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Met Council secures final $145M for Southwest light rail — but the political cost may be much higher

Metropolitan Council
The actions taken this week are meant to show the Federal Transit Administration that there is money to fill out the state’s share of Southwest light rail costs.

Metro Transit can move into the final phases of planning for Southwest light rail, the 14.5 mile extension of the Green Line.

Thanks to votes Wednesday by the Counties Transit Improvement Board and the Met Council, and another by the Hennepin County Board the day before, the region now has legal commitments to pay half the cost of the $1.858 billion project. That will allow Metro Transit staff to submit an application to the Federal Transit Administration for final agreement on federal funding.

The actions taken this week are meant to show the FTA that there is money to fill out the state’s share of the costs. But in keeping with so much tied to the Southwest LRT project, it wasn’t easy. The recent moves became necessary after a transportation funding package failed in the politically divided state Legislature. The original hope — that the state would pick up 10 percent of the project budget, roughly the same share Minnesota paid for the existing Green and Blue lines — disappeared with the failure of Gov. Mark Dayton and fellow Democrats to reach a deal with House majority Republicans on a roads, bridges and mass transit.

“The governor said we’re down to two options,” Met Council Chair Adam Duininck said before the CTIB vote. “Either we’re doing the project or we’re not.”

A problematic message to lawmakers? 

The complex funding mechanism resulted from meetings convened by Dayton. Under the plan unveiled last week, the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority and CTIB will add $20.5 million to their existing share of the cost while the Met Council, which is overseeing the project, pledged to sell “certificates of participation” for the remainder of the $144.5 million gap. As a result, a funding plan that could once be explained with a simple pie chart containing four slices has become — first in response to cost increases that nearly killed the project last summer and now because of legislative gridlock — one with eight pieces.

Southwest LRT backers, led by Dayton, hope that the money raised this week isn’t necessary, that the next session of the Legislature will come up with the state’s 10 percent share. To that end, the certificates of participation won’t be sold until next July, with the additional money from Hennepin County and CTIB covering project costs until then. And the resolutions passed this week say the money will be repaid if the state provides other sources of money.

But that would likely require DFL candidates to win majorities in both the chambers of the Minnesota Legislature this November. GOP opposition to light rail has probably only stiffened with what some Republican lawmakers have called an end run around the Legislature and a breaking of a pledge not to move forward without legislative support.

The approval of CTIB was the most contentious of the recent votes. Made up of commissioners from five core metro counties — Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota and Washington — the CTIB board also represents a principle: that all will pay in and that all will, eventually, see service reach them. But without an increase in CTIB funding, either from the state or via a requested tripling of the quarter cent regional transit sales tax, few of the future projects — especially those serving suburban cities and East Metro — are likely to be built.

Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik, far left, said she was worried that if Southwest LRT fails now, the federal government will be leery of the state’s competence on transit projects.

Matt Look, an Anoka County commissioner and CTIB member, said the actions taken by the three entities send a message to lawmakers that the region can go it alone and doesn’t need state help. “That’s a problematic message, especially … when you’re talking about an increased sales tax,” Look said. “It’s going back to the Legislature and saying, ‘We somewhat disregarded you on this project but now we need a favor.’”

Look ultimately voted against the rescue package. But even several who voted yes did so with some fear that projects important to their counties might not get built.

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, for example, asked the other commissioners to do as much for the Blue Line extension to the northwest suburbs as they’ve done for Southwest LRT. Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega asked for a meeting soon to talk about how the region will build projects in East County on the Riverview Corridor and the Gold Line. And Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik said she holds out hope that taking the issue of SWLRT off the table for now might clear the way for a special session to pass bonding and transportation bills that include the next payment for planning the Gold Line, a bus rapid transit route, from St. Paul to Woodbury.

Weik also said she was worried that if Southwest LRT fails now, the federal government will be leery of the state’s competence on transit projects. “So this vote on Southwest doesn’t just impact Southwest,” she said. “It does impact all of the other transit projects in our region.”

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who is the CTIB chair, called the funding plan a bridge to keep the project moving and to secure the massive federal investment: $928.8 million.

McLaughlin, who is also involved in the Blue Line and Green Line projects, said Southwest LRT is similar to those in its complexity. “It’s like threading dozens of needles and you have to do it in order and the needles aren’t all lined up straight and they’re moving all over the place,” McLaughlin said. “And this is the needle we need to thread on Aug. 31, 2016.”

Voting yes were Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties. Voting no were Dakota and Anoka counties. CTIB rules require that at least three counties support any action.

‘Throwing dirt’ by this time next year

Met Council leadership had hoped to secure what is called the Full Funding Grant Agreement from the FTA before President Obama left office. That agreement isn’t expected now until mid-2017, a delay Metro Transit’s top light rail official blamed on projects in other parts of the country getting environmental approvals in first.

But Mark Fuhrmann, program director for light rail, said he expects the funding agreement to be approved by the FTA. “By this time next year, we’ll be throwing dirt,” Fuhrmann said, referring to the start of actual construction on the project, which will extend the existing Green Line from Target Field down to Eden Prairie. The project has reached the 90 percent engineering phase and Met Transit expects to sign a contract for the light rail trains in the fall. Passenger service is now estimated to begin in 2021.

But the state’s final funding piece has been in doubt since Republicans won a majority in the state House of Representatives in 2014. Always suspicious of the benefits and costs of light rail, GOP leadership never agreed to a transportation deal that would include any money for light rail in the Twin Cities. Democrats who figured the House GOP would eventually compromise in order to win increased funding for roads and bridges across the state were proven to be overly optimistic.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin called the funding plan a bridge to keep the project moving and to secure the massive federal investment: $928.8 million.

Even a gamble last summer by Duininck to abandon the very funding mechanism now at the heart of the rescue was not successful. After discussing the possibilities of using certificates of participation to fill in for the state money, Duininck pledged not to use them in hopes it would convince Republicans to pursue a deal.

It came after state Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, complained about the use of the certificates, worrying as to how they would impact funding for other Metro Transit initiatives. “Should the Legislature ultimately choose not to fund the Southwest LRT project in a future legislative session, the project will not go forward,” Duininck wrote.

The move worked — to a degree. Kelly, who chairs the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, did try to broker a deal with Dayton. But a proposal that included money for Southwest LRT was never brought to a vote in the House. Then, during special session negotiations, several different mechanisms were presented by Dayton and DFL leaders. None were accepted.

Dayton said last week he “overruled” Duininck’s pledge, saying the project had to go forward. And on Tuesday, Duininck said the offer he made to legislators was in good faith and that he hoped GOP lawmakers would respond in good faith and be open to Southwest LRT funding. “They chose not to engage in that debate and not offer solutions,” he said.

Comments (71)

  1. Submitted by Mike Downing on 09/01/2016 - 11:19 am.


    What is the constitutionality of unelected officials spending tax dollars without a legislative mandate/earmark?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 09/01/2016 - 12:14 pm.


