West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 14th, 2015, 9:21 pm

grant1simons2 wrote:Even if it's profit that largely benefits the neighborhood?
I'm talking about framing. Economic development certainly should be a factor in our decision-making but it shouldn't be the primary driving force. We don't build transportation to make a profit and we shouldn't start arguing that we do. That sets unrealistic expectations for future projects, making such projects that much harder to do.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 15th, 2015, 9:14 am

Someone has to pay for it. I find it interesting that you put the brakes on any discussion of subways in this country because the feds won't pay for it, but $190m extra for a shorter streetcar line (that by definition serves fewer people and businesses) at (presumably) the same speeds and frequencies is okay because we shouldn't expect transportation investments to pay for themselves. Who gets to decide what bells and whistles we can afford and which we can't? Please understand this is a wholly different discussion from how much people of varying incomes should pay to ride transit, or where/how we invest transit into different communities.

Right now our transit funding structure is set up so that any investments made don't directly pay back to those sources. That's fine, we're not going to change it any time soon. But if we know damn well that we're going to spend $190M more for an extra $200-250M in "economic development," we should acknowledge what the (worse) ROI is, be willing to say that we're fine with the extra money because it gives a smoother ride and marginally higher vehicle capacities, AND ALSO that we're fine with the opportunity cost of that extra money. Which of course is practically $0 since we've set up federal funding systems that can't go toward operations or better bus shelters or anything else - choices we've made that actually impact real peoples' lives.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby FISHMANPET » October 15th, 2015, 9:37 am

The reason Alex, and myself, and others care about cost effective transit is because transit is good! And if transit is cheaper, we can get more of it! More of a good thing!

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2015, 11:35 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:Someone has to pay for it. I find it interesting that you put the brakes on any discussion of subways in this country because the feds won't pay for it, but $190m extra for a shorter streetcar line (that by definition serves fewer people and businesses) at (presumably) the same speeds and frequencies is okay because we shouldn't expect transportation investments to pay for themselves.
I don't have the power to "put the brakes on" anything. If you want subways, blame someone else. I simply try to inject a little bit of reality into some of the fantasies.

I am talking about framing. That's not the same thing as the analysis or decision-making process.

Framing is how one presents things to an audience. I'm simply saying we don't want to push transit-as-development because that'll end up biting us in the butt when we try to do a project that doesn't bring development.

It's fine to talk about the development aspects of transit. But we shouldn't justify transit investments solely or primarily based on ROI.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby alleycat » October 15th, 2015, 11:52 am

What exactly are you guys arguing about? David doesn't think economic development should be the sole reason to build streetcar. Peter and Alex seem to be questioning the wisdom of spending limited funding on a streetcar when the ROI might not be there. It seems like you all might agree.

As a CAC member I'd like to hear some real arguments for aBRT or streetcar. If stations are the same regardless of the mode chosen what do you see as the benefits of aBRT or streetcar? Do you feel that West Broadway is a special case? Should we invest more heavily in this corridor to help reinvigorate the street? For an area that is separated from the rest of the city and has huge disparities should we be investing at a higher level? We're voting next week so a little more thoughtful discourse and less of the typical bickering would be nice.
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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 15th, 2015, 12:29 pm

I agree, I'm surprised to hear David say what he's saying, because the redevelopment/economic potential of some of the Minneapolis SWLRT stations seemed to be about as big of talking points from him as the ability for Northside residents to easily get to jobs in the SW burbs. I agree that it shouldn't be the only thing, even the primary thing, to support a transit project. Mostly because we get down the line of "developers prefer permanence of rail to bus, economic development projections, etc" stuff - hugely risky if you ask me. And, really, without much to back it up since aBRT-style investments are pretty rare in this country and mixed-traffic streetcars also rare (and mostly new enough that evaluating them with any certainty is hard). And we've completed zero of either here in the Twin Cities.

