Judging by the unanimous vote of support from the city council last month, Minneapolis officials are excited about a possible new $200 million streetcar line that would run from Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue near downtown to Northeast Minneapolis, a kind of feeder to the Hiawatha Light Rail. St. Paul isn’t as far along in its planning, but city officials here too are talking about streetcars in upbeat, hopeful terms.
One group is feeling left out, and that’s the Metropolitan Council.
oh the poor Met Council…..
In a two-page letter last Friday to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Met Council Chair Sue Haigh reminded Rybak (and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman too, who was CC’d on it) that there are limited sources of funding out there for new public transit construction, and it wouldn’t be prudent to have Minneapolis compete with the Met Council’s own initiatives for money.
The Met Council has a transportation policy plan (TPP) that gets updated every three or four years. The last plan, which outlines in general terms what transit lines will be built where and when, was published in 2010, and it doesn’t mention streetcars, which are like trolleys that operate with traffic instead of in their own dedicated right-of-way.
That’s a big deal, especially if Minneapolis and St. Paul plan to approach the Met Council, the state, the feds, or regional bodies such as the Counties Transit Improvement Board for funding. Minneapolis thinks it can get a fair amount — but certainly not all — of the money to launch its $200 million line from property owners along the route, but that still leaves more than $100 million in construction costs unaccounted for. Rybak has said he’ll announce a funding plan before the end of the year.
A new version of the Met Council’s “TPP” plan will be available for comment in 2014, so input is due to the Met Council pretty much right now.
Haigh, in Friday’s letter, spelled out it out like this: “Because your project is proceeding more quickly than the next TPP, I feel it is important to proactively establish lines of communication and provide guidance on this project.”
Among Haigh’s concerns, she’s wondering if the Minneapolis streetcar line would be aimed at increasing ridership or just mimicking the bus ridership that already exists along the route and making the corridor more attractive to developers. Different pots of money fund transportation initiatives and economic development programs, so Minneapolis (and eventually St. Paul) is going to have to choose wisely in how it markets streetcars to those who hold the cash box.
Haigh, again: “A project pursued primarily for development outcomes should be funded locally and should not compete with other priorities for federal and state transportation funds.”
The Met Council has been fairly specific about what projects and what types of projects it’s interested in pursuing — such as initiatives that combine transit and housing, especially affordable worker housing. The TPP also establishes a light hierarchy in terms of which projects will be prioritized first, though much depends upon how studies, funding and planning roll out within the communities the transit lines will serve.
“The TPP does certainly have a plan and an order,” said Meredith Salsbery, a spokeswoman for the Met Council, in an interview on Monday. “It’s something we work with CTIB (the Counties Transit Improvement Board) on. It’s not necessarily crystal clear. It depends mostly on the progress of the plan at the local level. … Some projects move faster than others.”
It’s almost funny watching these idiots have a turf war over who can waste our money on public transit more!
Haigh’s letter and article