Lake Elmo takes a stand for the past

Lake Elmo, a city famous for its insistence to remain a pre-sprawl town, has taken a big club to sprawl with its refusal to allow bus rapid-transit stations in its community.

That’s primarily a shot at Woodbury, the public transportation backwater that’s been trying to build support for the “Gold Line”, essentially a bus-only route from the far reaches of the East Metro into St. Paul, where it will connect with public transit civilization.

The Pioneer Press reports that Lake Elmo, however, has said “no” to having two of the transit stations located in the community. It fears becoming North Woodbury.

The city voted 3-to-2 this week against the project.

Lake Elmo’s timing couldn’t be worse. Planners have been working on the project for years and its supporters bristled at the city’s action.

“This was the route that everyone agreed on, including the representative from Lake Elmo,” said Will Schroeer, director of the mass-transit advocacy group East Metro Strong. “Now, we are back to the drawing board.”

This is the classic regional vs. local fight for which Lake Elmo has been famous.

Woodbury exists and there’s nothing Lake Elmo can do about it other than shop in its stores, drive its streets, and take its transit. But now it threatens to sink — at least for now — a project that benefited other communities. It’ll add years and money to a bus route that already wasn’t going to open until the next decade.

At the same time, though, Lake Elmo wants to control what Lake Elmo is. If you build transit stations in the city, the opponents theorize, the next thing you know you’ll have development.

You’d be, basically, Woodbury, a city that weirdly prides itself in looking pretty much like every other suburb.

“Unfortunately, three people decided that this does not make sense for their vision of Lake Elmo,” Lyssa Leitner, manager of the Gateway Corridor project, told the Pioneer Press’ Bob Shaw. “But one city’s decision on this matter does not stop the project.”

It doesn’t start it either.

Background: Lake Elmo and the Misconceptions of “Growth” (

  • Khatti

    Tis a tangled political web you Metropolitans weave.

  • blindeke

    sigh. at least some things will never change.

  • Gary F

    With all the hand wringing over “urban sprawl” why not let them stay small town?

  • Mike Worcester

    In the meantime there are people in St. Cloud who very much want to see the North Star trains extended to their fair metroplex. Yet those plans seem to be permanently derailed (pun intended). And no, having the bus link from the southeast side of town to the station in Big Lake is not the same.

    • Khatti

      I’m looking forward to the day when a line runs to Mankato, or at least Shakopee. I’ve noticed that life in the big city tends to go better if you don’t have to bring your car along.

      • I like taking the Green Line over to the Timberwolves game when I’m going by myself (if someone is with me, we drive). But, honestly, it’s insane that it takes so long. It’s still a bus on rails.

        • Khatti

          I was at Orchestra Hall for Sommerfest many years ago. I went on a bus tour. It was one of my first visits to the big city. I didn’t particularly feel in danger of being mugged or killed–in fact the natives seemed to be more scared of me than I was of them–but I noticed there wasn’t a lot in the way of parking.

        • Kassie

          If you ever took the 16 between the two cities you would know it is not just a bus on rails. The 16 was the slowest, saddest bus of all time. Actually, it still exists, so it probably is still the slowest, saddest bus of all time, I just don’t have to take it now.

          • At least for night games (I’m too old to be getting home 90 minutes after the end of the game when I have to get up early in the morning), I’m going back to the 94 express bus.

          • Jeffrey

            When the light rail faced criticism for the amount of time it took to get from one downtown to the other, the powers that be said most riders would not use it that way. However, service on the 94 express bus was greatly reduced. After a night game you would have no choice but to take the train. No 94 express service after 6pm on weekdays. No service on the weekend.

          • ChrisF

            Oh man, the 16…that brings back memories. I used to take that from the UofM to the Capitol daily. I finally broke down and got a car. Course that was back in the day when the intersection of Dale and University was Ferris Alexander’s porn empire which was much of the ridership’s destination.

  • Ryan

    “You’d be, basically, Woodbury, a city that weirdly prides itself in looking pretty much like every other suburb.”