That said, land-use and transportation are uniquely intertwined. We may not have a formal mechanism to capture the value created by transportation projects (like raising the land tax around new stations/lines with a portion of the new revenue going back to the agency that built the line to help pay capital costs over time). But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen in the general sense. So it would be nice if we applied that thinking to make sure we're picking a mode/route/whatever that maximizes benefits per dollar of cost. Every project we build like this runs a big risk of total failure on any of the selling points (no matter how prioritized they may be in framing).Every failure, be it ridership, economic development, unemployment along the line, whatever, sets back political will for other funding and projects. People who don't really know the difference between Northstar and the Blue Line (general public and the politicians they elect) won't give a streetcar much leeway either. Maybe I'm wrong that playing smart with capital investments and improving operational efficiencies will lead to 1) better transit service in the meantime, and 2a) more political appetite to fund more of the same from currently skeptical legislators 2b) at least some political autonomy to fund projects at a more local level (like a Henn/Ramsey sales tax, or something that doesn't rely on a massive transportation deal at the State level). I dunno, I'm willing to hear the argument against that and why we should continue banging our heads against the wall with the current process we have.

If you want a nuanced take on my position, everything I wrote about the Nicollet line applies here: https://streets.mn/2013/09/15/lingering- ... r-project/ If it were a closer call on the costs of the line, or if the current streetcar cost estimate included going all the way to Robbinsdale, I could maybe get behind it over the aBRT. As it stands, a streetcar (even though it leverages federal money) pushes out other worthy regional projects fighting for funding, and doesn't even go as far as the aBRT offer on the table. It likely won't be faster or more reliable, or show up more frequently than the bus. Stations will be nearly identical. The streetcar will offer a smoother ride and more spacious interior. If this were the only transit improvement coming to North Minneapolis, I would also advocate for a streetcar as a social justice thing. But with the C/D lines as well as Bottineau, I just don't think the extra money is worth it. I would rather have seen people who are pushing the streetcar have advocated spending that $190M + another $1-200M on a tunnel under North Minneapolis for Bottineau. But that's long gone. So I vote aBRT on this one.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby amiller92 » October 15th, 2015, 12:46 pm

alleycat wrote:As a CAC member I'd like to hear some real arguments for aBRT or streetcar. If stations are the same regardless of the mode chosen what do you see as the benefits of aBRT or streetcar? Do you feel that West Broadway is a special case? Should we invest more heavily in this corridor to help reinvigorate the street? For an area that is separated from the rest of the city and has huge disparities should we be investing at a higher level? We're voting next week so a little more thoughtful discourse and less of the typical bickering would be nice.
Warning, opinions that are not grounded in any special expertise from someone who does not live in the area ahead:

I start with a pretty strong rail bias, as someone who doesn't have much of a history using transit, and pretty strongly preferring trains when I do. Fully embracing logical fallacy, I think there are many people like me in the Twin Cities, who can easily grasp why riding a train makes sense but who will be more hesitant to use a bus (personally, I'm getting over that and will start using the bus when it's too unpleasant to bike). That means I start out thinking that rail is the way to go.

On the flip side, the demographics in this area are not dominated by people with my profile. Maybe the neighborhood(s) don't suffer from the same rail bias as I do, such that BRT can draw similar ridership to rail. I don't know.

Then there's the development question. Can BRT bring as much (or close to as much) as rail? I don't know.

As a gross oversimplification, to me the only reason to do BRT is it costs a whole lot less. In every other way, rail is superior. But cost is of course super important.

Ultimately, I guess I do think that West Broadway is a special case and that redressing historic disinvestment should be a factor. To me it's a judgment call on just how big the development gap is between rail and BRT. If it's small, then why spend the extra money? If it isn't, then build the rail.

When I left DC they had just started building the H Street NE streetcar. As someone who was not really at all engaged with these sorts of issues in DC, the project never made any sense to me. Now I think anyone considering a streetcar for West Broadway should probably go visit (and report back, as I've not been over there since its completion).

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2015, 12:47 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:The reason Alex, and myself, and others care about cost effective transit is because transit is good! And if transit is cheaper, we can get more of it! More of a good thing!
Everything else being equal, yes. But cost-effectiveness is not the same as ROI. They're only very loosely related.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2015, 12:50 pm

alleycat wrote:Do you feel that West Broadway is a special case? Should we invest more heavily in this corridor to help reinvigorate the street? For an area that is separated from the rest of the city and has huge disparities should we be investing at a higher level? We're voting next week so a little more thoughtful discourse and less of the typical bickering would be nice.
Yes, I believe for equity purposes we should spend more IF we think the streetcar really will be a development catalyst and/or be a better service overall. If we think aBRT will be a better transportation solution, we should go with that.

Note again that this is not the same thing as saying ROI is the determining factor. Equity is. ROI is one aspect of that.