      The answer to your question is that it probably isn’t constitutional. Fortunately, this involves elected officials who have the spending authority to do this, so it is constitutional.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/01/2016 - 01:12 pm.

    Just to clarify the sequence, because it wasn’t reported

    The House and Senate actually had an agreement to fund SWLRT but house republicans pulled that funding at the last minute when they sent the bill over to the senate with something like 30 minutes left in the session. The senate restored it and sent it back but the House refused to read it and closed the session. So any talk of end runding or breaking agreements falls back on republican who thought it would be cute to run out the clock and sneak their crappy budget passed democrats.

    As for the “message” yes, it’s loud and clear. The majority of the population and tax base are in the metro so if out-state legislatures want to get into a pissing match on spending they’ll lose both money and good will by stalling metro projects. Metro tax payers send far more money out-state to pay for things they’re low populations and small tax bases can’t afford so that’s a bear you poke at your own peril. If metro residents are going to have to go it alone on our projects then I think we need to see out state folks spend down $150 million now before we consider funding THEIR projects.

    I don’t really think that but that’s the direction republicans are taking this.

    As for political costs, I’m not sure why we’re talking about the political cost of SWLRT and NOT talking about the political cost of do-nothing legislators.

    • Submitted by Mike Downing on 09/04/2016 - 08:08 am.

      You are wrong…

      The sequence you report is absolutely wrong. There was never an agreement by the House and Senate on SWLRT. The House passed the agreed to Bill and the Senate added SWLRT to the agreed to Bill at the last minute hence causing the Bonding Bill fiasco. It is an example what happens when a party, DFL controlled Senate, changes their mind at the last minute on an agreement.

      If I were the House majority, I would not trust the Senate majority in the 2017 Legislative Session.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/05/2016 - 12:03 pm.

        That’s the sequence..

        SWLRT funding WAS in the bonding bill. Republicans pulled it out (without notice) and sent it over to the Senate with less than 30-minutes remaining in the session. Before voting on it the Senate searched the bill and found that SWLRT funding had been pulled. The reason the Senate didn’t vote the bill was that they assumed the house had made a mistake, SWLRT was supposed to be in there. This is why the Senate sent the bill back to the House with 5 or 10 minutes remaining in the session. When the bill arrived back at the House, the speaker simply refused to read and adjourned. This is according to DFL members of the Senate AND the House:

    • Submitted by Ed Newman on 09/04/2016 - 10:25 am.

      I agree

      People often miss the direct relationship between development and business location to transit lines that doesn’t happened to the same degree for bus lines. I also think that more cooperation is needed to increase the pace of transit projects – 94 and 35 through the twin cities are beyond capacity during rush hours. The two transit projects we have done have dramatically exceeded their ridership goals.

  3. Submitted by Gary DeVaan on 09/01/2016 - 02:16 pm.

    Good this this option was available

    Those of us in the west and southwest have been waiting for this line to get built. It will provide real economic and human benefit to everyone. I am very thankful that the Governor overruled any commitment not to go this route for funding. The legislature needs to find a funding mechanism to build 2 lines at a time since all of the suburbs are in need of this service. Highways and freeways can’t move as many people as cheaply, and we expect another 100,000 people or more in the metro within the next 30 years, and the roads are jammed already.

  4. Submitted by Rodgers Adams on 09/01/2016 - 02:56 pm.

    Fair and balanced

    “Objective” and “balanced” are journalistic terms that may be going out of style, or at least getting redefined. They certainly can be challenging to reporters. Peter’s work generally upholds the traditional standard, but he slipped when he wrote referred to “the failure of Gov. Mark Dayton and fellow Democrats to reach a deal with House majority Republicans on a roads, bridges and mass transit.” As he makes clear later in the piece, he could just as easily have written “the failure of House majority Republicans to reach a deal with Gov. Mark Dayton and fellow Democrats.” It seems that there is plenty of evidence simply to refer to “the failure of the two sides to find agreement.”

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 09/01/2016 - 03:53 pm.

      Thank You

      This issue has been dragged over the poles more than enough in these pages.

      Did you note the photo caption that refers to the person on the left as being on the far left, suggesting the one right of center to be on the far right? A picture caption appears to be worth far more than repeated words.

      Again, thank you.

  5. Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/01/2016 - 03:44 pm.

    On light rail and stadiums

    Light rail project are similar to the stadium in that those who advocate for them have no evidence that their value is greater than their costs. The support comes from those who have are fans of the idea rather than through objective analysis of the information at hand. Both try to support the projects by highlighting the more visible focused development and ignoring the less visible loss of investment that would otherwise have happened spread out among the large area paying for the project. Neither a full stadium or full trains are any indication that the costs accosted with building those things don’t outstrip the benefit. They are simply more visible than the activities which would have occurred otherwise. Neither those who go to the stadium or use light-rail are the cost of those amenities. Taxpayers at large are basically paying them to attend games or get on the train.

    Is a goal to increase density? If so is will fail since subsidizing transportation of any sort will reduce density. Making it easier for people to get to and from the suburbs will not increase density.

    Is it about economic development? If so there would be some funding mechanism to make it pay for itself or at a minimum should be able to withstand a rigorous evaluation and show that the expenditure would not have received a higher rate of return elsewhere.

    Is it about relieving economic disparities? Can’t be since the subsidies are used equally by the wealthy users as by those of little means. Giving the owner of a $300k condo a third option for transportation or an architect living in Bloomington another method of getting to work isn’t going to provide progress toward greater economic equality. Especially since rail is so limited in where it goes. Most users will still spend a lot of time in either cars or buses to get to their destinations.

    Is it about reducing our environmental impact? Not likely since the projects own EIS makes it clear that rail doesn’t meaningfully reduce automotive traffic yet it does have it’s own not insignificant environmental footprint. Any tiny easing effect it might have on traffic is simply and almost immediately filled in by new drivers who otherwise would have stayed home. The fact that rail has lower energy costs per passenger mile is countered by the fact that by subsidizing transportation our total consumption is going to increase, enlarging our environmental footprint.

    Is it about making our region “competitive”? Competitive in what? Bad decisions? The ego driven idea that we need to have to check all the same boxes that Portland, Dallas or Copenhagen or any other city has is superficial and pointless. If all available information says something is a bad idea then the fact other people have done it shouldn’t matter. I would rather be competitive by being part of a community which is well run and makes good decisions based on the evidence at hand. Not simply buying pretty things because we think it makes us look cool.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 09/02/2016 - 05:53 am.

      And Where Stadiums & LRT Diverge

      Is that one lines the pockets of billionaires and are used in frequently, and the other is owned by and operated for the citizens every day of the year.

      • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/02/2016 - 08:07 am.


