Monday, February 3, 2014

Gateway Corridor summary

Gateway Corridor Fiasco
The Gateway Corridor is a needless east-metro transit plan to replace the existing express buses that already run successfully on I-94 (MetroTransit express 294, limited stop 350, express 351, express 353, express 355, express 375), using the shoulder to move around traffic instead of building a dedicated lane.

August 31, 2014 (Sunday) - The ten week old Green Line light rail train hit and killed a woman at the intersection of University Avenue and Emerald Street SE in the Prospect Park neighborhood at 10:15am. The train operator applied some form of brakes but was not able to stop the train in time.

August 28, 2014 (Friday) - Minneapolis City Council voted on Southwest Corridor at 9:30am in room 317 of Minneapolis City Hall, 350 S 5th St, Minneapolis, MN 55415, 612-673-3000. The vote was 10-3 for spending $1.65 billion on a commuter light rail train.

July 2014 - Fresh from their vacation in Los Angeles, the Gateway Corridor Commission decided to pick bus rapid transit (BRT). The BRT route they picked runs on the disjointed, residential Hudson Road in St. Paul. The BRT route messes with the one-way traffic in front of the 3M headquarters in Maplewood and takes over 4th Street North in Oakdale and Hudson Blvd in Lake Elmo. After avoiding most of Woodbury, the route jogs inexplicably south to tag the northeast corner of Woodbury and ends before Manning Av (map).

June 2014 - The Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway
Administration requested that Gateway Corridor proposal be resubmitted
with the option of a managed lane on I-94. Meanwhile thirty members of the Gateway Corridor Commission left town and took a fact-finding vacation in Los Angeles (Los Angeles?!? How does LA have anything to do with Woodbury?  Visiting the BRT red line in Apple Valley would have more appropriate.).

Despite years of taxpayer-funded studies and meetings, the Gateway Corridor Commission can't understand that the existing bus transit is the safest, most flexible, most efficient, and most economical transit for the East Metro.

Are they really wanting to put it on Hudson Road?

► Do they realize Hudson Road is residential in Saint Paul?

► Do they realize Hudson Road is a disconnected street? It stops and starts.

► Has the Gateway Corridor contacted each of the residents and received their willingness to move?

What is the Gateway Corridor -- bus or train?

The Gateway Corridor Commission couldn't decide what type of vehicle they wanted (bus, train, or gondola) or where they should put it, until 30 members took a taxpayer funded vacation to Los Angeles in June 2014.

►   Metro Council and Minnesota Department of Transportation have said that bus rapid transit in managed lanes should be considered for the Gateway Corridor, which might run eastward from Union Depot in St. Paul toward Wisconsin along Interstate 94. Buses would travel on existing pavement and leave the interstate to stop at transit stations. - Pioneer Press 

►   East metro citizens do not want light rail, according to signed petitions, open house meetings, and surveys taken by state representatives. "In a recent survey of her constituents, Rep. Andrea Kieffer, a Republican from Woodbury, [said] most don’t want light rail in the area. Rep. Kathy Lohmer said her survey had similar findings.” - Woodbury Patch

"Residents and business owners voiced their concerns about plans for transit along the Gateway Corridor... All seven audience members who spoke opposed the corridor plan... Tom Giannetti, who owns St. Paul Harley-Davidson, which sits along I-94 near Century Avenue, said the proposed route could cut into his property and poses 'the single biggest threat to my business.'” - Pioneer Press
Light rail would wipe out the 75 space parking lot. - Lilli News 

►   The Gateway Corridor settled on bus rapid transit in fall of 2012. The Minnesota Legislature voted in 2013 to allow Woodbury to create bus rapid transit. - Star Tribune

►  Minneapolis-Saint Paul has the fastest U.S. metropolitan highways according to Texas A&M and Streets.MN. Here is a picture of weekday morning traffic on I-94 on the east side of Saint Paul. The east metro lacks the ridership, congestion, urban density, or population increase to justify bus rapid transit, let alone light capacity rail.

