Four Quick Things about the Latest Riverview Report

crosswalk-guy-with-dog-w7th-st

I’d really like to see this street and these public spaces improved for people on foot.

The long-running transit saga that is Saint Paul‘s “Riverview Corridor” is finally coming to an actual decision point. To my mind, it’s the most promising high-investment transit corridor on the books right now in the Twin Cities. (“High-investment” = not an aBRT line; that’s a long story for another post!)

Unlike the two planned Minneapolis light rail lines, which in some sense are really expensive “commuter rail” lines to the suburbs that bypass the walkable urban core, the Riverview line goes right through walkable urban space for its entire route. This is the best remaining transit corridor in the East Metro, and likely in the top three overall for the Twin Cities (despite the fact it doesn’t hit Minneapolis or the University of Minnesota, the two main drivers of transit ridership in the city). Anyone serious about transit in the Twin Cities needs to think about how to improve Riverview.

For those who don’t know about the project already, there is a long history of trying to build transit on or along West 7th Street. Failed attempts to built transit here include a scuttled (very early!) bus rapid transit project in the 1980s, plus another delayed aBRT line from just two years ago.

RiverviewCorridorMap640

Rough Riverview map.

This is the charmed “third time”, and my hopes are high that this is finally the year when Saint Paul invests in high-quality transit that will improve lives for people who travel to and from downtown, and through the West 7th Street neighborhoods. (Note: I’ve been serving on the Technical advisory Committee for about a year now. See also my earlier streets.mn post on the Riverview planning, from about a year ago.)

After years of public input and committee meetings, the politicians and decision makers are getting really close to selecting a “locally preferred alternative” (LPA). The decision should come down the pipe in the next month or two, and the most recent report from the planning consultants had the first inkling of ridership and cost numbers for the proposed routes.

Right now there are a bunch of options on the table, but with these numbers available to us, it’s about getting clearer which options perform better than others according to the (inflexible) Federal modeling standards for ridership estimates.

(Note: this is a DRAFT summary that was provided to the Technical Advisory Committee, and the public. It will be revised before the next Political Advisory Committee meeting in a few weeks. For example, see the “cost per rider” column which is still “in progress”, and based on a complex formula that includes infrastructure expected lifespan and difficult-to-calculate things like that.)

riverview-1

Ignore the “green” in the columns. It was meant to highlight the lines with the highest ridership. For comparison, the initial Green Line ridership estimates, the ones used for Federal funding application, was 29K riders / day.

riverview-6

Some of the most promising options.

riverview-7

Some of the most promising options.

riverview-11

Some of the most promising options.

So what’s going on? The short answer to that question is that there are a few decisions still on the table:

Here are the questions on the table:


a) What mode is best: rail or bus?

red line

The Red Line is not a “gamechanger.”

I’m a big fan of rail and think that its advantages tend to get lost in the vague catch-all term “rail bias.” There are a lot of tangible pluses to rail, including better ride quality, large vehicles that far better serve people with disabilities, fewer emissions or noise, and a omnipresent traffic calming effect that buses inherently lack.

But of course they are more expensive. The key question is “how much more expensive”? The answer is, “a lot.”

The corollary:  “Is it worth it”? The answer, “it depends!”

b) Where will the line cross the river: Ford or Highway 5?

This is the big decision on the table. The Ford site is such a huge opportunity to do transit oriented development, to integrate transit and walkable car-lite or car-free housing into one seamless whole. That is the key to transit and urban design! Plus you’d serve the thousands of people who live close to the Ford/Cleveland area.

On the other hand, Highway 5 is much more direct. Lots of people use this as a way to get to the airport and mall. Which is better?

c) CP Spur or no?

biketag-cprailspur

Today the CP spur is REALLY QUIET. It might become a great “greenway style” bike route in the future.

The line could go along the now-abandoned CP rail route, at least from the Schmidt Brewery area all the way down to Davern/Saint Paul Avenue. This would minimize the impact on West 7th Street, and likely be cheaper and faster.

On the other hand, it’s a block or two farther away from people living on the north side of West 7th. Does that matter?

Well with the actual early data in front of us, we can begin piecing together answers to these questions.

Here are some quick takeaways.

1. Parking Differences are Minimal

riverview-2

Early parking impact study.

riverview-3

ROWs and parking impacts.

stp-downtown-parking-map

From Saint Paul’s 2015 downtown parking study.

