A Step Ahead for Light Rail in the Twin Cities

» The Central Corridor will connect two downtowns, a rare feat for a rail system in the U.S. Peaking should be less of a problem here.

The Twin Cities pioneered a model for regional decision-making with the formation of the Metropolitan Council in 1967, creating one of the country’s only truly empowered elected regional bodies. Though the group invested in transportation improvements throughout the area, focusing specifically on connecting a network of express buses into downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, it was only in 2004 that the area opened its first light rail corridor, the Hiawatha Line.

Connecting central Minneapolis with the airport and the Mall of America in a suburb to the south, that project proved to be far more popular with riders than originally expected, with more people using it on a daily basis just two years after opening than had been predicted for 2020.

Yet the real challenge for the Twin Cities was connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul into a unified unit. With downtowns just a dozen miles apart, the two towns merge together, but transit riders have never been able to take full advantage of this proximity, nor the presence of the University of Minnesota campus just between the two. With federal approval yesterday of a Full Funding Grant Agreement to pay 50% of its costs, however, the Central Corridor light rail line‘s completion is guaranteed, and that will mean frequent, relatively fast, and reliable connections between the cities in just three years.

With a central business district at both ends of the line and a huge university at the center (more than 50,000 students), the Central Corridor route offers a number of advantages that most new rail lines constructed in the United States do not: Peak service demand in both directions. A typical suburb-to-central city line acquires most of its ridership from work trips — from the suburbs to the downtown in the mornings, and from the downtown to the suburbs in the afternoons. If there is enough demand to run 10 trains per hour in one direction, however, the transit agency generally has to run (and pay for) 10 trains per hour in the other direction just to keep up — even if there’s only enough demand for 5. This means too many vehicles running mostly empty in the opposite direction from peak.

In Minneapolis, for example, there are relatively few people riding the Hiawatha line from the southern suburbs towards downtown during the afternoon peak, yet services in both directions see seven trains per hour during the 4-to-5 PM peak hour. Though this is less of a problem at other points in the day when the loads are more evenly distributed, this situation during the peak hours costs the transit agency millions of dollars a year in operating too many trains for the number of passengers who want to ride.

Here, on the other hand, though downtown Minneapolis (146,5000 jobs) will be the most significant destination, it will not overwhelm the other terminus at St. Paul, which has a significant business district of its own (47,500 jobs) and of course the state capitol. This design decision — to plan the Central Corridor with a major destination at each of its termini — will reduce the problem of peak-period inefficiencies and ensure that the operator is able to attract a sufficient number of riders on all of its trains, increasing the average passenger count per vehicle in use.

The 11-mile project will cost a total of $957 million and result in a radical restructuring of the areas through which it runs, including the two downtowns, the University, St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, and the state capitol complex. The installation of a reserved right-of-way for the light rail, the elimination of several hundred street parking spaces, the construction of 18 stations, and the guarantee of on-time transit services between the two cities every 7.5 minutes will be enough to attract more than 40,000 riders (of which 6,000 will be new to transit) by 2030, according to current estimates.

At first glance, the line’s importance may seem overstated: Compared to the existing Route 94 bus that provides express service every five to ten minutes at rush hour between the two downtowns, the light rail line will be significantly slower, taking 40 minutes to complete the journey compared to 26-30 for the bus line. Yet that bus does not provide local service since it is confined to the I-94 freeway for most of its length. The Route 16 bus, which follows the same route as the Central Corridor along University and Washington Avenues, can in typical traffic take an hour or more to complete its trip. In essence, the light rail line will replace both routes (though not the 94 at rush hours) and split the difference in terms of travel times.

For the average user in the corridor (even those who currently take express buses), that is likely to mean a reduction in trip times overall, since more people will be within walking distance of the stations positioned half a mile apart and better connections will be offered to perpendicular north-south bus services. And Metro Transit, which has planned and will run the line, has made an effort to prevent the trains from being slowed down by the hurdles of being placed in an active street right-of-way.

