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Southwest Light Rail: It is not an equity train

Equity-focused transit would work within the city to improve connections between urban communities, then move outward to connect with suburban areas.

The Southwest Light Rail Transit project is frequently touted as one that will make significant improvements to racial and economic equity. I would argue that it does nothing of the sort.

If the SWLRT were actually an equitable transit project, what would it look like?

Julie Sabo

It would begin with the consideration of urban density and congestion, addressing existing transportation needs by creating alignments where ridership would be strongest. It would also create equity-oriented revitalization and development opportunities in economically challenged communities, front and center.

Rather than planning from the suburbs into the city — as in the case of SWLRT, in search of the quickest path in and out — equity-focused transit would work within the city to improve connections between urban communities, then move outward to connect with suburban areas.

This strategy would capitalize on the robust businesses already existing in the city for better access by transit for city residents. As the population growth now is shifting into the city, this becomes more urgent. Buses, bikes, walking and trains would all be integrated elements of this system. As transit links improved between urban communities, transit out to the suburbs, where residents already have access to high-quality commuter buses, would be further developed between suburbs and into the city. Reverse commuting would, again, focus on need — to address mismatches between communities. But emphasis would remain on developing local urban economic strengths.

Planning from the perspective of greatest need, from the beginning, would ensure the greatest needs and greatest opportunities for ridership would be served!

Critical disparities

This approach to transit would meet two objectives of the Brookings Institution’s Mind the Gap study. The study identified patterns contributing to economic and racial disparities of location — that is, critical disparities between the core cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the suburbs and exurbs. These patterns, the study suggested, limit the region’s future business competitiveness.

One pattern noted in the study was the economic disparity between more affluent suburban and depressed urban communities. Another was the growth of exurban communities. Equity-based transit would address both these concerns. 

First, equity-based transit would reduce the isolation of economically disadvantaged communities within the city by improving transit links between neighborhoods, making them more competitive for economic and job development. Second, equity-based transit reduces the expansion of development in exurban areas that place an undue cost burden on the region for additional infrastructure used to connect suburban and growing exurban communities.

Equity comes with thoughtful planning

Equity-based transit is not an afterthought to justify exurban transit projects. Those transit projects continue the expansion and separation of the suburbs and exurbs from the city and are planned for suburban economic development, not urban development. Equity does not come by building any train; it comes with intentional, thoughtful planning that considers reducing disparities front and center.

Racial and economic equity had little to do with the selection of the Southwest Light Rail alignment. Persistent disparities and real urban-transportation needs should have been at the center of the SWLRT conversation early in the development phase, but they were not. Van White station, touted as serving low-income households, is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Bryn Mawr, Kenwood, Lowry Hill, Harrison and Heritage Park. The closest residents to the station are from Lowry Hill, an affluent neighborhood, not Harrison, where the household income hovers around the poverty line.

The ridership for Van White, according to the Metropolitan Council, will be fewer than 400 single trips by 2030, fewer than 200 round trips 10 years after the line opens!  Combined ridership from Van White and Royalston, the other station sold to us as serving equity, will total fewer riders than just one of the many suburban stations. The Met Council describes the Royalston station as serving residential communities “located away from the station.” The development hoped for Van White has been classified as tier 3, least important for grants, because it isn’t shovel-ready. Ryan construction is busy with their other project by the Vikings’ stadium, so the highly problematic Bassett Creek River Valley must wait. From the beginning, the project’s equitability, economic, social and environmental impacts were truly given only minimal consideration under federal criteria.

Bush administration criteria

The Southwest Light Rail alignment, in fact, was developed under the “Cost Effectiveness Rating” criteria set forth by the George W. Bush administration. Foremost in those criteria was to provide time-saving one-seat rides to people living in suburbs and exurbs. Urban communities and environmental impacts were given equal weight in routing only after President Barack Obama took office and the alignment had already been selected.

As a result, SWLRT is suburban-centric as described above, avoids urban density and economically stressed communities. It will do what it was designed to do: promote suburban development and enter and exit the city quickly. It is not an equity train.