People really really get worked up over parking. The reality, however, is that these are small numbers of parking spots. For example, in the downtown section it says that “between 46 and 68% of the parking spots” are going to be lost. That seems like a lot until you consider that downtown Saint Paul has thousands and thousands of madly-expensive-to-produce parking spots, many of which are underused for most of the day.

The same is likely to be true for many of the other spots that appear on the “lost” diagram. The consultant team hasn’t done any actual counts of how many of these spots are actually used on a regular basis, which is a critical factor for thinking about parking impacts. (Need I say “parking meters”?) Nor is there much information yet about how much off-street parking exists along the corridor. (early guesses are that 50% of the businesses have off-street lots). Nor is there information about how much available space there might be on the surrounding side streets.

In the grand scheme of thing a few hundred parking spaces are a small price to pay for great transit used by thousands of people every day. And the BRT option is no “parking savior,” also demanding the removal of a whole bunch of off-street spaces.

2. A Lot Gets Lost in the Numbers (e.g. CP Spur and the freeway cap, the Fort Snelling bridge)

montreal-hi-rise_main

Huge public housing project.

When you look at the final ridership and cost chart, it seems like the differences are pretty small. The Highway 5 route is cheaper and has more riders. The CP Spur is more expensive. The raw numbers make it look like a no brainer.

However, a lot of important details are fudged out in that simple chart. One of my favorite reasons for supporting the CP Route, for example, is that it would include a “freeway cap” at Montreal and 35E. The proposed “Montreal” station would actually fall right in between the Summit Brewery and the city’s largest public housing project, and involve a large green space “land bridge” connector between the existing Montreal bridge and the railroad bridge. That’s a big deal! It would knit together both sides of the freeway that currently creates a huge divide between the two “halves” of the West 7th Street neighborhoods. 

montreal-station

Picture a freeway cap at the arrow, connecting the two sides of the neighborhood.

Similarly, the Highway 5 river crossing would actually be a brand new bike/ped/rail bridge alongside the existing Highway 5 freeway. Even if you never take transit, and simply walk or bike in this area, a new car-free bridge would be a huge benefit for the area, knitting together both sides of the Mississippi.

There are more hidden details like traffic calming in Highland, safe walkable crossings, intersection re-designs for many of the dangerous angular West 7th corners, etc. 

3. Rail Mode Choice is Irrelevant, Somehow

saint paul streetcar map

Map from Saint Paul’s streetcar study.

If you spend much time on West 7th Street, you’ll likely have already noticed the “No Light Rail on West 7th” signs in the windows of almost all the businesses. (Signs brought to you by the West 7th Business Association.) By now they’ve been hanging for so long, they’ve begun to fade to the same shade of red as a tasteless McDonalds tomato.

My hope had been that there would be different variations of rail on the table for this project. For example, I was really hoping there might be a streetcar option that would minimize construction impacts and provide a middle ground between bus or light rail.

But after asking the project management team, I found out that the utility relocation would be a big factor for any option that involved a street reconstruction. If they take off the top surface of the street, water, electric, and other utilities are going to want to take the opportunity to update and relocate their infrastructure. That means it’s going to be intrusive and take longer. The project is going to be disruptive to the street. (If they do it on the CP Spur, where there are no utilities, it would be less so.)

(On the other hand, new utilities are good.)

4. The Transit Answer for the Ford/5 Choice is “Both”

riverview-8

Proposed new bridge marked with an arrow.

After chatting with the consultants and project managers, it became clear that the “either / or” choice between Ford and Highway 5 is more of a “both / and” situation. If the project goes along Highway 5, with a high-quality investment like rail, transit will still be built along the Ford site, connecting West 7th to 46th Street station. Maybe it would become an aBRT line somehow, linking up Highland in all directions.

Likewise, if the project goes through the Ford site, many people would also still use the (aBRT?) bus to get back and forth over the Highway 5 bridge. That’s the main reason why the Highway 5 option has the seemingly contradictory ridership estimate here, showing MORE riders than the Ford site route. (With a much larger population and more stops, you’d think that Ford would have more riders.)

In other words, if they went through Ford, they’d have 19,000 riders per day PLUS another 7,000 riders per day taking the Highway 5/West 7th bus. And vice versa, we can assume.