Unlike in Austin, whose new plan for rail service involves running trains in shared automobile lanes throughout the downtown, the Twin Cities will get a dedicated transitway down the street median, guaranteeing running times and preventing problems that could result from being stuck in car congestion.

The construction of the project was by no means certain; though it has been the Twin Cities’ top transit priority for decades, the cost of building the line was significant and the potential opposition from neighbors strong. Former Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty (now likely running for president) attempted to veto state funding for the project in 2008, an effort that was overruled by the Democrats in the State Assembly. The University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Radio both expressed concerns that the line would disrupt their work and tried to move the corridor away from the job centers in which they are located, moves that were fortunately rebuked by Metro Transit.

More significantly, neighborhood groups complained that the planned reduction of parallel parking spaces from 1,150 along University Avenue to 175 was simply too much to bear. Planners responded by pointing out that 15,300 off-street parking spaces were available within one block of the line and then offered a million dollars to shore up support for affected small businesses.

In addition, three new stops were added along University Avenue — a decision that will cost trains a few minutes along the route between the two downtowns but one that will likely raise ridership by ensuring that everyone along the corridor is within roughly a 1/4 mile walk of a station. The lack of easily accessible parking will be relieved by the constant presence of a close light rail stop, a deal that should be recognized as a fair compromise to emulate in other cities considering light rail service in the street.

The most exciting aspect of this project, though, remains the connection between two downtowns that it will provide: If the Twin Cities can ensure that passenger counts heading in both directions are sufficient to guarantee high average vehicle occupancy and less of a peaking problem, Metro Transit will be able to operate an efficient line with fewer operating expenditures per passenger overall.

Image above: A light rail train at Minneapolis’ Target Field Station, from Flickr user Jerry Huddleston (cc)

46 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Correction: the Metropolitan Council is not elected. They’re appointed by the governor.

  • Brian

    Funny that you should publish this article atoning the accomplishments of the Met Council on the eve of legislation to remove the decision making and funding power for transit/transportation projects from the Met Council, and grant those decisions to an ELECTED body formed by many of the member cities and counties a few years ago in protest of how the Met Council ignored the surface transportation needs in their communities. One of the most often cited facts in the argument to remove the decision making (second only to the fact that the Met Council ISN’T an elected body) are the dollars a community pays in via taxes, versus the number of dollars Met Council spends on improvements in their communities. The differential is abhorrent. (I won’t link to the multitude of sources here, since this isn’t the correct forum for that) The Met Council was formed in 1967 as a Regional WASTEWATER treatment body, not as a transportation authority, and they should be returned to that. The power grab was just another way for them to control development in Minnesota, and transportation was one of the keys.

    • Tom West

      You seem to have two gripes: one is that Met Council is appointed (albeit by an elected official), and should be replaced by an elected body, which I have quarrel with.

      Your second gripe is that some communites receive less in benefits than they pay in taxes to the Met Council. That’s an intirinsic part of living in a society: money flows from places able to produce lots of it to places that *need* lots of it. What’s the matter with that?

    • Brian, you forget that Federal law requires a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for large urban areas in order for them to receive Federal highway/transit dollars. If you don’t like that (and it’s apparent you don’t), your target shouldn’t be the Met Council or the state Legislature…it should be Congress.

    • Tim E

      Funny comments Brian, I grow up in a Minnesota north central farm town. In no way shape or form could local state gas tax reciepts support the local highway network on its own, let alone the fact that it supports frequent heavy truck traffic during harvest season and beet hauling during the winter.

      The reality is that the our vast transportation network is built upon pooling funds and then building systems that work, sometimes its done a little better sometimes its not, but certainly has been advantageous for the society as a whole. This is one project that will be of significant value to three metro centers that support 250,000 jobs and students outright.