►   Carrying capacity differs between buses, light rail trains (light capacity), and heavy rail trains (heavy capacity). “The willingness of many rail advocates to support high-cost, low-capacity rail lines calls into question the entire rail agenda. Supporters of low-capacity lines are not truly interested in transportation.” - Cato Institute & UTA TRAX response (operating at only 21.8% of capacity)

Is light rail safe? Is light rail good for business?

►  Here is a list of light rail crashes and the causes (with news links)

►  Here is a list of businesses impacted by the Central Corridor (with news links)

►  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a list of needed rail safety improvements in January 2014, including:
•  Promote Operational & Developmental Safety in Rail Mass Transit - promote organizational safety culture, training safety, maintenance safety, address and reduce fatigue and human error, adopt close-call reporting systems, and promote operational safety through Federal Transit Administration (FTA) oversight, which should start at development. [html, pdf]
•  Implement Positive Train Control Systems - monitor the location and movement of trains, then slow or stop a train that is not being operated in accordance with signal systems or operating rules. This safety redundancy prevents train-to-train collisions and overspeed derailments, as well as the associated injuries and fatalities to passengers, railway workers, and others. PTC systems are not a dream; they are in use on the Northeast Corridor in the Northeast United States and on the Michigan Line between Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan. [html, pdf]

►   Minnesota has one rail safety inspector for the entire state. - Star Tribune, Minnesota law

Does the Gateway Corridor contribute to urban sprawl and the Wisconsin Reciprocity Tax Deficit?

►  Younger families are moving to the Minneapolis urban core instead of Woodbury. - Star Tribune (chart)

►  Wisconsin owes millions of tax dollars to Minnesota for its commuter residents. Gateway Corridor wants to increase Wisconsin's debt by providing transit for Wisconsin residents who work in Minnesota. Governor Walker agrees $60 million is owed to Minnesota but will only pay the bill if Wisconsin's employment situation improves. - WXOW-19 LaCrosse, Star Tribune (update

► The Gateway Corridor will not cross the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. - Finance & Commerce

Has any money already been spent? Can't more money be flushed away?

CH2M Hill (Englewood, CO)  =  $1.5 million (2011)
Kimley Horn (Raleigh, NC)     <  $3 million (2013)
Jeff Dehler Public Relations (Crystal, MN) = $100,000 (2013)
Jeff Dehler Public Relations (Crystal, MN) = $110,000 (2014)
► Bus rapid transit on Hudson Road would cost over $400 million. Bus rapid transit on a managed lane on I-94 would cost $520 million. Light rail transit on Hudson Road would cost over $1 billion.
► Gateway Corridor received more money from the 2014 legislature and took 30 people on a fact-finding vacation tour of Los Angeles in June 2014.

Should 3M name all the stations on the Gateway Corridor (bus, train, plane)?

►  Scotch® Magic Tape transit station
►  Nexcare™ Steri-Strip™ Skin Closures for injured pedestrians
►  Non-post consumer Post-It® temporary transit station
►  3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes station
►  Imation™ Floppy Disk terminal (as modern as train technology)
- Star Tribune

Probably not. 3M closed its Saint Paul campus a few years ago. Is 3M planning to close its Maplewood headquarters too? Is Gateway Corridor transit just a tool to help sell the 3M property in Maplewood? 3M held its first annual meeting outside of Minnesota this year. The meeting was in Austin, Texas on May 13, 2014.

►   Gateway Corridor Steering Committee?!? You can't steer light rail. Joke? - Lillie News

The East Metro of Minneapolis-Saint Paul is a good place to live. Saint Paul's east side is a great place to live. It is not a gated community. It's diverse. It has no high profile destinations, no flashy museums or malls or casinos. It has the native Mounds Park, which is great and historic. It has the picturesque Lake Phalen. It has great bus and express bus service. It does not need or want a $1.2 billion light rail line to nowhere.

