Thursday, August 13, 2009

Think Different

I think Atrios has the right idea:
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.


Jarrett at said...

Well, but just to be contrary, you could claim with some basis that the inner city is going to densify anyway in a lot of the ways that we value, becoming more like, say, North Beach in San Francisco or West Hollywood in LA, to name two very dense and rich communities that still don't have rail transit.

Inner-ring suburbs, on the other hand, are the areas that need help to turn into dense urban places. Whereas the inner city has a good street grid that allow transformation to happen parcel by parcel, the inner-ring suburbs are more likely to need complete redesign, and to need a big splash of transformative change, such as a light rail station, to get that outcome.

From a transit mobility point of view, I agree that the Uptown alignment is better. But if redevelopment is your main agenda, it would depend a lot on what the outer suburbs on the line want to achieve in terms of redevelopment, and the policies they want to bring to bear.

I say all that to be contrary and stimulate thought. To me, 3A vs 3C looks like a very hard choice, and the right answer depends entirely on what the objectives are.

Matt Fisher said...

What about LRT on I-35W in Minneapolis then? They're planning BRT and this corridor should have LRT. Then again, we just take sprawl for granted.

Alon Levy said...

For commuting purposes, travel time is fixed by mode - the more convenient the mode, the longer the travel time will be. The only way to really cut travel time is either to ban all forms of mechanized transportation, or invent cheap teleportation devices.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Though compare this to tram lines in the area of the past, you can see areas with potential, but the biggest problem is over coming the red tape.

Jerard said...

I wonder what is the development potential along Route 3C?

Because if that is introduced and somehow amplified with Private developers lined up to build along the corridor to potentially offset the some of the costs of operating the line and guarantee healthy ridership levels like it was done in Charlotte.

Peter said...

I was wondering if my little neck of the woods would register on Jarrett's radar, and was hoping to hear something of his opinion.

I seem to be in a minority, but I just don't see 3C serving uptown all that well. Uptown seems at the same time too big and too small for LRT. Too big in that a linear arrangement of stations won't cover it, and small in that won't get anything other than one linear line.

My concern is that Nicolet avenue, where the line will go, is somewhat more car oriented than the rest of Uptown. Also, Nicolet Ave won't really be served by the line. There's a station on one end, and a station on the other end, and nothing to justify the inconvenience to all the first generation immigrant family run businesses (that area is well known for it's huge number of ethnic restaraunts, it brands itself as 'eat street.'

I'd be more in support of a line down Lyndale or Hennepin, but even then your going to have a station one end and nothing on the other. Now to be fair, that's not much of a walk, and I've done it myself a number of times, but I think Uptown needs better local transit. There are plans for local street cars that would serve the area well, and building a light rail is going to make those a lot harder to build.

I also don't like how 3C doesn't allow for interlining with the Hiawatha or Central Corridor.

I also understand the argument for 3C. There are a lot of jobs in the suburban end of the line. Givng uptown residents better access to those jobs would be great. Add this to the fact that most of 3A going through Minneapolis is single family residential with no plans for redevelopment, so there's not much of a benefit on a development standpoint.

When it comes down to it all, I don't see why we can't do both. Build 3A now, and later on build a 3C spur, along with the local street car lines on the Greenway and Hennepin & Lyndale Aves.

Either way, not an easy choice.