        Rail is still a net loss for the community that supports it. The fact we need to continue to dump money in to it year after year isn’t a positive bonus. In fact the ongoing cost/benefit of rail is likely worse than the stadium since most of the operational costs are not publicly funded. The real beneficiaries of rail are the the contractors and companies building it and the political class which can use the shinny new toy to impress the supporters of it who are indifferent to the costs because it fits their preconceptions about how society should work. Another analogy beyond the stadium are those who claim that going to war is needed despite having no evidence that the costs are worth the resulting benefit, if indeed there were any.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2016 - 08:58 am.

          Sorry but you’re off on this one

          All public transit is technically a net loss because it’s subsidized, ( google “farebox recovery ratio” ) and the biggest subsidy in the Metro right now goes to the private buss lines serving the SW metro. By the way, the roads are subsidized as well at a net loss (technically) since we frequently use bonding and federal money in addition to MN gas taxes to pay for them.

          Besides that, Transit actually IS public infrastructure whereas stadiums are not. And our LR lines are popular and exceeding ridership projections. Our two lines carry a larger number of passengers than any other lines in the system.

          While LR is comparatively expensive to build, it is more efficient and easier to add capacity over the long haul. The advantages of LR go beyond the passenger cars themselves for communities in that you get considerable transit related development and suppression of sprawl. When you add this up and look at the big picture you really don’t see a net “loss” with LR.

          So there are actually very compelling arguments for building LR when compared with stadiums.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2016 - 09:24 am.


          As a community we actually do need affordable transportation for people who don’t own cars or can’t or don’t want to drive autos. We don’t “need” professional sports.

          • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/02/2016 - 11:10 am.


            People call the stadium infrastructure as well as a method of excusing a complete lack of financial responsibility. Technically anything built with public dollars is public infrastructure.

            As I stated, popularity is not a sign of value when it doesn’t account for the actual costs of what is being consumed. French fries would be even more popular if we subsidized them and the fact more would be consumed still doesn’t make it a good idea to pay people to eat them. Also, for the reasons stated above, rail does not suppress sprawl, it encourages it because is subsidizes transportation thereby increasing the amount of it people consume. Transit based development is no different than stadium based development, again as stated above. It concentrates things so it is more visible but that is simply a transfer from one area to another. As for providing transportation to those who can’t afford cars goes there is no indication that rail is an efficient way to do that either.

            The fact that there are a lot of different reasons people use to support rail doesn’t matter when none of them are valid individually. As for roads I am completely fine if we make those that use them pay for their full costs more directly. It would actually have a positive impact on the environment and sprawl issues rail advocates pretend to have as a goal.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2016 - 02:41 pm.


              You can’t call a garbage can “transportation”. Transportation is a real thing, and you either have it or you don’t, and you need it to survive in this economy. The fact is that thousands of people who live in our community need transportation just as much as anyone with a car. There’s no comparison to sports or stadiums period. If someone can’t get to a job, the grocery store, etc. that’s real harm. If someone has no NFL team to cheer on that’s one of life’s disappointments.

              I’ll assume you just read my post and I’ll repeat this once: ALL of our transportation, including roads is subsidized, and we know for a fact that road building creates sprawl whereas LR lines encourage concentrated development along the lines. Transit based development is very different than stadium development because transit development is actually a real thing that happens whereas stadium development rarely actually happens. We had something like $2 billion dollars in TRD along University Avenue and the TRD along Hiawatha, while delayed is finally taking off and exceeds projections. As for evidence that rail moves people we have the fact that millions of people use rail transit all over the world every day, I don’t know what other kind of evidence you expect to see? More than 20 thousand a day use LR just in the Twin cities.

              • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/03/2016 - 07:44 am.

                I read and responded…

                I read and responded to your points which you failed to do in response and instead simply repeated the same common falicies used to support rail. You just can’t repeat those falicies while ignoring the content of my statements and claim I didn’t understand your points. I read, understood and countered them all.

                As above, again, the development around rail is the same effect as that around stadiums. It is simply shifted from elsewhere. That it is above projections is meaningless because those projections aren’t based on a meaningful measurement as they didn’t account for this shift. It is like ridership or attendance numbers too. The fact that the stadium or rail car is full doesn’t matter because even so the economics aren’t supported.

                Also, as above, again, the fact that other cities have rail is meaningless because they provided zero evidence that it is a good value. Lots of places build stadiums too. In fact I imagine just about every place their is rail there is a publicly funded stadium. Apparently those communities have shown a willingness to spend money on other wasteful things. The fact they supported rail isn’t really a valid argument for building it.

                Once more, as above, again, subsidizing transportation does not create density and nowhere is there evidence that it does. While there may be some development shifted to right near the lines the fact that the Southwest line is designed to serve a second ring suburb, as are the next lines planned, means that they are designed to make it easier for people to live further from our core cities. The blue line is full of suburban commuters during its busiest times and spends a good part of the route going through very low density areas. The green line serves an area that was already fairly dense and any new development won’t have a meaningful impact on the overall density of our region. Development is more dense directly around freeways as well but as a whole subsidizing them encourages lower, not higher, density because their subsidization artificially reduces the costs of getting around. The same with rail.

                Lastly, as above, again, I will repeat that I understand that ALL transportation is subsidized (it is the major driver of inefficient sprawl) and I am fine making people who use the roads pay the full costs of the transportation they consume. Doing so would make actually make an impact on creating efficient development. Include with that a tax on fossil fuel use in order to offset its environmental impact through reforestation, sequestration or other methods. If users were asked to pay the full cost of their transportation choices, no matter the mode, we would have a much more efficient system, efficient development and lower our environmental footprint. With that efficiency the cost to provide those with very limited means access to transportation would be lower. It would be much less costly to provide those that need it direct subsidies for their particular needs rather than provide our assistance buy subsidizing large inefficient systems by which those who need the help receive only a tiny fraction of the value.

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/04/2016 - 09:00 am.

                  Denying reality is a weak response.

                  Dan, you can’t have it both ways. Your own logic fails you. You can’t claim that transit’s effect on development is just like stadiums effects on development and then claim that there is NO effect on development in the next paragraph. At any rate, TRD is real, SRD is mostly an unfulfilled promise.

                  As for evidence, the transit effect is clear and overwhelming, we’ve seen it along both our existing LR lines and decades of research have confirmed it. We’re already seeing new developement the burbs along the proposed SWLRT line. We have decades research showing that everything from density to property values increases around transit stations and hubs. You don’t get to simply declare that there is no evidence, evidence is real thing that exists or doesn’t. I’m not providing links because anyone can look this stuff up for themselves.

                  As for funding mechanisms hundreds of years of experience has taught us that public subsidies are the most efficient and economical way to build and run public infrastructure for a variety of reasons. Republican fantasies of alternative funding have given us nothing but stalled projects, deficits, and crumbling infrastructure.

                  You guys always claim to support “user” funding or fees but then when we want to raise the gas tax (which is how we charge for “use”) you whine about taxes. Whatever. By the way, no, we can’t turn every street and alley into a “toll” road, THAT would be ridiculous.

                  • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/05/2016 - 10:55 am.

