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.

8 thoughts on “Who will the Southwest Transitway serve?

  1. I think Uptown does need a transit line. However, I think that the 3A alignment is the best right now. We are just starting to build a few transit lines. There will eventually be a whole system. A system that needs to be built with efficiency in mind. LRT will eventually be built between Southwest and Hiawatha on the Greenway. A cost effective approach has the best chance of being built and after the Bottineau transit line is done an extension through Uptown would be an easy sell.

  2. I think 3A isn’t the worst routing for now. Eventually there could be a line next to BNSF trackage to the West End in St. Louis Park, then along Wayzata Blvd out to Minnetonka.

    Eventually, the West End could be an important transit connection spot for regional/commuter rail too since it would funnel traffic from Northfield (Dan Patch), Mankato (via Savage Jct / Dan Patch), and Wayzata/Willmar onto the same track towards downtown Minneapolis. In addition, hundreds of dollars of dense redevelopment is within walking distance of where the BNSF mainline passes MN-100. So, three regional rail routes and a LRT line next to a major freeway interchange and infill projects would make it a champ.

    Then turn the Cedar Lake portion of the 3A alignment into a non-revenue connection between the two divisions. Not much would be lost. And the 21st Street station shouldn’t be built anyways.

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