The opening of exciting new transitways in the Twin Cities is on the horizon over the next 10 years. At the same time, funding and integration challenges remain.
The Twin Cities region is poised to add two new light rail (LRT) lines - Central Corridor in 2014, and Southwest in 2017. Construction has begun on the Central Corridor project, which will connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, traveling most the distance on University Avenue. The Southwest LRT - traveling from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie (with stops in St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka as well) - Is expected to begin preliminary engineering this fall. Both promise huge ridership: approximately 30,000 riders per day.
The Bottineau Corridor, traveling northwest from downtown Minneapolis to Maple Grove or Brooklyn Park, and the Gateway Corridor, traveling east from downtown St. Paul potentially as far as the St. Croix River, are also being studied for LRT. Current uncertainty regarding state and federal funding makes these projects a long shot for completion by 2020.
Watch for enhanced bus rapid transit (BRT) service on I-35W South and Cedar Avenue. When the Crosstown (Highway 62) reconstruction is complete, bus riders will enjoy free-flow conditions in the MN/Pass lane from Lakeville to downtown Minneapolis and a few stops in between, including the new 46th street on-line station. The Gateway corridor may operate as BRT if ridership estimates don’t support investment in LRT.
A pleasing transit system relies on downtown transit stations to efficiently move people from corridor to corridor and from train or bus to their office or other destination. St. Paul’s Union Depot and the Minneapolis Transportation Interchange will provide this function while also providing exquisite public spaces.
The Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), a collaboration of Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington Counties, deserves most of the credit for accelerating transitways in the region. Thanks to County Board votes in 2008 and bold legislative action, a small increase in the sales tax in these counties is leveraging large matching funding from the Federal Transit Administration.
Twin Cities residents shouldn’t be content with current plans for the transit system. The Metropolitan Council, Mn/DOT, and county and local government all have a critical opportunity to set a new course for a safer and more sustainable transportation system. Getting there means prioritizing transit projects over road expansion. It also requires crafting local land use and housing plans that allow for new development (housing and commercial) that follows the increased access provided by better transit service.
Region: Planning the Future of the Twin Cities, by Myron Orfield and Thomas Luce, University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Transit for Livable Communities: St. Paul, MN, 651-767-0298, tlcminnesota.org