But shouldn’t we just cut our losses and be happy for any train? After all, it skirts a northside community, the feds will pay for half of it, and it will link to other lines. It’s the system, it is said, that really matters. But what system are SWLRT proponents really referring to? The transit system isn’t just trains, it consists of buses and trails within the city as well. How does the SWLRT alignment impact those systems? And, once completed, will it add a proportional benefit to its cost for both privileged suburban communities and persistently underserved urban communities? The answer is “No.”

It’s “No” because, like the Southwest Light Rail alignment, persistent disparities are not considered at the center of the current transit system as a whole. For example, Nicollet Avenue currently has only one bus serving that busy area and lacks connections east and west until a rider reaches Lake Street. Adding a very expensive fixed train line that maintains a pattern of exclusion and does not address pressing urban transportation needs does not benefit our region in changing this growing disparity. In the Brookings study, Mind the Gap, the patterns contributing to economic disparity of location will be entrenched by the SWLRT alignment, not alleviated. Development patterns that locate jobs and facilitate living out of the city will be benefited — contributing to, not reducing, economic opportunity gaps between suburban and urban communities. Ridership numbers also show relatively few urban residents will actually be connected to job opportunities.

Potential threat to bus services

Much more could be done with a smarter, equity-based use of 1.5 billion transit dollars. Also, as this train requires over $20 of million in operating costs, city bus services might be reduced as a cost savings — as occurred in Portland. Why pay for a bus in Bryn Mawr to downtown when there is a train six blocks away and down a flight of stairs? 

Southwest Light Rail will not be a “game changer” for historically underserved communities; it will be a “game win” for the same team that always wins.

Julie Sabo is a member of LRT Done Right, a grassroots community group advocating for thoughtful transit solutions to address local and regional transportation needs.  She is also a former senator in the Minnesota Legislature, where she served on the Transportation Committee. 


If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at

Comments (41)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/02/2014 - 08:53 am.

    If we weren’t living in this world…

    Things would be a lot different. As it is, the cities were depopulated and we’re trying to accommodate resulting sprawl and commuters. THAT’s not bad planning, it’s meeting a very real transportation demand. We already have an extensive bus system for inner city transport, and as far as I can tell there are plans in MPLS and St. Paul for new street car lines. Basically we’ve done exactly as Ms. Sabo suggests, we’ve built an extensive public bus system with some light rail and planned street cars in the urban areas, and we’re connecting that system to the suburbs.

    And by the way, who pays for all this? Don’t tell me you want county money (i.e. suburban tax revenue) just to you can build transit in your city, but not connect your city to the rest of the county.

    Look: just because you may not like the plan, that doesn’t mean there has been no planning, and it doesn’t the plan is bad.

    As for this Uptown route we keep hearing about… listen, you elected Bush AND Pawlenty (who was a notorious anti-“choo -choo” guy) twice. You spent decades demanding small government from both the Democrats and the Republicans, and you’ve been demanding tax cuts all along. Well that Uptown route would’ve cost a lot of money that the planners didn’t have. We finally have a surplus after years of budget crises and you people want the money back rather than invest it in public infrastructure…

    • Submitted by Jeffrey Klein on 04/02/2014 - 09:19 am.

      We’re not just connecting it to the suburbs; that’s *all it does*. Nobody’s arguing it should stop at the Minneapolis border; just that it shoud in some way serve Minneapolis.

      By prioritizing suburban use, we’re continuing the whole pattern that got us into this mess of sprawl. The trains will go to the suburbs and connect them, but they shouldn’t at the continued expense of the city.

      • Submitted by David Greene on 04/02/2014 - 11:40 am.

        It Does Serve Minneapolis

        Despite with Ms. Sabo says, the line does in fact serve Minneapolis. As far as I am aware, those who are saying it does not have never talked to community groups in North Minneapolis about the line nor have they been present at community events in North where people flat out state, “this will help me!”

        The West Lake station is one of the busiest on the line.

