Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

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RailBaronYarr
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby RailBaronYarr » August 2nd, 2013, 9:55 am

See above. You're being pretty judgmental here.
I'm asking the $1.5 billion question. I have no doubt that there are many who live in EP with one commuter heading downtown (or somewhere within vicinity) and another family member working in the SW suburbs. The question is why we're subsidizing their choice to live out there with continued freeway expansions and unproductive LRT segments when we could allow people to live closer in and choose to reverse commute out for the second job (if said company would have located there in the first place).

I'm asking why we're continuing the pattern of development that we have for the last 60 years, just in a slightly more sustainable and equitable way. Car -> free parking garage -> LRT downtown is better than car -> downtown but not by wide margins. Asking people from North Minneapolis to take a bus (or streetcar or LRT) to a station (VW, Royalston, Interchange, whatever), then take a 30-40 minute LRT ride out to EP, then get out and walk (unlikely) or wait for a circulator shuttle just to get to work is a little more equitable than what they have now, but not by much. We're not changing the patterns that have wreaked environmental havoc and segregated people from jobs (unless they can spend $6k + per year to own a car), we're just making it slightly better.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » August 2nd, 2013, 9:57 am

They're not necessarily diametrically opposed, but spending nearly 2 billion dollars to entrench the current situation is probably not a good idea
I completely reject the notion that rail transit entrenches existing development patterns. Aren't we always talking about how rail brings compact, urban development around stations? I just don't see how this project is going to freeze EP for fifty years. Maybe my eyes need opening, but I don't see it.

I'm all for reducing the number of people that are auto-dependent and I agree that RBY's long-term ideas have merit. But we can't wait for the perfect when we have a good that can significantly improve the situation today. Doing that good doesn't preclude the perfect from coming around later.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » August 2nd, 2013, 10:04 am

Car -> free parking garage -> LRT downtown is better than car -> downtown
You do have good points and believe me, I tend to agree with them and want the existing patterns to change. On the specific point above, I think it depends on what we do to get those cars to the park & rides. If we build new freeways out there to shuttle cars to the P&Rs, then yeah, it's a huge cost, both in terms of infrastructure and opportunity. If we instead built a grid, it starts to look more friendly. Add in some feeder bus over time, make it pedestrian and bike friendly and we'll eventually start taking out the park & rides.

SW Transit has an important role to play. Will they take the MVTA route and have their bus service undercut the LRT or will they completely restructure things to work in concert with the rail investment? I have my doubts they'll do the latter but that's not really the fault of the LRT project. The opt-outs should just go away as far as I'm concerned.

I would say we're making it more than *slightly* better. We're providing a whole new corridor of transit access that hasn't existed before.
Last edited by David Greene on August 2nd, 2013, 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby RailBaronYarr » August 2nd, 2013, 10:15 am

I'm all for reducing the number of people that are auto-dependent and I agree that RBY's long-term ideas have merit. But we can't wait for the perfect when we have a good that can significantly improve the situation today. Doing that good doesn't preclude the perfect from coming around later.
The problem is that we're not implementing the long-term. Minneapolis may have removed parking minimums for downtown-zoned parcels, but is anyone else? Are we really stopping unproductive, sprawl-inducing projects like the St Croix bridge, random stroad widenings, freeway interchange expansions, etc? I pointed out several rail projects to suburbs that have not spurred any true compact development around them (such that they are encapsulated mini cities with their own thriving mini economy of jobs and residence with the rail providing access to more jobs elsewhere) - they are simply commuter stations with loads of parking surrounding them (and that hasn't changed in decades). Further, the minute those stations open up with parking (even if it DID change over time), that's a signal to thousands of would-be home builders and buyers to build more in rural Carver County because, hey, now you've got this great rail station with free parking! At the national level, we're not removing housing market-distorting policies and subsidies that encourage living larger and further from things you use every day. At a state level we're still providing property tax relief ($120M just this year!!). At local levels we're still subsidizing sprawling companies to move in (thank you, Shakopee, for proving my point 3x in the last month with DataCard, Emerson, and Shutterfly).

