The City of Minneapolis is applying for TIGER II grant funding from the US DOT for an alternatives analysis for Central Avenue and Nicollet Avenue, two routes the city prefers for a new streetcar system. How they can prefer streetcar as the mode without an alternatives analysis is puzzling to me since the previously completed streetcar study did not consider any other transit modes. The Metropolitan Council also recommends arterial BRT, not streetcar, for the Nicollet and Central Avenue corridors in the 2030 Transportation Policy Plan. As explained by a guest here at Net Density before, arterial BRT can offer significant travel time savings and increased ridership at a much lower cost than either LRT or streetcar.
According to the FTA, an alternatives analysis is supposed to answer some key questions: What are the problems in a corridor? What are their underlying causes? What are viable options for addressing these problems? What are their costs? What are their benefits? If all of these questions are fairly explored and answered and streetcar turns out to be the best option, so be it.
Anna Flintoft, a transportation planner with the City of Minneapolis who is quoted in the Minnesota Daily article linked to above, told me in an email that the city does plan to evaluate multiple modes, including streetcar and “enhanced bus”. This is a good sign, but the City Council seems to have already made up their mind about the mode without having seen any alternatives.