Master layout_9-12-07.indd

Old abandoned Ford factory site is polluted and just sitting there.

That number, put together, means that this route performs as about as well  as the Blue and Green Lines. And that’s awesome!

Taken as a whole, this is a great transit corridor. As one of the long-term transit forecasting experts said at the end of last week’s meeting, “we’re in the ballpark.”

This project could absolutely quality for Federal “new starts” funding, which would pay for half of the cost. In less than a decade, Saint Paul could have great transit to and from the airport, and all along West 7th Street. There are a lot of details to be worked out, but I think the investment would improve the lives of thousands and thousands of people in Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and Bloomington. I’d love to see us build on the success of the Green Line and make Saint Paul a city that puts transit first.

For more on this: see many streets.mn posts that touch on this project and West 7th Street in general.

Technical documents:

Full Feb 2017 TAC Pre-Project Development Study and Technical Appendix.

RV TAC PPT – to TAC – 20170223

RV TAC – 20170223 – Appendix


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41 Responses to Four Quick Things about the Latest Riverview Report

  1. Dana DeMaster
    DanaD March 2, 2017 at 10:16 am #

    I want the LRT on West 7th so, so, so bad. Having lived on University and Snelling before, during, and after construction of the Green Line, I feel like I have a good perspective on the costs and benefits of such a project from the perspective of residents and businesses. The Green Line construction was difficult, but, oh, how great riding it is.

    I took the 54 bus this morning and, like always, it was completely packed. Two weeks ago it was so full that a person in a wheel chair was left waiting at a stop. The likelihood of this happening on a train is so small (if not impossible?). How great to have a smooth, comfortable, timely ride to downtown or Highland Park?

    It doesn’t seem like those parking estimates or other benefits, like the land bridge, have been very well communicated to the neighborhood, at least if the Cool Kids Facebook group is an indication. Those conversations make it sound like we’d be losing every single parking space and all sidewalks. I wonder how many people would change their views if they understand the other things, besides better transit, that we would gain?

    • Jeff March 2, 2017 at 10:26 am #

      Same. I used to live five blocks from the Green Line and it was a game-changer in my use of transit (though I am now comfortable riding buses too). There’s nothing like getting on a train (that’s almost always on time) on a snowy day when people in cars are taking two or three hours to get to work.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller March 2, 2017 at 10:52 am #

      The one thing that worries me about the rail spur is that it’s downhill and past some uninviting (to pedestrians) industrial areas.

      • Matt Steele March 2, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

        It depends on where you’re talking about. In other areas, it’s quite close in distance and grade to West 7th. And they almost touch in a few spots.

        Therefore I think it would be too shallow of an analysis to choose EITHER Canadian Pacific right of way OR West 7th right of way. We can mix and match.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell March 4, 2017 at 9:00 am #

      Do you want LRT or a Tram? Have you seen how dark and uninviting the sidewalks are near the huge attractive LRT stations on University?

  2. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller March 2, 2017 at 10:45 am #

    You know what’s nice about these options and the answers to these questions? It kinda looks like all of the possible outcomes are good.

  3. thinking March 2, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    One caveat to the ridership assumption of 19,000 (Ford Site route) + 7,000 (W7th aBRT) is that rail through Highland would probably reduce A Line and local bus ridership from Highland to the Blue Line. So it isn’t always clear what the net gain in riders is. I prefer one of the W7th/CP/Highway 5 alignment for its directness and because it is already an established corridor with lots of riders.

  4. Eric Saathoff
    Eric Saathoff March 2, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    It’s sort of hard to balance in my mind the benefits of the Ford site vs. Hwy 5. I am a resident on the East Side who almost never goes to the airport (and even less often to the MOA). If I found myself using this line much I think it would be to go to the Ford site development I imagine in my head. For immediately personal reasons this seems best.

    On the other hand, I don’t know what impact it has on corporate business and tourism to make a direct and attractive ride from the airport to downtown StP. If this is really a big deal, I think it’s probably true that the Ford site will be served by other transit options (like aBRT) that may be high quality and adequate. Does St. Paul miss opportunities because of the unattractive & slow airport-transit connection?

    I love that St. Paul streetcar map because it is focused on really high quality local service. It doesn’t extend too far from downtown, and seems like it would catalyze a rebuilding of the “missing middle.” I wonder if one of the lines (Grand?) would be redrawn to include the Ford site if it were revised today.

