The big news this week is that the planned Central Corridor LRT line will get three new stations between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and the reason seems to be the new FTA rules which relax the sole focus on cost-effectiveness from travel time savings to include broader goals of “livability“. With the three new stations, the project would not have met a “medium” rating for cost-effectiveness, and therefore would not likely not have been funded by the FTA under the old rules.
What implication might this have for the planned Southwest LRT line and its contested route? It’s hard to say, but it certainly seems like the alternative routes should be re-assessed under the new formula before telling the feds that 3A is the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). More below the break.
Some pedestrian-friendly development along Route 3A
On Wednesday, the Policy Advisory Committee for the Southwest LRT project voted to recommend Route 3A, also known as the Kenilworth Alignment. Ralph Remington, Minneapolis City Council member representing southwest Minneapolis, was the only dissenting vote.
Remington said the average daily ridership formula the Federal Transit Administration uses to approve rail projects favors suburban rail lines over those serving the inner city because it doesn’t count weekend ridership or trips to special events like Twins or Vikings games.
“I think the formula is flawed,” Remington said. ” I still believe the greater number of citizens in Minneapolis are not being served” by the chosen route.
Without a rail link, the citizens of Uptown and southwest Minneapolis will be disconnected from the rest of the rail system, Remington said.
A few days ago our house was hit with a flier urging us to pledge our support for the the 3C route at the upcoming public hearing. It’s a bit text-heavy, but I agree with the talking points in general.
I didn’t need convincing to go to the meeting, but I guess I’m impressed that public support is ramping up. Another website that the flier tipped me off to is Connect Uptown. It has some background on the project, and arguments about why you should support 3C.
I left Thursday’s Southwest Transitway open house in Minneapolis with a better understanding of the benefits of route 3A, and also the methodology by which the consultants have identified that as the “best” route. However, I remain unconvinced that 3A is the best alternative, for a few reasons, including reasons that are not considered during the LPA decision-making process (but maybe should be). After the break, I’ll start with reasons that the FTA cares about.
Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic has written an indispensable summary of the Southwest LRT routing alternatives. This is the post I wish I had written, plus his maps are prettier than mine! His take on the FTA ridership accounting rules is especially interesting.
If you haven’t read it, go there now and arm yourself with talking points before you hit one of the open houses.
Where are the transit riders in southwest Minneapolis?
The very first Southwest Transitway open house happened tonight, but hopefully some of you intrigued transit nuts will come home and want even MORE data to think about. Based on comments from one of my previous posts, I realized I hadn’t done any analysis of where people are riding transit.
Thanks to the amazing Data Finder, you can see where transit trips are happening by bus stop. To make this map, I summed all the weekday trips from bus stops within 1/4 mile of each planned LRT station. Station areas are labeled with their totals. As you would expect, downtown stations show the most trips, with Uptown and 28th Street next. The 3A alignment shows very few trips. The Met Council data for Van White shows a stop, but no routes and no trips are assigned to it.
I’ll be attending Thursday’s open house in Minneapolis and I’m excited. It’s great to be on receiving end of a public meeting once in a while. The gossip I’ve heard is that 3A and 3C ridership would be the same, which is something I would like explained in detail. Anybody out there go to Hopkins tonight and have any post-meeting thoughts?
Today Hennepin County Commissioners received analysis from HDR showing the projected ridership and costs of the two potential alignments for the Southwest LRT. 3A would cost $1.2 billion while 3C would cost $1.8 billion. Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, who chairs the Policy Advisory committee, implied that 3A was the better choice.
“Dorfman says the projected cost of the line ranges from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion, depending on the final route. Those numbers put the proposal give the project a Cost Effectiveness Index of $30 per rider for the length of the line, just outside the range required by the Federal Transit Administration for federal funding.
In order to move into the next step which would be to begin preliminary engineering you have to reach that $29 CEI number, so we’re very close to that,” she said.
Dorfman says the new numbers show the less costly option is to build the line along the Kenilworth trail near Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.
Neither the MPR nor Star Tribune coverage of the meeting makes clear the difference in ridership between the two alignments.