Make a difference. Make your voice heard. Tell your story.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton   651-296-3391
Office of the Governor, 130 State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Representative Frank Hornstein, Transportation Finance Committee Chair   651-296-9281
471 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Representative Ron Erhardt, Transportation Policy Committee Chair   651-296-4363
543 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Representative Tony Albright (55B)   651-296-5185
387 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Representative Tim Mahoney (67A)   651-296-4277
591 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Representative Sheldon Johnson (67B)   651-296-4201
549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Senator Richard Cohen, Senate Finance Committee Chair
web mail   651-296-5931
121 Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155

Minnesota Senator D. Scott Dibble, Transportation and Public Safety Committee chair   651-296-4191
111 Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155-1606

Minnesota Senator Foung Hawj (District 67)
web mail   651-296-5285
Capitol, Room G-24, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155-1606

Find your Minnesota Representative and Minnesota Senator by zip codes

Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh   651-602-1390
  ► Chair, Corridors of Opportunity (aka Partnership of Regional Opportunity

Metropolitan Council District 13 (St. Paul) Richard Kramer   651-774-4971

Metropolitan Council District 14 (St. Paul) Jon Commers   651-645-4644

Metro Transit   651-602-1500, 612-373-3333
560 Sixth Av N, Minneapolis, MN 55411

Ramsey County District 6 Commissioner Jim McDonough   651-266-8350
Ramsey County Board Office, Room 220 Court House, 15 W Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102
  ► Chair, Ramsey County Board
  ► Chair, East Metro Transit Alliance
  ► Member, Minnesota Transportation Alliance (aka Move MN)
  ► Member, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB)
  ► Member, Corridors of Opportunity (aka Partnership of Regional Opportunity)
  ► Member, Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority (RCRRA)

Ramsey County District 5 Commissioner Rafael Ortega   651-266-8361
  ► Chair, Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority (RCRRA)
  ► Vice-chair, Gateway Corridor Commission
  ► Member, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB)

Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik   651-430-6215
  ► Chair, Gateway Corridor Commission
  ► Member, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB)
  ► Member, Corridors of Opportunity (aka Partnership of Regional Opportunity)

Gateway Corridor Commission   651-430-4300
Washington County Regional Railroad, 11660 Myeron Road N, Stillwater, MN 55082

Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County 4th District Commissioner   612-348-7884
A-2400 Government Center, 300 South 6th St., Minneapolis, MN 55487
  ► Chair, Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB)
  ► Chair, Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA)
  ►  Member, Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board (SWMCB)
  ►  Member, Corridors of Opportunity (aka Partnership of Regional Opportunity)
  ►  Member, Central Corridor Management Committee (CCMC)
  ►  Member, Southwest LRT Community Works Steering Committee (SWLRTCWSC)
  ►  Member, Metro Transit’s Policy Advisory Committee (PAC)
  ►  Member, MnDOT Transportation Finance Advisory Committee (TFAC)

Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) Marisol Simon   312-353-2789
200 W Adams St, Suite 2410, Chicago, IL 60606

Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) Elizabeth Zelasko Patel  202-366-0244
1200 New Jersey Av SE, E45-340, Washington, DC 20590
FTA Office of Planning and Environment - projects permitting contact

United States Representative Betty McCollum
web mail   651-224-9191, 202-225-6631
165 Western Avenue North, Suite 17, St. Paul, MN 55102

United States Representative Keith Ellison
web mail   612-522-1212
2100 Plymouth Av N, Minneapolis, MN 55411

United States Senator Amy Klobuchar
web mail (  612-727-5220, 202-224-3244
1200 Washington Av S. Suite 250, Minneapolis, MN 55415

United States Senator Al Franken
web mail (  651-221-1016,  202-224-5641
60 E. Plato Blvd. Suite 220, St. Paul, MN 55107

United States President Barack Obama 
web mail   202-456-1111
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500
We The People - the White House petition

Rail~Volution 2014 at the Hyatt Downtown Minneapolis - September 21-24, 2014  612-486-5611

East Side Transit Spotlight

The East Side Transit Spotlight was a Gateway Corridor opposition meeting that took place on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 from 6-8 pm at the Dayton's Bluff Recreation Center, 790 Conway Street in St. Paul. The meeting included a short movie, Is the Gateway Corridor Hudson Road Alignment a Pure Illusion?

