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Superhighways and light rail: antagonists or evil twins?

Courtesy of Metro Transit/Eric Wheeler
Don’t light rail lines divide urban neighborhoods much as superhighways do?

We are all familiar with how the introduction of superhighways to cities divided and damaged urban neighborhoods.  The impact of I-94 and 35W on Rondo and Phillips remains a source of aching melancholy over a half century after the fact. Much like the oral histories of tribal elders describing the days before the white settler came with his railroad, our historical societies feature oral histories from neighborhood elders about the days before the suburbanite came with his superhighway. Contemporary urban planners nod, knowingly.

Jonathan F. Mack

But wait a minute, don’t light rail lines divide urban neighborhoods much as superhighways do? 

Is the modern urban planner, gasp, Robert Moses with rails?

The first decade of returns from our Blue Line to the airport is not promising. This line deepened the Hiawatha moat and exacerbated the isolation of the neighborhoods east of it. Motorists and pedestrians alike have become painfully familiar with the “Hiawatha Double Whammy,” which is not a special at DQ but rather the experience of waiting at length for the light governing traffic to turn green only to be zapped immediately by the light governing the rail line. Crossing Hiawatha is now a greater chore, so people stay on their own sides. Those neighborhood elders back in Rondo and Phillips are the ones nodding knowingly.

Some, but not a lot, of development

A trip up Hiawatha does not reveal a great deal of commercial or residential development resulting from the Blue Line. There was a short-lived light rail bar-hopping fad that bolstered a few grog shops near stops in the early days of the line, but that has faded, and we all know from our experience with subsidized stadiums the limits of policies grounded in bars as dynamic economic engines.

The years since the introduction of the Blue Line have witnessed an interesting influx of hippies into some of the neighborhoods east of Hiawatha. Ironically, these people have been attracted by the very traits the line was intended to reverse: isolation and lack of commercial development. Wandering southeast of Hiawatha, you might find a shop where you can buy organic feed for urban goats, but no sufficient grocery stores for people.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like hippies (and I do appreciate that which both accentuates the taste of pizza and makes Dylan lyrics more decipherable). They add to the urban mosaic.  They are, however, the outlier pioneers we depend on to stabilize obscure redoubts that are not benefiting from the supposed powerful economic charge leveled by a billion-dollar light rail line. Light rail was not intended to promote a farm.

Along the new Green Line on University Avenue, there will be, no doubt, some additional condo and other developments, but those gains often will be offset by losses due to the dividing effect of the line. For example, when construction began, I asked the owners of the landmark Porky’s burger joint why they were closing at the onset of a would be revitalization. They said that a significant portion of their business came from traffic on the other side of the street, and with the Green Line making it much more difficult to cross University, their business was and would continue to suffer. Revisiting the issue upon the completion of the line, they mused that Porky’s (and its onion rings) would still be with us were it not for the light rail.

What will Southwest Light Rail bring?

And so what awaits us with the line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, rolling renaissance or divide and sequester? I fear the latter. There will be efforts to alleviate the dividing effect – the subject of feathers-a-flyin’ in so many overlapping governmental bodies along the line this season — but numerous pinch points and slow crossings will persist.  Commerce on either side of the tracks will suffer. In South Minneapolis, the flame was doused for many customary light rail torch bearers once they discovered that theirs was the neighborhood to be divided. Even Mayor Hodges piped up with reservations: enter that one along side Death by Chocolate in the “This Is Rich” file.

The light rail disciples, so imbued with apostolic certainty, might want to look back on the once accepted creeds of their forebears. After all, it was not right-wing ogres but progressive enlightened urban planners who so assuredly razed the central St. Paul retail blocks and the Minneapolis Gateway District. They promoted high-rise public housing that would ennoble its occupants and business districts with skyscrapers separated by vacant windswept plazas to “bring light and air” to the city — retail and pedestrian life be damned. All of this has been consigned to the ash heap of urban planning.

So why are the heirs to the urban planners of yore so confident that current insular conventions within the transit hothouses will age more gracefully than the ephemeral tenets of their intellectual predecessors? I may not know better than the transit zealots myself, but I am not the one prepared to squander billions on what I don’t  know.

Jonathan F. Mack is a Minneapolis attorney who writes frequently on urban and regional planning issues. 

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Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by Sam Bergman on 10/23/2014 - 08:28 am.

    “Wandering southeast of Hiawatha, you might find a shop where you can buy organic feed for urban goats, but no sufficient grocery stores for people.”

