Minneapolis Streetcar System

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Tcmetro
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » October 16th, 2012, 10:48 am

There are a couple of things we have to remember about CTIB:
1. It is a regional tax. The counties and probably even the Metropolitan Council will be against regional money funding a local line. The streetcar network proposal will have effects on local trips but little effect on regional trips.
2. Much of the CTIB money is spoken for in the next 10-15 years. Already $20 million per year goes to operations of Hiawatha, Northstar, and Cedar Av and Lakeville express services. A lot of money will need to be used to build Southwest, Bottineau, Cedar, and 35W. Other corridors in the study phase, like Midtown, Gateway, Rush Line, Red Rock, Robert Street, etc. will take up even more money. CTIB pays 30% of New Starts corridors. For SWLRT, that means CTIB will be paying $375 million, which will take up funds for several years. As more corridors open, more tax revenue will have to fund operations. When Central opens, operations will take up $30 million of the yearly funds; by the time the other projects are complete, it is quite possible that all tax revenue will go to operations.

As for building an urban space, streetcars aren't going to slove those massive structural issues. And if we want more development along what are our bus lines, why would we build a streetcar that won't have major effects on capacity? We would want to build something that has a dedicated ROW and high capacity, kind of like a light rail or a subway...

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 16th, 2012, 12:24 pm

Streetcars could be built in a dedicated ROW, and you can get higher capacity through higher frequency.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 16th, 2012, 1:40 pm

Tcmetro wrote:There are a couple of things we have to remember about CTIB:
1. It is a regional tax. The counties and probably even the Metropolitan Council will be against regional money funding a local line. The streetcar network proposal will have effects on local trips but little effect on regional trips.
The rest of your post is well taken. I'm not sure about this point, however. A line from Holy Angels, down Nicollet, up Central to the Columbia Heights transit center, for instance, would be regional, I imagine.

Tcmetro
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » October 16th, 2012, 1:59 pm

Just because it goes a couple of blocks into Columbia Heights and Richfield doesn't make it regional. AFAIK, the line will be in mixed traffic and stop every two blocks. That is equivalent to a local bus service, not light rail, commuter rail, or highway BRT, which cater to regional needs. The other counties aren't happy that all the lines are leading to Minneapolis, and they certainly won't be happy about their money going to a streetcar line that provides little to no improvement in access to transit, service frequency, or speed.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 16th, 2012, 2:22 pm

Respectfully, I think this approach is too dogmatic. The distinction between local and regional isn't so blunt. Stops can be more widely spaced towards the fringe, more closely spaced in the center - like a German Stadtbahn (Hanover is a good example). Agreed, I would extend the line - have gigantic park and rides where the line meets 494 and 694 for instance - no TOD will ever occur there anyway.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 16th, 2012, 2:25 pm

There's a whole bunch of the region that isn't Minneapolis, and those parts don't like it when Minneapolis gets yet another line, especially when it doesn't link to them. Everybody wants their pound of flesh.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby mattaudio » October 16th, 2012, 3:04 pm

By the same token, couldn't it be said that SW LRT as proposed is NOT as regional as it should be, considering it bypasses not only dense residential areas but also regional destination points in favor of faster commutes for suburbanites?

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby seanrichardryan » October 16th, 2012, 3:18 pm

Tcmetro wrote:Well, what's the point of building a streetcar line (that has no funding sources) that will do the exact same thing as a bus (which can be built cheaper, and is more politically palatable?)

Arterial BRT /= parking ramp in Prior Lake
That has been and will be the Met Council's position. Can we stop wasting money on studies already? Either Mpls funds it or no trolleys.
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 17th, 2012, 3:11 am

seanrichardryan wrote:Either Mpls funds it or no trolleys.
This need not be the case. Yes, the Met Council (through Metro Transit) would run any streetcar line. With CTIB funds already dedicated to other projects, this does create another obstacle to realizing streetcars. The city, however, is not the only possible funding source. The FTA, for example, could fund a large part of the upfront capital costs. The FTA has invested substantially in streetcars in recent years (See http://www.fta.dot.gov/newsroom/12286_14274.html) and would likely do so in MSP if given a decent proposal and, yes, a local funding commitment of some sort.

True budgets are tight. But our discussion about transit spending isn't rational. Talk of a streetcar can incite the 'transit is a waste of money boondoggle' rant rant from my uncle on the farm, but billions are thrown away casually in Afghanistan (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-2 ... costs.html) and nary a peep of protest from most people, probably because Afghanistan is far away, defense expenditure is sacrosanct, and an "I'm not going to ride that train so why should I pay for it" mentality prevails amongst those on the metro periphery (disclosure: my uncle's farm is in Wisconsin - but the point still holds). Seriously - we can spend $30 billion and counting on the silly V-22 Osprey that doesn't even work and crashes all the time (but whoa it's like so cool), but a discussion of streetcars doesn't get off the ground - it gets people on a disingenuous thrifty high-horse. Imagine if we had spent that wasted $30 billion on capital investment in public transportation! Minneapolis is the 16th largest metro in the country - we could be well on our way to a regional streetcar infrastructure.