    I’m sorry, but I can’t think of any other suburb that has Woodbury’s level of disjointed, over-paved, commercialization. The place is a nightmare to get around. Having to hop from Valley Creek to Tamarrack, and now all the way down Hudson Rd. No thanks, I’ll just go to Inver Grove, West St. Paul, or even the MoA instead.

    But then, maybe my High School bias is influencing my opinion, “Go Wolfpack!”

    • Until recently, there was a line separating commercial Woodbury from “locals” Woodbury, that ran roughly along Valley Creek Road. I fear the Huns have breached the wall with the Bielenberg Gardens monstrosity.

    • Kassie

      Worse suburbs for getting around: Maple Grove, Rosedale.

      • Joe

        Ouch. Calling the suburb it’s mall name.

        But most of Roseville is actually laid out mostly grid-like. Everything south of 36, and most everything east of Snelling. And it’s only 13 sq miles.

        I find suburbs like Inver Grove Heights or Eden Prairie much more difficult to navigate as they are so segmented, no grid, and over 30 square miles.

        • Kassie

          LOL, yeah. That was an accident, I know better. And if we are talking both commercial and residential areas, Eden Prairie is terrible. And I think it was Apple Valley that I was door knocking in and all the streets in an area all start with the same letter and wind, making things very difficult to navigate.

      • Jake

        Roseville shares all of it’s north-south street names with St. Paul. So if you have even a passing familiarity with our capital Roseville isn’t that hard. And the major east west streets are County Road B-F, in order.

        Most people know Snelling is west of Dale, and that County Road D is going to be in between County Road’s C and E, but does anyone know whether Elm Creek Blvd is west or east of Zachary Ln? Trick question, it’s both, as both roads curve and turn and change names and intersect.

        • Why is there a County B2?

          • Jake

            The County Roads are each 1 mile apart. County Road A is Larpenteur, the city limit. Roselawn, B2, C2, D2, E2 fill in at half mile spacing. Very uncreative naming, but very easy naming.

          • Thomas Mercier

            A north-south R2 would be nice. The intersection of R2-D2 could include a county service center and they could sell R2-D2 traffic signs cause you know they would otherwise be getting stolen nightly by Star Wars fans.

          • Jay T. Berken

            Or people would just cut them down like Lombardi/Holmgren was yearly.

          • Ryan

            The major north-south roads are also all half-mile apart. Cleveland, Fairview, Snelling, Hamline, Lexington, Victoria, Dale, Western, Rice. So the whole city is set up in easy half-mile squares. I’m honestly confused how someone would have trouble getting around.

          • Jerry

            It’s not so much the suburb as a whole but the pure misery that is the roads around Rosedale and Har Mar

  • Fred, Just Fred

    What’s the pedestrian butcher’s bill for the green line last year? And that’s saying nothing of the robberies and murders that have been committed.

    There are a lot of costs public transit brings with it above and beyond the huge financial outlay.

    • Ryan

      Well there’s some dog-whistle politics for you.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        “Bus stops and transit stations were the top targets in Minneapolis robberies”

        • Ryan

          “8 of 10 hotspots were near a bus stop or light-rail station” And they define “near” as within 2 blocks.

          All of downtown is within 2 blocks of a bus stop, most of Old St. Anthony, the U, Uptown, West Bank, Stevens Square, and Near North are as well.

          So you’re telling me 8 out of 10 theft hotspots were in downtown, uptown, the university, west bank or near north? How shocking.

          I’m sure if a bus was built connecting woodbury and lake elmo it would start to look exactly like Hennepin & 5th.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            “Serious Crimes Happening On Light-Rail Trains, Platforms”

            “At the Mall of America station, Metro Transit Police recorded 747 incidents in six months, 45 disorderly conduct cases, 22 thefts and five weapons calls.”


          • Ryan

            There are well more than 600,000 boardings and departures at the MOA every year. So 300,000 in six months. 22 thefts. That means there was 1 theft for every 14,000 people walking by.

            The ridership in Lake Elmo was projected to be 30,000 a year. So if this bus station was built, and Lake Elmoans are just as prone to theft as tourists and shoppers, there would be 2 thefts a year because of this bus stop. Stop the presses!