    • Ben Franske March 2, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

      “Does St. Paul miss opportunities because of the unattractive & slow airport-transit connection?” Let me answer that as someone who does as much transit oriented tourism as possible. Yes. When I am planning or going to a business meeting or vacation I absolutely prefer to stay in places with good transit connections. I’m probably a bit of an extreme case but I do substantial research on all transit systems and ride times before I choose a hotel, restaurants, and meeting locations. Whenever possible I will choose ones with better transit connections. If I was coming to MSP I would absolutely prefer Minneapolis over St. Paul due to the transit connections.

      • Eric Anondson
        Eric Anondson March 2, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

        I’m the same. Spent a week being a tourist in D.C. If it wasn’t within a walk of the rail line, I won’t see it.

  5. SF March 2, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    The Minneapolis side has only become aware the Hennepin county end of the project. March second is the first meeting on the project that has been presented. St Paul has had two years. We are asking the same.

  6. Anne March 2, 2017 at 11:31 am #

    As a daily rider of the current 54 route, I definitely support keeping the main route along Hwy 5. If a BRT option to splint off toward Highland is an option, even better, but there are SO MANY people currently riding the packed 54 buses to get across the river to the airport and MOA that any detour or required transfer would seem unfair to the current ridership.

    I don’t have a thorough understanding of the rail option, but if it’s largely parallel to West 7th and still crosses near Hwy 5, I don’t have strong feelings about it one way or the other.

  7. Adam Yust
    AJ March 2, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Being born at United Hospital, I have virtually live in the W7th neighborhood my entire life. I would like to see increased transit investment on my Fort Road, however – no one seems to be talking about the pedestrian impacts to a dedicated rail. Sure, I think a streetcar would be great, but I do not trust Raphael to lead a transit process for us neighbors. Dedicated light rail cometh.

    Call me nimby, but if my walk to Claddagh coffee become harder (longer, less welcoming due to street widening, unattainable because of no more crosswalks) I simply will whip out my french press, and businesses will suffer. I start out all my trips as a pedestrian and I feel like any large transit infrastructure improvement should increase the pedestrian realm.

    I do not see any real effort to slow down traffic along W7th. As a neighbor, I feel the 3 lane portion west of Mancini’s is so much better for all street users. Why are we not moving that directing for all of W7th street baffles me. Part of what makes W7th ‘so hot right now’ is that there is no Walgreens or Applebee’s but mom and pap shops. No one is talking about a plan to mediate negative impacts.

    I am sure there is consensus out there that may even involve rail. Do I trust RCRR to get us there through an open and transparent process? !@#$ no.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 3, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      I have never spoken to Commissioner Ortega personally, not just about this but about anything. So I don’t really know what you’re talking about, but I will a bit skeptically take you at your word that somehow RCRR is out to “do” something. (What exactly? Not sure, other than build a train to the airport.) I was trying to figure out if the study numbers (below) were tweaked to try and make certain options look more appealing, and couldn’t really put my finger on anything. But who knows. For example, I do think it’s bizarre that it would be MORE expensive to build on West 7th Street than on the CP Spur. The exact opposite would be true, I would think. It should be significantly cheaper, but it isn’t, I’m told, because of the need for things like gate arms.

      The consultant team has tried to assuage my concerns about the shared-use mixed-traffic option. I would have thought it would be a disaster but it seems to work in Kansas City (for example) and a lot of the consensus momentum would seem to be along those lines. I was chatting with Darren Tobolt about this recently; he was on the KC trip where they looked at that model. If that option was chosen for the Xcel-to-Schmidt section of the route, it would improve pedestrian safety and access, wouldn’t it? This too is my #1 priority. I really want to see some middle ground between NO RAIL and a University Avenue-style concrete barrier.

      Here’s a drivers-eye view of the KC streetcar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiCfapX6rS4

  8. Zack Ellsworth March 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    My gut feeling is the most direct route between downtown St. Paul and the airport would be the best option. As an Uber driver I take many people between those to sites. Getting as many of those people onto transit as possible is good for traffic reduction and I would worry that a detour through Ford Parkway would deter many of those potential riders.

    A separate line between 4th and Hiawatha and Montreal and W 7th would make more sense to me.