Equity. Equity should be the focus of this decision. That ties in lots of factors. Transportation, development, streetscape, etc.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2015, 12:53 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:I agree, I'm surprised to hear David say what he's saying, because the redevelopment/economic potential of some of the Minneapolis SWLRT stations seemed to be about as big of talking points from him as the ability for Northside residents to easily get to jobs in the SW burbs.
Ok, I see how that might be confusing.

On SWLRT and all transit projects, I approach things through an equity lens. There are many factors that go into that. Transportation utility is obviously one of them. But so is economic development. So is streetscape and general pleasantness of the neighborhood.

From my perspective, these discussions should be framed around equity, not development/ROI. Development is one aspect of equity and actually a pretty important one. But the *framing* is around equity. Everything I've said WRT SWLRT is from an equity standpoint. That's why I talk about access to opportunity, development, education and so on.

Part of the equity lens says that those who have been oppressed in the past should get extra consideration now. Thus access to jobs from the Northside scores higher than access to jobs from Uptown (proper).

I hope that clears things up a bit.
Last edited by David Greene on October 15th, 2015, 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2015, 12:58 pm

amiller92 wrote:On the flip side, the demographics in this area are not dominated by people with my profile. Maybe the neighborhood(s) don't suffer from the same rail bias as I do, such that BRT can draw similar ridership to rail. I don't know.
I also consider those who may visit the area from outside. If people are more likely to ride rail, they're more likely to ride rail through the Northside. As people become familiar with the area by taking a train through it, hopefully they will discover it's not a scary place and there are a lot of things to explore. That can reshape the image of the area and make economic investment more likely.
amiller92 wrote:Ultimately, I guess I do think that West Broadway is a special case and that redressing historic disinvestment should be a factor. To me it's a judgment call on just how big the development gap is between rail and BRT. If it's small, then why spend the extra money? If it isn't, then build the rail.
That's pretty much where I've landed on this, with the additional factor of outside visitors as explained above. Even if the rail doesn't go to Robbinsdale now, getting it in makes it that much easier to get rail to Robbinsdale in the future.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby FISHMANPET » October 15th, 2015, 1:05 pm

I think rather than look at how much development we get here with ABRT vs Streetcar, it might be interest to look at how much development the $229 million can get us in this corridor with a streetcar, versus how much development $229 in ABRT (or more like $115 million because we would self fund that entirely I'm guessing rather than getting half from the feds). If $40 million gets us $280M - $390M, would $115M over a few different corridors get us $840M - $1170M in development? Regardless I'd think using that money to provide the maximum amount of access/mobility would be the best bet regardless, when spending 6 times the money on streetcar gets you like half the mobility and access.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 15th, 2015, 1:20 pm

I don't want this to come off the wrong way, so please give me a little leeway since most of you know I'm about as pro-transit as they come. Most people don't live in a place where getting on this streetcar will make sense. And most of those people won't ride transit at all unless it's *maybe* to a Twins/Vikings game and only if they don't have to transfer and can park for free. Of the people that will consider riding transit, they can already drive in their nice vehicles they own and park right in front of whatever shop or restaurant they think they want to try, without having to hassle with figuring out how to buy a ticket and wait for the streetcar on a (way nicer than normal) station. Of the people who do live within one bus/LRT transfer of this line (or even along it), the same driving logic *probably* applies. So, honestly, I'm not really sure how big the impact of a streetcar vs aBRT is to entice people not familiar with N Mpls to realize it's not scary.

The more likely scenario is that people who are transit-friendly already or are graduating from the U with its awesome Green Line but can't quite afford Downtown or Uptown prices would see the new streetcar line as a good way to take transit that isn't the bus. Of course, I'm surprised that "economic development" is talked about so loosely here because this region's "rail bias" is mostly among white people of moderate incomes and any economic development from a train will likely lead to displacement. We can get more equitable investment with public dollars or other policies, but I guess my high-level take is that could just as easily happen via aBRT.

What I'm saying, I guess, is that you could make an equity argument around the much slower displacement effects of aBRT with nearly all the mobility gains.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 15th, 2015, 8:10 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:What I'm saying, I guess, is that you could make an equity argument around the much slower displacement effects of aBRT with nearly all the mobility gains.
Yes, one could. I've been assuming that any economic development will be done in a way that limits displacement. Big assumption, I know, but I feel like many more people are aware of the issue than were, say, a decade ago.

