Shouldn’t light rail deliver reliability – and speed?

MPR reporter Laura Yuen’s fine story on the the new Green Line light rail service is quite a bucket of cold water for those of us who’ve been fairly anxiously awaiting the inauguration of service one month from today.

The initial estimate of a 40-minute trip on the rail line between downtown Saint Paul and downtown Minneapolis was already far too long — it’s a 26-minute bus trip now — and now, Yuen reports, test trains have taken an hour or more.

That’s not going to cut it by a long shot.

To be fair to Metro Transit, this is a test period with new drivers getting used to the route, but it’s troubling nonetheless.

“I’ve heard the chatter. I don’t understand why people are so worked up about this point,” St. Paul city engineer John Maczko told her. “We just put the stuff [in] and are just turning it on.”

“People are riding it are saying, ‘Hey, it’s taking too long.’ It’s kind of like letting you in the house before it’s even finished,” he said. “We’d prefer not to let you in until it’s finished, but everyone wants to see it. Then people get into the new house and say, ‘We don’t like this, we don’t like that.’ Well, we told you it wasn’t done yet.”

A better answer is, “we promise we’ll get you there in 35 minutes or less or the ride is free,” but mass transit isn’t a sub shop. We’ll take what we get at this point and we’ll find out in a month whether it’s worth riding.

But Mark Fuhrmann, who overseas the project for Metro Transit, seemed to be preparing us to accept the non-rapid nature of what we once called rapid transit.

Speed, Furhmann says, is not the first priority for the Green Line. The Met Council is keeping the express bus service for commuters who want to catch a ride between the downtowns, which typically takes about a half-hour.

It cost $1 billion to go 11 miles. And on the Green Line’s website, it emphasizes “service,” noting “trains will operate every 10 minutes during peak travel periods, with a travel time of 39 minutes between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis.

But Fuhrmann says most people won’t take the train from end to end.

“It’s not so important what the overall travel time is from end to end,” he said. “What’s really important is that these new Green Line passengers have a very high quality and reliable ride.”

To a non-expert who’s ridden public transportation in other cities, this seems a mistake.

One value of a built-out, interconnected rail system is that time does matter end to end because it’s a connection. Theoretically, one should be able to leave St. Paul, hop on light rail, transfer in Minneapolis and take the Blue Line to the airport in a reasonable period of time.

If the point of the Green Line, however, is primarily to serve a short hop from one station to another, St. Paul already had that system — the bus.

The light-rail line has to be a net positive at the same time. But rents have risen 24 percent on the Green Line corridor in anticipation of the service.

That’s good, we guess. It shows economic development (Update: A news release from the Met Council today claims over $2 billion in nearby construction is the result of light rail). But it also puts housing out of the reach of more people. It’s quite a balancing act for a light-rail line, especially once speed of service is removed from the “plus” side of the equation.

In some ways, the biggest challenge the Green Line planners faced was trying to keep everyone happy. In the face of public concern — mostly on University Avenue — more light-rail stations were built.

The line ended up with 18 stations over 11 miles. You can’t get a head of speed up when you’re stopping so frequently. True, there are 19 stations on the blue line’s 12 miles, but it’s only a 39-minute trip from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America.

What can be done to zip things up a bit? Yuen reports planners are installing a system to allow the light rail train to communicate with traffic signals to hold a green light until the light-rail passes. Hopefully it goes further and actually gives priority to the trains, at least on University.

If the train’s coming, change the light. The drivers can wait. If nothing else, it’d send a message to the drivers that the train is faster.

It might make sense to run express or semi-express service during rush hour and ignore some stations in the recognition of the fact that some people are interested in getting from one downtown to another. But that’s unlikely because there’s only a single track.

One option for accomplishing that: The bus.

Or a car.

  • MrE85

    I’m going to give it a try on Monday, June 16. I’ll also be using the NorthStar commuter train, starting at the Coon Rapids station. Check with me then. Perhaps I’ll live-Tweet my commute, good or bad.