        The Royalston station serves people outside the station area precisely because it is a major transit transfer point for North Minneapolis riders TODAY. Ms. Sabo either through ignorance or willful deception is presenting one of the very strength of the Royalston station as a weakness.

        The Penn and Van White stations will catalyze development of Linden Yards and the impound lot. The neighborhoods there are crying out for high-density development.

        • Submitted by Judy Meath on 04/02/2014 - 03:18 pm.

          It doesn’t serve North

          No, it doesn’t serve North Mpls. The Met Council’s own projections show that the Van White station will see fewer than 400 boardings and alightings, or 200 actual round trip users, by the year 2030. The figure for Royalston is just over 400. This is low ridership. To serve North Mpls, the train needs to go INTO North Mpls, not just skim it.

          • Submitted by David Greene on 04/02/2014 - 09:47 pm.


            We do in fact have buses to get people to SWLRT.

            And we also have the Bassett Creek Valley Master plan, which is part of the city’s comprehensive plan and the area has had the necessary zoning changes put in place. In fact, there is still a very much open question for Northside residents about why their development plans were not considered during ridership projections as they appeared to meet all of the requirements to affect the modeling.

            That said it is not nor should it be all about ridership.

      • Submitted by john schmoe on 04/03/2014 - 03:24 pm.

        Mpls connections

        The point is mentioned elsewhere, but it is worth repeating. The proposed route has six Mpls stops: West Lake, 21st Street, Penn, Van White, Royalston, Target Field.

    • Submitted by Bob Quarrels on 04/02/2014 - 02:10 pm.

      Who is this “you” you speak of? It’s surely not those of us who voted in city precincts.

    • Submitted by Judy Meath on 04/02/2014 - 03:13 pm.

      Let the city dwellers ride the bus

      The plan is bad. As long as we’re spending more than a billion dollars, we ought to serve South Mpls on the way from western suburbs into downtown. This is not rocket science. “Inner city transport” is miserably overburdened on Hennepin. And Eden Prairie users of Southwest Transit buses love their buses into downtown Mpls and most say they won’t switch to the LRT if it gets built.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/02/2014 - 09:00 am.

    And, let’s be clear about the author..

    “LRT Done Right” is a Kenilworth neighborhood organization of very recent origin. Let’s not pretend this organization has been working on city-wide transport issues for years. The primary focus of this group is to relocate the freight rail to St. Louis Park, not regional or even urban transit issues.

    • Submitted by Xandra Coe on 04/02/2014 - 12:47 pm.

      And let’s be clear about something else, too…

      Some of the members of LRT Done have, in fact, been working on city-wide transportation issues for years. The primary focus of this group is to do LRT Right, just like the name says. We support light rail that serves the communities through which it runs. This line doesn’t do that.

      Which leads me to wonder, if you’re not going to bother to read the article, why are you commenting?

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/02/2014 - 03:29 pm.

        Let’s be really really clear


        You can’t have both ways. You can’t claim these people have been involved in all this transit planning for years yet claim that someone else is responsible for all the bad transit planning. If you want to claim these people have been involved in the planning fine, but then they can’t complain that they haven’t been involved in the planning as Ms. Sabo is doing in this article. If you want to take credit for being involved, you have to take some credit for the outcome… I don’t Ms. Sabo taking credit for the outcome here do you?

      • Submitted by David Greene on 04/02/2014 - 09:49 pm.


        Xandra, please respect the hard work of many people outside of CIDNA/Kenwood and stop saying the LRT doesn’t serve Minneapolis residents because I have talked to many, many people on the Northside who can’t wait for this service to start.

        I am beginning to think the CIDNA/Kenwood residents making this argument have a very narrow view of what “Minneapolis” is.

  3. Submitted by Scott Stocking on 04/02/2014 - 11:36 am.

    Wrong about bus service on Nicollet north of Lake

    The number 2 bus provides crosstown service at Franklin Ave. The 17 travels down Nicollet to 24th St and then heads west to the suburbs. A simple look at a Metro Transit map would have confirmed that.

