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Los Angeles and Charlotte Chart a New Course

06/15/2012

From Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate

The Metropolitan Council has launched the process for creating a new long range regional plan, called Thrive MSP. Transit for Livable Communities recently testified (pdf) before the Council with recommendations for the long-range vision. We’re also keeping an eye on transit, bicycling, and walking in other cities. Los Angeles and Charlotte are two regions charting a new course.

Los Angeles. A recent blog post from Barb Thoman described the exciting additions to the transit system in Los Angeles. LA is rapidly moving from the land of freeways to the land of transit options, including rapid bus, light rail and commuter rail. While Barb looked primarily at Metro, the main transit provider in Los Angeles, equivalent to our Metro Transit, this piece shifts the focus to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the equivalent of our region’s Metropolitan Council.

  SoCalMajorTransitProjects

Major transit projects coming in Southern California. Credit: http://scagrtp.net/

 

The recent 2012-2035 Regional Transportation Plan/ Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) adopted by SCAG further documents the historic shift in transportation priorities underway in Los Angeles. Highlights of the 30-year plan include:

  • Nearly HALF of the $525 billion transportation plan is directed to public transit.
  • Funding for bicycling and walking increases by over 350% from $1.8 to $6.7 billion.
  • Nearly 90% of all jobs will be ½ mile or less from public transit.
  • 60% more housing near transit than is currently available.
  • Achieves a 24% reduction in pollution-caused respiratory problems, resulting in $1.5 billion per year in health care savings.

  SoCalBicycleNetwork
Southern California bicycle network. Credit: http://scagrtp.net/

 

The Sustainable Communities Strategy was motivated by California’s groundbreaking SB 375 legislation, which requires local governments to plan for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions via transportation and land use strategies. The transportation plan shows the way forward to sustainable economic development, improved public health, more equitable access to opportunity, reduced traffic congestion, and open space preservation. In adopting this plan, LA political leaders are following the call of more than 18 million residents who, according to poll results described in Amada Eaken’s Switchboard blog,want more public transportation, more money to go toward making walking and biking safer, and more opportunities to live near their jobs and daily needs” and who see “building new roads as the least effective way to solve traffic congestion.”

Charlotte.  Charlotte, N.C., has gained a new reputation as a city that embraces light rail, commuter rail, and enhanced walkability and bicycle friendliness. Charlotte, over the past decade, was the fastest growing city in the country with over 1 million residents. During that time, Charlotte decidedly moved away from low density single use development and made consistent strides to create a more vibrant downtown, rejuvenate urban neighborhoods, and expand housing along transit lines. This recent post from The Atlantic Cities describes Charlotte’s transformation.

  TODCharlotteNCcreditCATS

Transit-oriented development in Charlotte. Credit: Charlotte Area Transit System

 

City leaders credit much of the transformation to the changing preferences of the thousands of young workers flocking to the city. These workers, for the most part, don’t want suburban office locations with limited transportation and housing options. Tom Flynn, Charlotte’s former Economic Development Director, notes that “the city’s business community led the effort to transform the city in order to retrain talent.”

Back to the Minneapolis Saint Paul region.  Clearly, our metropolitan region’s ability to grow the economy will depend largely upon attracting and retaining employers and workers. The various components of a high-level of quality of life are increasingly important, including transit and walkable, bikable neighborhoods. A look at the intriguing new video of the Southwest LRT alignment captures the possibilities for transforming streets, cities, and region to increase transportation choices and livability.

Update on the Gateway Corridor

06/11/2012

From Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate

The Gateway Corridor, along I-94 between Saint Paul’s Union Depot and Minnesota’s eastern border, is being studied for a future transitway (light rail, commuter rail, or bus rapid transit). 

   Gateway-Blog_Map-Graphic_WEB

Based on the latest data from an Alternatives Analysis, the Gateway Corridor Commission (led by Washington County and including Ramsey County and many cities) has narrowed the possible transit modes to light rail transit (LRT) or bus rapid transit (BRT). The Commission recently chose Woodbury as the eastern end of the line. A proposal for commuter rail to Eau Claire was judged too costly. 

The latest report gives the highest rating to two Bus Rapid Transit options. One option utilizes a new dedicated lane on the frontage road (Hudson Rd.) and some travel on I-94. The other entails converting a current highway shoulder to a high occupancy toll lane (solo drivers pay, while carpools and buses are free) and creating transit stations in the median, as was done recently on I-35W south of downtown Minneapolis. A third option considered for both the BRT and LRT, on E. 7th, White Bear Ave, and Hudson Rd. appears to require far too many property acquisitions to be politically viable.

Ridership projections for light rail were considerably higher than BRT, but so were capital costs. Light rail ridership projections for Gateway were less than half the projected ridership of Southwest LRT or Central Corridor LRT.  Weekday ridership is about 30,000 riders per day on Hiawatha light rail.

Gateway Alternative

Capital Cost

(millions)

Daily Ridership

Property Acquisitions

Overall Ranking

BRT along Hudson Rd/I-94

$420 m

5,400

3

High

BRT in managed lane I-94

$590 m

4,600

5

High

BRT along E 7th, White Bear Ave/Hudson Rd

$500 m

5,800

84

Low

LRT along Hudson Rd/I-94

$980 m

9,100

8

Medium

LRT along E 7th/White Bear ave/Hudson Rd.

$1,300 m

10,100

92

Low

 The Gateway Corridor Commission anticipates releasing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gateway Corridor and selecting a locally preferred alternative later this year, or early 2013. Regardless of the alignment or mode, the cities along the line will need to boldly embrace more density at station areas and employment growth in downtown Saint Paul.