The movie shows several congestion-free views of Interstate-94 in the east metro, with highway-level and aerial views, but the narration does not call attention to the lack of congestion. The narration lists many businesses east of Ruth Street that would be impacted by the proposed plan but fails to list the businesses west of Ruth that would be impacted. The video jumps between several disconnected parts of Hudson Road without addressing the problems of making connections. It turns the camera away from showing all the houses that would be impacted by rapid transit on their doorsteps. It fails to mention the bus-or-train indecision, the huge costs, replacing the existing-effective express buses, increasing urban sprawl, and Minnesota funding transit for Wisconsin. The movie was created by Steve Ellenwood & Bob Tatreau.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Saint Paul Streetcar Scam

July 10, 2014 - The Saint Paul City Council voted 6-0 to continue to study a
7th Street streetcar. Dan Bostrom walked out before the vote after saying that for $250 million, the city could mill and overlay all 873 miles of paved streets within Saint Paul's borders, excluding interstate highways, with $48 million left over. His comments drew widespread applause, the Pioneer Press reported.

Saint Paul city council members Amy Brendmoen, Kathy Lantry, Russ Stark, Dai Thao, Dave Thune, & Chris Tolbert were in favor of the streetcar fiasco

Joe Landsberger, West Seventh Business Association president, said that while he generally supports public transit, "not one business owner of the total of about 120 attendees (at the February 6th streetcar presentation) spoke in favor of streetcars." 

“Who is in favor of streetcars along West 7th?” No one came forward.
“Who leans toward streetcars along West 7th?” Again no response.
“Who is neutral?” Again no response.
“Who is against?” Nearly all raised their hands.

Tim Herman, East Side Area Business Association director, said that his
members want transit. Who are his members?  They are Saint Paul council member Amy Brendmoen, Saint Paul council president Kathy Lantry, Ramsey County commissioner Jim McDonough, Saint Paul Port Authority, and Visit Saint Paul.    - May 30, 2014 members list

One of the few members of Tim Herman's association actually on the potential streetcar tracks has signed a petition against a train on East 7th. Tim Herman doesn't speak for East 7th Street businesses.

Saint Paul city council wants a streetcar. They want a traffic-blocking train (streetcar) running on 7th Street from Arcade Street to Randolph Avenue. They are being serious (sort of).*

There are some good authentic Mexican restaurants at 7th East and Arcade. Randolph and 7th West has a uh Subway™ sandwich shop and a pizza place. The streetcar plan was presented by San Francisco trolley people (Nelson Nygaard Consulting). Maybe someone in San Francisco thought there was an actual subway at Randolph and 7th.

But it's only half the route Saint Paul wants. They want a pair of train tracks running down 7th Street from White Bear Avenue to the airport (because whenever anyone is going to the airport, they want the slowest, least baggage-friendly mode of transportation).

The problem is the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants program, commonly known as “New Starts.” It has rules. In order to get $75 million from the FTA, the transit has to:
► cost less than $250 million (tracks from White Bear Av to the airport would more than double that cost)
► benefit at least 3,000 existing daily transit riders (the 74 bus route has hundreds, not thousands of riders)
► have mobility improvements measured by travel time benefits per passenger mile (streetcars on 7th are not faster or more direct than buses on 7th)
► serve low-income households (usually not going to the airport, not flocking to White Bear Av either)
► has to have employment near stations (the field that was the 3M headquarters & Subway™-eat fresh)
► measured by change in regional pollutant emissions, change in regional energy consumption, and EPA air quality designation (nothing pollutes like the cement industry & street-tracks use tons of cement)
► have operating efficiencies measured by system operating cost per passenger mile (A streetcar has no chance at being more efficient. The only way to be more efficient than the 74 bus route would be to run half-sized buses when ridership doesn't need a full-sized bus.)
► address future patterns (People are moving to the urban core and do not need sprawl-based transit. Saint Paul is a Toledo-sized city that may never regain its 1960 peak population.)

The Saint Paul city council claims the streetcar will cost less than $250 million to get the federal money. That means the project will be only partially built to come in under the dollar cap. Like the Hiawatha light rail, the streetcar project would have to say it's finished and then make additional capital improvements until it's actually complete.

The Saint Paul city council also claims the streetcar will have 3,100 riders, needing to claim at least 3,000 riders for the federal money. Who are they kidding?!? An independent audit of 74 bus weekday riders should prove the 3,100 figure to be an inflated number. Plus, the FTA money must benefit 3,000 riders. Replacing buses with trains does not benefit riders; it's the opposite. Trains cost more, have fewer seats, and do not have the braking and steering abilities of buses. Less safe and more expensive does not benefit riders. Putting trains on roads removes parking, adds overhead wiring, and eliminates truck access to businesses.