    • Me too. I’m going to catch the 8:15 bus out of Woodbury. Oh, wait. No I’m not. There’s no money for any bus after 7:50 am out of the retail center of the east metro. Where’d it go? :*)

      • MrE85

        For an extra billion or two, we can extend the light rail to Woodbury. Then I could join you at the backyard bonfire for cigars and beers, while we let the lawnmower idle.

        • I have to give Washington County credit. They’re not that stupid. They’re pursuing bus rapid transit.

          • Doug T

            LRT isn’t a great idea for Washington County since it’s such sprawled out area. At least with the Rush Line though, LRT hasn’t been ruled out, although the alternative they are still studying and considering would go to White Bear Lake (staying within Ramsey County I believe). In 2008 dollars, the Rush Line LRT to White Bear was projected to cost $441 million. Obviously that has risen with inflation, but it seems like a solid investment and one the would tie the east side of Saint Paul into the LRT network as well as White Bear Lake. And to those balking at the cost, remember than MnDoT is planning to spend $225 million to upgrade a 5 mile section of I35E adding a MN pass lane. Where was the fiscal outrage there? For more on the Rush Line:

          • These comparisons always confuse me a little bit, though, and leave me wanting more. If you spend money to repave the highway, once you’re done, each time 50 people drive over it, you don’t pay more. But with rail you do, right. OTOH, people don’t pay to drive over the highway, but they do to be driven on rails so the cost goes down. With every possible cost and inflow considered over, say, one year… how much is a mile of highway vs. a mile of rail?

          • Doug T

            When comparing costs, I think the most important thing to remember, especially from an equity standpoint, is that highway investment also assume a huge investment on the part of the user to pay for the car needed to use that resource. True, busses also use our highways and roads, but they are not the reason highways are congested, making some argue we need to add more lanes. Far and away, single occupant vehicle commuting during rush hour are the reason we are pumping hundred of millions into widening projects hoping to ease congestion. Triple A estimates that it costs $9,000 per year to own and operate a car. Middle class folks used to making that investment might not bat an eye but this is a really serious burden for poorer folks to bear now and gas will continue to get more expensive. More and more people are choosing to go car-less or car-light out of these concerns and that is going to make investments in public transit more pressing. We should not assume car ownership when planning our transportation network.

          • Jeremy

            Washington County is rural/suburban. Why on earth would they consider fixed rail investments? Makes no sense to state something so utterly obvious.

          • Probably because there’s already rail installed, #1. But you bring up two different things. Rural and suburban aren’t the same, at least in the area we’re talking about.

      • Paul Weimer

        *that* is an argument for a train versus a bus. Buses are easier to cut in some ways. When the train doesn’t run, people notice. (and politicians are reluctant to mothball those shiny trains they bought)

        But ‘that old bus going to Woodbury? Who’d miss that’?

  • Emery

    It’s all about flexibility. A new bus service can be started in days. The starting
    and stopping points move wherever the economics point them. A rail
    line would take years to build and decades to pay off. The reasons to build
    rail lines and nuclear reactors are similar. The reasons to rely on
    bus service and natural gas plants instead are also similar. Look at what is
    getting built

    • Kassie

      First, a new bus service can’t be started in days. It take a lot of planning, notifying customers, developing routes, finding layover locations and facilities for the drivers. Second, take a map of the old street car lines. Take a current map of the bus lines. See that they line up. Realize that, at least in the city, the need for transit in certain areas is constant and that rail make sense for those areas.

      • Emery

        You miss the point of my comment. It’s the economics of buses over trains and the cost of infrastructure that accompanies project such as the Green Line.

        Perhaps if expectations/standards were lowered and “Green Line” were marketed as ‘Trolley Cars’ there might not be an issue. As an aside; Hows does the Green Line impact the flow of automobile and pedestrian traffic along the line?

  • patrick

    Trains will be coming every 10 minutes and you want the cross traffic to have to wait?!?! Great, thanks. The train is a bad idea poorl executed

    • Jack Ungerleider

      If a train is two cars long I would guess it takes 5 seconds maybe 10 to clear the intersection. If that’s too much, modify your route to avoid the train.

