Who will the Southwest Transitway serve?

Hiawatha LRT
Hiawatha LRT

I’ve never written a long post about my opinion on the Southwest Transitway LRT alignment alternatives, although I have participated in some intense discussion on the City of Lakes Urbanism blog.  I cynically believe that the routing decision will probably be made based solely on the numbers that allow the line to compete for federal dollars, rather than the best long range planning, but that won’t stop me from adding my two cents and possibly rousing rabble at the upcoming meetings.

When comparing the 3A and 3C alignments (Kenilworth Trail versus Uptown), the question for me has never been how easy is it to engineer and build (Kenilworth wins this one every time), but who will the line serve, or in other words, what is its purpose?  Is it a commuter line to get people from the far-flung suburbs to downtown Minneapolis rapidly a la Northstar, or is it an urban transit line a la the Hiawatha line?  3A represents a commuter line that would serve suburban customers and move them to downtown quickly, mostly bypassing any housing density, retail or transit-dependent populations.  3C would serve the “second downtown” of Minneapolis, Uptown, as well as some of the most dense housing, large employment centers and more people who depend on transit to get around.  In short, missing one of the most vibrant activity centers in the Twin Cities because you have an easy right of way would be a huge mistake.

Before I get too deep into a rant, I want to share some maps that I think illustrate the point.  I assume the data behind these maps has been factored in to the alternatives analysis, but I guess we’ll have to wait until August to find out.

Population Density and LRT Alignments

Employment density and LRT Alignments

Transit-dependent populations and LRT Alignments

Grey circles around stations represent one quarter-mile walk-shed.

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