  4. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/02/2014 - 12:38 pm.

    Shorter version of this piece

    Don’t build the train in my fancy neighborhood. Build it by the poor people.

    • Submitted by Bob Quarrels on 04/02/2014 - 02:08 pm.

      The fancy neighborhood

      …has park trails many less fancy people use–even you hard-scrabble suburbanites–and does not need transit. Poor people do, and if they were as excited about Van White and Royalston as the earlier commenter claims, then why aren’t ridership projections higher?

      The main reason train tracks are worth the price is development. Where is the room in Linden Yards? The Penn Station will lie below a cliff hemmed in by I-394. Van White will encourage development simply by replacing the gravel yard and impound lot, if indeed the city moves them.

      Forgotten here is the Bottineau Line, which could have actually run through North Minneapolis and create development there. Instead it will run through Wirth Park, again helping no one in the city unless the deer seek all those educational opportunities in St. Louis Park and Eden Prairie.

      • Submitted by David Greene on 04/02/2014 - 09:52 pm.


        The ridership projections were not higher because the county did not include development plans drafted by the community and passed by the city.

        But again, it is not all about ridership. It is about equity.

        As for Bottineau, Northsiders were evenly divided about the alignment, so please don’t go around stating what is best for them. Respect what people have to say about their own communities and needs.

  5. Submitted by Richard Adair on 04/02/2014 - 01:37 pm.

    Why SW LRT helps North Mpls

    No rail transit system works without feeder routes. Is Ms Sabo not aware of plans for bus rapid transit on Penn that will connect transit-dependent citizens of North Mpls with suburban jobs via the Penn station?

    A basic transit principle is “buses for short hops, rail for long hops”.

    • Submitted by Kasia McMahon on 04/02/2014 - 02:36 pm.

      Better in principle than in reality

      So north Minneapolis riders are expected to take a bus to Penn Ave, transfer to Penn Ave bus rapid transit, then connect with SWLRT, get off somewhere in Hopkins and look forward to another bus or two? Its frustrating when people think its easy to transfer buses. Its not. Each connection can add 10 minutes or more of travel time. Direct, express buses are the most efficient.

      Also, suburbanites are not expected to make “short hops” to the station. They have Park ‘n Rides and are whisked into downtown.

      • Submitted by Keith Morris on 04/02/2014 - 06:54 pm.

        Hit the nail on the head.

        And just factor in how much worse it is if you miss a bus or a bus is late, especially during a winter like the one we had (hell, just imagine doing this mutli-transfer ride from North to the burbs in the 6-12 inches of snow we’re supposed to get tomorrow).And once these city residents get to the SW burbs’ stations where are the burbs paying for rent-a-car service for the myriad of jobs outside of walking distance of these stations? Are SW suburbanites going to coordinate a carpool with city residents to the part of the suburb they need to reach?

        To illustrate just how ludicrous the SWLRT is consider this; If ultra low-density suburbs like Eden Prairie are just good enough for LRT, then somewhat dense neighborhoods in the cities require subways, so where’s our subway?

      • Submitted by David Greene on 04/02/2014 - 09:56 pm.


        I don’t think many people will be taking buses to Penn and Van White. They will mostly walk or bike there.

        Minneapolis objected to park & rides in the city. I think that was the correct decision but let’s be clear about the reality of what was on the table. Minneapolis can’t complain that suburbs have park & rides and the city doesn’t.

        Currently there is no reasonable way to take transit from the Northside out to a job in the southwest suburbs. That makes SWLRT infinitely better than what’s currently available, even with transfers.

        People transfer all the time. I will walk to a bus and transfer from that bus to the Green Line to get to work. It bothers me not a bit.