      • Patrick

        Thanks Jack! What a great idea! Let’s see, I live half a mile north of this non sense and have to cross a couple of times a day. Figure 3 miles north to hwy 36 2 miles west to 280 4 miles south to 94 another couple of miles to Snelling and another mile or so back to Fairview.12 miles out of my way. QED!

        Too many stations serving the same purpose as the buses that will continue to run on University.

        Good job good effort Met Council

        • Matty Lang

          No Pat, the 16 bus which will continue to run only every 1/2 hour is to serve the blocks between the rail stations. The rail stations are replacing the limited stop 50 bus, but with much greater capacity, quality, and speed could be added to the list given proper signal preemption to trains.

          Like Jack said, you have choices if you can’t handle waiting for a train to clear an intersection. The Met Council was not created to please you.

  • John

    For kicks, my son and I decided to take public transport from our home in St. Louis Park to the Mall of America one day last winter. Using Google on my cell phone to map the most efficient route (express to downtown, train to MoA), it took us over an hours to get to the mall. Then on the ride back, another 1.5 hours (in fairness, that included a long layover between the light rail and the bus and a ride on the Franklin St. bus that stopped every block). It’s a 16 mile drive. That means we averaged less than 16 miles per hour to get there. I can just about make it on my bike in that time (except it’s almost impossible to get to MoA on bike – too many drivers unfamiliar with the area).

    Before that, I was kind of excited about the Green Line for getting over to St. Paul (especially once the SW link is finally up and running). Now, not so much. it’s just too slow to be of any value to me. It’s a rare day when I can spend three hours getting across town. Even the 9 year old thought it was kind of ridiculous.

    • Sous

      And who is to say that the SW line won’t be equally slow and unreliable? If Met Council is going to sell light rail as a commuter line, then it needs to deliver that. If it’s intended to be a fancy new city bus, then just say so. Anything else is feels a lot like bait and switch consumer fraud!

    • Kassie

      At no time was the first light rail meant to speed up the travel time for someone who lives in St. Louis Park to get to Mall of America. Just because you live in the suburbs and it takes quite a bit of time to get to MOA on it, does not mean it is a failure. It has been pretty successful, a great way to get to the airport, MOA and downtown for those who live on or near it, or drive to it and park and ride.

      • Jeremy

        I would not consider St Louis Park a far out “suburb” in the typical definition. Everything developed within the 694/494 beltway should have frequent, fast and reliable transit, spoking out from Downtown and a few crosstown rail or bus routes to get folks between non downtown points. I would expect a ride to MOA from anywhere in the loop should be able to compete with a drive. Just my viewpoint.

        • Nathanael

          Well, you’ll need to build a lot more rail lines before that will work.

        • John

          In terms of competing with a drive, I don’t think so. Except for downtown, you really can’t. My general level of acceptable is around twice as long as it would take to drive.

    • Nathanael

      Your problem is that you can’t get from St. Louis Park to the train line in Minneapolis. The train service seems to be fast enough.

      I suggest biking to the Blue Line and parking your bike there.

      • John

        Normally, that’s what I would do, but it was February (I think), and my son had just turned 9. Even the 5-6 mile ride to the blue line would have been too far (and I’m a winter riding wimp – I don’t do it).

        But, yes, getting to/from downtown, even from where I live (about 4 blocks off 394) is tougher than it seems like it should be.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Several years ago, when they first put out an estimate for the end-to-end trip I had also recently come across a story about a horse and buggy service that would take riders between the two cities 11 minutes longer than the estimated light rail time. I wrote it into something for one of my members along the lines of, “For $1 billion and 70 years we’ve managed to shave 11 minutes off the trip.”

    Then I got to thinking about the 94 bus that I sometimes took. That was also roughly comparable to the estimate, and so I wrote it again. When I heard a few months ago that the test runs would take an hour I thought it was because they go slower on test runs. Now they’re talking about making sure the trains have signal priority. I hope you don’t depend on crossing University Avenue very much.

