Southwest Transitway Open House – Why I’m Still For 3C

Basically a bus.

Basically a bus.

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.

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The Transport Politic sums it all up

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?

Where are the transit riders in southwest Minneapolis?

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?

Commissioner Dorfman: Southwest LRT routes about cost

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.

Land Use Patterns and the Southwest Transitway Alignments (mapping Part II)


In my first post on the two potential Southwest Transitway alignments, I discussed the density of population, employment and transit dependent populations along each route.  In this post, we’ll explore land use patterns and the mixing of uses along each route and near the stations.  Click through for more.

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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.

Southwest Transit Route Selection Open Houses Scheduled

Some transit-supportive development along the 3A alignment

Some transit-supportive development along the 3A alignment

The Southwest Transitway Route Selection Open Houses have been scheduled.  The purpose of these meetings is to release the evaluations done as part of the Draft EIS of the three potential LRT alignments. The evaluation measures include:

  • ridership forecasts
  • cost estimates
  • cost-effectiveness calculations
  • transit mobility measures
  • an inventory of potentially affected critical environmental resources

These evaluations will be used to select the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA).  Two SW Transitway Advisory Committees will make a recommendation on the preferred alternative in the near future.  The preferred alternative will then need to be approved by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority and the Metropolitan Council before it gets the full environmental review treatment.

The bottom line though is that this is the data that will get used to make the selection.  I’m very interested to see the results, and I hope I can attend at least the Minneapolis meeting.  I’m a little late on this news, but I assumed if I signed up for the mailing list I’d be notified of upcoming meetings.  Apparently this is not the case.

If you’re too lazy to click through to get the schedule, here are the meeting dates:

  • August 11: Open house at Hopkins City Hall from 6:30 to 8:00 PM
  • August 13: Open house at downtown Minneapolis Library from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
  • August 13: Open house at Marriott Southwest Hotel in Minnetonka from 6:30 to 8:00 PM
  • August 18: Open house at St. Louis Park City Hall from 6:30 to 8:00 PM
  • August 19: Open house at Eden Prairie City Hall from 6:30 to 8:00 PM