  • Not sure the Met Council deserves credit for Central LRT – it was only after Hennepin County took the lead on regional transportation planning in the 80s & 90s and spearheaded the Hiawatha Line that the Met Council got moving on Central. That was three decades after the Met Council vetoed Metro Transit’s plan to build a subway in the soft, easily-tunneled bedrock below University Ave – three decades in which the Midway festered as the overburdened 16 bus turned a generation of students off of transit.

    • I thought it was Arne who vetoed the Central Line back in the early ’90s, not the Met Council. I’m pretty sure it was a governor veto against state funding that tabled the project back then.

      • The veto I’m talking about was the Met Council’s TAB refusing to take up the MTC’s subway plan in the mid-70s. I don’t remember Carlson specifically vetoing light rail (although what didn’t he veto?), but a search of the Strib archives shows that he threatened to veto the Hiawatha line in 98 as a bargaining chip – although he ultimately signed the bill.

        I agree with Nathanael that Ramsey County and St Paul (and Raphael Ortega in particular) get kudos for their work on Central. The Met Council has some great planners, but if not for Pawlenty and his council picks, we would be riding Central by now.

    • Nathanael

      Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul also deserve credit for the consistent and massive push they’ve made for the Central Corridor. The Met Council, well, they have been a good steward of the project management. I would attribute vision and the political push for completion to other entities, though.

    • Ocean Railroader

      On several urban hunter websites there is a vast 100 year old system of tunnels under the city streets that are big enough for people to walk though and they carried power cables for the streetcar tracks above them so it wouldn’t be out of the question to take one of these tunnels and dig it bigger for light rail. In fact many of these old tunnels will help bring power cables for the new light rail line.

      • FG

        Do you have a link? I can’t find anything more than drains and small tunnels – was it something along the lines of Chicago’s tunnels? I’d think it would be hard to use them since they are full of utilities now and probably breached by other utilities – the other problem would be sharp corners (think London’s tube) with running right under a street, although, of course, they’d be running in the street around those same corners.

  • Anthony

    It seems strange that the line passes within .2 miles of the MSP Amtrak station but the closest stations are both over .75 miles away. Are there plans to move the Amtrak station or is this not considered an important connection?

    • There is a funded plan to renovate the St. Paul Union Depot into the Amtrak Station. The Central Corridor basically ends right in front of this station.

      • Yep, the depot project got fully underway in January and is supposed to be done by the end of 2012, so Amtrak should be settled in to the new location for more than a year by the time revenue operation begins on the light-rail line.

        The current Amtrak station is in the middle of an industrial zone with minimal housing and fairly low employment density. It might be useful as a commuter rail stop in the future, but I’m not sure if either the city or county have any plans to retain it.

  • imperator3733

    You mention the local Route 16 and the express Route 94, but you don’t mention the limited stop Route 50. Right now the 16 is part of the high frequency network, the 50 follows the same route but has fewer stops, and the 94 runs on the (mostly) parallel I-94. After the Central Corridor is finished, the 50 will be removed and the 16 will drop in frequency while the LRT will be part of the high frequency network.

    • Yeah, I fully expect the Central Corridor line to become the 50. Aside from frequency and a few differences in stop locations, it’s basically a drop-in replacement.

      But really, I don’t know why Metro Transit hadn’t bumped up the route 50 frequency ages ago, creating a more LRT-like schedule. The 16 can just crawl along during rush hours, stopping nearly every block, but the 50 can shave several minutes off of the trip time. It’s hard to compare the schedules now, however, since reductions in the number of bus stops in construction zones have turned it into a de facto limited-stop route in those areas (and in my experience, it runs faster now that fewer automobiles are passing the bus and jockeying for position in front of it).

      Like most American transit systems, the Twin Cities could do with a lot of bus stop consolidation. I’d personally prefer stops spaced about every 1/4- or 1/3-mile. The 50’s typical distance of about 1/2-mile between stops is at the upper end of what research indicates is good spacing, but it might have been a good idea to just eliminate the 16 in favor of a frequent route 50.

      It’ll be interesting to see how many passengers the 16 and 94 get after the LRT begins running.

