I'm not saying travel time is not an issue at all, but fundamentally such projects are about reducing car dependency and changing land use patterns. We generally don't talk about them like that, and the Feds mostly don't think about them like that, but that's really what they're about. Simply speeding people from point A to point B isn't the purpose, the purpose is to provide a different way to get around and eventually a different environment in which to get around. If travel time is too important, then basic utility might be sacrificed by, for example, reducing the number of stops.The feds put way too much emphasis on travel time savings. There is no way that 3A and 3C are going to have the same ridership contrary to what the models say. By skipping one of the densest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, you're reducing the ability of the line to serve more people for more trips as well as change the land use patterns even more. Yonah also makes an important point:
As a result, transit networks are encouraged to extend out into the suburbs, rather than be densified and reinforced downtown. This policy encourages sprawl; though more suburbanites may find themselves taking transit to work, they won’t be using it to go shopping or out on the weekend.But there's another aspect as well. I believe you have to connect major destinations in a region and this is something the Southwest LRT is doing. Connecting Eden Prarie to Downtown is an important goal, and doing it quickly is important as well. However there is a trade off between the goal of speed and the goal of actually connecting destinations and origins. If there is a corridor that might be a little slower, but ultimately connect many more people, it shouldn't be discounted based on speed, but should increase the value based on access. This is something that is currently lacking in the New Starts process and something that needs to change if we're ever going to build meaningful transit lines that connect people with where they want to go.