  6. Submitted by Kasia McMahon on 04/02/2014 - 02:28 pm.

    Heads in the sand

    Addressing the problem of economic disparity is not easy, especially when people are extremely unwilling to have a real conversation about it (attacking the author. etc). Ms. Sabo’s commentary is bringing up real concerns about a project that is being sold to the public as a solution to economic disparity. The narrative is certainly more comforting than the truth, which is that this project is a one-seat-ride downtown for suburban riders. Will access to more low wage jobs for an estimated 500 people (the estimated ridership in north by 2030) really going to affect change for north Minneapolis?? Its a fairytale, and a harmful one. The truth is that the same people that supported the Vikings Stadium will now get a cozy ride to games.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/02/2014 - 03:24 pm.

      No, this peice completely misses the point….

      Until now I haven’t seen anyone claim this project was about economic disparity. Near as I can tell light rail lines are about transportation. This isn’t and never was an economic equity project, it’s always been a transportation project. What kind of economic “disparity” is addressed when you move the freight rail over to St. Louis Park and demolish 50+ homes and businesses? Want to talk about disparity? Let’s compare the household incomes in these Kenwood homes to those along the RR track in St.Louis Park.

      • Submitted by Jeffrey Klein on 04/02/2014 - 04:10 pm.

        “economic disparity”

        It wasn’t about economic disparity until the route was called out on as being a 1980s transportation fantasy that is all about connecting suburbanites to park-and-rides and not about building walkable transit-served neighborhoods. Since then – judging by the commentary, thankfully – views on the purpose of light rail transit have evolved but the SWLRT route has not. So we’re starting to see some pathetic justifications for the line regarding economic disparity, necessitating this commentary.

        • Submitted by David Greene on 04/03/2014 - 11:29 am.


          People had been advocating for the current SWLRT route as an equity booster long before recent activities, long before the alignment was decided upon and, frankly, long before most MinnPost readers bothered to pay attention.

  7. Submitted by Joan Vanhala on 04/02/2014 - 04:17 pm.

    Flawed argument and wrong Van White ridership numbers

    I am not sure where the writer is getting her information but she should dig a little deeper on her facts. Equity is central to the development at the SWLRT Van White Station. The Van White Station is located directly in the middle of the Bassett Creek Valley (BCV) Master Plan which was accepted into the city of Minneapolis comprehensive plan in 2007 along with the needed zoning changes.

    Ryan Companies currently has paid for development rights for Linden Yards West (western half of BCV) and has been working with the Harrison Neighborhood Association and Bryn Mawr neighborhoods for at least 10 years waiting for the market to recover and waiting for the SWLRT Kenilworth alignment to come through. Harrison is a near north Minneapolis with a majority of low income and people of color. The SWLRT Van White station is critical for the implementation of this catalytic transit oriented development for North Minneapolis and other future N MPLS transit investments.

    The SWLRT Draft Environmental Impact Statement includes the Southwest Transitway Alternative Analysis Technical Memorandum #6 Travel Demand forecasting,
    The Van White Station is predicted to have an average weekday boarding of 600 riders by 2030. This ridership estimate is inadequate because it does not include the Bassett Creek Valley Master Plan. The SW project office should increase the 600 daily boardings to include the projected ridership from the City of Minneapolis comprehensive plan adopted 10/2/09 which includes Bassett Creek Valley Master Plan.

  8. Submitted by Bill Dooley on 04/02/2014 - 08:44 pm.

    SWLRT and Low-Income North Minneapolis Residents

    My personal preference is for a combination SWLRT-Bottineau line that would run down Olson Memorial Highway and turn South or North after clearing Minneapolis. This would adequately serve the residents of North Minneapolis and allow transit of Southwest suburban residents and Northwest suburban residents into downtown Minneapolis without going through the Kenilworth Corridor. Regardless of if or when SWLRT or Bottineau is built (looks like 2021 at the earliest) if gentrification patterns from other U.S. cities are replicated in North Minneapolis, there will be significantly fewer low-income residents near either LRT lines and significantly fewer low-income residents in North Minneapolis as a whole. In order for LRTs to succeed as equity projects in urban areas, you need low-income riders around to ride those trains. To keep low-income residents in North Minneapolis or at least close enough to take advantage of light rail, you will need a city commitment to affordable housing, rent control, and outreach and education efforts that will qualify more renters in North Minneapolis to become home owners.

