems, “the railroads would never agree” was raised. And that is certainly true if all you do is politely ask. However states are actually bigger and more powerful than railroads, though it may not seem so. They have powers of taxation and eminent domain. They have a monopoly of force. They occasionally even have the will of the people. Sometimes states even own the land under the railroad, as is the case with a section of the Twin Cities and Western (TC&W), which runs a massive two trains per day in the critical Kenwood region.

We have recently learned (to no one’s surprise, I hope) that the costs have risen on the Southwest LRT.

Well, there is nothing to say you couldn’t run some passenger trains in that corridor today. It wouldn’t be LRT, and it wouldn’t always be double-tracked unless it were upgraded, and it wouldn’t have a 10 minute headway, but why not test service  in the corridor along the existing RR right-of-way and tracks? If it is successful, it can be expanded in frequency, the line can be double tracked in part or in full, more train-sets acquired, and permanent stations built. It wouldn’t require a tunnel in the Kenilworth Corridor or taking any homes or businesses. The TC&W could even be acquired for a hundred million dollars or so if they weren’t cooperative.

Southstar - A theoretical, conceptual, non-official line on a map for a commuter rail serving some of the Southwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities

Søüthstår – A theoretical, conceptual, non-official line on a map for a commuter rail serving some of the Southwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities

So why call this Søüthstår? If you look at the map, you could through-run the Northstar (or Shørtstår) trains on this line to the south and Southwestar doesn’t have the same ring. Why the accents? That’s just to get the attention of the Governor.

Even if it isn’t successful, we just saved most of $2 billion dollars.

The current political class is not very good at thinking incrementally, but if something big is good, often something smaller that does similar things at a lower intensity is also good, and it might be more good per dollar spent. (Which thereby lets you do other things).

You ought not build half a lane, or a single rail (monorail?), but there are increments of rail service (such as trains to Hopkins rather than Eden Prairie) that can be completed even if the whole cannot be.

I personally am skeptical of the whole thing, express buses should serve these destinations well, but if you are committed to trains, why wait until 2025? Just run some trains–demonstrate your point. Stop abiding by the tyranny of false constraints. Let’s turn Target Field Station into the Grand Central it was supposed to be.