    Probably the most illuminating comment about light rail came from a legislator whose name I don’t remember but admitted that it’s not about transportation. Furhmanns’ comments in the article bare that out, as will the Met Council’s announcement on development this afternoon.

    So stop thinking about it as a way to get from one place to another. Start thinking about it as seed money for University Avenue.

  • Chris

    I don’t like riding buses in the Twin Cities–I think they’re loud and smell like fuel. I don’t have an intuitive feel for their routes. The existing light rail is always clean and pleasant and I know exactly where it goes (and the schedule is pretty reliable).

    So a bus might be faster? That doesn’t matter to me, because I hardly ever take the bus. I think at least some of the ridership of the light rail comes from people like me, who come out of the woodwork when public transit becomes something we consider using instead of automatically rejecting.

    • kevinfromminneapolis

      I’m glad we’re spending billions of dollars to bring you comfort.

      • DavidG

        I’m glad we’re spending billions for your sports entertainment.

        The point being: everyone’s going to find billions of dollars of government spending they find frivolous.

  • Gary F

    Oh thanks for reminding me. I live in Highland Park and except for LA Fitness, I am not venturing north of interstate 94. I also no longer drive on Hiawatha Avenue either.

    Highland/Mac Groveland or go, south, to highway five/35E to Bloomington/Richfield or Eagan.

    I’m not coming near that thing.

    • Matty Lang

      Thank you Gary. One fewer car in the neighborhood will be nice.

      • Gary F

        Fewer dollars spent in Midway and Roseville too.

        • Matty Lang

          Everyone who comes on the trains, their bikes, and by walking to the Midway will make up for it. And when the mall areas get reconfigured, redeveloped, and the street grid gets restored we’ll be happy to share the additional property tax receipts with Highland Park.

          • Gary F

            Why didn’t they do that with a bus line?

          • Matty Lang

            Plenty of people do. The train will attract more and has the capacity to carry many more than the bus line so your boycott will not bother economic activity in the Midway.

            The improving economy, the train, and the willing land owner will lead to the entire area between Hamline, Snelling, I94, and University being redeveloped and reconfigured to replace the super block parking lots with the old street grid and more businesses, more housing, and more people. It’ll take time for all of that to take place, but the neighborhood certainly won’t miss your car and your potting soil purchase at Menards.

  • Matty Lang

    Thank you Bob for pointing out the real culprit here–the lack of priority for the trains at traffic signals. The problem is that the system is prioritized to benefit the movement of cars over the movement of the trains. The station stops aren’t a problem compared to the signalized intersections.

    Can the traffic engineers please allow us one measly corridor where transit is prioritized over car traffic? Is stopping car traffic for a few seconds every 10 minutes too much to ask?

    • We let buses drive on the shoulder of the highway. It’s silly that light rail can’t get priority on University, especially since the roadway has been redesigned with light rail the priority.

    • Gary F

      The more priority for trains, the harder it will be for people in cars will be able to shop at Midway businesses. Just hop off that train and buy that bag of potting soil or kitchen sink at Menards.

      • Matty Lang

        If a few seconds extra makes it harder to shop in the middle of an urban area with a car, then it ought to be harder to shop in the middle of an urban area with a car.

        • ZSMpls

          The issue with that then is that the existing retail will have a tougher time surviving in an urban area. As much as we want the volume and density, it’s just not there now. It’s not realistic that people will walk and shop the Midway retail area as it is currently laid out and much less so in the everlasting winters we’ve been having. I imagine that you’re the type that would be just fine seeing the Cub Foods, Wal-Mart, Target, Menards all disappear though.

          • Matty Lang

            Not disappear, just reconfigured from suburban design to urban design. I live in the Midway and get by without car ownership. I usually choose to shop at more local establishments than those you’ve listed, but I fight through the parking lots when I have to.

            But, my point about about shopping with a car in the Midway is that it’s so easy at present that people and the businesses will not be harmed by having some people in cars wait a minute or two longer on their trips while trains pass through signalized intersections.

