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 Response Page - Scott Halstead Interview - Transportation; Central Corridor Light Rail   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Scott Halstead Interview of 05/02/08.

The questions:

1. _6.7 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, what is your view on Halstead's contention that LRT speed on the Central Corridor will be too slow to attract enough new transit riders?

2. _6.2 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, what is your view on Halstead's contention that a faster, more expensive, route should chosen for the Central Corridor LRT?

Roger Heegaard (5) (5)

Clarence Shallbetter (8) (6)
I'm not sure a faster route such as along the existing rail lines north of University Ave. would be more expensive than the proposed route on University Ave. Scott's research suggests there will be little congestion relief for I-94 and only some additional transit riders primarily from new development along University Ave. I'm not persuaded these additional riders justify the added cost of investing in rail transit along University Ave.

David Broden (5) (7)
The Halstead comments bring out some very valid issues but the analysis in itself seems too focused on the speed issue. Based on this report there seems that there are some serious missing metrics in the decision process and perhaps a rush to get the $450M from the feds without selecting the best plan only to have to make some other serious infrastructure changes and change the public interface with local activities in many cases such as at the U and with businesses along U avenue--and a high safety risk.

It appears that the Process to define the Central Corridor has had a vision perhaps of linking the two cities but not looking at what was going on between.

My comments on this are perhaps the most strongly stated of any I have written. I believe the Central Corridor must be established as a "Light Rail Format" --but I have evolved to the position that approving the current plan would be a major mistake and that the impact would be to be spending redo money for decades. We need a plan that gets this right and begins with approving the corridor concept but only when it meets some well defined visionary metrics.

Speed has to be a very high criteria but it would be a serious mistake to make the decision on the Central Corridor only on speed—decision metrics must be broad based and should include convenience, safety accessibility, impact/benefits to the community at each end and along the way, disruption of normal regular traffic, impact on related infrastructure etc. I am most concerned that the number of stops and the route along University Avenue may delay normal traffic more than reasonable and have a serious safety issue. Speed can be secondary if all the others provide benefits. Analysis once again tends to say--approval the corridor but only with a different route that has been fully addressed with the broad based metrics--If this costs a year + in time and more money to do it right then it should be done right. Some input from the people along U avenue --not from the U area-- would be a good input. Regarding the U --it is hard to see how ground level really works and how the current bridge will do the job.

As stated above I tend toward a faster route but only based on full assessment using some broad based metrics which do not seem to have been a factor. I can see that the I94 route would be very costly--makes sense but cost--on the other hand is it clear why the existing rail route north of U avenue was not selected for all or part of the route. The comment in the latter part of the discussion with Halstead suggests that a second line would be considered later--This may be reasonable but I would think --delaying 1-2 years and building a single faster—more fully designed line makes sense. The comment about walking a few blocks to get to the line is not a valid point --light rail cannot exist or should not be viewed as a "bus stop' it is a longer distance vehicle and thus has a speed factor along with other parameters--buses do the local.

Al Quie
I have traveled on elevated trains, under the streets, through mountains and under significant bodies of water and wondered "why was it worth the money to take trains off street level?" The train was installed in the short distance between the Rayburn building and the US Capital without opening the ground. The distance was much longer when the tunnel was dug under the English Channel. Three times what is needed here. They never stopped traffic on Independence Avenue or the ship traffic on the Channel. There is some fantastic equipment that could be rented to do the job. That would enable the most people to travel the route by train, bus and auto.

Arvonne Fraser (9) (10)
Consider the Northern Alignment through the Dinkytown trench. It won't be more expensive but it will certainly be faster.

John R. Finnegan, Sr. (5) (8)

Jim Hetland (9) (9)

Dan Loritz (2) (2)

Joe Mansky (7) (10)
I largely agree with Scott Halstead's work. In my view, a viable rapid transit system must be fast, frequent and direct. Light rail does not meet these standards. If the goal is to provide a high-speed, all-weather method of linking (from east to west) downtown
St Paul, the state capitol complex, the Snelling-University area, the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis, then the most appropriate option would be a rail line that would run down the median of I-94. University Ave could then be redesigned for more frequent and efficient bus service without disruption to the area businesses.