    Either way I’d be excited to see this happen to complete the triangle and bring us one step closer to an actual rail network, rather than just a couple of lines.

  9. Matt Steele March 2, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    There’s actually a lot of TOD possibilities with the Hwy 5 river crossing alignment, too. We just have to be a little more intentional about sewing a grid back together:
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RIdKHCQGTY-RkmMVK8sgPpcJ6ko&usp=sharing

    As you can see from the map above, I’m a proponent of the Hwy 5 crossing for rail. Of course, I think we should upgrade the 74 to aBRT as well so Highland Park has direct fast bus service to DT St. Paul. But why 7th St for Riverview Rail?

    1. West 7th St has so much potential to be unlocked if we can align the regional traffic on the river bridge onto Shepard Rd instead of West 7th.

    2. This opens up the West 7th ROW (west of Davern) for LRT, but allows us to re-grid the street grid above it and provide for air rights development from River Road to Davern should market conditions warrant.

    3. And this is the big one: It makes sense to retrofit or rebuild the Fort Road Bridge to add a second upper deck. Light Rail can cross at grade with East River Road in St. Paul and Fort Snelling on the west bank of the river. Alongside the rail, there could be space for a significantly improved regional trail (this is a critical bike/walk link) that would be fully at grade with both Fort Snelling and East River Road (no more narrow sidewalk with stairs on each end!!!)

    • Matt Steele March 2, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

      Additionally, I’d suggest a full wye to connect this rail into the existing Blue Line, just north of the Fort Snelling Station platform.
      https://drive.google.com/open?id=1dGnTcn3BrswzsVhXP_GaN5_g7ko&usp=sharing

      This would allow us to run services to Airport-MOA (obviously, this is what’s planned). But it would also allow us to create a second service that interlines north onto the Blue Line.

      Then, adjust plans for Midtown Greenway streetcar eastern terminus to use the existing station (I think this could actually be cheaper than what’s planned) like this:
      https://drive.google.com/open?id=19D2XlzAaFobvMoeftW0SaIe_Ts8&usp=sharing

      Then you could create a new service, using existing planned trackage, with a one-seat ride from West Lake, through Midtown-Phillips, Hi-Lake, 38th/46th/54th/VA Blue Line stations, then east across Riverview to Downtown St. Paul. That would give a heck of a lot of Minneapolis neighborhoods a quality one-seat ride to the St. Paul job core.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 3, 2017 at 10:49 am #

      The current rail plans are for a new separate bridge, not to re-deck or change the Highway 5 bridge. Because of its alignment near the Fort, it is pretty impossible to do much with that bridge. A separate bridge would be just North of the existing one, and slightly higher, at street/bluff grade. It would turn north on the West side of the river and run along the Fort welcome center before cutting back to the Southwest.

      • Joe McKinley March 15, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

        I have been trying to find a drawing of this proposed second bridge or its location on a map, but haven’t been able to. Do you have any suggestions?
        I’m concerned how the “slightly higher, at street/bluff grade” will impact properties along River Boulevard and Norfolk.

  10. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini March 2, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

    Just to frame the Ford Site travel time vs Hwy 5 – given rail as the preferred mode it would add 11 minutes trip time between MSP Airport and Union Depot to hit up the Ford Site vs crossing the river via CP Spur/Hwy 5 (41:58 vs 30:53). The debate obviously comes down to whether that’s worth it or not.

    Positives:
    – Giving a direct, single-seat ride to more people reaching downtown (or points along the CP Spur), including at the existing LRT 46th St Station, people north of Minnehaha Park, the Ford Site, and Highland Park more broadly (Riverview from Ford Pkwy station would likely be quicker to downtown than the 74).
    – Giving those people a direct connection to MSP/MOA (sans 46th St Station walkshed, who already have that in the Blue Line).
    – Cutting in half the wait times for the next LRT for anyone traveling between the VA and 46th St station (which may make a difference for people trying to catch a transfer to the A Line or any other connecting bus routes at 46th St Station).

    On the other hand:
    – Increasing trip times for the people who currently ride the 54 as a direct connection to/from MSP/MOA areas (although I’m guessing the 54 would still be in service)
    – Adding time to anyone near W7th who was hoping this project would offer a quicker connection to Fort Snelling Station (or, one at all to the historic part of the fort).