Page 6 of the Saint Paul Streetcar Feasibility Study (November 13, 2013) says the streetcars "fills gaps in existing bus services." Here is the 74 bus schedule. What gaps?

The real purpose of the trains has nothing to do with transit. It is to create more condominiums downtown Saint Paul. Everywhere. The old post office? Condos. The old Macy's? Condos.

The other reason the Saint Paul city council wants streetcars is the Minneapolis city council wants streetcars. But according to the Pioneer Press, the Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh sent a letter July 12, 2013 to then Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak saying, "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 letter was copied to Saint Paul Mayor Coleman. The Pioneer Press took the Met Council letter as meaning there isn't enough money, but that isn't what the letter said.

Ramsey County commissioner Rafael Ortega, vice-chairman of the Gateway Corridor commission, calls trains "investment transit."

Investment transit?!?  Trains for brokers?

Okay. That's it. It's time to get out the Transit planner to English dictionary.

Saint Paul Streetcar sellers & other train track sellers

What They Say: What They Mean:
investment transit real estate turnaround
economic development potential flip low income housing1
balanced funding what Minneapolis gets, St. Paul gets2
construction industry real estate speculators
too late in the process key properties bought or have contracts
fills gaps in existing bus services replaces buses with trains
streetcar, light rail,
tram, trolly, Muni, MAX, TRAX, ...
trains on roads
1  Turnaround cheap property or 3M wants to unload its old headquarters.
2  DNA tests confirm Saint Paul is not a twin of Minneapolis. The cities aren't even related.

The streetcar scam is to bilk federal transit money to sell real estate by putting another train (part of a train) on a street before the reality of the Central Corridor hits. Or to quote the Streetcar study (p.23), spend $246 million in capital costs and $8 million in annual operations to have a potential of $134 million in development.

If you think that's good, give me $246. I may give you $134 back but expect to give me another $8 each year from now onward.

  Putting a pair of train tracks on Seventh Street:

    * removes parking
    * increases dangers (trains don't have the steering or braking abilities of buses)
    * removes seats (trains have more standing room than buses)
    * increases traffic congestion (a train can't move over or get out of the way like buses)
    * adds construction burdens to area businesses and residents
    * adds noise (chimes, the squeal of metal wheels on metal rail, clang-clang-clang...)

Other Voices
Streetcars are overall a less effective means of transportation than buses. That is, centrally-powered steel wheels on steel tracks in the middle of traffic are less efficient across most dimensions than self-powered rubber tires on streets in the middle of traffic.” - David Levinson, University of Minnesota professor of civil engineering  [read more]

The original sin of every bad streetcar program is this: it doesn't have a dedicated lane. Without a dedicated lane, a streetcar can't really run much faster than a bus under ideal conditions. And since, unlike a bus, a streetcar can't shift out of its lane to avoid an obstacle, in real-world circumstances it's likely to move slower than a bus. ...adding a slower-than-a-bus new vehicle to the curb lane of a street... slows the buses down.” - Matthew Yglesias, DC Streetcars - The Worst Transit Project in America

If the streetcars did attract 3,100 riders a day, does that mean that bus ridership would decline by that number?” - columnist Joe Soucheray, Pioneer Press

The last of Portland's red trolleys will be shipped off to St. Louis after over 20 years of service.” - KGW 8, Portland

“As this throwback technology enjoys its unlikely renaissance, it’s raising the question of whether streetcars -- neither the cheapest nor the fastest way of moving people around cities -- are simply a gimmicky fad or actually the transit mode of both past and future.” - Next City: Why Streetcars Aren't About Transit

“Grant funding was not determined by rigorous application of DOT’s own evaluation: DOT funded almost as many Recommended projects (25) as Highly Recommended projects (26). Meanwhile, only 23% of the 110 projects ranked Highly Recommended were funded. The Review Team offered no official written explanation of its selections. ...projects selected were no better than the projects not selected... 