I'm saying that overall, we are are not making these much-needed changes to how we live, and the pockets of success are quite isolated - despite mounting evidence of the "system" not working (housing crash, financial insolvency of sprawling cities/regions), and the environmental ills we face. This line will get built, and it will have benefits, no doubt. But I believe that the opportunity cost of much of the line along with the negative effects from entrenching much of the way we live will outweigh the benefits. Just my take.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » August 2nd, 2013, 10:31 am

But I believe that the opportunity cost of much of the line along with the negative effects from entrenching much of the way we live will outweigh the benefits. Just my take.
And that's perfectly fine. I do have some sympathy for your skepticism. I agree that developers could see this as an incentive to build further out, which is why I made the point of how we get those cars to the station. Creating a grid instead of a freeway should limit the sprawl.

Ultimately, the LRT project can't dictate how cities grow, only encourage them to make certain decisions. If the SW suburbs want to sprawl out, they will. The only leverage we have is to deny funds to build new freeways. I actually think we have a pretty good shot at that simply because funds for roads are very scarce (though not as scarce as those for transit).

At some point travel time will become unbearable, so the growth has a limit. I'm not sure that limit is greatly increased given the LRT. It's still going to be a half hour ride from EP to downtown, slower than it would be on a free-flowing freeway.

Over time things like telecommuting may reduce the negative impacts of our development patterns. It may be a small reduction but I think it'll increase over time. Whether that's good or bad long-term I honestly don't know and can't really reason about very effectively at the moment.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » August 2nd, 2013, 2:38 pm

More info about the EP alignment options: http://finance-commerce.com/2013/08/ede ... revisions/

Man, I do not envy the Met Council right now. Later this month they are set to vote on 3 major issues: OMF location, EP alignment, and Co-locate vs. Shallow Kenilworth tunnel.

None of those decisions are a win-win, as all outcomes have potential losers.

I could easily see the freight issue being delayed another month or whatever. The EP alignment and OMF are nearly sure bets to be decided later this month, so at least we're making progress.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby mattaudio » August 2nd, 2013, 2:42 pm


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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » August 2nd, 2013, 3:10 pm

More reason to end it at Shady Oak
How, exactly? Because the city and Met Council both prefer a route that will generate more ridership? Or because a couple of immediate neighboring businesses don't like it (and this is different from anywhere else on the line how)?

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Mdcastle » August 3rd, 2013, 9:01 am

Time for me to reply as the lone suburbanite.

Ultimately there's an awful lot of people that don't want to live in the city. Whether we build the Southwest or not is not going to change people's decision, so we might as well look at the line for it's merits, not about whether withholding it will punish people for wanting to live in the suburbs. Nor are we going to punish suburbanites by cutting of highway funding. People out here vote too, and they're not going to vote themselves into slow, stinky buses. I don't know for sure, but even if the cities have more influence than they deserve based on population, the suburbs have enough influence to keep getting things done. North St. Paul got Margaret Street done, there's those two interchanges on 7, Armstrong and 10 is happening, then there's that infamous bridge out east. Even if the general funding situation it dire there's always pots of money here and there for pork barrel projects.

Nor do I see what's so evil about park and rides. If only let the people to ride the line that live in 1 bedroom apartments adjacent to the station, not people that want a back yard and live some distance away, the line would be a spectacular failure. I'm not sure why it shocked people that when Hiawatha opened people were driving and then parking on neighborhood streets.