      • Beta Magellan

        The 50’s stagnant frequencies are probably a case of diminishing returns—proportionally, the number of new riders will lag behind amount of money put into increasing frequency, so you end up with higher subsidies per rider.

        Since the Hiawatha’s pretty much replacing the 50, I’m guessing they’re keeping the 16 in precisely because it does stop at every block—it creates a definite gap between light rail and bus service (providing an incentive to ride light rail) and shields Metro Transit from accusations that they’re abandoning their social service obligations.

        • I wouldn’t necessarily want to add any more buses—just shift the balance between the two by dialing back the frequency of the 16 and increasing it on the 50.

  • alexjonlin

    Did they consider grade separation at all? Sure it would cost a lot, but this seems like an extremely important corridor that could have the potential for a whole lot of ridership if it were built more like a metro. But once they’ve built this there’s a very, very small chance that they’d every go back, rip this line out, and replace it with a grade separated line later.

    • Matt

      The initial plan was to have it grade separated through the East Bank of the University. This was removed from consideration about 18 months ago. The Snelling Avenue station would also be a great candidate for an underground station (in my opinion) but that was never considered.

      • Nathanael

        The route isn’t that crowded most of the time; I’ve driven it. If signals at cross-streets are handled properly (always a big “if”) it really doesn’t need grade separation. It does have exclusive ROW for the entire length, just like Hiawatha, so it’s just grade crossings. I believe there are pedestrian overpasses included with the bridge between the two banks of the river, which is the largest potential demand for grade separation.

        If the line really fills up, some of the endpoint-to-endpoint demand can be taken by a direct Minneapolis-St. Paul no-stop “commuter” rail, which is also in planning. In the long run there are also other ways to connect the U of M to either Minneapolis or St. Paul by express rail. This is the base line serving all intermediate stops.

    • Yes, everything under the sun has been talked about over the decades. The route has been contemplated for several years longer than I’ve been alive, and I was only a few years old when the first draft EIS documents appeared in the early 1980s.

      I don’t know about many of the details since it was so long ago, but I know the I-94 trench just to the south had been considered in the distant past. It would have been expensive because many existing bridges would need to be reconstructed, and it wouldn’t have been as popular since it would go in a noisy, polluted highway corridor.

      The idea of tunneling has been a fairly popular one: Around the time the Hiawatha line opened and for a few years beyond, it was expected that the segment on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota campus would be in a tunnel under Washington Avenue, but that added a few hundred million dollars to the cost and got tossed.

      Instead of doing a grade separation, Washington Avenue is going to become a transit mall for most of its length on the East Bank. Rather than attempting to deal with all of the cars and trucks, they’ll simply be banned. I’m sure a lot of people don’t understand this concept (my boss is among them), but the campus is a pedestrian-dominated area anyway, and has good cause for banning car traffic. I think we’re less than a month away from the street closing forever.

      The University itself wanted to reroute the train just to the north along the old Northern Pacific #9 bridge (now a bike/ped bridge) and the Dinkytown trench (which is still a lightly-used rail corridor), partly to keep trains away from experiments going on in buildings along Washington Avenue. (Washington has long been choked with noisy rumbling trucks and buses anyway, so I never quite understood the argument. They might have had a point about electrical interference, though.)

      When the I-35W bridge collapsed in 2007, there was also talk about rerouting the Central Corridor line along that, but it was far too late in the process to really be considered. (The I-35W bridge design supposedly did become slightly more robust to support a possible light-rail line in the future, however.)

      I think both of those bridge options would have required some additional buildings to be demolished. Right now, the route is only causing the demolition of one ugly bank building in downtown Saint Paul.

      In the end, the route is going to be very similar to the old “St. Paul–Minneapolis” streetcar line which existed from 1890 to 1953.

      • Ocean Railroader

        I’ve seen Pedestrain Malls around the collage I’m going to and they are a good idea in that basicly the street becomes everyone on foot and skateboard’s public riding space so it’s a lot safer to close down the streets to cars and let them have what they know is already their’s.