    My belief is downtown business travelers reaching MSP and tourists using Riverview should come last in our considerations. However, I don’t really think an extra ~10 minutes would kill any tourist travel looking to use LRT to access downtown StP, and the infrequent business traveler heading to the airport probably care only a tad more.

    I had trouble following what the likely outcomes of serving “both” from the article, but I’d say a CP/Ford Site rail line with an aBRT along W7th direct to MSP/MOA would be a not crazy recommendation. You get a better direct connection between downtown and MSP/MOA with better stations that also serve the areas north of W 7th better than the CP Spur for just $75m more than whatever LRT route is chosen ($1B+).

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten March 2, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Remember that the current 54 has its highest boardings at MOA and the Airport. This routing isn’t for suits and tourists, but for baggage handlers, gate agents and retail workers.

      I really doubt a continued 54 of any value. It is similar to the old 50 with similar station locations to the LRT. (And the Quarterly Transit Report has the 16 reducing frequency to 2 per hour…).

      • GlowBoy March 2, 2017 at 4:40 pm #

        I suspect the 54 would continue to run, at substantially reduced frequency, just like the 84 has done now that the A-line is running.

      • Alex Cecchini
        Alex Cecchini March 3, 2017 at 10:29 am #

        Serving the Ford Site on the way to MSP/MOA adds 10-11 minutes compared to the more direct route. There’s no question; it’s longer. The question is if the added connections are worth it. For example, there are also plenty of low-to-mid income jobs at the VA that would all of a sudden be connected by a single rail line for the people along the W7th corridor if you went the Ford Site route. Another benefit I didn’t list is a single-transfer from Riverview to the A Line for accessing stuff up Snelling Ave.

        I’d be really interested in the UMN Accessibility group doing some comparisons of job access for the different options, including a breakdown of jobs that pay lower incomes. And maybe one that adds in some population/jobs assumptions for the Ford Site. What type of jobs will be there? Will St Paul be requiring affordable housing in new development? what about the existing people around the area (including affordable housing!)?

        To GlowBoy’s point below, the 54 is great. Let’s not kill it! It does different things than a LRT that goes to the Ford Site. Let’s build that aBRT too, even if it means Riverview’s ridership suffers.

    • GlowBoy March 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

      Remember it’s not just “tourists” making the connection to the airport. If anything the majority of nonresident tourists riding rapid transit will be going to MOA or downtown Minneapolis, not St. Paul.

      I would suspect the majority of “tourists” using rapid transit to the airport are, and will continue to be, local residents going to the airport on their vacations. MSP is one of the biggest “snowbird” airports in the country – our homegrown airline Sun Country would not even exist without Minnesotans escaping the winters here.

      Residents’ access to the aiport is a Big Deal in Portland, where I lived until recently. My job was (and is) on the westside suburbs. Most of my coworkers never set foot on a transit vehicle EXCEPT they will take the MAX Light Rail to downtown for events, and even more probably, to the airport when they’re flying elsewhere. Not having to park at or near the airport for $10-20 per day (or take a $50+ cab ride each way) is a huge incentive to take transit.

      I don’t think adding 10 minutes to the trip is acceptable. #54 may be a local bus, but it is quick and frequent. I will not accept a half-billion or billion-dollar solution that takes substantially longer than the current #54 ride and substantially decreases #54’s frequency of service.

      And it’s not just the airport. It’s also an essential connection to MOA, and less so for shoppers than for the thousands of mostly lower-income people who work there. My life experience is that the lower a person’s income the *more* pressed their lives are for time, not the other way around. An added 10 minutes will push many mall workers into cars.

      And … and it’s not just the airport and MOA at the west end of this line. Even though I live in Diamond Lake I often use the #54 to get to downtown St. Paul. During rush hour it’s fastest for me to take the #553 express downtown and then the #94, but at any other time of day it is quickest to take the 5 down to the mall and then connect on the 54. MOA is a major transit hub, funneling a lot of people from places like Bloomington, Richfield, Edina, and even Apple Valley (Red Line!) onto the #54, allowing a relatively fast two-seat ride to St. Paul.

      I really think the 54 is one of the gems of Metro Transit’s system. I really don’t want to kill it.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 3, 2017 at 10:53 am #

      Agree. Tourists or business travellers don’t care if it takes 30 or 40 minutes to get to the airport, as long as it’s easy and comfortable and not confusing.