I agree we should have done better in Hopkins even if that ship has sailed now. Main Street seems a better spot for light rail. Since that's not going to happen, can we depress Excelsior and build a cap across at least to better connect the downtown and the station. I don't see what's so horrible about Shakopee bringing / keeping jobs to the region considering the economy. The people that take those jobs are likely to be people that live out in the suburbs and have zero interest in commuting to downtown, whether bus or car.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby mattaudio » August 3rd, 2013, 9:17 am

WRT park & rides... they're very expensive and the capital costs are not included in fares or parking fees. Thus people who ride a bus line but choose to access the bus by means other than storing their car in a multi-million dollar facility are indirectly subsidizing the car storage preferences of those who do park in the ramps. Park & rides aren't necessarily bad... bundling of transaction costs and indirect subsidies are the primary issue. In general, P&Rs serve a very good function in our suburbs though... I took the 477 and 465 for many years to commute downtown. Thousands of people use these buses every day, and it's fine in general. Express services on coach buses are a relatively cost effective way to move people, compared to light rail.

There's also nothing wrong with people choosing to live in the suburbs or in rural areas rather than living in the city.

The issue most of us have is that we're building a transit line that will likely be $1.5 billion and mostly built to heavy rail spec with tunnels and grade separations to serve areas that do not justify such an investment. If we're going to build a $1.5 billion line, it should go where people want to go and where people actually live, not to park and rides (included in the project budget) which basically "buy" ridership from the planners' perspectives.

If there's a land use that cannot support ridership without large park and rides, it should not have this type of rail investment. Park and rides are best served by peak express service, and all-day station to station "corridor buses" or freeway BRT. The true cost of BRT for the Red Line was in the $25 million range (whereas over 75% of the project cost went to highway widening or non-Red Line transit enhancements), so we could do a bunch of BRT corridors connecting existing P&Rs for the amount of one LRT flyover in E.P.

We can preserve the ROW and extend the LRT beyond Hopkins incrementally when justified by land use.

Edit: I also wanted to add that I think most of us really do appreciate your perspective on here, mdcastle! Seriously, I know I do. It's important that this does not become an echo chamber that is out of touch with the general consensus of people who aren't city dwellers.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby thatchio » August 3rd, 2013, 2:45 pm

As one of the folks who spent countless hours at PAC, CAC, and public meetings on this project back in the AA/DEIS process, I want to comment on a few random things that I've been reading.

Hennepin tunnel and why it never really was looked at:
- The first "urban" option Hennepin County looked at officially was Lyndale Avenue at-grade. It would have run in the Greenway to Lyndale, run at grade to the Basilica and then run back onto the 3A alignment taking it to 5th Street. No support for this and everyone asked why they were wasting their time. No answer.
- During the initial AA process, we (myself and other pro-urban alignment folks) asked why a Hennepin tunnel wasn't considered. We were told their back of the envelope calculations were too expensive so no reason to study it. We questioned how they could study Lyndale at-grade but not a Hennepin tunnel when Lyndale failed on nearly every measurement (time, cost, impacts, usefulness).
- I always assumed the only way it could be done is if it were bored through the Lowry Tunnel area. Assumed stations at Uptown Transit Station, 22nd/24th, and Loring Park.

3C and the Greenway
- Comments are that the Midtown Greenway trail got screwed by the LRT because of the tunnel portal. The way it was designed, yes, it did get screwed.
- In my conversations with transit and engineering experts, they agreed that with added cost you could drop into the tunnel prior to making the turn out of the greenway, especially given that the trail is already fairly elevated at that location.
- They also thought it would be possible to design it to allow for a future Greenway streetcar to continue east.
- There is no legitimate reason why a Midtown Greenway streetcar couldn't interline with 3C.
- Several of the bridges in the area already will need to be replaced, such as Fremont, Colfax, Aldrich, and several further east. They are all original. Fremont has been on the CLIC plan for a while.
- The Midtown Greenway Coalition brilliantly placed their vision into the public discussion, to the determent of 3C, as we had the false choice of 3C vs. their Network Alignment (a streetcar). They have long wanted a mostly single-track streetcar and are currently surprised that the Midtown AA is seeking to maximize double track.

