Here’s the week’s posts from streets.mn read, digested, sorted and summarized for your reading convenience. This week news of the Southwest Light Rail cost increases seize writers’ attention as well as much attention to some biking and walking issues, along with the usual roundup of charts, maps and videos.
Southwest Light Rail
Headlines this week about rising costs of the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail (SWLRT) project generated much commentary here on streets.mn. In case you have not been following this issue all along, SWLRT: A Retrospective Link Roundup collects links to all the posts on this project on streets.mn over the last two years or so (thanks for helping do the Summary!). In addition to the links, the post asks “What do you think will happen with SWLRT?” Commenters respond with some additional streets.mn links to posts about SWLRT as well as consider how to reallocate money which was to be spent on SWLRT. Please keep commenting on this one.
In more depth this week: “All Options on the Table” with Southwest Corridor looks at how transit projects like SWLRT begin planning at a particular point in time, but the context and the dollars change by the time (decades later) to put shovels in the ground; there’s some history of the costs and planning behind the SWLRT and concern over how cost increases create political and popular opposition to all transit. Commenters consider funding options, political opposition, alternatives for cutting costs and generally start the sort of conversation we wish would be happening in the legislature. In Eulogy? SWLRT Alignment (video) is an official (sponsored by MnDOT, Metro Council and others) video detailing the proposed SWLRT alignment and the text also links to Twitter conversations about SWLRT.
Could High Speed Rail Be an Alternative to Air? asks whether some trips – like from the Twin Cities to Kansas City or Chicago – could be taken by high speed rail rather than air (or driving) and answers with some numbers comparing length and costs of trips.
A pair of posts have some fun with diacritical marks in their titles while considering some train alternatives. Shørtstår: What if the Northstar Were a Local? asks what would could happen if a shortened version of Minnesota’s not-very-successful Northstar commuter rail line from Big Lake to Minneapolis made stops in the higher density, transit compatible neighborhoods of Northeast Minneapolis it now merely passes through. Comments flag some possible/probable objections especially railroad right of way issues. Søüthstår: What If the Southwestern Suburbs Were Served by Commuter Rail? opens with a rebuttal to the “railroad companies won’t let us” raised in the comments to the Shørtstår post and goes on to propose a pilot project of running commuter rail on existing tracks. Commenters do some back of the envelope cost estimates and complain about the diacritics.
What is the Capacity of the Green Line? discusses what goes into determining capacity to conclude “there is a lot of capacity on the Green Line yet to go.” Comments consider the type of train cars and revisit signal timing/priority which had much play on streets.mn when the Green Line first opened for business.
Walking and biking
Walking and biking generated even more posts than trains this week.
Trail Users Shouldn’t Have to Stop got MinnPost’s and MPR’s attention and won the comment competition this week by observing “It doesn’t make sense to force thousands of cyclists stop for limited traffic we’re already trying to discourage” at two intersections on the Midtown Greenway by describing how the stop signs don’t work because of inconsistent driver behavior. The many comments are generally in agreement, but also add some detail about state laws, fine-grained observation of the intersections in question and generally think through the issue again.
Walkers Have the Right of Way is a short video from the Minnesota Department of Health intended to encourage walking while educating pedestrians about crosswalk right of way laws. Unfortunately, our poster observes that it “makes it seem like to walk in Minnesota is to take one’s life into their own hands.” For Sale: Pedestrian Safety Kit (ONLY $49.99) takes a more satiric view. In response to Robbinsdale’s “Step to It” month promotion which includes the Mayor’s recommendation that walkers stay safe by “carrying a flashlight, wearing reflective clothing, making full eye contact with drivers, carrying a form of identification, and walking defensively.” Comments suggest the Pedestrian Safety Kit lacks a helmet for complete safety.
Walking Saint Paul is a personal reflection on the transition to a less car-dependent, more pedestrian life and the benefits it brings in Saint Paul. The post also highlights the Great NY Times Article on Walking which is posted by another writer. At the other end of I-35, Streets Observations – Austin, TX takes a walk around that city looking at transit, bike lanes and the streetscape.
Less positively, The Case of the Disappearing Crosswalk documents disappearing crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals as MnDOT works to make intersections ADA-compliant by 2030 by removing pedestrian facilities rather than upgrading them. Commenters provide other examples as well as reporting on conversations with MnDOT about particular intersections.
The “Lowside” of the Road (Non-Automotive Survey Results – Part 1) is the first report on a recent streets.mn pedestrian and bike survey about which side of the road to walk, bicycle, skate on.
Not trains, bikes or pedestrians
Not to be overlooked are the posts which did not address this week’s hot topics. Schools and where to put them has been a recurring subject here on streets.mn with posts about Mankato, New Ulm, and St. Cloud. This week Alexandria’s New High School: An Upgrade? takes on the new, award winning high school in Alexandria modeled on the Google campus which means it is isolated at the edge of town and dependent on busing or single vehicle access. Commenters discuss how Alexandria’s rural location (with a district covering many square miles) affects the planning, how many kids might really walk or bike, and some cost tradeoffs (cheaper construction vs. busing costs).
Free Idea: Developers, Just Always Propose More Than You Actually Want plays with the various projects where neighborhood pushback resulted in slightly downsizing the project; why not just start with a larger project so the compromise results in just what the developer really wanted to do?
- Videos: Walkers Have the Right of Way critiques the Minnesota Department of Health’s video about walking safety as fearmongering. In Eulogy? SWLRT Alignment (video) is not a eulogy, but an official (sponsored by MnDOT, Metro Council and others) video detailing the proposed SWLRT alignment made newly relevant by recent news.
- Charts of the Day: Urban Growth vs January Temperature (US), Data for Every City in the Metro, Metro Transit Local Bus Routes by Number of Branches
- Maps: Map of the Day: Average Jobs/Population Density Along SWLRT and Map Monday: Blue Line Station Plan
- Graphic novel: The story continues with Bicyclopolis: Episode Nine, Inside Bicyclopolis