Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

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helsinki
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby helsinki » April 27th, 2015, 10:34 am

David Greene wrote: If they can't get the cost down, I think we do need to reopen discussion of routing through Uptown somehow.
Everyone on this forum seems to have a good faith interest in the success of transit in the region, albeit with oftentimes wildly divergent ideas of how to best go about it. That said, the above statement is very true. In my view, at this cost the project has slipped passed the threshold whereby it makes any sense.

The SWLRT alignment was chosen because it was considered the most cost-effective option, correct? Using pre-existing right-of-way and avoiding tunneling were, as I recall, two of the most decisive factors in favor of the current route. But the cost argument has now gone away. $2 billion for an essentially suburban commuter system is not a wise investment.

Incredible inertia exists with this project. Sunk costs, political commitments, years of design, hard work, and painful compromise. But it's basic premise is flawed: expensive rail transit like this should connect dense walkable nodes near the core, not attempt to displace single-occupancy vehicle commuters from the freeway. The latter is a lost battle. The former makes a lot of sense. Uptown-Downtown; the routes of the 5 or the 21 - these are appropriate corridors for rail of this cost, complexity, and utility. Eden Prairie is not, nor will it likely ever be, a walkable place with a land use pattern supportive of transit. That may be a politically unpalatable choice, because it is Minneapolis-centric. But if we're trying to build a viable rail transit network, it's really the best choice.

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Tiller
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Tiller » April 27th, 2015, 10:39 am

At this point, it seems that we need systemic reforms. Not only are these time and cost overruns a direct impediment to building transit lines (as well as other things), but they create political impediments to getting things done. Making the Met Council elected won't fix this. Giving or taking funding won't change it (though giving them additional funding will somewhat negate the political barriers).

The best solution that comes to mind would be to raise the sales tax to 1-2 cents, cut all state funding to metro transit, and enact some set of reforms to try and fix our broken process. Reforms and the end of direct state funding for the right, increase in the sales tax for the left.

So the question becomes how do we fix the process? I don't really know, not knowing much about how the contracting and such currently work. Are there any state laws we can repeal perhaps? The reforms will certainly need to pack a wallop.
Last edited by Tiller on April 27th, 2015, 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

xandrex
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby xandrex » April 27th, 2015, 10:39 am

David Greene wrote:If they can't get the cost down, I think we do need to reopen discussion of routing through Uptown somehow. That said, I'd only support it if there was a GUARANTEE of a connecting streetcar route through the current 3A.
As much as I'd love to see an Uptown routing, it doesn't seem like the Minneapolis portion is where the ballooned costs are located. Would a 3C (or, rather, a "not 3A") actually reduce cost? I suppose you wouldn't have the tunnel through Kenilworth. But what additional costs would we have to eat in 3C? A Nicollet tunnel?

acs
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby acs » April 27th, 2015, 10:57 am

EOst wrote:I'm glad this conversation got even more ridiculous, it was definitely too sensible and fact-based before.
When a project spirals out of control so ridiculously as SWLRT has, you're going to get ideas for solutions that maybe seemed ridiculous the first time around. Taking this project out of the hands of the Met Council staff may be exactly what Dayton is thinking at this point based on the quotes above, and he has the power to do so as Duinick's boss. If this were a private sector project, there would be serious discussions in the board room right now about pulling the plug, cutting their losses, and giving the boot to whoever was involved in the mess. Target did that with Canada, Dayton must at least weigh doing the same with SWLRT.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » April 27th, 2015, 11:00 am

xandrex wrote:As much as I'd love to see an Uptown routing, it doesn't seem like the Minneapolis portion is where the ballooned costs are located. Would a 3C (or, rather, a "not 3A") actually reduce cost? I suppose you wouldn't have the tunnel through Kenilworth. But what additional costs would we have to eat in 3C? A Nicollet tunnel?
If you think that running a tunnel under Nicollet mall cheek to jowel with hundreds of old buildings wouldn't have resulted in about a billion dollars in cost overruns... bad soils are one thing, but 3C was chock full of future cost overruns.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby EOst » April 27th, 2015, 11:02 am

There is no world in which MNDOT people can plan a light rail line better than the Metropolitan Council. None. You're talking about asking highway engineers to plan public transit rail lines; they wouldn't know where to begin. Suggesting it only makes you look silly.

Rather than panicking and pretending that the world is on fire, let's do what real people do; figure out efficiencies, arrive at the best price for the best result, and keep moving.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby xandrex » April 27th, 2015, 11:07 am

MNdible wrote:If you think that running a tunnel under Nicollet mall cheek to jowel with hundreds of old buildings wouldn't have resulted in about a billion dollars in cost overruns... bad soils are one thing, but 3C was chock full of future cost overruns.
Perhaps I didn't state my point properly. I'm essentially agreeing with you - 3C doesn't seem like a less-costly option. It seems to be adding cost to the Minneapolis portion while not solving any of the new expenses, which are much further down the line.

I've seen some arguing that we could get rid of Nicollet streetcar and portions of the Greenway line, which reduces cost elsewhere. Of course, that assumes NE will get shafted for transit improvements once again and we'd need info on whether such a line would help or hinder a future West Lake to HiLake connection.

kirby96
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby kirby96 » April 27th, 2015, 11:09 am

For me personally the most exhausting/depressing thing about this whole fiasco is looking back 5-10 years to how naively optimistic I was about the future of transit when it finally became apparent the Green Line would be built. With two successful lines, city populations (and presumably political power) growing, Democrats in the white house and governor's mansion, I thought for sure it would only get easier to expand our system.