However, even this proposal is far too modest. If we are going to implement a proper transit system, it can't just be an 11 mile stretch between St Paul and Minneapolis. At a minimum, we should be looking at a trunk system that would follow the following routes: 1) I-94 from Minneapolis to Hudson; 2) 35W from Minneapolis to Burnsville Center; 3) Minneapolis to Excelsior following the Hennepin County right-of-way; 4)
I-494 from Eden Prairie to Eagan; 5) I-394 from Minneapolis to Long Lake
(and so on).

How to finance all this? Let me leave you with this thought. If our roads are constantly congested, perhaps it is because we make it too easy and too cheap to consider any other alternatives. The solution: enact a substantial increase in the gas tax and reduce the state sales tax by a commensurate amount. I am also an advocate of a parking tax, the cost of which could be defrayed by a commensurate reduction of the "fee" paid annually to obtain license plate tabs.

The bottom line: if I can drive door to door at little cost whenever I want, why in the world would I ever choose an alterative mode of transportation? The question is, can we afford to have this kind of system anymore?

Ellen Brown
I have had doubts about LRT in the past, starting with the Hiawatha line; it just seems so expensive when we have the infrastructure in place throughout the metro area for rubber tired vehicles. But I've come to think of it as I do the Greening project's belief about planting trees: the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now. That is, the best time to not take up the street car tracks was 70 years ago (or however many it was); the second best time to replace them is now.

Joe Lampe (10) (0)
Met Council says the trip time will be 38 minutes, Scott predicts 45 minutes. If we use 42 minutes, the speed will be 15.7mph, way too slow to attract new riders. Most riders will be existing bus passengers moved over to costly LRT. Long trip time and not enough origin/destination station pairs attracts few new riders. LRT also destroys University Ave bus system and parking capacity, causes traffic congestion, etc, etc.

LRT can't have high ridership because it violates the "Physics of Transit." High ridership requires low trip time and many stations. Central Corridor trip time is about 11 * square root of # of stations. So fast (express) LRT with 3 stations has trip time of about 19 minutes. LRT with 15 stations has trip time of about 42.6 minutes. But 3 stations have only 3*2=6 trip pairs (low ridership), and 15 stations have 15*14=210 trip pairs, but the long trip time causes low ridership. A lose/lose proposition.

We are 5+ years too late in the planning cycle to be discussing a high-speed Central Corridor LRT route.

A $900 million PRT system in the Central Corridor would have an end-to-end trip time of 19 minutes, with 180+ stations spaced less than 1/2 mile apart (with many circulator loops into adjacent neighborhoods, U of M, etc). Both factors combine to produce 5-10X more daily trips than LRT.
Alan Miller (1) (1)

Vance Norgaard (10) (10)
I believe this whole thing is moving along too fast, almost like a knee jerk reaction instead of a well thought out long term process that will be the best solution for long term needs.

Will all of the pieces fit 30 years down the road or will the system be fragmented with different types of transportation that will not fit and/or not compliment one another?

Is this project an employment project first, and economic project second and a part of a transit system last????

Has the Personal Rapid Transit system been considered? If not, why not?

Is it fair to all people in the metro area? With so many people living "Out Metro" why is the concentration on putting rail lines in locations to serve downtown areas? Why is it necessary to keep jobs downtown in skyscrapers? Who is to say that skyscrapers may not become obsolete in the near future? That smaller well placed high tech buildings along an outer circle of the metro area near a greater populace will not replace the current structure that seems to serve only the very wealthy?