There are other transit improvements on the table for the east metro. Metro Transit is proposing to greatly improve service on four east metro bus corridors. The concept, known in other cities as Rapid Bus, would improve signage and the passenger waiting environment, while providing faster service through traffic signal priority, low-floor buses, and off-board fare payment. Metro Transit's study includes these east metro corridors, all of which connect to downtown Saint Paul: 1) East Seventh Corridor to Maplewood/North St. Paul, which is also part of the Gateway Corridor study area, 2) the Robert Street Corridor to West Saint Paul/Inver Grove Heights, 3) the Snelling Avenue Corridor to Roseville, and 4) the West 7th Street Corridor to the Mall of America. As with the Gateway Corridor, additional funding will be needed for implementation.

Better bus connections to the Green Line: public meetings about draft service plan

06/06/2012

From Barb Thoman, Executive Director

This week Metro Transit, an agency of the Metropolitan Council, unveiled a draft plan for restructured bus service to coincide with the opening of Central Corridor light rail in 2014. This new and extended service is made possible by shifting resources that duplicate new light rail transit service. The Green Line, as it will be known, will run every ten minutes most of the day, seven days a week.

 

UnivandRaymondStationConstrWeb
Buses 16, 87, 67, 50, and 63 would connect to the Green Line station at University and Raymond. The Green Line will replace route 50.

Metro Transit expects that nearly 40% of riders on the Green Line will come from connecting bus service. At Transit for Livable Communities, we know that for our transit system to serve the greatest number of people, it needs to offer frequent well-connected service and safe and convenient access by walking and by bicycle.

The proposed restructuring plan would greatly improve north/south bus service in areas of Saint Paul that currently have very limited service or no service at all. The plan also proposes to extend several existing routes to enable new connections between other bus routes or light rail.

 

N-SconnectingbusroutesWeb 

When the Green Line opens, there will be N-S connecting bus routes one-mile apart in the area covered by changes in service, including Route 62 along Rice Street, Route 65 along Dale Street, Route 83 (new) along Lexington Parkway, and Route 84 along Snelling. The thicker the line on the map, the more frequent the service.

The proposed plans take into consideration comments and suggestions collected over the last several months at community meetings and via surveys and the Trusted Advocates program. Metro Transit will take comments and testimony about the draft plan through July 9. See below for meeting details. Here are some highlights of the proposed plan (PDF):

New and extended Service:

  • A new bus route on Lexington Avenue, where no bus runs today, will plug a 2-mile gap between north-south bus routes. Currently, there are north-south routes on Dale and Snelling, but nothing in between.  
  • Route #87, from Highland to Rosedale, will run more frequently (every 20 minutes) and have weekend service for the first time.
  • Route #84 along Snelling Avenue will run every 10 minutes. New “Rapid Bus” service on Snelling—faster, with higher amenities—may also be timed for the introduction of the new service plan.
  • More frequent north-south service on Dale Street (route #65) and a connection south to Grand Avenue and route #63. Route #65 would terminate at Grand Avenue.

 

BusconnectionCCLRTweb
The 65 bus route will run more frequently when the Central Corridor LRT line opens in 2014.

 

Better connections:

  • The Grand Avenue bus (route #63) would be extended north from the University of St. Thomas area to connect with the Raymond Avenue light rail station on the Green Line.
  • The #67 Minnehaha Avenue bus would be extended west to the Franklin LRT station on the Hiawatha or Blue Line.

Redundant services eliminated or reduced:

  • With Green Line light rail service running every 10 minutes, parallel service on the local route #16 will be reduced to every 20 minutes and terminate on the western end at Oak Street on the U of M campus.
  • Route #50 will be eliminated, as it duplicates Green Line service along the Central Corridor. 
  • The #94 express bus route between the Minneapolis and Saint Paul downtown cores would be reduced to weekday morning and evening rush hours and the mid-point stop at Snelling Avenue will be eliminated.
  • Route 144 express service from Highland Park to downtown Minneapolis will be eliminated.

A series of public meetings and hearings have been scheduled to take questions and testimony about the proposed changes in bus service, as follows: 

Tuesday, June 19, 4-6:30 p.m. (presentation and testimony begin at 4:30pm)
Brian Coyle Center, Multipurpose Room
420 15th Ave S, Minneapolis
Served by Metro Transit Routes 22 and Hiawatha Line Cedar-Riverside Station

Thursday, June 21, 4-6:30 p.m. (presentation and testimony begin at 4:30pm)
Central Corridor Resource Center
1080 University Ave. W., St. Paul
Served by Metro Transit Routes 16 and 50

Saturday, June 23, 1-3 p.m. (presentation and testimony begin at 1:30pm)
Goodwill Easter Seals, Community Meeting Room
553 Fairview Ave. N., St. Paul
Served by Metro Transit Routes 16 and 67

Tuesday, June 26, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Public hearing--presentation and testimony begin at 11:30am)
Hennepin County Central Library, Doty Board Room
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Served by multiple Metro Transit routes

Thursday, June 28, 4-6:30 p.m. (Public hearing--presentation and testimony begin at 4:30pm)
Rondo Community Outreach Library, Multipurpose Room
461 Dale Street North, St. Paul
Served by Metro Transit Routes 16 and 65

The Metropolitan Council also will receive comments on the service plan through 5pm, July 9, as follows:

  • Written comments: Metropolitan Council, 390 N. Robert St, St. Paul  55101
  • Fax comments to:  651-602-1464
  • Send TTY comments to: 651-291-0904
  • Email:  datacenter@metc.state.mn.us
  • Record comments on Council’s Public Comment Line at 651-602-1500

 

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