“A disproportionately large number of projects were funded in Democratic districts. In TIGER I, TIGER II Capital, TIGER II Planning and TIGER III, Democratic districts were awarded a higher percentage of grants than their overall proportional representation. In TIGER III, districts represented by Democrats received 69% of the funding despite Democrats holding only 47% of the total congressional seats.” - Evaluating TIGER Grants

It’s an amusement park ride for yuppies,” former state representative Tom Brinkman said about Cincinnati's streetcar. Other Cincinnati streetcar critics include Bill Sloat and Michael Patton.

Tampa, Florida has a population of 346,037. Saint Paul, with a population of 294,873, is smaller than Tampa. Tampa's tourist streetcar has 296,700 passengers per year and its annual insurance cost is $400,000. - TECO Line Streetcar System, Wikipedia

* Saint Paul City Council Member Dan Bostrom recently called the streetcar plan "obscene."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Minneapolis & Saint Paul Mayoral Candidates 2013

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 is election day. Saint Paul has four mayoral candidates. Minneapolis has 35 mayoral candidates.

Candidates for Saint Paul Mayor
Two Saint Paul mayoral candidates -- Tim Holden and Kurt Dornfeld -- are opposed to light rail.

Tim Holden's website explains why he's running: "My business is on University Avenue — right where they are building the Central Corridor. It’s pretty hard to ignore city politics when it threatens your livelihood, so I got involved.You may not know this, but many business people along University Avenue opposed building the central corridor light rail line in front of their businesses. Not because we hate transit but because lost parking equals lost revenue, which equals business closure (70+ to date!).  The University Avenue bus line is one of the most successful transit lines in the Twin Cities, and actually makes money unlike most bus lines. The Central Corridor project has been a direct threat to all businesses. Years of construction has driven customers away, and the city has taken away over 1000 parking spaces with no plan to replace them..." [more]

Kurt Dornfeld says Saint Paul should spend money repairing streets not on useless light rail. [more]

Saint Paul Mayoral Results (1st choices):
Chris Coleman received 23,875 votes. Tim Holden received 4,978 votes. Chris Coleman told MPR, "Gateway Corridor [will go] to Stillwater and beyond." He sounds like Buzz Lightyear. And he wants investors to build more condos in downtown Saint Paul.

Candidates for Minneapolis Mayor
John Hartwig is against light rail and streetcars. [more]

Dan Cohen says transit improvements should focus on supporting the MTC bus system with smaller 15 passenger buses. The best (& safest) route for the Southwest Corridor is the Midtown Greenway. And streetcars are “an expensive toy and totally unnecessary to fill any transportation needs.” [more & more]

Cam Winston says the Southwest Corridor should be in the Midtown Greenway. And streetcars are a "wasteful boondoggle." [more & more & more]

Gateway Corridor Film 
"Is the Gateway Corridor-Hudson Road Alignment a Pure Illusion?"
by Steven Ellenwood
Tuesday, November 29, 2013 at 6pm
R. H. Stafford Library, 8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury, MN 55125 

[more information]

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bus Rapid Transit

The Gateway Corridor Commission still can't decide if they want bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT) on Hudson Road in St. Paul. They have a lunchtime talk for Monday, June 24, 2013 (11am-1pm) at the Oak Marsh Golf Course, 526 Inwood Av N, Oakdale. There is no cost to attend and a light lunch will be provided. Registration is required (St. Paul Chamber or Woodbury Chamber). Joseph Calabrese, the Cleveland RTA $243,386/year manager, will explain Cleveland's HealthLine bus, formerly known as the Silver Line, formerly known as the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Bus Rapid Transit is a bus. Sometimes it has stations with platforms, sometimes dedicated lanes, sometimes it uses honor-based fareboxes, and sometimes it's really just a bus route with an expensive name. As a bus, it has braking and steering advantages over light rail trains and its capital infrastructure costs are less than light rail. Buses have transparency and accountability advantages over light rail. On a bus, you can see the driver and what the driver is doing. As the bus goes by you can see how many people are on the bus. On light rail the windows are obscured with film preventing the operator from being seen and preventing the lack of riders from being seen from outside.