        The new light rail line is going to get help from the undergound tunnel system that the streetcar company built to power it’s trains.

  • Cameron Slick

    No buildings would have been demolished for a light rail route through Dinkytown and on to the old Northern Pacific #9 bridge. The University was totally right in challenging the at-grade route, but it was their former leadership’s fault for supporting the tunnel alignment for so long. They wanted to get rid of buses on Washington Avenue (it’s a narrow four lanes). So when it came down to 2007-8 for Engineering, the work wasn’t nearly as advanced on a route through Dinkytown.

    What doomed the latter route was lower ridership expectations. While Washington Avenue is a more dense part of the University, the Dinkytown station would have been much closer to student housing, existing businesses, and a dozen University buildings (Education & Human Development, Jones Hall, Eddy Hall, Elliot Hall, Folwell Hall, Williamson Hall). It would not have been an inconvenient walk from Washington Avenue to the Dinkytown station, and buses would still be running to the West Bank. The Northern alignment through Dinkytown would have cost somewhere between $15 and $50 million less, but the argument made against it was delaying construction for up to two years.

    Bottom Line, going through Dinkytown would have made too much sense.

    • Nathanael

      The only serious engineering problem with the Dinkytown route is what to do after getting to the river. First of all, the Northern Pacific #9 bridge would need to be replaced (it’s in worse condition than the Washington Avenue one), but more importantly, Minneapolis sloppily allowed the western end of the line to have skyscrapers built on top of it. Hmm.

      It is a decent route, but it’s still available for a future line. Perhaps if the Central Corridor route starts seriously filling up, it will be considered.

      You’re right that the initial positions of the University meant that the Dinkytown route simply didn’t have engineering advanced nearly as far.

  • Brian

    @ Tom West, Froggie, Tim E – Yes my major point here was that the Met Council should be elected not appointed, and this group in particular seems to push those boundaries by using their various powers to attempt to control development when it’s not their charge.

    I understand the need for pooling resources to create a connected network of transit/transportation. The problem here in Minnesota is that the disparity between those paying in those taxes and the potential for usership are low; residents in Jordan (outer ring exurb) are having their taxes go to Met Council’s portion of the Central Corrridor LRT. The juxtaposition that I implied, and probably should have said, is that all of this is happening at a time when funding is SORELY needed for new roads and bridges to expand/upgrade our existing surface transportation system, and NOT to create a new transit system that will only benefit those few who live/work near the LRT lines.

    The benefit isn’t being spread out, it’s being drastically skewed. Unfortunately with the demographics and geographics of the Twin Cities metro area (we’re a huge ring of suburbs because we’re not bounded by a body of water like the east or west coasts, chicago, etc) and most of the 200k people who work in the areas benefited by this line live in a suburb and will still have to drive in to work, and cannot take the LRT.

    Also this is not resulting in a “drastic restructuring” of the downtowns as it is resulting in one of the most confusing attempts at integration of light rail into an existing passenger car dominated landscape. It’s definitely forced and not an organic amalgam of the two.

    I also acknowledge the need for an MPO to receive federal funding, that’s what the MNDOT Metro Districts and the transportation committee of Metro Cities (the official name of the group is escaping me right now) but it was formed of protesting communities in the last decade as an alternative to the Met Council’s Transportation division – the member communities elect their own body and representatives, NOT ones appointed by the governor.

    What the few of you are implying is essentially the redistribution of wealth, and NOT the use of a pool of public money to be used to improve the surface transportation in the Twin Cities metro area.

    • Matt

      The reason why people live in Jordan, Elko, Rogers, etc. is because we’ve wasted so much money building freeways for them to quickly drive there. And it will never be cheap again as gas prices keep going up. Furthermore all those people get on their new, open freeways but then drive in to the beltway clogging up the roads with the rest of us who don’t live so far out. At least the LRT helps mitigate their use of congested freeways inside the beltway by providing transportation alternatives for those of us who live inside the 494/694 loop.