                    Detached from reality

                    What you claim I said is completely detached from reality. Try reading it again. I very clearly stated that the development which happens along rail is the same effect that happens around stadiums. Development may concentrate in a very localized way right around light-rail but, just like stadiums, it is simply shifted there from elsewhere and is a net positive. The measures you mention only take in to account this highly localized effect and purposefully fail to look at the larger picture. I agree that evidence is real, it is just that there isn’t any to support your claims any more then there was for the stadium. Take a look back at the entire history of light-rail and show me any article here on MinnPost or any major news source that counters any of the claims I made above.

                    There is also much evidence to show that public subsidies have large negative effects when it comes to transportation. One of the ideas often used to support rail seems to be that it would help counter all of the subsidies we gave to the automobile over the decades. The fact that we made transportation so artificially inexpensive caused environmental problems for which we are now paying. That impact wasn’t simply because it was the car we subsidized but because when we subsidize transportation we are subsidizing consumption and subsidized consumption will quickly inflate our environmental impact. The shape of the metal box we ride in is only a minor factor.

                    You continue to argue against claims I ever made or actually attribute to me arguments I never made. I said very clearly that one issue with transportation when publicly funded is that the decisions quickly become curly political and therefore void of any rational behavior or result. Our current mess is because funding is public and open to manipulation on political convictions which are as nonsensical as any religion.

                    I don’t know what “guys” you are speaking of since I never claim to speak for anyone but myself. I assume you use that term in an attempt to paint me with a political brush and attribute to me a complete collection of ideas that I may or may not share. Unfortunately your next statement shows what happens when you take that method of thinking, you quickly make incorrect statements.

                    As I said above, again, roads have been around since before rail or auto traffic was a consideration because they are fundamental things for accessing properties no matter the mode or travel, foot, bye, car, ambulance, truck or pogo-stick. Local streets are to a great degree paid for by the property taxes of the adjacent lots and improvements assessed to those properties. I have no problem with that and would be fine making property owners pay an even higher percentage of those costs. Doing so would be an even bigger incentive for density than any rail project. The additional costs of larger arterial streets could be split between property taxes and modifications to current taxes we already place on vehicles. This revenue would make up the for the difference in costs between these larger roads and the standard support of adjacent properties. Freeways and roads where are used exclusively by automotive, bus and truck traffic would be the only places where any type of toll system would be needed. There are a lot of potential mechanisms for collecting those monies that have been shown to work fairly easily all over the world. A system as described above, which requires no significant change to current methods and no new technology, would actually have an effect on regional density and efficient development while leaving an extra couple billion up front and millions every year to spend on higher priorities like education, health-care and helping those in true need.

                    If what I describe above is “impossible” it is due to political dogma that is irrationally entrenched in the current standard fight between cars, trains, buses, bikes and walking. I have always felt it is better to find a way to do things right rather than simply fall in to common popular ruts. The degree to which popularity is connected to being right is completely random.

            • Submitted by Rodgers Adams on 09/02/2016 - 03:24 pm.

              how big is the pie?

              Dan’s arguments seem to assume that there is some fixed development “pie,” and the only decision is how to space the cherries. This seems to assume that metropolitan areas will grow (or shrink) at some fixed rate depending on their current geographies and industries and governmental organization. Can Dan offer support for the idea that the prosperity and vitality of metropolitan areas are not influenced by the decisions they make about their goals and priorities?

  6. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/02/2016 - 08:31 am.


    You would argue that Chicago would now be in a better economic position if they never even started down the path of rail transit?

    Or maybe you were for it before you were against it?

    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/02/2016 - 11:15 am.


      First you would need to define what “better” is. If simply having a larger population is “better” than probably they wouldn’t be any better off. If the people who pay taxes there having more of it for their own use or put in to things like education or health care than yes, they would be better off.

      Like all other cities with rail their traffic would be no different one way or the other.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/06/2016 - 08:27 am.

        Well, not exactly…

        It would certainly seem that adding another 241.7 million commutes/trips to Chicago’s already crowded roads would make traffic worse.

        From the CTA:

        “The CTA’s total rail ridership reached another record high in 2015, increasing to 241.7 million. The 1.6 percent increase from 2014 topped last year’s record by 3.5 million. The CTA has continued to see a long-term shift toward rail ridership, in line with the trend seen at other major transit agencies.”

        • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/06/2016 - 02:21 pm.

          No place..

          No place that rail has been implemented has it reduced traffic. The trips on rail are simply additional to those which would have otherwise been made. Providing additional subsidies to transportation results in more consumption of transportation because it reduces the relative cost of moving over the costs of density required to shorten distances.

  7. Submitted by Jeffrey McIntyre on 09/02/2016 - 06:15 pm.

    Metro Spending on Light Rail

    Can’t see why the outstate folks would be upset by the metro area funding light rail….unless they are afraid they might have to fund more of upkeep of their local roads…instead of letting the metro area taxpayers fund those as well. Oh, and I live in a rural 1 stop light town (soon to be two…woohoo).

  8. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 09/04/2016 - 11:26 am.

    Effective government

    Every major successful city is building transit to remain competitive. Given the natural disadvantage of out bitterly cold winters, transit if anything is more essential here than in most cities. In most big cities, people of all income levels and party persuasions take transit – not so much in a metro area that lost its large streetcar system due to the joint effort of some dishonest politicians and the auto industry.

    So are we going to let some high income Minneapolis NIMBYs working with Republicans motivated by 2016 election politics stop the Twin Cities from staying competitive. No, some local officials stepped up to the table and took on a financial burden that Republicans blocked the state from assuming.

    That is exactly why we have local government – to take care of business. Bringing in a billion in federal funds that would have been spent elsewhere to improve our transportation system. A great return on investment. We cannot let the party of lame excuses hold us back. If Republicans want a low tax, low service state, let them drive their cars to another state and enjoy the gridlock.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 09/05/2016 - 01:53 pm.

      Save big! Bring back stage coaches!

      Although almost any issue will do, there probably isn’t a better example than this “Light rail is evil!” duh-fest when it comes to things that make today’s MN conservatives look like a rock solid (and proud) outpost of the Grumpy Old Obsoletists Club of America.

      Your observation about what the rest of the country (and world) is doing in this area is not only right on the money, but an understatement. Anyone interested in the view beyond St. Paul, Crown (and other “instate” or “outstate” locations) might want to spend a little time exploring the general topic of “passenger rail systems of the world” and, more specifically, a few of the links on this “Lists of rapid transit systems”:

      If you happen to click on the link there that says “List of metro systems,” be sure to note the dates when some of the systems opened. For example, the metro system in Buenos Aeries, Brazil, has been humming along, moving millions of people, since, ah, 1913. Vienna, Austria, has had their “Vienna U-Bahn” open since 1976 . . . And oh! The “Baku Metro” in Baku, Azerbaijan, opened in, let’s see . . . 1967 . . . Checking a little closer to home, how ’bout Toronto? Hmmmm: 1954. And just across the country on the west side, Vancouver’s had their “Sky Train” sailing people through the public transit clouds since 1985.

