Southwest LRT: Is It a Good Thing for Hopkins Business?

‘So far I have not seen anything that encourages me and my business to look forward to this plan,’ one Mainstreet business owner says.


Editor’s Note: The following guest column comes from Mark Purdy, owner of Blackstone Manor Clock Repair on Hopkins’ Mainstreet.


As an owner of a small business in Hopkins, I have an opinion about the effects the Southwest Light Rail Transit project (SWLRT) will have or not have on my business and other Hopkins businesses.

The SWLRT is being sold as a good thing for all the citizens and the businesses along the proposed route.

So far I have not seen anything that encourages me and my business to look forward to this plan. IF riders get on the train at the far west end and ride the train to work in downtown Minneapolis, what makes anyone think they will get off the train to make a stop to shop? They will not be bringing their shirts to drop off at the cleaners. They will not be bringing their shoes to drop off at the shoe repair shop.  They will not be bringing their clock or watch to drop off to get repaired or a battery changed. They will not be stopping for breakfast.

Today when these same people drive to work, this does happen in Hopkins every day.  

I still remember Mayor Belton of Minneapolis telling all of us that when The Hiawatha line is running, people will be able to stop at the Cabooze and Whiskey Junction and all the other mom and pop restaurants and shops. They can ride the train all the way to The Mall of America and shop. This will be such a great thing for ALL the business along this line. Did any of this happen? What did happen has not been good for the mom and pop businesses along the route.

Every time I hear someone talking about the Hiawatha line, it is complaining about the traffic congestion caused by the light rail.  

We all know mass transit never pays for itself. But neither do all the highways and byways of the U.S. But the roads do allow ALL of us to get around and shop as it fits into our schedule. The train does NOT allow the ridership to spend their money along the way to and from work and home.  

My questions is: IS the SWLRT worth the large subsidies it will require for eternity?

Brad Koehn December 11, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Roads allow ALL of us to get around? Even those of us who don't have/can't afford cars? Those of us who'd rather bike at least part of the way to work? Hopkins is one of the most public-transit dependent second-ring suburbs in the metro. Even the buses except the expresses are terribly slow, and you may have notice that the express buses mostly stop at parking lots because they presume you have a car. Transit (roads, rails, buses, trains) is complex because it needs to work for such a variety of people who have a variety of needs, abilities, and resources. As a general rule, when cities get to a certain size trains become more viable because they can haul so many more people and those people don't need to make a large upfront investment (ie. buy a car). The city size threshold has changed over time with the advent of more affordable cars, but the overall pattern remains the same. We used to have a large network of streetcars and trains that moved the bulk of our population. Cars became affordable and changed the equation: the trains went away and we built a lot of large, expensive roads. The Twin Cities have reached a point where due to increases in population and area of the metro, LRT is once again becoming a preferable alternative to roads.
Gretchen Peterson December 11, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Completely with Brad. The TC Metro is decades behind similar-sized metro areas - and further behind the rest of the industrialized world. It's high time we move FORWARD, instead of allowing fear and/or corporate interests hold us back.
Matthew Kilanowski December 11, 2012 at 11:23 PM
The author is probaby right, people most likely won't be hopping off the train, shopping , then continuing on down the line. But it will bring transit-oriented development, including higher density housing like the apartments that were just built the next block over from his shop and the similar buildings going up on 8th. So, while an Eden Prairie resident may not get off to get their watch fixed on the way to work, all these new residents moving in will most likely wear watches and own clocks. People like myself who live in denser, walkable neighborhoods tend to walk to local shops more than drive to suburban shopping districts. Yes, I have gone to have my watch repaired at Blackstone Manor. I walked there, and there will be many more people living in downtown Hopkins who will do the same. That's what the SWLRT will bring to Hopkins businesses.
n.c.r. December 15, 2012 at 11:45 PM
"But the roads do allow ALL of us to get around and shop as it fits into our schedule. The train does NOT allow the ridership to spend their money along the way to and from work and home." I need the author to explain to me how roads allow all of us to get around but somehow transit doesn't afford that option? If someone were to drive or take public transit through Hopkins they could easily stop and shop on ANY form of transit. The author of this opin. piece fails to back-up his argument with supporting evidence (facts, research, etc.) and comes across more so as a disgruntled store owner upset about a future light rail line.
Norann Dillon January 14, 2013 at 02:52 PM
The author is correct - and the Met Council knows it. Rather than admit that transit doesn't live up to its rosy projections, it continues to throw good money after bad to meet them. The Met Council recent gave a Community Engagement Grant to the Native American Community Development Institute because people aren't visiting their market near the Franklin Avenue station: "Over 10 million light rail passengers pass the Cultural Corridor annually; however most do not visit the Corridor." http://www.metrocouncil.org/planning/COO/COOGrantsAwarded2.htm Trains are an inflexible and inefficient mode of transportation. There are better options for our limited transportation dollars than light rail.


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