Has peak oil been considered and all of it's ramifications on the metro area and the entire state been considered? I have read where there is much population growth and much auto growth predicted over the next 10 to 20 years. Who are these people and what do they study???? With the peaking of world fossil fuels I believe only one thing can happen and has already started. Economic contraction until we are in balance with the resources that our economic depends on in order to function. See my website

I believe the state government, the met council and all forms of government in our state should put all things on hold until "Peak Oil" and its ramifications are reviewed and understood. See state Representative Hilti's H.R. 995 as a beginning on this giant but absolutely essential task.

Mark Ritchie
Very interesting - thank you.

Donna Anderson (5) (7)

Carolyn Ring (6) (6)
Even if the Central Corridor passes the legislature and is signed by the Governor, that is just the beginning. There will be need for a great deal of "fine tuning" to the whole project.

Bill Frenzel (7) (1)

Sen. Jim Carlson (10) (10)
Although I may not agree with every detail Mr. Halstead offers, he is absolutely correct that an inadequate amount of thinking and comparison has dominated the planning for the Central Corridor Line. This line will be used as the model for all future expansion, surpassing the Hiawatha Line as the most often reference. If we make some of the same or worse compromises, we will build a blunder and we will never build another.

As Kathleen O'Brien (U of M V.P.) states, "This needs to be a 100-year plan!"

Placing this line on the surface of an already crowded major artery is ignoring the most basic and obvious problems.

I obviously have not had the time to go through an analysis of the present situation with the CCL, but there are basic disagreements even among supporters. I have ridden public transportation in many major cities or the world yet there seems to be a nationalistic feeling that we are the first country to build rail.

I am not in favor of building a blunder. Mr Halstead's comments are the best I've seen!

Charles Lutz (9) (10)

Larry Schluter (7) (3)
Mr Halstead raises some interesting questions and it would appear that more response is needed from the Met Council. I am surprised that more questions of this type were not raised earlier before coming down to the last minute funding at the Legislature.

* * * * *
Following are additional comments on Scott Halstead's thoughts, based on a one-page report that was distributed about a week before the summary.

Peter Heegaard
Great analysis. I agree completely.

Arvonne Fraser
We, in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood are very concerned about closing Washington Avenue for the LRT and diverting bus, truck and cars onto our streets and converting E. River Road into a highway. I hope your analysis gets maximum publicity. Attached is the resolution our MHNA passed recently.

David Broden
As I read what Scott Halstead has written and if I read his thought correctly he states support for the Central Corridor but not the format as currently defined. If I accept this position, then here are some remarks.

The Central Corridor should go forward but with a few conditions--for light rail or other transit options to have real benefit the design must move people efficiently and not impose delays or slowdown/conflict with other transportation media --existing or new.

It has been know for some time that the central corridor has many limitations due to the apparent excess number of stops and cross streets involved.

If Scott's data is correct and the point he makes for an efficient central corridor transition capability is support--and this is what I believe most people do support then perhaps the issue is not the go/no go on the light rail--but a more in depth look at how did a concept get this far with the limitations it has relative to efficiency of moving people without delay and impact on other modes and businesses etc.

If this understanding is correct and wide support for a central corridor capability does exist, then the issue is how do we fix both the plan and the design process. It looks to me that if his comments are correct the process has been localized and not based on perhaps to much parochialism and not enough on what has to be done.

Can the State make some sort of statement that gets the funding but allow a reasonable period for redesign and relocation to a more dedicated and non-interference route?

I look forward to seeing the notes of others in the core group who may have similar or differing opinion and then I may update my position or remarks.

Bottom Line -- Central Corridor --YES--design and route--Needs major re-look etc.

Jim Solem
This sounds like every other critic, both national and local, opposed to investments in transit, especially rail.. Remember Dick Day and the "train to nowhere"? Did the writer of the e-mail not go to the Hiawatha line and see what the ridership? And maybe note the development impact. How about the long term cost of gas and the opportunity for connecting jobs and housing. What about global warming and the impact of reducing the number of cars on the road? In short, let's make sure we talk about the complete impact of transit investments and remember the naysayers from the Hiawatha line.