      And, wonder of wonder, all those systems (and lots and lots more just like them) are STILL running, haven’t gone broke, bankrupt, caput and, apparently, the people living there tend to LIKE them.

      How could that be? According to conservatives, all those transit systems are stupid wastes of money that people do not want that never pay for themselves and, the Immutable Laws of Market Forces say, SHOULD have gone under years or decades ago . . . But they’re still THERE, all over the world, running 24 hours a day to all kinds of places the people piling onto them seem to want to go (without their cars).

      Here are some American cities and the dates they began wasting their money on the kind of “metro systems” conservatives keep telling us no one wants:

      Atlanta: 2000

      Baltimore: 1983

      Boston: 1901

      Chicago: 1897

      Cleveland: 1968

      Los Angeles: 2000

      Miami: 1984

      New York City: 1904

      Philadelphia: 1907

      San Francisco: 1972

      Washington, D.C.: 1976

      (And those are just some of “the old ones”)

      My 90-year old neighbor, June, was born on a farm near Menahga, MN (south of Park Rapids) in 1925. Her dad, after helping his dad build and pay off his farm near Red Wing, traveled the 300 or so miles to Menahga by horse with two other guys in the early 1990s, bought the farmland and built the house June was born in with the $600 he had with him when he left Red Wing.

      The state’s transportation system was different then, of course, but my neighbor’s dad’s transportation costs were, obviously, low low low. And even though it took him a little longer to make the trip than it would today, I’m pretty sure those are the kind of transportation costs conservative Republicans are sure we could all enjoy (again!) if everyone in the state would just LISTEN to them and vote them into the position where they could implement their plans.

  9. Submitted by John Appelen on 09/05/2016 - 07:36 pm.


    Since I live in Plymouth and work in Eden Prairie, it is unfortunate that I am sure I will be paying more for the Light Rail that I will never use… Oh well, maybe I can escape to Sibley county in 3 years when my youngest leaves for college. 🙂

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/06/2016 - 10:06 am.

      You’re also paying for lots of roads you’ll never use. (And I’m sure, once you escape to Sibley County, that you’ll be happy to give up all those metro-funded roads, schools, and LGA.)

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/06/2016 - 10:57 am.

    Sprawl and concentration

    Sprawl is a mid 20th century post WWII phenomena that emerged as we switched from transit oriented modes of moving people to auto centric (requiring extensive road networks) modes of transportation.

    If you look at a map, any map, you’ll see that big cities (with denser populations and development) emerged wherever river, coastal, canal, or rail transit hubs existed. Even on local levels you can look at a map and see that towns and cities like Hopkins, Excelsior, and Still Water were connected by the old street car lines. Within the cities as well you saw housing and industry sprout up along the street car lines.

    Historically cities and towns have died if or when rail, canal, or even highways bypass them. In fact when we made that post war transition many cities experienced significant depopulation when people in their cars driving on their new subsidized roads moved out in the burbs and eventually the exo-burbs.

    The history of all of this is too complex to delve into here in detail but the claim that there is no evidence that transit, subsidized or otherwise has any effect on development, density, or sprawl, is simply facile. It’s a matter of history and it’s no different today than it was 100 years ago.

    It’s always funny when conservatives, who are supposed to be the history guys, distort or ignore history in order to make ideological policy arguments. Sure, you don’t want to build a monorail in Ely, but if the Metro Area didn’t qualify in terms of population and growth our LR lines wouldn’t have qualified for federal money in the first place.

    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/07/2016 - 05:48 am.

      Funny thing…

      Sprawl is only a phenomena of the mid-century if that is where you choose to look because it is convenient to you conclusion. Of course populations gather around transportation whether it be river, rail or road. I don’t think there is any claim on this board that claimed that transportation system design choices have “no”effect on development, just that they are not what you happen to claim they are. Where money is spent on infrastructure there will often be development backers of stadiums and freeways noticed the same thing. The question is one of best value for the investment and to understand that one needs to have more holistically view than simply looking at the few blocks around whatever blacktop or rail is placed on the ground. You are correct that subsidized roads encouraged people to move to where those roads were placed. The effect will be similar with rail though much, much smaller because of its very limited function as it carries only people and not what they consume. The fact is that regional light-rail going to the MOA or Eden Prairie is simply more subsidization of transportation, like the freeways, which will make it easier for people to move further out. The reason rail has never been shown to reduce traffic levels is because the roads are simply filled in again by more people and more trips until the cost of sitting in traffic causes people to shift times or not travel. Subsidization, no matter the mode, simply adds to the amount of transportation we consume which will have the opposite effect on density you claim despite a few buildings going up around the stations because the stations themselves sprawl across the metro and any capacity they have to take people off the roads simply means more people will fill those roads from just as far if not further out.

      Consider some of the oldest examples we have with light-rail; NYC and London. In both cases those cities were much, much denser before they built their rail systems. Making transportation easier or less expensive has that effect. Yes, apartments and properties near stations in both cities are more valuable. Same as houses which have easy freeway access. The fact that people find transportation valuable isn’t the question, especially when the transportation is mainly paid for both others. So before claiming that history is on your side you should make sure you understand it.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 08:44 am.

        Wrong again

        “Sprawl is only a phenomena of the mid-century if that is where you choose to look because it is convenient to you conclusion.”

        No, sprawl is a mid twentieth century phenomena no matter what period of history you choose because sprawl didn’t exist prior the mid twentieth century. You can’t talk about sprawl in the Roman Empire.

        Yes, we have suburbs, you can only pack so many people into each square mile within a city limit. No one claims that transit keep people from moving out into suburbs, but THAT’S not sprawl, that’s just suburbs. Suburbs are a product of population growth, not transit. Transit restricts SPRAWL, it doesn’t depopulate suburbs. Sprawl is acres and acres of track housing spread out with no central location. Many/most suburbs don’t actually have a “downtown”, i.e. a concentrated business and residential location. Transit hubs create concentrated areas of residential and business activity with higher density. This is simply an historical fact. We don’t have a policy of keeping people in MPLS or St. Paul, that would be a stupid policy because the majority of the population in the metro area lives outside those two cities. The facts regarding transit related development are well documented, incontrovertible, and non-controversial. TRD is REAL, and it will happen.

        As for subsidies, some people just don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that we subsidize EVERY mode of transportation. We subsidized sprawl. The subsidy isn’t the issue, it’s the mode of transit and it’s effects on development and livability that are the issue. The question isn’t to subsidize or not, the question is WHAT to subsidize.

        • Submitted by Dan Berg on 09/08/2016 - 07:16 pm.