    Bill Dooley
    Minneapolis (not Kenwood)

  9. Submitted by Sarai on 04/03/2014 - 07:40 am.


    Why would the mayor of Minneapolis who one can argue is the ‘equity mayor’ with a long history of promoting affordable housing and transit and a focus on good schools reject this line. And why are other public officials and the media promoting the notion that SWLRT is the ‘equity train’. Does anyone see irony in this? Are we being asked to sacrifice ourselves in Minneapolis for a suburbancentric focus on transit that benefits the wealthy suburbs and ensures that white privilege continues to serve mostly white suburbs and wealthier parts of Minneapolis, while being at least a half mile from near north homes?

    • Submitted by David Greene on 04/03/2014 - 11:32 am.

      Not White Suburbs

      Please look at the studies for this line. The station areas in the suburbs are hardly white-only. The Eden Prairie Town Center and Southwest station areas have a higher concentration of people of color than any of the stations in Minneapolis.

      Demographics are shifting rapidly. We need to get out of our 1980’s mindset. The suburbs are not the enemy.

      The equity of SWLRT is not limited to Minneapolis. It will bring equity to the whole corridor.

  10. Submitted by Sarai on 04/03/2014 - 07:46 am.

    The press would have you believe that Minneapolis is at fault for the failures of the SWLRT. But Betsy Hodges is my hero today when she stood up to the CMC and was only one of two votes to not recommend the alignment. She has spent her life fighting for justice and equity in affordable housing and transit, and despite the searing pressure at city hall, I hope the council follow her lead. The Met Council and CMC call this the equity train, but this line is not at all about equity. It’s about the wealthy SW suburbs trying to cram this project down our throats because they can’t wait to get their hands on $1.6-1.8 billion. It’s about a lack of fore planning on the part of Hennepin County and the Met Council. Does anyone see the irony of the southwest suburbs, which are some of the area’s richest, trying to tell the poorest and most diverse city of all on the line, that they are not getting on board this train, that they are blocking this equity train from coming to the city. This train
    is not about equity. The line serves the largely rich suburbs until it gets to the last Royalston and Van White stations. At that point, the nearest homes are 1/2 mile away and more, and the 2030 estimates of ridership are less than 450 riders per day ( the Met Council estimates). Once Bassett Creek development is built at market rates, the poor will be shoved farther north until this line exclusively caters to the HAVES who always win. This is not the equity train!

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/03/2014 - 11:46 am.

      Well sure but…

      There’s such thing as a equity train. This is a light rail project, one that will benefit MPLS more than any other city along the route. LRT doesn’t move equity, it’s moves passengers.

    • Submitted by john schmoe on 04/03/2014 - 02:05 pm.

      Come on

      Oh please, Sarai, you could just as easily say this is about wealthy SW Mpls residents who don’t want to be inconvenienced by this project. Or, you know, how it’s easier to fight for social justice when you live in leafy Linden Hills. The class talk goes both ways, but doesn’t really help solve the issue at hand. The City needs to clearly explain itself or it sets itself up for ridicule. The argument from the city, as I hear it, is “there was an agreement, but it’s not a legally enforceable agreement, and we can’t really find any documentation about the agreement, therefore St. Louis Park should do what we want.” I get it. Mpls is the big kid at the table. They should be able to make the rules. And thus far they have been out negotiated. That stinks. But are we really willing to lose this project because of bruised egos at City Hall? Republicans shut down the federal government because they didn’t get what they wanted with Obamacare. What is the end game for Betsy and the City Council as they have their Tea Party moment?

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/03/2014 - 10:32 am.


    These light rail lines are a huge asset to MPLS which has become the defacto transit hub for the region. They will have 3 times as much light rail traffic as any other city in the state, and all their costs are being shared by suburban and statewide taxpayers. Equity? You gotta be kidding.

    MPLS is “losing” nothing, we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep that corridor intact more or less the way it is today… that’s NOT a loss.

