Everybody knows that the LRT alignment that would go through the second most dense area of the Twin Cities metro would have fewer trips than one that goes through a railroad trench and parkland, but few have dared to ask why.  Come with me on a exploration of the wild world of transportation modeling.

If you dig deep in the Southwest Transitway DEIS, like a stubborn prospector, you can sometimes find real gold.  And by gold, I mean stinky logic.  Deep in Appendix H, “Supporting Technical Reports and Memoranda Part 1″ is Table 1 in the Transit Effects Appendix (on page 274, to be exact).  Table 1 summarizes the daily LRT boardings by segment.  These segment summaries are based on station-by-station ridership numbers found later in the Appendix.  Here is the table:

Notice anything strange?  That’s right, route 3C-1 is assumed to have zero riders continuing their trip from the Central Corridor LRT.  Chapter 6 of the main DEIS document has a section on “Interlining Assumptions” which goes into more detail, but the key sentence seems to be on page 6-6 and the table following:

The LRT 3C-1 (Nicollet Mall) Alternative is not integrated with either the Hiawatha or Central Corridor LRT guideway for daily operations.

In the table that follows, under “Passenger movement/convenience” while other alternatives are labeled “One-seat ride possible”, the Nicollet alignment is branded as a “Stand alone LRT line”.  That’s right.  When you exit the train at 4th Street and Nicollet Avenue, you step off into an abyss.  You’ve just ridden a stand-alone LRT line to THE END OF THE LINE.  Don’t even try to transfer.

Of course, there are legitimate operational concerns about tracks not aligning and trains not being able to continue on for use on another line.  But to assume that ALL travelers coming from the Central Corridor, when confronted with the idea of a *gasp* transfer literally hundreds of feet away would abandon all hope and just drive a car the whole way (or take a slower bus), seems terribly ridiculous to me.  The ridership projections also assume that the 3C-2 line, which does interline, actually has fewer Central Corridor riders than 3A, because you know, those few extra minutes.  It’s not like there are any attractive destinations along Nicollet and in Uptown.  I’m pretty sure no one from the U of M goes to Uptown for anything.  They’re all, “out of my way mister, I’m headed for Eden Prairie!”

If you add back in those 5,300 Central Corridor travelers to 3C-1, you get 29,850 daily boardings, or the highest of the all the alignments.

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  • Matt Brillhart

    I agree with everything you just said, but “second most population-dense area of the Twin Cities metro”.

    So what’s the first then? Many of the census tracts that would’ve been touched by 3C are over 20,000 people/sq mi. Steven’s Square (tract 1057) is over 25,000. Loring Park/Loring Heights (1056) is 21,500. NW and SW Whittier tracts (68 & 107) are both over 20,000. There’s a tract (1039) in Dinkytown over 20k, but that’s it. Basically out of the Top 5 most densely populated census tracts in the entire state, 4 of them would have been in the “walk shed” of 3C. It makes me want to scream!

  • Thatcher Imboden

    Oh, don’t forget the Tech Memo on ridership and how they had the 21st Station having 1,000 boardings while Uptown only had 1,100. They also had very low walk-up boardings for all Uptown, LynLake, and the Eat Street stations. In talking with members of the TAC, the comment was that people wouldn’t walk to the stations because there is good bus service in the area.

  • Thatcher Imboden

    I forgot, no one at HCRRA never gave my concerns the time of day. The red flags that were raised were continually ignored and when partially address, were minimized. At one point, I got someone either on the TAC or project team to say that the CEI would likely only be marginally better if we increased ridership by a couple of thousand on the C alignments.

    • Brendon

      That may be true, but I’d like to see a fair analysis.

  • Alex

    Yes, there were some fingers pressing hard on the scale on this one.  My favorite was the ridership projection for the 21st Station that Thatcher has already mentioned.  Not only is it ridiculous to assume nearly the same ridership as Uptown, but those 1000 riders would account for 2/3 of the residents of Kenwood – a pretty remarkable mode share, especially considering only 5.8% of neighborhood residents currently use transit to commute.  Even if you assume people in CIDNA would board here instead of West Lake, almost 1/4 of the combined population would be boarding at 21st.  The only possible explanation for that many boardings: tons of transferring from buses.  So apparently people are willing to make bus-rail transfers, but not rail-rail transfers.  Makes lots of sense.

  • Matt MSP

    Is there any way to get some people in the news media interested in pressing HCRRA about the B.S. in their reports?

  • Matt MSP

    The best plan at this point is to let the darn thing be built as planned, but WITHOUT the 21st St. Station. I’d also be inclined to skip Penn and Van White too, instead building those stations as a stub extension of Blue Line along Olson, since that would actually serve the North Side better. The entire stretch along the RR between West Lake and the garbage burner would then just become a non-revenue connector once we get our minds around the idea that it makes sense to connect Uptown as a regional destination to our regional transit network, and that a perpendicular downtown spine along Nicollet would actually interline nicely with other future transit corridors.

    And Minneapolis should focus on other streetcar corridors besides Nicollet/Central, so an investment in streetcars now doesn’t compromise our ability to invest in proper regional transit to these regional destinations in a decade or two.