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Do an Unfair Number of Rail Projects Go to Minneapolis, West Metro?

The Pioneer Press reported that some east metro legislators say their regions are being left out of rail plans. Patch wants to know what you think.

Most of the recent debate over rail has been between those who want to spend more money on light rail and those who prefer spending the money on roads and buses.

On Sunday, though, the Pioneer Press had a look at a light issue that hasn’t garnered as much attention: Is the east metro getting its share of rail projects?

The paper notes that St. Paul’s only rail line right now is Amtrak and that the city is on track to add just one light rail line, the Central Corridor Light Rail line running between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis, on the other hand, could someday be the starting point of the Hiawatha, Southwest, Bottineau, Central Corridor and Northstar lines.

Some east metro legislators say that’s not fair. State officials and Hennepin County commissioners counter that lines require a certain amount of density to work and that previous east metro rail proposals fell through because of neighborhood opposition.

Click here to read the full Pioneer Press story.

Patch wants to know what you think. Does it makes sense to concentrate so much of the metro’s rail projects west of the river or should the state give our neighbors on the east side more rail options? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Matthew Kilanowski January 28, 2013 at 08:06 PM
It's not unfair at all. High capacity transit, like rail, is most cost effective in higher density areas. Hennepin County has more than twice as many people as Ramsey (still more than Ramsey and Washington combined) and 6 of the 10 most populous cities in the metro area are in Hennepin (Coon Rapids is also in that top 10, served by Northstar and also on the West side). Call them "Twin" Cities all you want, the fact of the matter is that there's just more people to be served on the Minneapolis side. This "unfairness" even rang true back when the privately run streetcars were criss-crossing the metro area (map here: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/txu-oclc-6445490-electric_railway-minneapolis-st_paul-1913.jpg ). Twin Cities Rapid Transit went where the money was, and in transit the money is where the people are. As populations grow and suburbs become more dense and roads become choked with busses (Have you seen how often busses go by on University? Yes, that road needs something higher capacity to move all those people!), then we can expand rail service. People can crow all they want about St. Paul getting the short end of the stick, but until there's more density and more demand on that side of the metro then there's no point in wasting our money on underutilized transportation projects. These systems don't get built in a day, and they'll get built where they're needed most first.
James Warden January 28, 2013 at 08:08 PM
That map you linked to is sweet, although I wonder how the University of Texas came to have it in its archive.
Matthew Kilanowski January 28, 2013 at 09:25 PM
No idea why Texas has it. And that's not even the full system, the map is from around 20 years before the peak build-out. If I get a moment, I'll flip through my copy of Twin Cities by Trolley. I'm pretty sure that the book lists the most profitable streetcar lines, and I'm also sure that the light rail lines currently in the works generally follow the most profitable lines from the old system. Even a century ago it made more sense to invest more into transit on the Minneapolis side of the metro.

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