Hopkins says: We Want Southwest LRT Now!
By Tim Lillehaugen and Manu Moritz, TLC interns
On July 25th, more than 50 community members gathered at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, near one of the planned Southwest light rail transit stations, for an update on the status of the light rail project and information about how to effectively use social media as a tool for civic engagement. The meeting was co-hosted by Transit for Livable Communities and the Twin Cities Media Alliance.
It was great to see new faces along with folks who have been active in support of Southwest LRT for months. In many ways the group filling the room that night reflected the diversity of the community interested in this light rail line.
After a round of introductions, TLC staff and members gave an update on the current status of the project and outlined some of the benefits of this investment. The crowd then broke into small groups to express their own reasons for wanting the light rail and to talk about various community benefits with one another.
Marcos Lopez-Carlson from Twin Cities Media Alliance then lead the audience through an overview of common social media platforms and how they can be useful in building support for important issues like Southwest LRT. Lopez-Carlson showed us how to create a Facebook interest group—a great way for people to continue networking on behalf of the Southwest light rail line. Before the night was over, Lopez-Carlson tagged Governor Dayton in a Facebook post calling for state support for Southwest LRT and including a photo of the people gathered in support.
Currently the Southwest light rail line is one of ten projects nationwide in preliminary engineering, the final state before a federal funding commitment and the start of construction. And, most of a project team has already been hired to plan the construction.
Progress on the project now hinges on the State of Minnesota’s funding component: 10% of the projected $1.25 billion cost. Should the state fail to approve its share of project funding, the federal government can’t finalize its own grant process. A portion of the state funding could come from the State Department of Employment and Economic Development; it will be announcing funding decisions at the end of August or early September. To keep the project on track, the state legislature needs to approve project funding during the next legislative session.
Each one of us can help make this happen by contacting our state legislators, political party, and the governor to express why the light rail is important to us and our community. One way to get involved is via Facebook, where you can either tag the governor or your legislators in posts concerning Southwest LRT or use the power of Facebook groups to organize help inform others in your community and encourage them to speak out in favor of Southwest LRT as well. Community support is essential to making the Southwest light rail line a reality.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in Hopkins! In our view, it was a very successful evening. Hardly a seat was left empty and the room buzzed with the conversations of energized community members. We could always spend more time talking about this important project, but by the end of the night all of the participants seemed to leave with a better understanding of where Southwest LRT stands, what needs to happen for it to move forward, and what they can do to help get things done.
We encourage you to continue sharing your enthusiasm for Southwest LRT with your neighbors and your elected officials alike—whether that’s in casual conversation, via social media, in an editorial to your local newspaper, or with a call or email to state and local leaders. Your voice matters!
Connect with Transit for Livable Communities on Facebook
Connect with Southwest Light Rail Now on Facebook