    What nonsense is this? Cub, Rainbow, and Target all have outposts with full grocery service east of Hiawatha and its dreaded rail line. If you prefer the “hippie” grocery, there’s the booming Seward Coop, and if you long for the days of impeccably dressed old-school grocers offering personal service and a full array of products, there’s the new, independently owned Longfellow Market. I’ve lived east of the Blue Line for seven years, and the number of times that I’ve had to wait an unreasonable amount of time to cross Hiawatha at 26th St is probably in the high single digits. Seems like a decent trade-off for living in a city that has finally, after decades of pretending that it’s just a really big small town, started to make a few nominal moves towards building the amenities, like mass transit systems, that real cities afford to their residents.

  2. Submitted by William Lindeke on 10/23/2014 - 08:39 am.

    Hm, still only seeing the problem from the windshield

    Even though you give a few nods to pedestrians in your piece, I think you’re not really being honest about what it was like to walk or bike or have a business on University or Hiawatha before the two light rails went in. In my experience, it was horrible to walk around and few people did so.

    The LRT lines certainly haven’t improved people’s ability to drive quickly through either area, but that was always a counterproductive situation for those who actually live in the affected neighborhoods. (High speed car traffic does not equal a thriving local economy or good quality of life, as is clearly seen from the dilapidated state of both of these corridors pre-LRT.)

    Instead I’d argue that, in both cases, the light rail has improved the pedestrian experience, albeit marginally. The proof is in the people. Go to Hiawatha or University, pick a corner, and watch all the people on foot crossing the street and walking around. I’ve spent hours these last few months watching all the people walking around University and Dale, which used to be a car-dominated pedestrian wasteland.

    I don’t want to defend the SWLRT project, but the Green Line is already a big success for the neighborhood. Anyone who gets out of their car and actually walks around Saint Paul can see that right away.

  3. Submitted by Richard Molby on 10/23/2014 - 09:23 am.

    Development

    I would like everyone who trots out the “lack of expected development” along the Blue Line argument to show, on a map, where this expected development was supposed to go. When I venture through the Hiawatha Corridor I see several instances of new housing, new and upgraded retail, and a bustling local economy. What I don’t see are undeveloped tracts of open space with “build here!” signs.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/23/2014 - 09:39 am.

    Comparing rail lines to freeways is nuts

    Minor imperfections in the Green line and major issues with the SWLRT aside, it’s absurd to compare these rail lines with the freeways that preceded them. Those freeways dug trenches a quarter mile wide, and literally ripped out homes and businesses in a half-mile wide swath. With them, they brought car-based development and low density, which further destroyed the fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods.

    The rail lines are all of fifty feet wide, and enhance walkability, which strengthens neighborhoods. The Green Line is literally on original street car right of way. Hardly anything was torn down to make room for them.

  5. Submitted by Dana DeMaster on 10/23/2014 - 09:45 am.

    Hiawatha was Walkable Before?

    Second what Bill said.

    Hiawatha wasn’t walkable before LRT. It is not the LRT that makes the pedestrian experience unpleasant, it is eight lanes of automobile traffic traveling at 50+ miles per hour. The LRT didn’t change that.

    Porky’s, really? Their main source of business was cruisers. Yep, the cruisers have gone away since LRT. Overall, though, business is up. While some businesses closed, more have opened and many are seeing increased sales. The number of cranes and new construction is stunning. See CNN: http://money.cnn.com/interactive/technology/minneapolis-light-rail/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

    I bike or walk on University almost daily and, other than losing the de facto bike lane made by the extra wide outer lane that is now gone, the experience has improved greatly since LRT. Landscaping, rain gardens, narrower car lanes, and better lighting have all made it a better experience. The train is nearly full every time I am on it (even at 6:45 a.m.). Snelling and University is almost crowded by the number of pedestrians. It’s early, but all signs point to success.

  6. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 10/23/2014 - 09:56 am.

    Umm, What??

    Nothing in this post appears to be grounded in reality.

    Freeways cut through the hearts of neighborhoods, ripping out entire blocks of houses, replacing thru streets with dead-ends, concentrating local traffic on mini-freeway collector streets, and creating almost uncrossable trenches. They pushed down (and continue to push down) property values, and drove away (almost literally) local development. They killed all nearby pedestrian traffic.

    Rail lines do none of these things. And to claim that anything like that has happened on the Hiawatha corridor is completely delusional.