    I remind everyone, this corridor is NOT private land, and it’s not owned by the city, although they seem to think they have a right to treat like private land and/or city parkland.

    And I remind everyone that no resistance emerged from these affluent residents, (some of whom have the only private access to these city lakes in the whole system, and some of whom aren’t even in these homes for six months and a day during any given year.) until they discovered that they’re plan to move the freight out of their neighborhood was falling through last summer. THEN it’s all became about transit planning and “equity”.

    Equity? What’s really happening here is a loss of inequity and privilege that heretofore has been the assumed right of some affluent and influential DLRers. The sacrifice of citywide best interests in favor of these small number of residents can be described as many things… “equity” is not one of them.

    • Submitted by David Greene on 04/03/2014 - 11:36 am.


      Paul, I think you’re conflating two things. When people talk about SWLRT bringing “equity” they are talking about benefits to low-income families, immigrants and communities of color. The folks in opposition to colocation don’t have equity at the top of their priority list. And that’s fine, we all have different priorities. I’m just trying to clear things up.

      I completely agree that Minneapolis has the *most* to gain from this line. Everything else aside, it cements Minneapolis as the economic center of the state. Peter McLaughlin was right to call out Mayor Hodges on her bizarre statement.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/04/2014 - 11:03 am.


        David, I take your point but I wouldn’t assume that everyone is talking about the same “equity”. Hodges et al are literally portraying MPLS as some kind of sacrificial lamb here. I see you talking about the over-all equity issues, I see them complaining that about quality of life issues on behalf of a a small number of affluent residents.

        • Submitted by David Greene on 04/04/2014 - 09:52 pm.

          That’s the Sad Part

          You’ve hit upon the sad part of this whole thing. Hodges and all of the new city council members ran and won on a platform of racial and economic equity. Hodges’ public position so far seems to run completely counter to what got her into office.

  12. Submitted by Doug Trumm on 04/03/2014 - 12:20 pm.

    Quit blaming it all on Kenwood residents

    As amusing as it is to make fun of rich people, there’s a lot more to the story than just some whiny rich folks with DFL connections living along the corridor. Many Minneapolis residents oppose the alignment because its poor design. 3C served many times more Minneapolis residents and it turns out seems to have cost about the same (especially tacking on the $200 million plus Midtown LRT they are promising to appease Minneapolis and relieve Uptown congestion.

    We city dwellers don’t want to spend hundred of millions of dollars on a tunnel in the woods. We want a better alignment, or to at least spend that money in a more sensible way. And if we are building a tunnel, putting one underneath the Nicollet Mall or Hennepin Avenue seems a more prudent choice where it will offer more improvement that aesthetics (faster transit times). Met Council never considered these options seriously because everything is already so skewed toward suburban infrastructure.

    It’s in the best interest of Minneapolis as a whole to build a urban light rail line rather than a suburban commuter line. West Lake will be the successful station in Minneapolis because the other 3 are too remote and in too low density. The #6 and the #19 are very busy bus routes in corridors that would be vastly improved by light rail. The Met Council ridership projections looked very suspect indeed when they did not project much higher ridership under a 3C alignment than the current mess.

    Oh and don’t come up here with the weak subsidy talk, when the 90% of the cost of building the freeways was subsidized through federal tax dollars. And today, the gas tax covers only 50% of highway infrastructure, the other half is subsidized by everyone whether they drive a car or not.

    And equity! Let talk about the equity issue of the whole transportation system running on petroleum which won’t be there for our grandchildren, although they will inherit an atmosphere choked by all the remnants of those burnt fossil fuels and with the old global thermostat cranked up a few notches so it’ll be touch and go to see if the planet can support agriculture or, I don’t know, life. Plus they will inherit our legacy of endless sea of suburbs flowing out into the countryside and they will have develop superhuman long distance running skills to get anywhere. But yeah let’s build some park and rides in the suburbs and hope that’s enough.

