Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
EOst
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby EOst » December 8th, 2017, 10:39 am

I think the best case for any streetcar project in Minneapolis is as a first step toward what is eventually a functional network. A short line on Nicollet makes sense because Nicollet Mall is well positioned to serve as a spine for the long-term system. But a Broadway/Washington line that dead-ends at the Nicollet Hotel block? What's the logical next extension? Not down Washington to the U, because they just rebuilt that street with curb-adjacent bike lanes and block-long RTLs.

gopherfan
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby gopherfan » December 8th, 2017, 11:37 am

If Frey has his eyes set on Broadway/Washington streetcar, I think that's a win! Nicollet will never happen since it had the perception of being a debacle. If the line turned down Hennepin for two blocks and connected to the Hennepin Avenue/Warehouse District Station, I think then you'd have a pretty successful interconnected route!

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Qhaberl » December 8th, 2017, 11:51 am

EOst wrote:I think the best case for any streetcar project in Minneapolis is as a first step toward what is eventually a functional network. A short line on Nicollet makes sense because Nicollet Mall is well positioned to serve as a spine for the long-term system. But a Broadway/Washington line that dead-ends at the Nicollet Hotel block? What's the logical next extension? Not down Washington to the U, because they just rebuilt that street with curb-adjacent bike lanes and block-long RTLs.
I agree with you. Nickolet makes the most logical sense as a spine.



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twincitizen
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby twincitizen » December 8th, 2017, 12:15 pm

Even if Frey wasn't declaring this project dead, it would still be sitting on the shelf for years to come, because politics. The optics of tearing up Nicollet AGAIN, after we just went through 2 years of construction, are extremely bad! There is no way the project was going to have ANY political support/momentum in the next 4 years, at a minimum, regardless of if it was Mayor Frey or Mayor Hodges or Mayor Hoch. I think putting the Nicollet line on ice, officially, is the right move. Doing so allows the conversation to move on to aBRT lines and possibly a streetcar on Washington/Broadway.

tl;dr - the Nicollet streetcar was going to be on ice for at least 4 more years anyways, so I think that's a solid argument for just killing it officially so that the conversation can move on to building other transit projects in the meantime.

tmart
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » December 8th, 2017, 2:24 pm

My impression was always that the Nicollet Mall reconstruction was quietly laying (very literal) groundwork for eventually building a streetcar on top. Although now that I think about it, I don't really remember where I got that impression. Politics aside, does anyone know how the reconstruction affects the project?

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby alexschief » December 8th, 2017, 3:07 pm

City should focus on the B, C, and D better bus lines, and start pushing the Met Council to begin the formal planning and design process for Midtown rail. All of those projects will do far more for transportation and development than a streetcar.

The money collected for the streetcar could be spent on events, streetscape improvements outside of the mall, maintenance of the mall, and/or on helping smaller retailers afford one-time capital costs for opening on the street.

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Anondson
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Anondson » December 8th, 2017, 3:34 pm

Could the Nicollet streetcar go up Marquette between 94 and 1st, or between Grant and Washington, instead?

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Silophant
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Silophant » December 8th, 2017, 3:49 pm

tmart wrote:
December 8th, 2017, 2:24 pm
My impression was always that the Nicollet Mall reconstruction was quietly laying (very literal) groundwork for eventually building a streetcar on top. Although now that I think about it, I don't really remember where I got that impression. Politics aside, does anyone know how the reconstruction affects the project?
At the beginning of the Nicollet redesign, they were definitely saying that they were going to build it streetcar ready, with all the utilities relocated out from under the roadbed (so they wouldn't be under the tracks when they got laid down) and bus stops with raised streetcar level curbs.

What they actually designed and built, though, left the very rail-unfriendly serpentine curve in place for all but two blocks, with normal curb heights at the stations. I asked one of the Xcel distribution people about it, and he said they didn't do anything in particular to prepare for the streetcar when they rebuilt all the feeders under the mall. In short, having new utilities would make it a little easier, but basically nothing was done to make the Mall streetcar ready. It's just not happening for a decade or more, and I'm glad the mayor-elect is admitting that so we can hopefully start the process of repurposing that money (like 2% of the city's tax base!) to transportation projects that have a chance at actually happening.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby SkyScraperKid » December 8th, 2017, 6:04 pm

alexschief wrote:
December 8th, 2017, 3:07 pm
City should focus on the B, C, and D better bus lines, and start pushing the Met Council to begin the formal planning and design process for Midtown rail. All of those projects will do far more for transportation and development than a streetcar.

The money collected for the streetcar could be spent on events, streetscape improvements outside of the mall, maintenance of the mall, and/or on helping smaller retailers afford one-time capital costs for opening on the street.
Agreed, very smart viewpoint.