          The only thing about urban sprawl that originated in the mid-century is the term. The mechanics of it have happened as long as people have lived in groups. It happened when rial was introduced to cities like New York and London as it allowed people to spend less time and money than they otherwise would have when traveling by other available methods. They moved out of the cities in droves when rail was introduced for a combination of reasons but primarily the same as today; less expensive land and to escape crime, pollution and other aspects associated with dense urban spaces.

          The post-war expansion of freeways was a response to the fact people had self-selected to invest in cars at a much higher rate because they provided the best value to meet their transportation needs and they wanted to improve the . Before freeways people had simply driven surface streets and simple highways and roads which had generally existed and been expanding prior to the wide spread use of cars. The problem was that the freeway system was subsidized and because of that (also because would subsidize the cost of private development rather than charge developers directly for the required improvements to power, water,sewer and other infrastructure required) we saw massive transit based development as the population sprawled out ever further. Property values near freeway access were worth more, commercial and industrial values near major interchanges were prime real estate. So just like the stadium or light-rail development happens near transportation hubs. The thing is that transportation hubs are by their nature about moving people to and away from things. If we subsidize it we simply increase the amount of it being consumed and overconsumption of transportation any by my count the over consumption of transportation is the core issue.

          What determines whether or not transportation is worth the investment is if the productivity gained by building it is greater than the cost to build and maintain it. Our out-state road system would be a faction of its current size had the cost of a road been born by the development along its length. We would likely have more rail and denser, more populous, small towns and cities. But like New York and London the effect of building commuter rail is that you get more people who commute rather than live near their work and shopping so density will go down. Sure, the very thin ring around various hubs may see some gains in density the overall effect is still more sprawl. Those denser hubs become the areas where people from further our meet to join the line. Those very, very close to the line may remove themselves from car traffic for a percentage of their trips as well. The effect of that is only to make it even easier and less expensive to move further from the center as they can either make use of the train or benefit from another car being removed from the road. The road quickly fills up to the same level again so traffic levels don’t change.

          That is why light-rail has never been found to reduce traffic levels, never been shown to have created higher density in the larger metro areas it serves (not just within a few miles of the line) and why those who support it are so insistent that there is no direct connection between what it costs and how it is paid for.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/06/2016 - 11:59 am.

    Libertarian “pragmatism”

    At the end of the Libertarian policy rationale’s are incoherent and end up being little more than whining sessions about having to pay taxes or paying for stuff they don’t personally use. It’s incoherent because it ends up defying basic principles of civilization that have emerged over thousands of years, and whenever it’s put into effect it usually explodes into some kind of crises. If nobody paid for anything they didn’t personally use we’d have no police, fire departments, street plows, or schools. In effect, we’d have no civilization or community.

    So we have guys living Plymouth who drive on 494 every day while paying a millionth of a fraction of what the freeway actually cost complaining about paying for someone else’s bridge or LR. Were it up to these folks we wouldn’t have a road to Alexandria because they’ve never wanted to drive to Alexandria… until the day they need to get to Alexandria and there’s no road to get them there. This is why we don’t use libertarian models to plan transportation. We can talk about toll roads and bridges if you want but you’ll find that they are still subsidized, no less expensive to build or maintain, and rarely actually pay the costs. They’re also inconvenient, I’ve driven with and without them and I prefer without. I like living in a state where you just take the road or bridge you need without having to buy a separate EZ pass or something.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/06/2016 - 12:31 pm.


      The unfortunate reality is that the SW Light Rail is an expensive single purpose option. It is made to haul people back and forth along one route during fixed hours. Why the Feds are using $900 million of our tax dollars on this local effort is disturbing?

      Whereas the highways and bridges of MN are working for our State 24 hrs a day / 7 days a week. And I think we would be hard pressed to find Minnesotans who have not used 94, 394, 494, 610, 694, 35E, 35W, 169 and/or 100 extensively during the past year. Either for their driving or for the supplies they buy. They quite simply are the work horses of our state’s economy.

      As for who is paying… I assume it is the folks who pay the most in income taxes as usual… Without them, we wouldn’t have many of the nice extras we enjoy.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 10:03 am.

        Who pays?

        “As for who is paying… I assume it is the folks who pay the most in income taxes as usual… Without them, we wouldn’t have many of the nice extras we enjoy.”

        We don’t use income taxes to pay for transportation spending, so no, we’re not taxing the wealthy to pay for transportation. We use mostly regressive tax revenues to pay for transit and transportation spending.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 09:56 am.

    Ignorance and denial pretending to be pragmatism

    The fact is that once a metro area reaches the size, population, and growth rate that we have in the metro area, you have to build a diverse transportation system with multiple options. You reach a point where simply adding road capacity to accommodate more autos is simply not economical or rational. Where can add lanes in downtown MPLS or St. Paul? Where can you add lanes in 394?

    Even if you can add lanes, it’s not cheap and easy and can be far more disruptive than building a LR line. More lanes means more cars which means more parking demand and congestion in the city which degrades air quality and multipies ancillary health care costs. Anyways, people don’t go downtown just to park, they go there to do things. Competition for space between parking garages and places where people can do things like shop, eat, or attend plays and sports events is an absurd conflict. You either have a lot of things to do downtown but nowhere to park, or you have a lot of parking but nothing to do after you park.

    As for costs, let’s take a quick look:

    Driving isn’t just about building roads, it costs a lot more to USE a road than it costs to use LR.

    Setting aside the cost of building and maintaining a road lane, you need car or truck or truck to use the lane once it’s built. With insurance that costs at least $300-$500 a month. Parking downtown can cost between $250 and $300 a month so your monthly cost for USING a publicly subsidized road is $550 – $700 a month. If you and use an EZpass on 394 you can add another $70 a month to your tab. So if you drive on our subsidized roads it costs you a minimum of $6,600 a year to work downtown. In addition to these fixed costs you also to pay for gas, and the more you drive, the more time you spend in traffic, the more you pay. So that’s probably another $500 a year at least bringing your cost for driving to work downtown up to a clean $7,000 a year.

    The SWLRT will cost metro area residents $1.3 billion to build. $150 million from Metro tax payers, a billion from US tax payers. That works out to $80 maybe for local share of Metro adults, and $6 for your federal share for a total of $86. Even if you paid all that at once it would be nine times less than it cost just to own a car for one month. Of course the reality is that you pay the tax for this over some period of time rather than all at once so if that cost is spread out over say five years, it costs you around a dollar a month.

    The fare for using SWLRT would be $4.50 a day assuming you travel at peak hours, that works out to $135 a month, but you can get a 31 day pass for $85. Now lets talk about fare recovery ratios, i.e. how much “subsidy” to the LR lines actually get? It costs $17 million a year to run the Green line, but the fare recover rate is 36% which is better than the national average. That means of the $17 million it costs to run the line, $11 million is subsidized, that works out to around $6 a year for Metro taxpayers ( around fifty cents a month). So you’re cost for building AND using the SWLRT is around $1,037 a year. Even if you own a car but use LR to commute you’ll save $3,000 a year.

