A stop-by-stop look at Southwest LRT

Who would be the heaviest users of Southwest light rail?

Hunt for the big globs in the map. Projections by the Metropolitan Council show that the line would be most popular with people traveling to and from select stations in Eden Prairie, Hopkins and St. Louis Park. The opposite is true for the three stops that skirt the edge of north Minneapolis, represented by the teeniest of dots. (You can click on the balloons to see each station’s average weekday ridership projected for 2030.)

Ridership for each of those three north-side stations — Penn, Van White and Royalston — fails to hit the 1,000-mark, making them outliers along the 16-station route to Eden Prairie. For example, only 273 people a day are expected to use the Royalston stop, compared to the thousands projected for many of the suburban stations.

Estimated SW Light Rail ridership

Source: Metropolitan Council, Map created by Will Lager / MPR News

The numbers might not be earth-shattering for folks following the project. But they add fodder to the argument among social-justice groups that north siders need increased transit access to the line, said Michael McDowell, transit organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.

A new coalition is calling for expanded bus service to make sure low-income riders in the heart of north Minneapolis can connect to the light-rail stops. The groups are also negotiating for heated bus shelters, reduced fares, and other concessions.

“If it’s about regional equity, then Minneapolis needs to get its cut of this $1.7 billion project,” McDowell said.

Here’s the station-by-station breakdown:

Station 2030 Average Weekday Ridership
Mitchell 2,694
Southwest 4,049
Town Center 2,009
Golden Triangle 2,125
City West 1,130
Opus 2,305
Shady Oak 1,287
Hopkins 3,274
Blake 2,209
Louisiana 1,906
Wooddale 2,038
Beltline 3,728
West Lake 2,946
Penn 930
Van White 310
Royalston 273
Southwest LRT Total 33,213

Source: Metropolitan Council

  • Gary F

    After seeing how long it will take to take the University Avenue line between Mpls and St Paul, just think of how long it will take from EP to Mpls! Just think, it could be two hours!

    I wonder if those numbers considered who will actually put up with that long of commute?

    Did they look at the wildly successful Northstar line too?

    And will they want to ride it after the natural seal of the chain of lakes is broken and Calhoon and Isles become marshes?

  • Andy Wallis

    As a strong supporter of transit infrastructure: The southwest light rail isn’t looking like an improvement upon current mass-transit options for distance travel. Southwest’s busline (the big black coach busses) are an extremely comfortable and affordable direct line to downtown Minneapolis from Eden Prairie. It takes about 25 minutes to make the trip during rush hours. I don’t think it’s possible for rail to beat this.
    What this rail will mean for me is my nightlife, as odd as that sounds. When I was a UMN student I found it extremely disappointing that I could not end my classes on Friday by going to a social event: even ONE Southwest bus @ noon Saturday would have been a blessing. Likewise, my projected use of this new rail line will be to safely and responsibly enjoy social events downtown on the weekends without blowing $25 on a taxi.
    I really feel like direct lines from outer-ring suburbs that have <15min times supported by our already extensive bussing lines for inner-ring suburbs would have had the greatest impact. The current implementation of the rail competing with our already fantastic bussing isn't worth billions of dollars.
    Should we can the entire thing? No: It's still going to be useful, it's already planned, and the rail will be used. I'm just sorely disappointed.

    • RobinMavis_AHGET

      Totally get where you are coming from. In Chicago, the rail from Villa park to Union Station takes 37 minutes (17 miles). Of course that is not ‘light rail’ so I think the trains run at a faster speed. But I don’t see how light rail to EP is going to be helpful except at night. To your point it might take upwards of 2 hours. If you are going out with a bunch of people it might be cheaper to share a cab all the way from EP actually.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Put the screws to the travel time estimates.

  • NewDude

    I moved to Minnesota recently and this SWLRT is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Why spend this much money just to avoid people who would actually use it?

  • sota767

    It’s as if the Minneapolis alignment is completely pointless and doesn’t go where people are located.

  • Marvin

    I too am a strong supporter of transit, including its development and environment benefits. However, there’s something wrong about SWLRT beyond the parochial fight over the Kennilworth corridor. In the contentious planning over the Green Line (remember all that?) the Met Council constantly touted a 39 minute travel time between the downtowns. That figure was also used in the Cost Effectiveness calculations which got both the funding and the particular routing approved. Now at the 11th hour we’ve learned it will be more like 60 minutes, with MTC’s PR dude reassuring us it definitely won’t take “more than an hour.” Who’s running the abacus over there? SWLRT is now advertising Eden Prarie to Target Field in 38 minutes. One glance at the circuitous route makes that seem remarkable, but with these latest Green Line revelations it seems completely impossible. Note to Met Council: the trains need to be first and foremost about getting from A to B in a timely manner, otherwise the huge capital and opportunity costs should be spent somewhere else.

    • Joey Senkyr

      The Green Line won’t take 60 minutes. The test trains are taking 60 minutes, because the signal priority isn’t working yet and the operators are being trained in.

  • Fake Name

    There needs to be more public transit routes within the city of Minneapolis before expanding to the suburbs, where less people utilize Metro Transit’s services. The Twin Cities lag behind so many metropolitan cities around the world in this regard. Although there are people from the inner and outer suburbs who would utilize this rail and put up with a long commute, Metro Transit needs to improve the public transit within MSP before expanding out to the suburbs. This plan looks identical to the Northstar line, where the entire rail is centered around a 9-5 work schedule rather than offering service around the clock for those with less traditional schedules.

  • Doug T

    It’d be interesting to see how the numbers at the rest of the Green Line stations (the ones that already exist) would be effected by the SWLRT Green Line extension. You’d expect ridership to increase, if only because the suburban commuters have to make the return trip from somewhere. Obviously the projected numbers of Van White, Royalston and Penn are disappointingly low.

  • Ron

    This project is a complete political union boondoggle. There can be no financial justification to offer an alternative transport for a small number of southwest ridership where current alternatives are working perfectly fine. It was just a few years ago when the state built huge bus facilities to accommodate southwest commuters.