A more rational discussion would entail a back and forth on (1) how do we want to structure our metro-wide transportation system, and (2) once agreed upon that, how can we best spend our limited resources on achieving that vision. MSP is uniquely placed to do this in a comprehensive manner: the Metropolitan Council is the only such system of regional governance in the country besides the one in Portland, OR. Instead, at the moment, we have the schizophrenic policy of supporting transit, but also undermining it. The Met Council builds the public sewer system out to the fringes, for example. Or indeed look at the public discussion about the policy muddle that is Highway 55 (highway, or street? we can't decide). We're not talking about billions here. I mentioned before how capital expenditure for transit need not be so high; Transit Authorities in the US are fleeced by contractors (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-2 ... costs.html).

This is once again a long way of saying that the reigning presumption of impossibility regarding streetcars here is not only depressing, but also unwarranted. What is truly lacking is the political consensus (for or against). We are not Metro Detroit, where the suburbs hate the city and vice-versa with a passion bordering on the truly bizarre (because it is so self-defeating). If the suburbs and the city can agree, then there is no limit to what could be achieved in terms of public transportation. I just think that no one has made the case to the suburbs that streetcars are in their interest too. To my mind, this is the case because the suburbs' fate is tied to Minneapolis' health; see Detroit for an example of where people didn't take this to heart. Medtronic, Target, General Mills, Pillsbury, 3M, Best Buy, US Bancorp, Aveda, Toro, Thomson Reuters, Dairy Queen, Cargill, etc. are not just located here for historic reasons, or because of the education level of the workforce (the creative class argument of Richard Florida at Atlantic Cities) but also because they can attract high quality workers who want to live in a place with good schools, a decent commute, low crime, a pristine natural setting, a thriving arts community, and a unique local culture. Streetcars, I think, would differentiate MSP from the other bland suburban midwestern metros (who wants to move to Indianapolis or Kansas City?) and promote development patterns supportive of a quality of life that can maintain a stable employment base.

Maybe these posts have been all over the place, but they're not insane. If you've read this far, why not indulge in a bit of interdisciplinary thinking?

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 17th, 2012, 11:24 am

I... still don't know who you're arguing against.

And if we got $1 billion extra, we could build one LRT line, 16-33 miles of streetcar (based on $30-$60 million/mile) or more miles than that of some kind of better bus system.

So let's stop with the mode fetishism and have a discussion about mobility, which is what Jarret Walker says all along. He's not "for" or "against" streetcars, he's just "for" increased mobility.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 17th, 2012, 11:40 am

FISHMANPET wrote:I... still don't know who you're arguing against.

And if we got $1 billion extra, we could build one LRT line, 16-33 miles of streetcar (based on $30-$60 million/mile) or more miles than that of some kind of better bus system.

So let's stop with the mode fetishism and have a discussion about mobility, which is what Jarret Walker says all along. He's not "for" or "against" streetcars, he's just "for" increased mobility.
I am arguing against viewing transportation decisions as being solely about transportion (or "mobility"). Because they are not. They are also choice about what kind of built environment we want to live in. Transportation is one of the critical systems that orders the way we live our lives, and mode is a critical element of that ordering.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 17th, 2012, 11:42 am

Why is mode critical, versus the characteristics of transit like ROW, stop spacing, fare payment, branding, signage, etc etc?

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 17th, 2012, 12:28 pm

Because all of those characteristics speak to mode. Yes, you can make a bus line seem a lot like a streetcar line. The point has been exhaustively made. When you stand next to a tram gliding away from the station or a bus roaring away from the curb, however, the distinction between the modes becomes intuitively apparent. Yes, I understand the immediate retort. But people don't usually get down into the nitty gritty like urban msp readers do; developers don't, tourists don't, potentially new transit riders don't, and indeed many daily riders don't. Streetcars have inherent advantages and, regardless of how closely a bus may be made to approximate those advantages, it won't truly substitute for the real thing.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 17th, 2012, 12:43 pm

A DMU could roar away from the curb and a trolleybus could glide away too.

You're justifying cultural feedback effects by pointing at misidentified differences.

If we want the "image" of an urban city, then streetcars would do that. If we want to move people around, we could do more of that with buses. It comes down to a value judgement.