    Much, if not all, of the damage there was done when the corridor was prepped for a freeway which was never built. But it’s easy to forget that the corridor also contains the remnants of a freight rail line which made the separation worse. Adding light rail actually restored some of the sanity, utilizing right-of-way which was fallow, and drawing local residents toward it on foot. To say that it has added to the isolation of any portion of south Minneapolis is wholly inaccurate. And I’m not sure just who would say they are choosing to live in south Minneapolis for its “isolation and lack of commercial development.” That is completely laughable.

    At any time of the day you can observe actual pedestrians getting on and off trains and heading on foot toward their homes or other destinations. I would argue that new technology has actually even made the corridor more sane for automobile traffic by timing the lights more coherently. (I live in the Powderhorn neighborhood, drive the corridor regularly, and also cross the Blue Line on foot regularly. I even ride the train now and then, and keep a Go Card charged for the occasional bus trip.)

    To say that there is little development along the Hiawatha corridor is also delusional. It may not be happening as fast as some imagined, but it is happening. Such things must be measured across decades and not months or years because they move largely with economic conditions. There are no less than two new stadiums along the Blue Line, and a third near the St. Paul end of the Green Line. These projects, the merits of which can certainly be debated, have without question brought extensive ancillary development, much of it housing. Several brand new large housing developments are visible from the Target Field Station (itself a significant new amenity directly resulting from rail transit), numerous others are in various stages of planning, and the former Metrodome station is awash in the construction of commercial and housing which was attracted, at least in part, by the presence of rail transit.

    Outside of downtown, housing has been developed or upgraded significantly along Hiawatha south. A new development at Lake Street (which literally overlooks the LRT platform) is just the latest example — for anyone willing to see such things. It adds to those either planned, in progress or already complete at 38th Street and 42nd Street and 46th Street and south of 50th Street and . . . should I go on? Should we even consider the benefits to the VA hospital? The airport? Bloomington? The Mall of America? Apple Valley and Eagan?

    Property values along the two LRT lines are up measurably, and likely to continue rising relative to properties farther from the tracks. This is no surprise. Passenger trains (aka streetcars or trolleys) have been raising nearby property values for more than a century.

    The tale of Porky’s is certainly a sentimental one, but that particular business last thrived when University Avenue was a place for cruising on a Saturday night (over half a century ago). Once those days were gone, it essentially disappeared, only to reappear when there was a market for the nostalgia it could provide.

    While there are problems with the design of the Green Line, to suggest that its merit should be judged based on the disappearance of one already-dying business is complete folly (as is judging the Blue Line based on its bar-hopping capacity). Travel the University Avenue corridor today and you see new life sprouting up everywhere, including places which had been empty for decades. The possibilities for the corridor, if properly handled by the city of St. Paul, are off the charts. And crossing University Avenue as a pedestrian is not that different from what it was before the train appeared, given the fact that it was essentially a mini-freeway already. Mid-block crossings, which were always dangerous, are now impossible. This is a good thing.

    One issue with the Green Line may be gentrification — the addition of too much value, such that those of lesser income are priced out of the neighborhood. If true, this would seem to be the exact opposite of the problems created by freeways.

    This post is premised on alleged similarities between two modes of transportation which could not be more dissimilar. Freeways cut and divide neighborhoods, pushing away anyone not in a car. Trains can be observed to actually knit neighborhoods back together again by inviting people out of their cars, and drawing them to live closer to the corridor.

    So, every aspect of this post rings false to me, and filled with an unspoken agenda. And I say that as someone who believes that we need many different types of transportation, and believes that it is possible for them to peacefully coexist.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/23/2014 - 12:13 pm.

      Develpoment

      I read an article the other week stating that there are about $2.5 billion (with a B) worth of development within a half mile of the Green line. Granted, some of that development may have taken place anyway with our without the light rail line, but there’s no doubt that the line has helped spur new construction and attracts new residents.

      Another study I read last year says that housing within a quarter mile of a rail line gets a bump in property value. The houses are higher priced because of the amenity, don’t drop as far as other nearby houses when there’s a recession, and rebound faster as the recession eases.

  7. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 10/23/2014 - 10:17 am.

    Crossing Hiawatha

    Getting through the intersections on Hiawatha Av. is a pain, but it was before the light rail too. The street was highway-lite, lines with commercial buildings, many abandoned. Redevelopment was delayed by the Great Recession, but even if short of a boom, redevelopment has been substantial, and I credit the Hiawatha Line. It’s been an economic magnet.