          • Jeremy

            Since getting rid our our car, we have a newfound focus on local shopping and a renewed sense of city living. We can go downtown for clothing items at Marshalls, Target and Macys for the big guys. On Central Avenue, we have the meat market and EastSide Coop. We could venture to MOA if we really wanted to spend the day window shopping. All without the hassles with owning a car and the expenses that go along with it.

      • Jeremy

        Believe it or not, I would probably do just that!

  • Jamison S.

    Sorry, but that article yesterday bothered me. As the engineer who was interviewed stated, the equipment to manage the traffic systems was just being installed and turned on.

    We’re not the first metro area to put in light rail transit (in fact we’re behind the curve for my preference), so we’re not solving new issues here. Many, many cities have managed these pieces of infrastructure, and if we just give the engineers time to actually turn it on and get it configured it will most likely work as planned.

    Additionally, no one said this train was supposed to be an express. If we wanted an express train then we would have built a line down the middle of 94 (similar to the Blue Line in Chicago).

    • Matty Lang

      This is all true, but the signal controls are planed to only allow the trains to extend a green light a bit longer. When they encounter a red light they will have to stop and sit out the entire cycle. That’s my frustration with the plan.

      • I watched a train sit at the light at Cedar and Seventh a few weeks ago. It must have been there for two minutes because first it had to wait for the green on seventh and THEN it had to wait for the green on Cedar, because cars are allowed to turn left in front of the train and THEN it got the green to go.

        See, the thing is, Cedar was reduced to one lane, so you can’t let the train go first and THEN have the cars turn left because that would back up Cedar. So unless they’re willing to not allow left turns, there’s no other way to do it.

        Repeat that sort of situation enough times over 11 miles and there you go.

        • Matty Lang

          Yes, that’s the thing, most traffic engineers are loathe to see cars backed up anywhere even though it should be expected in an urban downtown.

    • kevinfromminneapolis

      We’ll never get a Chicago Blue Line because we don’t generate enough riders to qualify for funding.

  • I’m flying to St. Louis after work tonight. I’m taking a taxi from St. Paul to the airport because I’m skeptical that the green line + blue line will get me to the airport in less than 2 hours.

    • Matty Lang

      Especially since the Green Line isn’t serving passengers yet. The bus from downtown on West 7th would do it for you.

      • Jeremy

        The 54 is a great route for this, since opening up for service in 2001. Nothing wrong with a good bus route.

  • DavidG

    I’m not all that surprised. It takes 40-45 minutes for Chicago’s Blue line to travel the 14.6 mile distance between O’hare and downtown. And that’s with a track completely segregated from road traffic.

  • David

    Midway resident here. It doesn’t help that stations are 4-6 blocks from one another in the heart of Midway AND it looks to me like they will be keeping the 16 Bus running down University (blocking a lane of auto/bike traffic to stop for passengers).

  • This old 2005 MPR piece — with the great Natcho Diaz, by the way — had an interesting line when it came to applying for fed funds:

    “The (FTA wants to see) travel time savings — things like how many people are going to use the system, what impact the use of that system may have on other things like highway congestion, things like that,” Diaz says.

    I wonder what that proposal said? Did it say speed “wasn’t a priority”?

    • Neil

      Remember when there was a big deal about stops being added (or added back, really) to the route? I believe that had to do with the feds changing the cost/benefit calculation the article talked about.

  • Doug T

    I live about a mile from the Raymond Ave station and I plan on using the Green Line frequently. The 94 express bus does not serve my neighborhood being as how I’m about halfway between each downtown.

    That the green line will operate 24/7 is welcome news since currently no busses are running at bar close and even earlier in the night frequencies decrease to on the hour on some routes. The big advantage people seem to be largely overlooking is that the frequency of light rail offers time savings of its own in the real world since missing your bus and having to wait for the next one is an all too frequent occurrence (Or the busses being so off schedule that you end up waiting a long time even if you’re at the stop on time.)