There's also some problems with streetcars. I remember reading the feasibility study a few years ago and Franklin was studied but the grade is too steep there for a streetcar, so the only option there would be some kind of bus improvement (or I guess cable or gear cars, but that seems a little far fetched for us).

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 17th, 2012, 12:53 pm

And here's Jarret Walker sounding smarter than me making the same point:
http://www.humantransit.org/2009/11/bus ... geles.html

Tcmetro
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » October 17th, 2012, 1:25 pm

A Nicollet-Central streetcar will probably cost somewhere in the range of $300-600 million, which could probably pay for most of the proposed Arterial BRT network. If some more money is put to Arterial BRT, dedicated lanes could be a part of the equation.

Chicago is looking at a 20 mile BRT line with center lanes and stations, with an estimated cost of $150-200 million. It is predicted to operate almost as fast as the city's elevated train network. This is about twice the length of Nicollet-Central at 66% the cost, at the most conservative estimates.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby UptownSport » October 17th, 2012, 1:38 pm

Rather mindless; A, B or C.

Absolutes like A, B or C aren't how ANYTHING works (unless you're on Wheel of Fortune).
There's even different buses operating- articulated and Coaches prolly wouldn't be best for RT 25.

Other cities use multiple modes of transport-
Munich had Hi-Speed, regional, underground, LRT and trolleys- All on rails.
There were buses, and some were electric IIRC, most other cities had a similar setup.

WHAT made these cities decide to use trolleys in place of buses or LRT, or vice -versa?

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » October 17th, 2012, 1:46 pm

Most streetcars in mixed traffic are legacy networks from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cities like San Francisco and Toronto don't build new mixed traffic lines. The new streetcars in England and France are more akin to light rail, they have dedicated right of way. I'm not sure about Germany or Italy, but as I understand it Russia is still removing streetcars.

It's all for good reason, if you're going to spend money on rail, don't waste it on mixed traffic operations! Use it where the advantages of electric power and level boarding can be used, on it's own right of way!

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 17th, 2012, 2:00 pm

New Orleans has the oldest continously operating streetcar line in the country because it was mostly run in dedicated ROW (grassy median) rather than in the street.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby talindsay » October 17th, 2012, 2:42 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:A DMU could roar away from the curb and a trolleybus could glide away too.

You're justifying cultural feedback effects by pointing at misidentified differences.

If we want the "image" of an urban city, then streetcars would do that. If we want to move people around, we could do more of that with buses. It comes down to a value judgement.

There's also some problems with streetcars. I remember reading the feasibility study a few years ago and Franklin was studied but the grade is too steep there for a streetcar, so the only option there would be some kind of bus improvement (or I guess cable or gear cars, but that seems a little far fetched for us).
You can tell the public until you're blue in the face that tofu is every bit as good a protein source - and healthier, to boot! - as beef. You'd be factually correct. There's no reason why we don't all eat tofu all the time - and yet the vast majority of people love beef and would not consider eating tofu as a substitute. Beef carries social, cultural and traditional values that trump any scientific observations of its danger and wastefulness; tofu has a social and cultural stigma that destroys it as a staple despite all its excellent characteristics. If you told a grocery store they should stop carrying beef because boxes of tofu will take up less space on the shelf while simultaneously providing better health for their customers, they would ask you to leave their premises.

Similarly, it doesn't matter how great buses are - a substantial segment of the population sees them as detestable. Those same people have been shown in study after study to find rail modes of all types (it's "real mass transit!") to be desirable or at least more reasonable as a choice.

Part of it is about permanence - the fact that buses can switch routes easily makes it hard to trust that the line will actually still be there in five years, and it's easy to experiment around without being committed. At the point you lay rails in the streets you're making a commitment to run service right there - so businesses and communities can depend on the infrastructure being there.

But that's only part of it. The truth is that intangibles are important and define a big part of the reality around certain issues. In this case, it may well be true that buses are more practical; but the built environment could be improved, and streetcars are a great way to get the public's buy-in for that.

I am personally a big fan of streetcars anyway - they are far more transparent than buses and can integrate with the local environment very well. I wrote extensively about Toronto's streetcar system on minnescraper back in the day, and I think people need to realize modern streetcars aren't the "cute trolley" that opponents condescendingly refer to them as. A good streetcar line can be as basic as a bus or as amenity-rich as a light rail or subway line, and that's a benefit - the lines can be built in a very basic way and upgraded as demand or preference dictate, and the same line can function with varying degrees of amenity at various places along the way. The Toronto Dundas streetcar stops in the middle of the street across from bus stops and passengers climb off like from a bus; the Toronto Kings streetcar operates almost like a light rail line with long station platforms and off-car payment systems. They're both part of the same network.


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