  8. Submitted by Sam Newberg on 10/23/2014 - 11:22 am.

    I’ve written extensively about the shortcomings of the pedestrian environment near the stations of the Blue and Green lines. However, I’ve never claimed that light rail makes these corridors more of a barrier. Despite good intentions, the reason these corridors still come up short from the pedestrian perspective is that they remain car-dominated.

    As a neighborhood activist who lives along the Blue Line, I’ve advocated for improved pedestrian crossings of Hiawatha. The problem isn’t the light rail but rather Hiawatha itself, and the reason pedestrian improvements built this year are less than stellar is because Hiawatha is the big barrier.

    Bill and other commenters here correctly point out that Mr. Mack’s perspective is from behind the windshield. From that perspective, Mr. Mack is indeed correct. Yes, it is harder to drive in the city, but the 20th Century experiment of moving vehicles faster through our cities has long since proven futile without destroying the very essence of what defines a city.

    There is a lot of work to do to make the areas along light rail more livable and less of a barrier, but moving traffic faster is NOT one of the solutions. I’ll take imperfect light rail over faster traffic any day.

  9. Submitted by Sam Newberg on 10/23/2014 - 11:28 am.

    Grog Shops?

    And please don’t dismissively call the fine drinking establishments along the Blue Line “grog shops.” Not only am I pretty sure light rail pub crawls still exist, the Northbound Brewpub takes its name in part from being located near the Blue Line. I’ll stand by the Cardinal as having the best burgers in town, and they only added a couple windows AFTER light rail was built because there was finally something to look at instead of an ugly highway.

  10. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/23/2014 - 12:23 pm.

    Transportation

    The author seems to be making the point that light rail is expensive, doesn’t help society, and generally blows chunks all over your fresh pressed shirt.

    I have to ask though: what is the alternative?

    If we don’t build light rail, then what do we put in its place? More freeways? What is the cost of that option? How much will it run to acquire the property, tear down houses and businesses, reroute feeder roads, and widen bridges so we can have even a single additional lane in each direction on I94?

    I have a feeling that will be a lot more than a billion dollars.

    And for what? So people can drive a little faster in rush hour till the road is at capacity again. Then we’ll wring our hands, decide we need to add two more lanes, and repeat the process all over again. In the meantime the freeway that’s under capacity at 5 PM is over capacity at 9 PM. And nearby property values plummet, pedestrians have an even harder time crossing, and we encourage people to drove more (and pollute more) rather than less.

    Is this supposed to be better than a train?

    Personally, I say let’s build more rail lines and at least give people the option. If you want to drive, then do so. But for the rest of the people who choose not to drive, CAN’T drive, or can’t afford to drive, then they have some options to choose from. Don’t force everyone else to adopt your option though; let them choose for themselves.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/23/2014 - 02:12 pm.

      “What is the alternative?”

      He has none. The whole piece is just sarcasm levied with condescension, masquerading as commentary. There is nothing that even approaches a policy proposal.

  11. Submitted by Todd Piltingsrud on 10/23/2014 - 12:35 pm.

    Forgive me…

    …but you sound like just another upper middle class angry white male with a fancy car, and the narrow perspective that seems to come standard with it.

    Did you talk to anyone who lives in the Hiawatha area or rides the Blue line about their experience before writing this? Did you ask any “elders back in Rondo and Phillips” what they actually thought of the Green line? Could you define the term “hippie” for me, and why this demographic is linked with pizza, Bob Dylan and farms in your mind? Your article seems like it’s trying to make up for a lack of first-hand knowledge with an excess of glib sarcasm.

    Perhaps if you got to know the city by bus/train you’d develop a better appreciation of what transit does for the people who live here.

  12. Submitted by Rachel Weisman on 10/23/2014 - 03:05 pm.

    Stand on any pedestrian bridge

    Highways and Rail are equal dividers? Really? Stand on any pedestrian bridge over any highway and take a look at what a divide really is. Two (or three) lanes, each direction, median strips, buffer strips, frontage roads. In addition, there is no break in highway traffic to allow pedestrians (or bikes) cross, hence the bridge.

  13. Submitted by jason myron on 10/23/2014 - 03:45 pm.

    I’ve read some clueless columns in my life

    and this one is up there with the best of them. As Todd so accurately pointed out, the authors expertise on Hiawatha and surrounding neighborhoods seems to consist entirely of his experience driving through it looking for a shortcut to the airport.