Questions on the data
- David and I were doing a lot of advocacy back then, for different alignments, and I find it interesting how quick he is in dismissing the questions that still remain and the new ones that have come up. The "red flags" that came up during the AA and DEIS were never resolved. Claiming it's only 10% doesn't do much for me. We have no idea what it is because they didn't actually fix it.
- 1100 boardings at Uptown vs. 1000 at Kenwood is crazy.
- The number of people walking to the 3C stations were less than the Hopkins and West Lake stations.
- Metro Transit staff on the TAC stated to me that the ridership figures assumed that people would not walk 1/4 to a station when there was a frequent bus 1/8 of a mile from their home. I dispute that notion.
- Ridership was based on population projections, which were really low. Part of the reason they were low was that the City of Minneapolis had its projections greatly reduced by the Met Council and Minneapolis first updated its projections by doing an across the board modification. This was changed but it resulted in something like a 3% increase. We are currently at 5% increase in Uptown and it's only been a few years. It doesn't even include the 1000 new units under construction.
- Operationally, we didn't get much traction with the concept that if 3C were built they could reduce stops for N/S bus routes near the station. This could have increased speeds slightly and perhaps gained ridership into the system (which was said to be desirable at the time) from further south for those who take the bus all the way in. ie. perhaps the bus wouldn't need to stop at 31st and 28th in Uptown.

On Co-Location
- We were told very clearly that relocation of the freight rail would not be a project expense since it was supposed to be relocated out of Kenilworth shortly after it was moved from Midtown Greenway to Kenilwroth. That has now come into question.
- I don't buy that the solutions they've outlined are the ones that they'll go with.
- My belief is that they will do co-location and route the bike path at grade across LRT and Freight Rail to the N side of the Lake Street bridge and run it straight west. Then turn at the first street and take out parking on one side running a two-way path off-street all the way along St Louis Ave to Cedar Lake Parkway. I biked that route the other day and it wouldn't be outrageously expensive. There is already a wide cowpath running from the tracks there and the area is a forest.
- Based on the above, I'd peg it at $2MM tops including the crossing gates and such.

the_elop
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby the_elop » August 3rd, 2013, 10:41 pm

^^Thanks for that helpful information.

In a perfect world, a Hennepin tunnel would be my ideal alignment. It seems that if Lyndale at-grade were possible--if flawed--a Hennepin tunnel should have been able to begin south of and thus not disrupting the Lowry Hill Tunnel, just by veering off of where the Lyndale at-grade track would have gone.

Sigh.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby orangevening » August 4th, 2013, 4:08 am

^^Thanks for that helpful information.

In a perfect world, a Hennepin tunnel would be my ideal alignment. It seems that if Lyndale at-grade were possible--if flawed--a Hennepin tunnel should have been able to begin south of and thus not disrupting the Lowry Hill Tunnel, just by veering off of where the Lyndale at-grade track would have gone.

Sigh.
My thoughts exactly. And thank you for the info, thatchio. Seems like a Hennipen [sic] tunnel could avoid the Lowry tunnel in a few ways,but it seems it got dismiss mainly because of cost (which is understandable at the time, but they a considering a tunnel though parkland now?!?)

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby woofner » August 4th, 2013, 10:52 am

- My belief is that they will do co-location and route the bike path at grade across LRT and Freight Rail to the N side of the Lake Street bridge and run it straight west. Then turn at the first street and take out parking on one side running a two-way path off-street all the way along St Louis Ave to Cedar Lake Parkway. I biked that route the other day and it wouldn't be outrageously expensive. There is already a wide cowpath running from the tracks there and the area is a forest.
- Based on the above, I'd peg it at $2MM tops including the crossing gates and such.
While I'm sure that's the most politically expedient option, it's also the by far the worst outcome for the quality of our regional transportation networks. To be clear, I think LRT should be a higher priority than the Kenilworth Trail, but I don't see why 26 townhomes should be a higher priority than the Kenilworth Trail.