    Doug Trumm
    Saint Paul (not Kenwood)

    • Submitted by john schmoe on 04/03/2014 - 01:41 pm.


      Nicollet and Hennepin have been raised, studied and rejected multiple times over the years (Nicollet Mall rejected by no less than the City of Minneapolis). Same with Lyndale, if that was going to be your next suggestion. Stop with this “tunnel in the woods” business. It’s unfortunate, since I live here, but Minneapolis itself is nothing but a tunnel in the woods. Let’s keep our eye on the ball, please.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/04/2014 - 09:21 am.

      Anti suburbs

      I see a few people here kind of sliding into anti-suburb rants. Let’s remember that one of the advantages of LR lines is that they contain rather than promote sprawl by concentrating development and directing it. And let’s remember that unless you think you can cram 3 million into downtown MPLS housing your gonna need suburbs. And finally, let’s remember that these LR trains run in both directions.

  13. Submitted by Jefferson Martin on 04/03/2014 - 04:22 pm.

    Troubling Questions

    The article raises troubling questions regarding SWLRT, as currently planned, as a means for reducing disparities. Its priority is to provide timesaving one-seat rides to people living in exurbs and suburbs. As the author reminds us, this priority was built into the Bush-era “Cost-Effectiveness Rating” criteria that were used when the Kenilworth alignment was chosen. The Obama administration saw the need to change the criteria and was changed going forward.

    The Bush era criteria can be seen in the ridership projections of the chosen alignment, which shows 80% exurban and suburban usage – 40% for Eden and Minnetonka, 40% for Hopkins and St. Louis Park. The median household income of Eden Prairie is $116,000 according to Money Magazine 9/12. The median household income of Minnetonka is $110,000 according to Money Magazine 8/10. Typically, Republican policies are not about equity and have not resulted in equity.

  14. Submitted by Josephine Vaughn on 06/30/2014 - 09:23 pm.


    I agree with Julie Sabo 100%. I moved to Minnesota from Chicago in 1976 and lived in Burnsville right off of Highway 13. The public transportation system was almost non-existent and if you “lived across the river: it was worse. You had two buses into the city and two buses out of the city a day, that was it!. I could not understand how a city with an international airport could have such a bad transportation system. I felt it was an embarrassment for the Twin Cities to have people coming from all over the world for our cutting edge medical facilities, schools and arts organizations.

    It took 10 years of planning to get the first LRT line built. Public transportation is called “public” because it is supposed to help everyone – including seniors, disabled, low or middle income persons. I have worked in social service agencies in Minneapolis and the biggest impediment to getting a job for the referenced economic groups was transportation. People would have to take two or three buses for a total of 1.5 hours one way to get a hotel job at minimum wage. And the buses did not run late at night.

    Well, times have changed. We have LRT in the city where many of the referenced economic groups live. Businesses have started up all along the Blue Line, hundreds of apartments have been built and people can get to jobs without having to spend three hours each day getting to and from.

    And now the Green Line is open to St. Paul where many of the same economic groups reside.

    Spending $1.5 billion to build an LRT line to Eden Prairie and/or surrounding suburbs is not economically sound. People in the suburbs already have their first rate schools, beautiful grocery stores, malls, health clinics and hospitals so there is no need for them to travel. Therefore their dollars spent will not contribute economically to the City of Minneapolis. They can also drive to an LRT park and ride lot, park for free and take the LRT from there.

  15. Submitted by David Greene on 04/02/2014 - 11:44 am.

    Spot On

    Ryan correctly pinpoints where our city bus system is in serious need of upgrades. And those upgrades are being planned. Those upgrades, designed correctly, will integrate with SWLRT and open opportunity to thousands of families who have no current reasonable transit access to jobs and education in the southwest suburbs.

    It is the wealth of bus activity in Uptown and South Minneapolis in general that contributes to an Uptown alignment for SWLRT being both costly and wasteful. We would be bringing an LRT though an area already well-served by buses, duplicating service we already have. This was studied extensively during the Alternatives Analysis phase and the documents are there for anyone to peruse.

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