    You can’t say it makes no economic sense to provide this transit option. Even if we multiply the cost by 400% by building multiple lines it works out to just $3 a month more per taxpayer. By the time we’re done building these lines we’ll have at least 50k people a day riding on them, and that’s a potential savings of at least $150 million a year which is money that grows the economy by spending on something other than parking and gas. Even if you just use LR to get downtown for a single event it half the price of driving there and paying $8-$9 for parking.

    This is the reality of providing transit options, and I could go on, I could talk about livability and convenience for tourists as well as residents, air quality, energy efficiency, safety, etc. There is absolutely NOTHING “pragmatic” about ignoring the reality of our transit needs and pretending that traffic lanes and nothing but traffic lanes can meet our transit needs with the most efficiency and cost effectiveness.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/07/2016 - 11:41 am.

      Need to Go Downtown

      Your premise is based on an ever increasing number of people needing to go Downtown.

      Whereas the Twin Cities is a very Suburbs focused metro area, I mean look at the vast number of corporate headquarters, manufacturing facilities, etc that are located on the 494 / 694 ring.

      As discussed before, I think a good answer is to finish the 610 outer ring so even fewer trucks / cars need to come into the metro roads as they pass through the state. Of course, that could cause long term problems for those who like to live/work downtown. It would be unfortunate if Minneapolis started to look like Detroit. So maybe this Lightrail is a subsidy for Minneapolis / St Paul after all.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 12:01 pm.

        Of course

        “Whereas the Twin Cities is a very Suburbs focused metro area, I mean look at the vast number of corporate headquarters, manufacturing facilities, etc that are located on the 494 / 694 ring.”

        Yes, and many are moving back downtown because that’s where millennials want to live and work. Denying this is the year 2016 isn’t pragmatic.

        We ARE finishing the outer ring, but the housing collapse killed the flight into the exo-burbs. We don’t have a zero sum economy or budget, we can fix roads AND build transit options. Not only can we, but we must.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/07/2016 - 01:48 pm.


          I agree that some millenials like downtown, but many like burbs/ country. And most of the youngsters I have known flee to the burbs/country for low crime and great schools when they have kids.

          And if you think the housing boom is over in the burbs, you should take a drive out in NW Plymouth / W Maple Grove. The Wayzata school district just added on to their massive new High School and built a new Elementary school.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 04:15 pm.

            Youngsters YOU know?

            Anecdotes don’t determine actual trends. You can build housing there but both the trend for millennials and companies is back towards the city and first ring burbs. And those who do move out in the burbs are going to want transit, which is why we’re building it. At the Town Hall meeting here in St. Louis Park young couples showed up to complain about the SWLRT because they’ve bought houses, condos, town homes, etc. here in the park along the proposed line precisely because they want to live by and use LR. These aren’t just poor people. My wife supervises millennials and the growing trend is to live carless if possible. Once that starts, it becomes a life choice, kinda like all the people in NY city who never own cars.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 09/07/2016 - 11:00 pm.

          Please look again…

          Who is moving back downtown? The housing collapse is long past here. Realtors tell me they cannot find stock for sale.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/08/2016 - 09:42 am.

            Tell your realtors…

            There’s a free website called: “Trulia” where they can find all kinds of property for sale. I used it to sell my mom’s house.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/07/2016 - 11:55 am.

      Crowd Funding

      Just a thought, since the costs are so “reasonable”, maybe the folks should set up a crowd funding site? $1,000,000,000 means we only need 100,000 donations of $10,000 each.

      Now how many riders do you think will use this track on a regular basis… 50,000? I think your calculations went a little off the tracks.

      Now I am fine with building Light Rail, but let’s remember that it is not a slam financial dunk. It is expensive and has questionable long term financial benefits. But it is helpful for many who can not afford cars.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 12:45 pm.

        Actually 50,000 is way low

        I apologize, the current ridership for the blue and green lines combined is already close to 70k a day. I think the SWLRT is expected to add another 30,000 a day. That means we’d be close to 100k rides a day on the LR system, before the Bottineau Line comes on board.

        As for crowd sourcing, let’s try that for your 610 outer ring and see what we come up with? I remember when Kiffmeyer thought she had all kinds of cleverer ideas to fund transportation spending, like getting the contractors to front the money for the 35W – 62 interchange. Let’s just stick with collecting taxes to fund public infrastructure, hundreds of years of experience have show us it the most efficient and reliable way.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/07/2016 - 01:55 pm.


          Based on your correction, we are spending $1,000,000,000,000 so 30,000 people can have less expensive commutes? And the highways won’t be quite so crowded.

          Again, I am not against Light Rail. But let’s justify it based on reducing the transport costs for the low income folks, and maybe enabling them to escape to the burbs. And maybe reducing engine emissions… Not that it saves our society money.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/07/2016 - 04:04 pm.

            Whoa there Nelly

            You got a little carried away with your zeros there, it’s $1.3 billion, not $1 trillion. I’m glad to see that you’re on board with LR now. No one ever claimed that LR would save money (aside from individuals who use it instead of driving) so you’re basically validating the rationale.

            Remember the benefits aren’t limited to the projections (30k a day) actual use can (and has been thus far) exceed projections. As the population using LR grows so will the ridership.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/07/2016 - 04:47 pm.


              Oops on the zeroes.

              So the question is… Is it worth it to the tax payers of Hennepin county to pay a lot of money to:
              – subsidize transportation costs for ~30,000 riders
              – reduce the traffic on the highways somewhat

              I am guessing for many of us it is not worth the expense. Oh well, time will tell what the voters think of the decisions that were made.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/08/2016 - 09:39 am.


                “So the question is… Is it worth it to the tax payers of Hennepin county to pay a lot of money to:
                – subsidize transportation costs for ~30,000 riders
                – reduce the traffic on the highways somewhat”

                We know without guessing that many of us think the expense is worth it, but since ALL of our transportation is subsidized, the question regarding LR is no different than the same question regarding an additional lane for 610 or the new Stillwater bridge.

                And I would remind everyone that this isn’t some kind of deal thrust upon us by the Feds or the State, or the Met Council etc. Every single city along the route (republican and democrat) has voted for this project and put millions of dollars on the table to get and keep it moving. Even the various chambers of commerce have given it a strong endorsement. While some may always whine about their taxes many many others are firmly on board.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/08/2016 - 08:32 am.

    Just to recap…

    I think its important to make one more observation. This “debate” provides a clear example of the incoherent mindset many republicans and libertarians bring to public policy discussions.

    It’s interesting to note that the same people who claim to be the business and growth experts clearly have no idea how “growth” actually works in the real world. You don’t get growth without adequate infrastructure (state of the art infrastructure is better). Growth requires planning, you need to be proactive rather than reactive. Growth requires that you anticipate future needs and put things in place rather than scramble to make up for lost time and opportunities after the fact. The economy can’t grow unless the infrastructure grows as well yet all we get from libertarians and republicans is demands for tax cuts or no new spending. Not only is this a Somali model of economics but it actually restricts growth, and efficiency. At it’s core it’s magical thinking, the idea is that “growth” is some magical force floating around that just manifests itself as long as we cut taxes or don’t “grow” the government.