    • So in summary, redistribution of resource by taxing urban motorists federal gas taxes that go disproportionately to suburban roads: good. Redistribution of resource by taxing exurban motorists to provide traffic congestion and parking congestion relief to urban motorists: bad.

      Am I guessing correctly that you are a net recipient of the first cross subsidy, the good kind, and a net contributor to the second cross subsidy, the bad kind?

    • Wad

      Can we get some fairness in your logic, Brian?

      I understand the need for pooling resources to create a connected network of transit/transportation. The problem here in Minnesota is that the disparity between those paying in those taxes and the potential for usership are low; residents in Jordan (outer ring exurb) are having their taxes go to Met Council’s portion of the Central Corrridor LRT.

      No, you apparently don’t understand the need for pooling resources to build a connected network.

      The first thing you must know about pooling resources: The members don’t get to attach rebate tags to the funding they have contributed. If that is what the Twin Cities cities desire, they ought to dissolve the Met Council and each city or county ought to go it alone.

      Resources are pooled for diversification of sharing costs and benefits. Also, there is a higher probability that the bigger cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul receive less in benefits than they pay in contributions, and the outer areas receive greater benefits than they contribute.

      Jordan needs the Twin Cities more than the Twin Cities need Jordan.

      The benefit isn’t being spread out, it’s being drastically skewed.

      If the benefit isn’t being spread out, it just might mean the benefits are being concentrated in the areas where they’ll produce the best outcomes.

      That’s actually quite fair to taxpayers.

      Also this is not resulting in a “drastic restructuring” of the downtowns as it is resulting in one of the most confusing attempts at integration of light rail into an existing passenger car dominated landscape.

      I don’t know whether to laugh or cry after reading this. I’m laughing hard enough that I shed tears, FWIW. :)

      So, umm, light rail can only occur by osmosis? Or throwing rail seeds into the roadbeds and waiting for tracks to sprout like weeds? Or does a transport plane have to parachute-drop a corridor from the sky?

      Brian, there are people called civil engineers who know to change manmade environments, incorporate new elements and (AND!) measure how everything will work together. Why, as we speak, some of these civil engineers have designs on integrating rail into a predominantly passenger car-dominated landscape!

      And I mean literally have designs!

      What the few of you are implying is essentially the redistribution of wealth.

      Hell, I am not implying it. I can see straight out that the job of the Met Council is to redistribute wealth.

      That’s precisely how exurbs can get their “badly needed” road projects even though they need more than 100% of the money they contributed.

      You don’t seem all that concerned about the welfare of Minneapolis and St. Paul, for the people in the two largest cities of the region, for the employers in the two largest employment areas in the region, for the university between them … and so on.

    • Actually Jordanians do not fund Metro Transit; they are not in the Transit Taxing District.

      http://www.metrocouncil.org/directions/transit/transit2008/LakevilleTTDJune08.htm

      I don’t think the Met Council is putting anything into Central construction – I’m pretty sure the local match comes from the state (bonding), counties (CTIB) and cities (Mpls & St Paul property taxes or MSA funds). If that’s not true, please tell us what funding source they are using.

    • Ps I’m glad you found this site; if you keep reading it you may actually learn something about transit.

  • neb

    The LRT matters to people in Jordan because the more development can be concentrated closer to the center, the less pressure you will see in Jordan to build roads. That said, I’m sure there will still be a need and resources to build some new roads in places like Jordan. This isn’t one thing or the other.

    As such, the biggest thing the Twin Cities can do, and people like Brain should understand, is to allow upzoning for signficantly more density around the corridor. If densityand height limits are put in place, then it would be a waste to build the LRT.

    But to the point of whether the Met Council should be elected, that seems like a good idea, and it would also likely lead to decisions that don’t necessarily lead to more road building in the exurbs.

  • Mark D.