I don't think you're correct about the proposed route, and what is actually proposed is more convoluted and probably more expensive than what you describe. Based on slide 25 from this presentation, it looks like they would route it down Sunset, then briefly on France to cross Lake, then westward along the stroady Highway 7 orphan, then down Inglewood somehow to the trail. I'm not sure why they didn't consider St Louis - maybe not enough ROW? It seems like the Sunset option may need one fewer rail crossing too. But I would think there would be a whole new set of political complications with routing a regional trail through people's front yards or parking spaces, not to mention the bike advocates who would oppose the significant degradation of an important trail.

So if the City succumbs to a Kenilworth reroute... well my opinion of their transportation planning couldn't get much lower, so I guess that would just be one more nail. I just don't see what's so important about these townhomes that they would trump the Kenilworth trail.
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby mister.shoes » August 4th, 2013, 4:32 pm

It's too late now, with a decision scheduled to be made later this month, but I wish we had started a separate thread to discuss the freight rail issue.

Anyways, I found this Hennepin County report from Fall 2009 that takes a look at a universe of options for handling freight.
http://www.stlouispark.org/pdf/freight_ ... _study.pdf

It estimated just $48 Million for the SLP re-route. Lies, damned lies, and statistics, as they say, has never been more appropriate than here.
I urge everyone to look at that document and review the "Old 169" alignment. It's a former (removed) freight line that is now a pedestrian trail that has some development along it. Houses would need to be removed, but the alignment itself for freight makes a lot more sense than the one that's being considered. They quote $120MM in 2009, so it surely would be more now, but it seems worthy of discussion. I'm surprised the "Safety in the Park" folks from SLP haven't brought it up now that the proposed re-route has gotten so ugly and expensive.
It has been discussed on numerous occasions. It was just brought up at the last CAC meeting (not that particular route, but looking at other freight routes). I would not be surprised if some other options get looked at, though I have not heard anything official about it.
Sorry to dig these up from a couple pages ago, but I've been thinking about this quite a bit the past few days (sad, I know). I hope you're right, David, that everything is on the table and being considered because it would be quite folly to get completely stuck on the two current options and nothing else. Sometimes the best solution is the one first discarded. Hmm.
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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » August 4th, 2013, 4:57 pm

I just don't see what's so important about these townhomes that they would trump the Kenilworth trail.
Agreed. I suppose the route down Sunset and at grade crossing of France and Lake with a mystery link back to the trail doesn't require land aquisition and property demolition, so they put it out there. Targeting property for demolition gets all sorts of people angry and politically charged media outlets riled up. Few people want to come forward saying that in order to save money on a pubic works wish project "your home will be taken from you".

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby UptownSport » August 4th, 2013, 5:39 pm

What's important is that it's someone's home!?
wow.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » August 4th, 2013, 6:19 pm

That *is* important, and eliminating someone's home should be considered if it can be avoided for minimal cost. But it shouldn't stop any project when alternatives are either to not do it or to do it with prohibitively expensive alternatives, the homeowners should be given fair market value though.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby UptownSport » August 4th, 2013, 7:32 pm

But it shouldn't stop any project when alternatives are either to not do it or ...
I've heard concerns echoed here again and again, that the line has questionable value in the first place.
The specific alignment is undoubtedly contested! and is even more so now.
So tearing down 26 of someones homes IS a big deal when the line is so in question, and specifically the alignment.
I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep if it wasn't built.

Also recall removing homes (purportedly necessary) was a reason given for not aligning another line thru North.
It's not a problem on one, at all, but on the other it's a deal breaker.

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Re: Southwest Corridor (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » August 4th, 2013, 8:37 pm

Also recall removing homes (purportedly necessary) was a reason given for not aligning another line thru North.
It's not a problem on one, at all, but on the other it's a deal breaker.
I'd think it a rather collosal big deal with the collective memory about removing homes in minority-concentrated neighborhoods for transportation to the suburbs. Of course it's a deal breaker, kind of short sighted to not mention that fact.


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