    We could be surging economically right now but we’re stuck; not because government regulations are strangling the economy but because our energy, communication, transportation, education, and internet infrastructures are decades behind where they should be. Why? Because instead of planning, investing, and building we’ve been waiting for the growth magic to manifest itself. The icing on the cake is the fact that the ones in charge of the growth magic are stuck in 1960s suburban mentalities.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/08/2016 - 02:59 pm.


      Personally I think you are biased because you want the center of the Twin Cities to remain financial solvent. I am more flexible regarding where the growth occurs in MN.

      If it becomes too expensive or burdensome to have businesses in the downtown or for workers to get there, I am fine with Best Buy, Cargill, Medtronic, Toro, United Healthcare, St Jude, Boston Scientific, Carlson, etc building along the 494/694 ring.

      From your perspective, yes to keep Mpls / St Paul financially viable given the crime, high costs, poor schools, etc, subsidized transportation may be the only way to help them survive and grow. For most of the people in the Twin Cities metro, it is not that big of a deal.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/08/2016 - 09:18 am.


    Jim asked a while back who’s moving back to the cities? A lot of people 🙂 Seriously the trend back towards urban areas, downtown’s and first ring suburbs has been well documented by a variety of observers. I’m not providing links because this information is so abundant anyone can find it if they look. Or you can just look around, vacant land that’s been sitting around for decades in St. Louis Park and Golden valley now has high density condos and apartments sprouting up. Ride a bike down the Greenway, drive down Washington or University Ave., or ride a bike along the South Cedar Lake trail where the SWLRT line will run. I would say at least a dozen large apartment complexes have been built within two miles of my house in the last five years. Land you couldn’t give away a decade ago during the exo-burb boom now has multi-million dollar housing, and there’s more planned.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/08/2016 - 12:38 pm.

      It’s all growing

      The data clearly shows a higher percentage of folks moving into the central cities and inner-ring suburbs, but it’s also true that the suburbs and exurbs are still growing, too. We have to be able to both build transit to serve areas of high density (and areas that are ripe for higher density) as well as build roads to service areas outside that core.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/08/2016 - 02:48 pm.


        The blue and green dots on the map on this source shows that it is the burbs outside the beltway that have the highest rates of growth. And Lord knows they are building dozens huge retirement communities out West.

        • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/08/2016 - 03:09 pm.

          Growth rates are high in the exurbs because initial populations are low.

          I took data from the state’s website and looked at the top 50 growing cities (by raw number, not rate) in the state from 2000-2015 and the top 50 growing cities in the state from just 2010-2015. Looking at the long range picture, 12% of the total growth in the top 50 was in Minneapolis/St. Paul/inner suburbs while 72% was in suburbs and exurbs. In just the last five years, though, Minneapolis/St. Paul/inner suburbs represent 38% of the growth compared to 50% in suburbs and exurbs. So there is a shift going on, but the metro is still growing across the board (the number of metro communities suffering population declines were minimal, and their declines were small).

  15. Submitted by Todd Adler on 09/02/2016 - 01:08 pm.


    Bus Rapid Transit is the more inefficient model. It’s cheaper to have one driver in a train with several hundred people than to have one driver in a bus with forty people. And the bus is stuck in the same traffic cars are, whereas the train can bypass all that and run on time.

    To further clarify your position, this is not “free money”. This is money we’ve put into the government and we should get something out of it in return.

  16. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/02/2016 - 01:19 pm.


    .. is always the response from conservatives when LRT is proposed. Yet, they never seem to find dollars to propose it on its own. If BRT is so great, where is Speaker Daudt’s plan to expand BRT?

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2016 - 03:15 pm.


    These anti rail arguments get tedious rather quickly. Yes, rail is initially more expensive but it’s more efficient, reliable, and cost effective over time. It’s also mush easier to add capacity, you just add more cars or even trains.

    That $125,000 per mile cost is for just the paving. In fact it costs around $4 to $8 million per mile for a four lane highway (rural vs. urban costs). Building a road takes more than just having some trucks show up with asphalt or concrete. Think about it, the new 35W bridge cost around $330 million and it’s less than half a mile long, it’s not just the cost of the concrete.

    At any rate several studies have shown that where the need is sufficient (and the need in the metro area has been shown to be sufficient) rail and road costs are comparable over time with rail requiring a bigger up front cost while roads cost more in for a variety of reasons over time, and it’s easier to add capacity to rail (you add cars or whole trains) than it is to secure new routes for more roads or even add more lanes. You have to remember the cost of adding lanes or fixing bottle necks in roads isn’t just the design and construction costs; you also have the cost of the disruption and increased congestion during construction.

    For instance MTC cut the amount of time it took to clear the platforms at the Vikings stadium almost in half, from over an hour down to 40 minutes, and they didn’t have to build anything.

  18. Submitted by Bill Willy on 09/05/2016 - 11:43 am.

    $125,000 (to paint lines and put up signs)

    According to the MN Dept of Transportation:

    “Currently, the cost to construct one mile of roadway varies from $2-50 million per mile depending on the number of lanes and interchanges constructed and whether the location is urban or rural.”

    And, last I heard, everyone (the Gov, Democrats, Republicans) agreed that the highways we already have are in need of $600 million per year (or the lion’s share of the state’s overall transportation need) just to maintain them. Not improve or expand, but hundreds of yearly millions just to keep them from falling apart (and blowing out people’s tires, struts and CV joints).

    So those who ride the Road and Bridge Express aren’t covering the cost of their system of choice because they don’t WANT to. They seem to think the Free Highways Forever Fairy should cover the (perpetual) shortfall and every conservative legislator (and rank and file cheerleader) keeps saying those people are right.

    There’s no free lunch EXCEPT when it comes to MN’s highways (and anything else that might involve anyone having to pay a penny more for the public services they love and want and couldn’t do without for more much more than 72 hours).

  19. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/02/2016 - 03:19 pm.

    With CTIB approval a couple of weeks ago, the Orange Line has secured necessary funding to continue.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/06/2016 - 10:35 am.


    We really need something like a trillion dollars for road and bridge repair and maintenance. (not a trillion a year) That $600 million was a political “compromise” that has little connection to the reality of our actual transportation needs.

    Interesting fact: MN has the 5th largest road network in the country despite ranking 21st in population. That works out to 51 miles of road for every 1,000 Minnesotan’s compared to 24 miles of road for every 1,000 in Texas even though Texas has five times the population and is 30% larger than MN. California has an even larger population, nearly eight times ours (39 million) and they only have 10 miles of road for every 1,000. So it’s not like MN isn’t building roads and bridges. By the way, WI and CO, the two closest states in terms of population have 41 and 34 miles of road per 1,000 respectively.

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