I mean, considering the socio-political landscape today vs. 15 years ago, how in the world did the Blue & Green Lines ever get built?

I realize it's not as simple as having the desire, and that every transit project has it's unique challenges (Blue and Green lines might have been low-hanging fruit?) that may or may not make it feasible or cost-effective in it's own right, but jeez does the whole SWLRT just feel like a huge step backwards, and it keeps going that way. Just a bit depressing. Seems like you kinda got push Bottineau at this point just to try to keep some semblance of forward momentum.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby VacantLuxuries » April 27th, 2015, 11:14 am

What if the line was built in short phases, 2-3 stations at a time? Build the expensive tunnel to Uptown, wait a few years, then build out further and further with dedicated transit funds. You don't need a federal transit program's assistance if you're not spending billions in one go.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby acs » April 27th, 2015, 11:18 am

It's a real shame that riverview died when Jessie left office, although I could be eating my words if that study comes back with a ton of hidden costs and issues too. That line might have also been low hanging fruit that serves viable urban development throughout it's length without jumping through expensive hoops (aka tunneling).

helsinki
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby helsinki » April 27th, 2015, 11:23 am

kirby96 wrote:how in the world did the Blue & Green Lines ever get built?
Irrefutable logic.

Blue Line: CBD to Airport. Necessity for any metro.

Green Line: major CBD to minor CBD via gigantic university. No-brainer.

SWLRT? Much less compelling: CBD to . . . wealthy suburbs, sort of near some large office parks, bypasses 2nd most dense activity node (Uptown), tunnels through a park.

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Silophant » April 27th, 2015, 11:27 am

Well, the elephant in the room with Riverview is that it requires a river crossing, and MnDOT is currently happily reconstructing the most obviously useful existing bridge without consideration for future LRT use.

As far as VacantLuxuries suggestion, can anyone remind me why that's apparently not being looked at? Is it just politics, that no one will even consider a project without the lure of federal money backing it up?

kirby96
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby kirby96 » April 27th, 2015, 11:29 am

helsinki wrote:
kirby96 wrote:how in the world did the Blue & Green Lines ever get built?
Irrefutable logic.

Blue Line: CBD to Airport. Necessity for any metro.

Green Line: major CBD to minor CBD via gigantic university. No-brainer.

SWLRT? Much less compelling: CBD to . . . wealthy suburbs, sort of near some large office parks, bypasses 2nd most dense activity node (Uptown), tunnels through a park.
Yeah, that's what I meant by low-hanging fruit, and you correctly summarize the issue w/ SWLRT as a counter-example. If we truly need both end-points to be destination worthy, though, then it seems the only viable route left that is under consideration is riverview, as stated above.

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Anondson
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » April 27th, 2015, 11:33 am

In wondering if this is another piece of evidence for the US's problem with doing infrastructure affordably. Rail run through swamps on bridges (south of Hopkins, surprise!, not cheap).

Second, all options on the table? How about we consider a land value capture tax around each SWLRT station?

acs
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby acs » April 27th, 2015, 11:55 am

Regarding building out the line piecemeal, just think about how it's going to go over politically. The council would have to get new municipal consent from every city along the line, plus the county, for such a dramatic change in timing and implementation, even if the route didn't change. They would have to go to the Hopkins, Minnetonka, EP and every other council and say, "That LRT line you thought you'd get in 2021? It's probably not opening in your neck of the woods until maybe 2025, if ever. We've got to save costs and get the section through Minneapolis built quickly, but by the time we get out to your area inflation is probably going to ruin your budget anyways. Please sign off on this binding plan!"

Everyone but Minneapolis: "Yeah screw that let's just get MNDOT to build a freeway."

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby mamundsen » April 27th, 2015, 11:56 am

Can someone explain this line from the update:

"99 additional business relocations (from 47 to 146)"

We are relocating 150 businesses?!?!?!?!?

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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Silophant » April 27th, 2015, 12:00 pm

Why would EPs consent be required to build a line section that doesn't come anywhere near them?

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Anondson
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » April 27th, 2015, 12:00 pm

There are quite a few in Hopkins where the OMF and Shady Oak station are going to be put.

helsinki
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby helsinki » April 27th, 2015, 12:01 pm

Anondson wrote:Second, all options on the table?
If that were really true (doubtful), and given the commuter-focus of this line, my vote would be to cobble together the appropriate rights from BNSF, TC&W, and CP, make a few track upgrades, bare-bones stations with park-n-ride spots, and run little diesel commuter trains (DMU's).

The route was chosen because of the existing tracks. Why not use them? The TOD opportunities are limited anyway, with the park-n-ride intentions of the current plan. Plus, why subsidize growth on the fringe?

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Tiller
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Re: Southwest LRT (Green Line Extension)

Postby Tiller » April 27th, 2015, 12:11 pm

mamundsen wrote:Can someone explain this line from the update:

"99 additional business relocations (from 47 to 146)"

We are relocating 150 businesses?!?!?!?!?
I second this. This is the first I've actually heard of business relocation happening. 150 is a pretty big number in this context. Is that mostly due to a few large office buildings or something?


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