Your take and Peter's are definitely important considerations to weigh. I've been pretty conflicted over this whole project, to tell you the truth. Unlike Nicollet where it's just clear as day to me that a streetcar is a colossally stupid idea.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby Tcmetro » October 15th, 2015, 9:33 pm

I'm not a big fan of streetcar for this corridor. It doesn't seem that it is a good idea to spend a lot of money on a streetcar if it cannot get a dedicated lane. The money saved could be put to use expanding the aBRT system in other neighborhoods.

Additionally, the lack of a connection between the streetcar and the Blue Line extension pretty much renders it useless for an expansion of mobility in N Mpls. residents seeking to access NHCC and Henn Tech or any of the numerous industrial and office jobs in the northwest suburbs. IMO, connectivity is more important than mode.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby Silophant » October 15th, 2015, 11:07 pm

The more I think about it, the less I'm convinced by the rail bias argument - both the "riders prefer trains to buses" aspect and the "people/businesses are induced to invest more due to the permanence of the routing" aspect. I'm not saying it doesn't exist - it's impossible to look at the performance of the Green Line vs. the 16/50 and say there's no bias there, and various studies have shown it to be a real phenomenon.I am saying, though, that I don't think the majority of the effect we're seeing with the Green Line is rail bias, but rather just good transit bias. Some of the new Green Line riders are riding because of the shiny train, or the smooth ride, but I'd argue that a lot more are riding because of the amenity-laden, obvious stations, speed increase, and more predictable timing.

Likewise, the primary reason given for the increased investment that is projected to come with the streetcar is that rails in the ground are a sign of permenance - this route isn't going anywhere. (We can ignore that a huge amount of streetcar rails did exactly that barely half a century ago - that won't happen again. Probably.) But aBRT stations are a substantial investment too - are they really significantly less permanent than streetcar stations, just because they aren't attached to a ribbon of track? Even assuming that local buses might disappear from a major commercial corridor is a pretty pessimistic assumption. Has there ever been someone who was considering investing in West Broadway, or Nicollet or Lake for that matter, because they were seriously concerned that the local bus just might go away entirely?

(Side note: TBH, it would be kinda nice if this W. Broadway decision was later, or the A Line was already finished, so we had some actual data on how aBRT will work in this metro. Alas.)

So, basically, I'm really skeptical that spending 4-5x as much on a streetcar over aBRT is going to be worth it, even in alleycat's scenario where the stations and routing are the same either way. Like I said above, I really do think that most of the expected benefits from the streetcar really will occur with aBRT as well.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby EOst » October 16th, 2015, 6:15 am

What's the most comparable bus system to our planned aBRT lines? Probably RapidRide in Seattle? If so, that's not a great sign for development potential, since RapidRide has done basically nothing there.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby alleycat » October 28th, 2015, 10:06 am

From staff:
The PAC asked to see this information at the next meeting. These tests would estimate ridership for:

Both the Streetcar and Arterial BRT alternatives with the assumption that the Nicollet/Central Streetcar is in place and West Broadway would connect to it and run south to Lake Street

A slightly refined Streetcar alternative with an underlying bus service plan which includes operating Arterial BRT as a limited stop service, and eliminating the Route 14 and having the Streetcar act as the local service in the corridor

To complete these “what if” tests, ridership forecasts from the Nicollet/Central Streetcar project will be used. The Nicollet/Central Streetcar project team is currently updating the ridership forecast for the corridor. This work will likely not be completed until December 2015. This means that “what if” tests for the West Broadway Transit Study will not be completed until early 2016. Thus, the West Broadway project team is postponing the final CAC/PAC meeting until after this additional work is completed. At the final CAC/PAC meeting, the results of this additional analysis will be presented.
Also of note is that the CAC is heavily leaning toward streetcar after last week's meeting. There was general agreement that development potential of streetcar is a key aspect of the project and worth the additional time and money. I like the idea of a hybrid option, but I fear the funding for anything more than aBRT is wishful thinking at that local level.
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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby Tcmetro » October 28th, 2015, 10:40 am

My biggest gripe with streetcar is the lack of connection with the Bottineau LRT. Streetcar is useful for economic development, but residents of N Mpls will not have good access to suburban job and education centers.

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Re: West Broadway Corridor (Alternatives Analysis)

Postby David Greene » October 28th, 2015, 12:06 pm

^^ Agreed.


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