    As others have suggested, if he’s looking for a replacement for Porky’s, he should actually stop in at the Cardinal and have a real hamburger and onion rings…and regarding Porky’s, lets set the record straight. Light rail had absolutely nothing to do with their demise. Their downfall was letting the place become a dump with atrocious food. If their followers had bothered to show up more often than 50’s weekend at the State Fair grounds, they would have figured out long ago that their mythical onion rings have been put to shame by numerous other institutions in the cities.

    My only problem with light rail is that it hasn’t expanded fast enough or further north. I’m looking forward to light rail coming up into the northern suburbs at some point. It should be running straight up Central or 35 to Wyoming.

    Time to stop the incessant whining about mass transit from people who would never utilize it in the first place.

  14. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/23/2014 - 04:23 pm.

    Writers

    Tough crowd today! Jonathan F. Mack, a Minneapolis attorney who writes frequently on urban and regional planning issues, needs to step up his game if he wants to be more than some cranky guy shouting out from a blog. When you step into MinnPost, you’re talking to people who know their craft and don’t mind telling you your logic, reasoning, and writing has more holes in it than a box of Cheerios.

    You’re talking to SMEs here (subject matter experts), people who have access to Google and the same information that you do, and who live in the very neighborhoods you’re writing about. You can’t cowboy an article with baseless proclamations. If you try, then you rightfully deserve to get your bags packed and your ticket stamped for the next train out of town. (Please excuse the pun.)

    A better approach for the author would have been to run some cost comparisons between rail and highway construction, development resulting from each, housing values, people moved per mile, and so on. But that would have required real research, which is harder than simply proclaiming “I like this” and “I hate that.”

  15. Submitted by jason myron on 10/23/2014 - 05:14 pm.

    Well, Todd…

    I probably would have just dismissed it if he hadn’t been so damn patronizing. Attempting to equate light rail with some long, dead 60’s counterculture ethos of “hippies, grog, urban goats and Dylan” just dripped the sort of condescension I would expect from someone sitting in their BMW, pissed off that they have to wait for a train to pass as they’re heading downtown to grab a drink at Seven.
    See how easy stereotypes can swing right back at you, Johnathan? I’ll at least give you points for not using the term “potheads.”

  16. Submitted by Evan Roberts on 10/23/2014 - 07:10 pm.

    Actually

    Crossing University Ave on foot is much easier than it used to be. The traffic volumes appear to be down, there are more mid-block marked crosswalks, and in places where you have a lengthy view of the tracks either way there is a huge great median of rail track that you can wait on momentarily in the middle of the street.

  17. Submitted by Richard Nelson on 10/23/2014 - 08:53 pm.

    “Hippies”? Really?

  18. Submitted by Doug Gray on 10/23/2014 - 08:54 pm.

    Cartman’s Law

    If the Blue Line hippie infestation is not dealt with, in a few months a music festival will break out…

  19. Submitted by Wayne Mueller on 10/24/2014 - 10:01 am.

    WTF MinnPost

    Why did MinnPost deem this–an article that sloppily characterizes all neighborhoods east of Hiawatha as a bunch of “hippies”, and falsely claims there are no grocery stores there (there are, probably even more than in the oh-so-connected neighborhoods immediately to the west of the Blue Line, for that matter)–worthy of publication?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/24/2014 - 12:31 pm.

      MinnPost

      In all fairness, this is an opinion piece, not an article. That’s why it’s in the Community Voices section.

      As to why they published it: clickbait. It’s a controversial position on a subject, which sucks people in to read it and comment on it. The tactic worked on the two of us.

      • Submitted by Chris Williams on 10/28/2014 - 04:42 pm.

        Clickbait

        Well, I’ll one up them on their clickbait by cancelling my recurring donation 🙂

        Seriously, between this and that fluff piece on “Why democrats can’t win” earlier this week I can’t take MinnPost seriously anymore. There’s nothing in depth anymore. Just Community Voices clickbait.

        My $5 a month prob doesn’t count for much. But I don’t feel like paying for this junk anymore.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/24/2014 - 11:03 am.

    What?

    Not to pile on but this article contains quite a few outright falsehoods.

    For one thing, picking in the Blue Line’s record of transit associated development is kind of hinky because the corridor has a dodgy history of development in the first place. In fact there has been a quite a bit of transit related development along corridor despite it’s funky industrial nature. I just drove down it the other day and it’s actually quite remarkable, there’s a lot of new housing on the other side of the sound wall to the West, and the East has be sprouting new housing complexes in the last three years as well.