Nicollet should eventually become a Rapid bus line, but improvements to C, D, B, and E which I think was Hennepin Ave right? Plus the Midway Greenway Street car line. If anything I'd like to hear more about a possible Streetcar line down from Target Field Station up to Marcy-Holmes if not onward to St. Anthony. It be existing rail line shared with NorthStar and Northern Lights rail lines and could be a nice short line.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby DanPatchToget » December 8th, 2017, 6:31 pm

SkyScraperKid wrote:
December 8th, 2017, 6:04 pm
alexschief wrote:
December 8th, 2017, 3:07 pm
City should focus on the B, C, and D better bus lines, and start pushing the Met Council to begin the formal planning and design process for Midtown rail. All of those projects will do far more for transportation and development than a streetcar.

The money collected for the streetcar could be spent on events, streetscape improvements outside of the mall, maintenance of the mall, and/or on helping smaller retailers afford one-time capital costs for opening on the street.
Agreed, very smart viewpoint.

Nicollet should eventually become a Rapid bus line, but improvements to C, D, B, and E which I think was Hennepin Ave right? Plus the Midway Greenway Street car line. If anything I'd like to hear more about a possible Streetcar line down from Target Field Station up to Marcy-Holmes if not onward to St. Anthony. It be existing rail line shared with NorthStar and Northern Lights rail lines and could be a nice short line.
The streetcars would have to meet FRA crash-worthiness standards to share track with the NorthStar and NLX, i.e. a locomotive and coaches. Even if you could find a self-propelled unit to meet the crash-worthiness standards it wouldn't exactly fit in with the streetscape like a streetcar would.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Biggydrink » December 11th, 2017, 10:36 am

SurlyLHT wrote:
December 8th, 2017, 8:23 am
In an interview with our future mayor:

" Q Is the Nicollet/Central streetcar project dead? Are we still raising money for it?
I think it is dead. But yes, we are still capturing value on projects to fund a streetcar. Four years ago when I ran for council I was for it, for the economic development benefits it brings; $200 million of public investment can bring $1.4 billion in net gain. But [lower northeast/Old St. Anthony] is booming right now without it.

I think a streetcar down Washington, through the North Loop and up to Broadway, has the potential for economic development."

http://tcbmag.com/news/articles/2018/ja ... e-cops-and
Damn. But I take issue with his statement that Lower NE / Old St. Anthony is booming without it. Isn't that precisely why we need more transit? I guess this just shows the underlying thinking of streetcars as a means to development.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Bakken2016 » December 11th, 2017, 11:08 am

Biggydrink wrote:
December 11th, 2017, 10:36 am
SurlyLHT wrote:
December 8th, 2017, 8:23 am
In an interview with our future mayor:

" Q Is the Nicollet/Central streetcar project dead? Are we still raising money for it?
I think it is dead. But yes, we are still capturing value on projects to fund a streetcar. Four years ago when I ran for council I was for it, for the economic development benefits it brings; $200 million of public investment can bring $1.4 billion in net gain. But [lower northeast/Old St. Anthony] is booming right now without it.

I think a streetcar down Washington, through the North Loop and up to Broadway, has the potential for economic development."

http://tcbmag.com/news/articles/2018/ja ... e-cops-and
Damn. But I take issue with his statement that Lower NE / Old St. Anthony is booming without it. Isn't that precisely why we need more transit? I guess this just shows the underlying thinking of streetcars as a means to development.
It is unfortunate that people don't look at it as a way to actually move people, but just economic development.

tmart
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » December 11th, 2017, 11:15 am

Whether or not you think the streetcar was a good idea, it's a pretty damning indictment of our commitment and ability to build meaningful transit projects. A massive street reconstruction project that was entirely planned and implemented after the streetcar plan was finalized, and with the stated goal of enabling future streetcar usage, is now being cited as a reason for why the streetcar can't get built.

As far as the corridor goes, I can see the arguments against this particular project, but it's still pretty staggering to me that there's now zero rail service, existing or planned, serving Southwest, Central, Uptown, or Northeast. A north-south corridor seems like the biggest no-brainer in the state to me, at least in terms of potential if not logistics.

SamtheBusNerd
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby SamtheBusNerd » December 11th, 2017, 11:56 am

tmart wrote:
December 11th, 2017, 11:15 am
As far as the corridor goes, I can see the arguments against this particular project, but it's still pretty staggering to me that there's now zero rail service, existing or planned, serving Southwest, Central, Uptown, or Northeast. A north-south corridor seems like the biggest no-brainer in the state to me, at least in terms of potential if not logistics.
Agreed. I think a Broadway/North Loop streetcar should be a much lower priority, especially since North is about to get two significantly more useful ABRT lines.