    Riding the light rail will also take you closer to errands or fun on your way home. You can stop off for dinner or to do some shopping. It’s less practicable to do that on the express bus. And even if you don’t have a reason to stop, personally a lot of days I’d ride the light rail over an express bus just to enjoy the more comfortable ride and more interesting scenery of a vibrant city street rather than a rush hour packed freeway trench.

    • Jeremy

      We are excited for the new Route 30 in NE Minneapolis because it connects directly with Raymond Station. This eliminates going downtown Mpls to catch the green line. We could get to Snelling and then catch the A-Line BRT line to Rosedale. (The 32 from NE to Rosedale has terrible frequency and timetable even though its a one seat ride for us.)

  • Neil

    It’s understandable, but I think that people misunderstand the purpose of the line. It’s not (never was) intended to move people quickly between the downtowns – that’s what the 94 bus is for – it’s to move more people through an already very busy corridor: from the U to the Capitol, from Frogtown to jobs in the downtowns, etc. And also a little bit to make St Paul feel better about itself (it gets a line now too! Yay!)
    I imagine these travel times will come down and the worrying will have been premature.

  • Andrew Guthrie

    The predicted running times include the effects of signal priority, which isn’t operating yet. The signal priority system isn’t a fix for a problem, it’s something planned for all along. By my count, there are close to 30 signalized intersections on campus and University Avenue–that’s not counting either downtown. In other words, they need to save less than a minute per intersection. Even without the gains they’ll get from more confident operators and more practice weaving Green and Blue Line schedules together in Minneapolis, that’s reasonable. The additional signal phases trains add make the light cycle very long if the trains can’t talk to the lights. I believe the signal priority equipment will provide both early clears (when a train approaches a signal showing stop) AND extended clears–the extended green phase Ms Yuen mentions was an example.

    • Matty Lang

      My understanding is that only extended clears (holding a green light a little longer) are a part of the plan. The equipment would allow it, but the current plan is not to allow trains to change a red to green early.

      • Andrew Guthrie

        That is a little disappointing, but Saint Paul, the Council et al have a lot riding on the success of the Green Line. If they need to add early clears to get acceptable performance, I’m guessing they will.

        The most illustrative thing about the story Mr. Collins is commenting on is that the engineer in charge of signal timing doesn’t sound worried about getting the running times down. If only extended clears is the plan, then the 40-minute prediction is based on only extended clears using well-established methods.

        Anyone remember when the Blue Line’s signal priority on 34th Ave in Bloomington was switched off last year due to a road project that involved replacing signals? They routinely lost 4-5 minutes from three affected intersections. Even “soft” signal priority makes a huge difference.

  • illudiumQ36

    I really want the Green Line to work, not only because I live within .25 miles of it but also because I believe in the benefits of Light Rail beyond merely a transit alternative. Unfortunately, the train must first and foremost be about timely travel between A and B or there is no purpose, especially given the enormous capital and opportunity costs. As a result there’s more wrong here than a time miscalculation. During the contentious years of inital planning, funding, and construction of the Green Line we were all told by Met Council the trip between downtowns would be 39 minutes. Granted, the time lengthened slightly with the addition of 3 infill stations, but not much more. At “just minutes between downtowns” the line was touted as much better than driving or the bus, and this got repeated at every Green Line presentation before whichever Gov’t Body or Community Advisory Committee. Today at the 11th hour we hear from Metro Transit’s PR guy that the MPR story about 67 minutes is overblown and not to worry, once things get figured out the trip “definitely won’t take more than an hour”. AN HOUR!? Dear MTC: The trip had better take a lot less than that. The SWLRT Green Line Extension, even more contentious and expensive, is advertised at 38 minutes to Target Field (funny similarity). One glance at SWLRT’s convoluted route makes that time seem remarkable, and after this excellent research by MPR more like impossible. If the SWLRT Kennilworth fight gets past us and the line built, I’m betting travel times will NOT be 38 minutes but something more like an hour, meaning the trip from Eden Prarie to Union Depot will now be TWO hours. $4 Billion for 2 hours bears no likeness to any ROI figures ever presented by any transit planner ever in the history of Minnesota LRT. I want to be a believer, and I’m even partially OK with times turning out a bit longer than planned, but not OK with these blatently wrong numbers. Either this is incompetence or purposeful dishonesty used to convince the public that the ROI is better than it really is. SWLRT and its $150 million tunnels? Might have to let that one go.