    It seems that Metro Transit will emulate [on a larger scale] what is currently happening on New Jersey Transit’s RiverLINE. This LRT has a bi-directional peak travel pattern with Southbound trains carrying passengers headed to Camden where most will transfer to the PATCO line to reach their jobs in Center City Philadelphia. In the opposite direction, peak travel on Northbound trains consists mostly of workers headed to State offices in Trenton [NJ Capital] with some transferring to the Northeast Corridor Line to reach jobs in Princeton, New Brunswick, Metropark and Newark/Jersey City/New York City, as well as carrying passengers to the Industrial parks lining the route in Cinnaminson,Riverside and Florence.

    Good luck Metro Transit. You will need all the equipment you can get your hands on when the Central Corridor line opens. I bet that it will surpass the Hiawatha line in Passenger totals right out the box.

  • Christof Spieler

    The best comparison here might be here in Houston: the Main Street line links Downtown (148,000 jobs) to the Medical Center (76,000 jobs) with a few universities on the way, and it, too, is in the street the whole way. The peak effect is exactly as you described: in a PM rush, we have passengers headed south from the Med Center, passengers headed north from the Med Center, and passengers headed south from Downtown. A PM southbound train is full nearly the whole length of the line even though few passengers ride the whole length of the line. More cities should be thinking this way.

  • sasha

    As someone who used to take the 94 bus, I find the 40 minute travel time between downtowns a huge letdown. 18 stations over 11 miles seems a little excessive.

    For a service that’s going to be nearly a wash compared to the work done in the past by the 50 and 94 buses, $0.9B is a lot to spend.

    Am I the only one who finds the outcome of this project disappointing?

    • Wad

      The train will likely see more passengers than the buses even with the slower run time. The Twin Cities will save money overall because of the lower passenger-mile costs.

      The $900 million is a one-time expenditure to front-load the costs of creating the line. You then have the corridor for as long as you choose to keep it. Then, the capital replacement costs won’t be for many decades. Rail cars can last 30 years, and rails last for decades before they need replacement.

    • Ocean Railroader

      I really think light rail should have less stops then a bus would do to it carrying so many people. The really should thing about having a light rail stop every 1/2 mile or 1/4 mile vs stopping every city block.

    • Nathanael

      “As someone who used to take the 94 bus, I find the 40 minute travel time between downtowns a huge letdown. 18 stations over 11 miles seems a little excessive.”

      It’s not really for you. It’s for everyone who lives or works *in between*, and for them it’s going to be a *huge* benefit. It’s a great replacement for the #50 and for most of the riders of the #16.

      For you, the 94 bus will remain…. until the Red Rock Corridor builds the express train from Minneapolis Intermodal Station to St. Paul Union Depot (yes, it’s planned).

  • Dreww

    Am I the only one who finds the outcome of this project disappointing?

    You’re missing the point of the line if you just compare the downtown to downtown times. The project will result in quality high capacity transit connecting the downtowns to very high transit use corridors on Washington Ave and University Avenue. The goal is to serve the entire length of the line. Rush hour express buses will be there in the future. Outside rush hour the 94 runs every 15-30 minutes. CCLRT will provide generally better service since it will run every ten minutes late into the evening and on the weekends.

  • You didn’t mention the connection of the St. Paul side to the new intermodel depot being built, which will connect to more buses, Amtrak and, hopefully within our lifetimes, HSR.

  • Random thought about light rail lines that connect two major downtowns. The one that immediately comes to mind is the Blue Line that has connected Los Angeles’ downtown to Long Beach’s for the last 20+ years. The latter city (LB) happens to have more people than both Minneapolis and St. Paul, but I suspect Long Beach doesn’t get much love nationally because it lives in L.A.’s shadow to some extent…and doesn’t have a pro sports team.

  • Pam

    I support light rail however, I just don’t know how those of us living downtown East of Cedar are going to be able to get over the tracks heading west without waiting and waiting and waiting for trains heading in both directions. I wish it could have been elevated through downtown.

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