A Step Ahead for Light Rail in the Twin Cities

Hiawatha Line

» 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

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Minneapolis Advances Streetcar System Plan

» With approval on Friday, council will endorse 30-year proposal for street-running rail after neglecting the project for a year. The city is expected to move forward with one route in the fall.

When Minneapolis released its seven-line network plan for urban streetcars back in 2007, the city appeared to be at the head of its game, likely to follow Portland as one of the first U.S. cities to develop a modern trolley system.

Unfortunately, when the economic crisis hit and the lack of interest from the Bush Administration made clear to the city’s leaders that the only way their project would be built would be to sponsor it entirely with local funds, the program was “filed” away, to be revived at some more prosperous time. In the meantime, after Ray LaHood took reigns of the federal Department of Transportation, Detroit, Dallas, Tucson, Portland, and New Orleans Continue reading Minneapolis Advances Streetcar System Plan »

As Minnesota’s Proposed Northern Lights Express Rises in Cost, Chances for Its Construction Fall

Northern Lights Express Route Map

» 155-mile line between Duluth and Minneapolis would cost nearly $1 billion.

The Northern Lights Express is too expensive to justify construction.

For inhabitants of northern Minnesota hoping to be provided a quicker route into the Twin Cities, that fact is heart-breaking. Indeed, the initial promise of this 155-mile line, which would run between Minneapolis and Duluth, via Cambridge, Hinckley, Sandstone, and Superior, was exciting for its proponents: it would provide two-hour service along a corridor whose Amtrak operations were discontinued in 1985 and provide for increased economic competitiveness in parts of the state that have suffered as Minneapolis has grown.

The Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance, which has been pushing the train link since 2007, completed a preliminary study of the corridor last year, and claimed that the project could offer eight daily round trips by 2012 at the cost of just over $300 million — or up to $615 million

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Northstar Commuter Rail Opens for Service in Minneapolis

» 40-mile line between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake brings commuter rail to Minnesota

As far as new transit openings go, Minneapolis’ new Northstar commuter line is no huge deal. With expected boardings of fewer than 4,000 riders on only six daily round-trip trains, it will reach few passengers and produce approximately zero transit-oriented development. Why, then, should this $320 million train system have been built? Does the State of Minnesota stand to gain from its implementation?

The Northstar line, run by Metro Transit, will offer quick 45-minute trips between Big Lake and a new station at the Ballpark in Minneapolis. Along the route, double-decker trains will stop at four intermediate stations, built brand new, each offering hundreds of park-and-ride spaces. For customers north of Big Lake, a coordinated bus will shuttle passengers from locations as far as St. Cloud (an extension of the rail line

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Southwest Minneapolis’ Transit Route Selection Process May Rule Out Light Rail to Uptown

The most advantageous route isn’t the cheapest, and the federal cost-effectiveness process may therefore prevent it from being built.

The Twin Cities’ Metro Council regional planning authority is in the midst of evaluating route alternatives for a new transit line extending southwest from downtown Minneapolis. The Southwest Transitway will be the region’s third light rail line after the Hiawatha line, which linked downtown Minneapolis and the airport in 2004, and the Central Corridor, which will connect downtown Minneapolis and the capital complex in St. Paul by 2014. In a series of meetings beginning today, citizens will have the chance to discuss the exact route of the Southwest line — and their input could be essential, because planners are currently angling to make the wrong decision about where trains should run. Their endorsement of a route through low-density neighborhoods in place of a more expensive line through Minneapolis’ lively

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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