  11. GlowBoy March 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    Despite how much I like the Highland/Ford area and am excited about the Ford site redevelopment, I don’t like the idea of routing this corridor through there. #54 is one of Metro Transit’s fastest routes, providing an important connection between downtown St. Paul, West 7th, the airport and the Mall. Third leg of the “iron triangle”, if rail becomes the preferred alternative. Sending trains or rapid buses up through Highland will add too much time to the trip. I think an aBRT leg connecting between this and the A-Line is a better solution – and essential.

    As for rail vs. buses, well of course trains are nicer. But harder to justify reconstruction of the street *unless* (as with so many streets recently) it needs reconstruction anyway. I’m not opposed to BRT – sure, the Red Line hasn’t been much of a success, but that’s because its southern end isn’t a good transit destination in the first place.

    Speaking of the Red Line – which terminates at the Mall – if Riverview ends up being BRT, why not call this the Red Line Extension? Wouldn’t hurt anything, and would allow longer end-to-end trips. MVTA does run buses to downtown St. Paul, so obviously there would be demand for this kind of service. Not the primary purpose of the line, obviously, but it might bump up ridership numbers.

    What I’m not understanding is why the CP Rail Spur estimates for LRT are penciling out in the same ballpark as the West 7th routing? I would think the street reconstruction, traffic disruptions and impacts to business would be far, far higher for W7th rather than repurposing an existing abandoned rail corridor. I would favor that routing (for the reasons I just mentioned), but only if there can also be a bikeway along either that route or west 7th.

    • GlowBoy March 2, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

      I would also add that rail (i.e., the cost of the project, generally) is an enormous liability in the current political climate. Although I’d be fine with BRT, I’d support LRT as the preferred alternative as an initial bargaining position, if later “settling” for BRT makes it more politically feasible to move this project forward.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke March 3, 2017 at 10:54 am #

        Really? Name one rail project that became a political hot potato.

        J/k you are right.

    • Matt Steele March 2, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      The West 7th alignment could use the CP Rail spur all the way to west of St. Paul Ave. There’s only a short stretch where it would actually have to be in the street ROW. That’s why I think it’s sort of confusing that people are saying “CP Rail Spur” to refer to a rail line that serves the terminus of that spur (the Ford site) when in reality most of the spur is east of the crossing of West 7th.

  12. Aaron Isaacs
    Aaron Isaacs March 2, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    I strongly prefer the Hwy. 5 alignment direct to the airport and MOA. It’s a proven market with good ridership. It’s certainly the fastest route between the airport and downtown St. Paul. I also prefer using the CP Rail line from Schmidts to St. Paul Avenue. It’s closer to more redevelopment land and existing apartment complexes. Remember that there is nothing on the north side of W. 7th Street from I-35E to almost St. Paul Ave., mostly due to Highland Park.

    There are already 4 bus routes connecting the Ford Plant site to W. 7th Street:
    Route 70 via St. Clair Avenue
    Route 74 via Randolph
    Route 84 via St. Paul Ave.
    Route 46 via Cleveland and Sheridan, also connecting W. 7th to the Blue Line 46th St. Station.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini March 2, 2017 at 7:26 pm #

      The idea of getting on one of those buses to trundle for a few minutes in mixed traffic and hitting lights to get off and transfer to a Riverview to get downtown after a 5-7 minute transfer isn’t great. The 70 and 74 come every 20-30 minutes for most of the day and take a solid 30 minutes from the Ford Site to downtown (or vice versa). But they don’t even pick up at the same bus stop if you’re heading downtown so you don’t get the benefit of picking the first one you see. Likewise, the 46 and 84 as a shuttle for the Ford Site to Riverview means one of the two every 15 minutes at best, so a 7 minute average transfer time (ignoring that the 46 doesn’t currently go to where Riverview is planned to have a station).

      And without changes (which, could certainly happen) none of these options give the people of the Ford Site closer to the River a convenient transit experience. It’s “walk 10 minutes to a bus, wait on average 7 or more minutes for a local bus, take it 5 minutes to a light rail station, wait there for 5 minutes and hop on!” Good luck with that – these people will just drive.

