Sunday, May 1, 2011

50 Years for a System?

The Twin Cities finally signed its full funding grant agreement(FFGA) with the FTA for the Central Corridor. This just 7 years after the completion of its first light rail line, the Hiawatha. In the meantime the Northstar Commuter Line was completed. Now they are planning for the Southwest Corridor and gearing up for that long haul fight as well. With any luck, that line will be signing its FFGA in less than a decade. But why does it take so long to build these transit lines and why are regions doing them one by one? Well, the answer as usual is money.

However of all places, Los Angeles has provided a discussion spark. The 30/10 program now nationally renamed America Fast Forward has pushed the Transit Space Race forward at least an inch, giving hope to regions tired of doing things one line at a time. Salt Lake City has proved expansion can be done on time and on budget and now other regions are starting to think, why not us? The Twin Cities is no different, with local leaders seeing the possibilities.

I'm hopeful that this will push the discussion along as to why it took ~40 years to build a network of national freeways but it seems like building out real transit networks in cities might take over 100 at the current pace. It's not like there aren't a lot of projects out there (complete excel sheet on the page). In fact, there are over 600 fixed guideway transit projects and that doesn't even count all of the frequent bus and trolley bus service that is being planned. That's not to say that all those lines are good lines, but they are out there.

I can only hope that we move past the one line a decade mentality and build lines that matter.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Besides not having to prove that they are cost effective, it seems like an advantage for highways that they're usually built in smaller segments after the development of a larger network plan. They can then claim that the smaller segments have a smaller price tag, and get more political support that way.

Hopefully once more cities have a starter network, they can take a more segmented approach to expansion and not scare the right wing so much.