  • As long as we’re all applying our individual expertise and anticipating where the discussion is going, let’s set some guideposts. What will a constitute “success’ in the first month, year, and 5 years of the Central Corridor (aka: Green Line). What ridership number?

    Also, I’ve deleted posts — typically for NewsCut, though, few — of any name calling.

    We don’t do that here.

  • ShellyM

    I don’t plan on taking the Green Line so that I can get from St. Paul to Minneapolis or vice versa more quickly. I plan on taking it so that I don’t have to deal with traffic and parking by using a service that’s more comfortable and reliable than the bus.

  • J F Hanson

    For the past nine months I have been driving University Avenue in the vicinity of the Capital and frequently staying overnight there as well.

    The Green Line is simply the biggest boondoggle I have ever seen. It ruined a fading artery for efficient auto and bus use, is worthless for typical urban transit needs, and now will take longer to do a journey than typical auto-bus driving. To tweak the signaling for Transit use will finish off University Avenue for its local users–but who cares: they’re only an urban minority population.

    It belonged on the 94 route, not this location.

    How many buses could have been provided on the Avenue or on 94 for the value of the interest alone on the money spent to create this Big Government vision?

    Nearly a BILLION dollars was spent creating this mess–a billion dollars of our tax money. But hey–if you can buy votes with tax money, why not?

  • Jeremy

    Its double track, not single track. Crossovers can accomplish an express train with careful scheduling, imo.

    • I don’t see how that would work. If there’s 10 minutes between trains, that means a train could only travel for 5 minutes on an opposite track. That’s not going to work for anything meaningful. I also don’t believe there are that many crossovers.

  • Keith Morris

    As a resident of Downtown Minneapolis (OK, Loring Park) I will not regularly visit Downtown St Paul and its bordering neighborhoods if it takes over an hour to get there: that’s over two hours just on the train alone. That’s time (and money) I’d rather spend eating, drinking, or shopping in the more distant corners of St Paul. At that speed I’ll probably head out that way as often as I do now: not very. I’m sure I’m not the only Mpls resident on the opposite end of the line who is going to think twice about casually hopping on. I also feel sorry for tourists who will rightfully assume that they will be able to just hop on and reach the other downtown in a timely manner.

    And I say this as someone who is perfectly OK with the original 39 min trip. With things planned as they are, that’s at least how much longer we’ll have to sit on the train going from one end to the other and yes, that’s a lot of us. Even those living near but not in either downtown will likewise face a long commute to work: about an hour for a Frogtown resident working in Downtown Minneapolis? The 16 today will take you from University and Dale to Nicollet Mall in 36 minutes: soon they’re going to be punished for taking the train instead with 10 or more minutes tacked on each way?

    The SWLRT is doomed to failure no matter what (mass transit in an environment lacking in mass and transit and already built as anti-mass transit as could be). This line actually makes sense (has the mass and transit in place), so to add on 20+ minutes one way and sabotage what would be notably higher ridership makes no sense. But then we are looking to drop over a billion to build light rail stations next to walls of suburban highways and interchanges and for the imaginary people expected to ride out to Eden Prairie and then walk a few miles around said highways and interchanges to their destination/job with our winters. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • hammerpocket

    I think I’ve read all the comments, and not one person has mentioned the fact that travel time “between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis” does not mean the same thing as travel time from one end of the line to the other. If you look at Metro Transit’s map of the line, you will see that the outlines of the downtown areas include Downtown East station in Minneapolis (4 stops from Target Field) and Capitol/Rice St. station in St. Paul (4 stops from Union Station). That’s eight fewer stops than the practice runs that NPR timed.