      Compare that to serving the Ford route, which proposes 3 stations near both the upcoming development as well as on Ford Pkwy and Cleveland (serving existing transit riders). I’m not usually the type to advocate for a major transit investment as primarily a land use generator, but.. Giving the Ford Site, and the greater Highland Park area in general, a single seat connection to lots of places, including the commercial/jobs planned on-site as a benefit for people on the 54 corridor. I think we’re really shooting the site, its design, the need for parking, etc all in the foot if we assume its residents and employees will do the type of transfers outlined above.

      The 54 is certainly a successful line, owing mostly to its direct route and good average speeds (stop spacing helps!). The study thus far shows any investment won’t really speed it up. What this bus corridor needs is higher station amenities, higher overall capacity (either by frequency or articulated buses), and perhaps better reliability. aBRT does that. Rail serving the Ford Site via W 7th/CP Spur gives people in the 54’s corridor a new single seat connection to different nodes like Ford Site, 46th St Station (quicker to get to downtown Mpls and a more natural transfer to Blue Line by being on the same platform), and the VA. It also gives people at 46th/50th/VA station areas a single seat ride to downtown Mpls. I like that tradeoff.

      • Matthew Steele March 3, 2017 at 9:05 am #

        I agree with Aaron’s proposal for the West 7th alignment to Ft. Snelling, and with the CP rail alignment from Schmidt to St. Paul Ave. But I also think Alex is right that you’d have very few people wanting to bus from Highland Park and transfer to rail somewhere along West 7th. Which is why the 74 would be an excellent aBRT candidate. Or, maybe the 63, if it was routed south to Highland Park and west to the Blue Line rather than north to the Green Line at Westgate.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke March 3, 2017 at 10:57 am #

        That is quite compelling. Transit mode share for Ford residents would be similar to the UMN, I would guess. AKA very high!

      • GlowBoy March 3, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

        Good point that the Ford routing would provide more fast, direct service between downtown St. Paul / West 7th and Highland, Minnehaha Falls, etc.

        #54, while not providing BRT amenities, does provide aBRT speed and frequency. Just want to make sure we don’t lose this.

        Perhaps, as is being discussed, in the future this route could be extended to provide rapid service to the east side. I’d think the 74 or especially the 64 would be better candidates for this than the Gold or Rush lines (which I expect to be low-ridership suburban lines much like the Red LIne), especially from an equity perspective.

        So another argument in favor of BRT instead of LRT for the Riverview Corridor is that an eventual north/eastward extension could more easily be incorporated into the line. I don’t think the 64 or 74 corridors will get rail in my lifetime, but they will definitely get BRT.

        Imagine the Red Line of the future … one seat, all the way (on lines that are already mostly Hi-Frequency service):
        – Maplewood Mall
        – White Bear Avenue
        – Payne-Phalen
        – Downtown St. Paul
        – West 7th
        – Sibley Plaza
        – MSP Terminal 1
        – Mall of America
        – Eagan Outlet Mall
        – Apple Valley

        Or, alternatively:
        – Maplewood Mall
        – White Bear Avenue
        – Payne-Phalen
        – Downtown St. Paul
        – West 7th
        – Highland Park
        – Minnehaha Falls
        – Fort Snelling
        – MSP Terminal 1
        – Mall of America
        – Eagan Outlet Mall
        – Apple Valley

  13. Eric Saathoff
    Eric Saathoff March 2, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

    It doesn’t look like the East Side is going to get any sort of LRT. The Gateway Corridor will be BRT and if the RUSH Line happens it will be BRT.

    Based upon the latest info from the RUSH Line planners it looks like they are leaning toward Phalen Blvd. That would mean neither of these are on East 7th, though, both considered it. The 54 extension is supposed to go on East 7th, Arcade, Maryland, and WBA.

    Reflecting on the city’s first proposed streetcar line (west & east 7th), it makes me wonder about the Riverview extending past downtown onto East 7th up to Arcade. Is this impossible if it has to stop by the Union Depot? If it’s possible, why not?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke March 3, 2017 at 10:58 am #

      I would love that. Connecting the East Side to downtown is a huge deal. I think to get any decent “extension” done it would have to have a logical endpont. What would it be?

  14. Alvin March 5, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    In the meantime they should be running articulated buses on #54 .Too often the buses are crowded ,with no space for someone with luggage.This route is near the Park &Ride by MOA which could be promoted for events at XCEL.Already with frequent services and limited stops make it attractive for the occassional riders.
    This route is a BRT lite.