Ray Schmitz
Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play?

Carolyn Ring
Halstead's report has some very valid arguments. Central corridor Light Rail seems to be the 'in' buzz word these days, but few have any idea about where it actually will be, who it will serve, and what the side effects will be.

Bob Whereatt
I support joining the two urban centers with light rail, but have quietly wondered if University Ave., with efficient and well-used bus service, is the proper route.

Roger Heegaard
Not being an expert on metro transportation (or anything else), I am dependent on information such as you provide to help me understand the issues. It is really important when you have been out of the area for almost six months. So I am grateful for Halstead's reasoned argument against the "Central Corridor" rail transit proposal. Perhaps, I will see another article as reasoned and thorough in support of the rail proposal. Until I do, I am persuaded by your article. Thanks again for helping people like me try to be good citizens.

Bob Beutel
As a fan of all kinds of rail travel (they call me a “foamer”), I am in favor of a high speed, high volume, limited stop light rail line between the downtowns.

However, the Central Corridor Plan is a huge mistake – it is slower than the #50 bus and it will seriously hamper auto and pedestrian movement on University Avenue and on the U of M campus. Because of the few stops, it will not support the redevelopment of University Avenue.

The better route, many people agree, is from the St Paul Union Depot, along the Milwaukee Road Shortline, as currently used by Amtrak, to the Minnesota Transfer tracks and the Amtrak terminal, then on the Dinkytown route through the campus and across the river, then on to downtown Minneapolis. This uses existing right-of-way, does not interfere with trucks, busses, autos, and pedestrians, and is far less costly.

The only disadvantage is the last item: it is less costly – that means less money in the pockets of the contractors. However, that saved money can be used for other rail routes, such as the Rush Line and the Red Rock Line.

I never expect the exercise of common sense when major capital projects such as the Central Corridor or the roofless Twins Stadium are planned, so I won’t be fazed when this project is rammed through – just disgusted.

Al Quie
On this issue, those responsible should use their brain to make their decisions not their feelings. Decide based on how transit will both serve and shape the future. Thanks for sharing another view.

Dave Durenberger
Scott Halstead says it better than I can. Actually John Derus says it best, plus he has a design alternative which could actually achieve the goals Scott sets out for connecting the twin cities - if that is a necessary transit goal which, as a daily commuter on 1-94 I've yet to appreciate. I've been at this mass transit policy stuff since the late 1960s and the time to act on many of the metro development proposals for transit may have passed and been replaced by massive and inadequate highways. Central corridor is a presumptive real estate development project where commercial real estate is unlikely to re-develop.

Joe Lampe
The LRT project is stupidity on a colossal scale, and it's being done only because of "free" federal dollars from our pockets. In the Watergate scandal Deep Throat told Bob Woodward to "follow the money," and that's what this is about. It will have a zero or even an adverse impact on traffic congestion.

There is considerable cognitive dissonance and cognitive disconnect in the statements coming from our current "transportation leaders and authorities." "Bus-vs.-rail" and "development-vs.-congestion relief" are unhelpful and unnecessary dichotomies. We can have our cake and eat too, but only if more solutions are put on the table. You may or may not be aware that only about 15% of metro area trips are "line haul." The rest are relatively short random origin/destination trips. Thus, building a "spine" oriented system, rather than a network or mesh oriented system, is lunacy and cannot work. Plus, there is
7 dollars of construction demand for every dollar of federal money. This means we have a Darwinian "winners/losers" situation that guarantees failure to solve our transportation challenges.

Robert Mairs
I like the I-94 route idea. Has it come up before? Anything more than an idea, i.e. analysis and costs? The University Avenue plan has so many negatives and so few transportation benefits. But where is ridership for an I-94 route? If we want primarily a connection between downtowns how about the old Milwaukee Road tracks which down Ayd Mill Road and into the Union Depot the old fashioned way? Granted the RR might not welcome another user and it probably does less to tap intermediate traffic than even I-94.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (6) (7)



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