So, if the district has been in existence since 2013 and making about $4 mil/year, that means that by the end of the year it should have earned around $15-16/mil? It seems like that could fund a pretty decent chunk of an ABRT line from 46th and Nicollet across the river into Northeast. With that length of a line you could easily use it as an opportunity to try electric buses, too, making the Nicollet Mall a lot quieter and cleaner. And that would free up money to run service more frequently since electric buses have a lot lower operating costs. If we're serious about being a progressive, environmentally friendly city, this seems like a way better way to show it than a streetcar line for development...

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » December 11th, 2017, 12:24 pm

Also, the law doesn't seem to permit using the revenue from the tax district for anything other than a streetcar in the district. So I'm not sure they'll be able to redirect the money to the Washington streetcar, or fancy buses on Nicollet for that matter.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 11th, 2017, 12:58 pm

Maybe someone can point me to state property tax laws saying otherwise, but is the city not able to establish a value capture district that assesses local property owners for public improvements and just go do it? Is there something special about a streetcar, aBRT, or anything else that would prevent the city from just using, for example, their standard street reconstruction assessment zone strategy (or, in this case, the exact one used for the Nicollet Mall reconstruction)?

EOst
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby EOst » December 11th, 2017, 1:37 pm

tmart wrote:
December 11th, 2017, 12:24 pm
Also, the law doesn't seem to permit using the revenue from the tax district for anything other than a streetcar in the district. So I'm not sure they'll be able to redirect the money to the Washington streetcar, or fancy buses on Nicollet for that matter.
Does it? Looking at this section:
Subd. 4. Permitted uses of district tax revenues. (a) In addition to paying for reasonable administrative costs of the district, the city may spend tax revenues of the district for property acquisition, improvements, and equipment to be used for operations within the project area, along with related costs, for:
(1) planning, design, and engineering services related to the construction of the streetcar line;
(2) acquiring property for, constructing, and installing a streetcar line;
(3) acquiring and maintaining equipment and rolling stock and related facilities, such as maintenance facilities, which need not be located in the project area;
(4) acquiring, constructing, or improving transit stations; and
(5) acquiring or improving public space, including the construction and installation of improvements to streets and sidewalks, decorative lighting and surfaces, and plantings related to the streetcar line.
(b) The city may issue bonds or other obligations under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 475, without an election, to fund acquisition or improvement of property of a capital nature authorized by this section, including any costs of issuance. The city may also issue bonds or other obligations to refund those bonds or obligations. Payment of principal and interest on the bonds or other obligations issued under this paragraph is a permitted use of the district's tax revenues.
(c) Tax revenues of the district may not be used for the operation of the streetcar line.
Notice that (1), (2), and (5) all mention the "streetcar line" specifically, but (3) and (4) do not. Could those be used to acquire non-streetcar rolling stock and/or construct non-streetcar transit stations?

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » December 11th, 2017, 1:46 pm

I think this part of the top-level language:
the city may spend tax revenues of the district for property acquisition, improvements, and equipment to be used for operations within the project area, along with related costs, for:
Means that all the subsequent items must be located in the district, except in (3) where it's specifically called out that the restriction doesn't apply.

It's also not clear from the language in (3) if the "which need not be located in the project area" is supposed to apply both to rolling stock and facilities, or just to facilities. My guess would be the latter, and it's also feasible to interpret that even the facilities, no matter where they may be located, have to be related to the rolling stock for the streetcar and have to be "used for operations within the project area."

Not a lawyer, so maybe I'm reading too much into it here, but to my reading I think they'd need a change in the state laws to use this money for transit without building a streetcar in the district. And IDK if they'd be able to set up a district elsewhere, given that they apparently needed the state legislature to grant them the authority to create this one.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 11th, 2017, 2:05 pm

Well, the project area as defined in statute doesn't include much of the starter line that would extend down to Lake St, so you could obviously build a line that extended beyond Nicollet Mall onto other streets, but just not pay for it with this special taxing district. So something that went up Washington/Broadway but then continued south on Nicollet could still be paid for in the same way the starter Nicollet line was intended, and long-term a Nic-Central line could still be built and a W Broadway-Washington streetcar could be directed to continue to the U (if this was deemed a good idea).

But my question still stands: is there something preventing the city from using their regular assessment + levy process to build transit stations, lay tracks/wires, buy rolling stock, and operate maintenance facilities?

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby VacantLuxuries » December 11th, 2017, 3:53 pm

But my question still stands: is there something preventing the city from using their regular assessment + levy process to build transit stations, lay tracks/wires, buy rolling stock, and operate maintenance facilities?
I believe it's that we're still under the impression that this project could get federal matching funds and therefore would need to be applied for by the Met Council.


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