    The Blue Line’s main problem is that it runs alongside Hwy 55, which is an urban disaster. Overcoming that four lane design fail is a real challenge for developers but the road, not the light rail that’s the problem. The road, not the light rail is also the biggest challenge for pedestrians along the corridor.

    The reference to Native American oral tradition is flat our inappropriate and completely mistaken. There are in fact several historical documents one can consult. One really nice one can be found here:

    http://hennepin.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Corridor-Cultural-Main-Report-Final.pdf

    There’s another before and after study to be found here:

    http://www.metrotransit.org/Data/Sites/1/media/lightrail/Hiawatha_Before_After_study.pdf

    What’s interesting about the Hiawatha Corridor is that in many way it refutes the authors claims entirely. While the four lane road and re-route have failed to deliver the faster and safer transit times from downtown to the airport, the light rail has far exceeded it’s projected usage and popularity. The road and the cars on it are the problem in the Hiawatha Corridor, not the Blue Line.

  21. Submitted by Erik Hare on 10/24/2014 - 02:13 pm.

    A Challenge

    The comments to this article seem to reflect the author’s charges of zealotry more than anything else. If anything, the “One Great Idea” is always the bane of good planning. Every built urban environment has its own life that goes far beyond the bricks and concrete that make it up.
    What the author presents here should be taken more as a challenge to those of us who care about our cities and improvements through urban planning. He is certainly right that LRT can, if implemented badly, become more of a barrier than an asset. Given that challenge, how can we improve it? How can we prevent it from being a barrier?
    Minnesota appears to finally be getting away from the “one size fits all” of LRT and evaluating Streetcars, among other technologies, as more appropriate in many communities. That’s a good start.
    But no one technology is going to save everyone, and there is never any substitute for solid, human centered design.
    For example, the implementation of LRT on University Ave left us with a substandard sidewalk only 10 feet wide and no parked cars to act as a barrier between traffic and pedestrians – and here in these comments it’s been repeated that this somehow qualifies as a “Pedestrian friendly environment”. That’s utterly ludicrous on the face of it. Should we blame LRT? In part, but the implementation of LRT along University is the real problem – it did not have to be done as it was.
    The author poses a challenge to implement any transportation system better. If you care about cities you will understand that he is at least partially right and has some important points to make. We can, and must, learn.
    The rest of the discussion is dogma and really has little place in the practical, hard work of renewing and improving the urban landscape.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/25/2014 - 10:34 am.

    Development and a couple more things…

    Getting back to the transit development along the blue line, (I return to this because it’s the second time in as many weeks that critics have complained about anemic development along the Blue Line here in Minnpost)- as a matter of fact actual development along the Blue Line has far exceeded projections. Planners reckon that it takes about five years for such development to gain steam. They projected that the line would promote at least 7,000 new housing units by 2020. However by 2005 5,400 new units had already been built and 7,000 more permit applications had been filed by 2008. The bubble burst probably slowed things down but the development has taken place and exceeded projections. I don’t know kind of development critics were expecting? And at any rate, if you really want to see development potential look at the Green Line.

    We can easily expect that development will continue along the Blue Line despite its challenges, and we have to recognize that the industrial nature of the Hiawatha portion is extremely problematic. Those existing structures are huge and very expensive to demolish and replace or convert.

    By the way Eric, as I’ve walked along University next to the light rail, I’ve found the ten foot wide sidewalks to be more than adequate and I don’t think we need parked cars to protect pedestrians from traffic. But you’re right, mistakes are always made and lessons can always be learned, but that’s a mundane observation that no one seems to be challenging here. Mr. Mack’s factual problems seem to be triggering reactions here, not the suggestion that we should do transit well.

    And I hate to say it, but the comparison of a LRT to a super highway is a bit off isn’t it? Aren’t super highways more like commuter rails or even passenger trains?

  23. Submitted by John Appelen on 10/25/2014 - 10:43 pm.

    Pros Cons

    It is interesting how people can see the current and new light rails as good and bad.

    Is the SW route going to help Minneapolis or encourage urban sprawl? Help neighborhoods or ruin neighborhoods?

    Is the Mpls to St Paul route going to raise property values so the low income folks will be displaced?

    This group seems to be focused on the green spots, instead discussing the pros and cons.

    I must say I do appreciate the segment of rail between the 2 airport terminals. That has made discount parking more convenient. However I do agree that the trains are pretty empty whenever I use them. Maybe the author has some valid points.

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