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Don’t look at me, I’m just giving you the reports. Ya left out the totals for assaults and murders. Speaking of which, ya got a source for your numbers?

          • Ryan

            Those reports had nothing to do with Lake Elmo. You are the one tying this to Lake Elmo. Or maybe you aren’t, but I assumed you were at least attempting to be relevant.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Lake Elmo doesn’t have mass transit yet, or the baggage that comes with it…kind of the point, here. 😉

          • It does have the Stillwater to St. Paul bus, technically. Presumably, now Lake Elmoans are using the Park and rides in other cities.

    • Joe

      405 traffic fatalities last year. Not to mention all the robberies and murders committed by people who drove cars. And the pollution (both local and global).

      There are lots of costs car culture brings with it above and beyond the huge financial outlay.

    • Tim

      It’s an awful lot less than the number of people who died in car accidents, for starters.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        Yeabut you assume risk when you get into a car. I don’t expect to get mowed down walking to the coffee shop.

        Also, I haven’t heard car lots being a magnet for armed robbers.

        • Tim

          Pedestrians and bicyclists get hit by cars and trucks too. I don’t have the stats handy, but I’d be willing to bet that more people died from that than were hit by trains.

          And any place in a population-dense area where people congregate is going to be a target for robbers. It’s not something unique to transit.

          • Joe

            Wayyyyyy more pedestrians are killed by cars than trains. But there are also more cars than trains. Per trip, a transit train is more deadly to passengers than a car. But a lotof that is because trains are in highly urbanized areas with lots of pedestrians.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            News reports and FBI statistics aside, you may be right.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Also, how many cars are there in the Twin Cities? How many trains?

        • Jerry

          You’ve never heard of armed robbery in a parking lot? Seriously?

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Magnet; happens regularly, common occurrence, see?

    • Ryan, the other one.

      Less then the butcher’s bill of the automotive industry.

  • Fred, Just Fred

    I really do try and get the facts of issues I chime in about, and I admit that I’ve been basing my conclusions mostly on what the MSM says about the social costs of public transit (the financial costs are well documented). So I’ve dug a little deeper, and found a lot of opinions pro and con but scant real research.

    Here’s a scholarly paper I found that I think is pretty evenly researched. It isn’t conclusive, and admits as much, but it does give some credibility to the arguments you hear from people in relatively crime free areas. It also addresses the obvious factors pro-transit folks would claim are mitigating (eg; more people, more crime QED)

    The study’s conclusions start on page 18. I hope some find it helpful.

  • Jay T. Berken

    “Woodbury exists and there’s nothing Lake Elmo can do about it other than shop in its stores, drive its streets, and take its transit.”

    If Lake Elmo could be self reliant, then they may have a good argument to stay the way they are, but they are part of a system which they take advantage of for shopping, entertainment and most importantly good paying jobs. They should help buy and plan into it. They have the ability to self regulate their planning through their council/mayor of zoning, but they still receive funding through county/state/federal roads that cross through their borders.

    “If you build transit stations in the city, the opponents theorize, the next thing you know you’ll have development.”

    I am wondering if part of the reason that Lake Elmo is pushing back because of money. I see they lost a lawsuit with Met Council about increasing their density. I do not know their water/sewer (w/s) system and how they have their fee structured, but I seem to remember that only part of their city is on city w/s and part is not. With higher density, it will push city w/s fees onto the people that do not have it. One of the fees that an utility (depending) may impose on a land owner is calculated toward their acreage. With big lots and few services between, that can be very hefty.

  • lindblomeagles

    In my opinion, the area really needs a Light Rail Transit line, but Woodbury, oddly enough, was one of Light Rail’s primary antagonists. Moreover, I’m not sure how defeating Mass Bus stops urban sprawl. The job of the bus (should be light rail) is to keep cars off the local roads and freeways. If that option (bus ride) isn’t there, then people drive around in cars. Car drivers move further out, and more developments descend AROUND the community opposing busing; kind of like what has happened to Lake Elmo right now.