HealthLine - Cleveland's BRT Example
HealthLine is a $197 million, 6.8 mile($29 million per mile) RTA Euclid Avenue bus rapid transit system in Cleveland, Ohio. Construction began in 2006, was completed in 2008, and inconvenienced Euclid Avenue consumers and businesses, causing many businesses to close.

HealthLine bus passenger lists the problems:
     most bus riders must stand (BRT has half the seats of a traditional bus)
     half of the bus seats are on raised platforms (difficult for seniors & disabled)
     narrow aisles & 18" seats
   ♦  station platforms not marked as eastbound or westbound
   ♦  riders don't know where to stand on the platform or which doors to go in
   ♦  two foot leaping gap between bus & station platform
   ♦  fareboxes that don't work
   ♦  bus shelters with 2 or 3 cold metal seats

HealthLine buses are slower than expected, 25 mph in pedestrian zones. The rules were changed to allow buses a 35 mph limit. Either way it's not rapid transit (10.6mph average speed), has problems with traffic signals and crashes. Euclid Avenue had 411 reported collisions from October 2008 to July 2011, plus:
2013 March 12 - HealthLine bus hit a car at Euclid & East 4th at 10:30am sending 8 people to hospitals, including both drivers.
2011 November 1 - HealthLine bus hit a car at Euclid & East 89th at 2pm. Both vehicles were westbound. The car wanted to make a right turn.
2011 October 24 - HealthLine bus hit a car at Euclid & East 9th at 12:30pm.
HealthLine uses New Flyer articulated buses made in Winnipeg, Canada; Crookston, MN; and St. Cloud, MN. (Light rail uses Siemens and Bombardier trains from Germany.)

Here's another Cleveland opinion of HealthLine.

Gateway Corridor Bus Rapid Transit
The problem with the Gateway Corridor is that it can't beat I-94.

The best place for a bus rapid transit is where it can be rapid -- on the highway. Buses can't travel fast on residential streets, like the St. Paul portion of Hudson Road. Many express buses already run successfully on I-94 (MetroTransit express 294, limited stop 350, express 351, express 353, express 355, express 375), using the shoulder to move around traffic instead of a dedicated lane. And the Gateway Corridor ridership can't justify the opportunity cost of dedicating an I-94 lane each way for either a bus or a train.

Bus rapid transit on Hudson Road in St. Paul would be painfully slow for Woodbury travelers and would not be beneficial to Hudson Road residents and businesses. Snow plows would hack at the dividing curbs. But buses have the breaking and steering advantage over trains (improved safety) and reduced infrastructure (lower capital costs and maintenance).

The Gateway Corridor Solution
If the list of eastside buses above aren't enough, add another bus to I-94, with seating like existing MetroTransit buses and without removing a lane from traffic.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Light Rail Brakes

The most dangerous part of light rail is the lack of braking ... aside from the ludicrous Gateway light-rail-on-residential-roads fiasco.

Light rail can't brake. Yet it has hundreds of names for 2 ½ types of brakes.

  ½ Deceleration
Pulling back on the throttle on a light rail train -- deceleration or down shifting in a car -- has all sorts of needlessly complicated names: dynamic brake, progressive brake, regenerative brake, service brake... Really none of it is braking, just using the motor to slow down.

Sick of seeing horrific traffic accidents, a police officer angrily pulled over yet another motorist failing to stop at a stop sign. They argue. The belligerent motorist says, “Hey, I slowed down. What more do you want?” The cop starts beating the driver with a nightstick and says, “Now, do you want me to stop? Or just slow down?!?

  1 ½ Standard Brakes
Pulling back on the throttle decelerates the train down to 3mph. The standard brakes kick in at 5mph and below. Light rail train operators don't have a separate control for the standard brakes... no foot pedal... nothing. They might not even be aware they are applying brakes below 5mph. The non-standardized world of light rail has at least four names for standard brakes: air brake, disc brake, electro-pneumatic brake, and friction brake.

A train operator once said, “Any idiot can start a train; it takes skill and practice to stop it where you want it to stop.

Spot the emergency brake button & point it out to the operator
  2 ½ Emergency Brakes

Passengers on Minneapolis light rail trains can't see into the cab because one-way mirror film is on the windows. If they could see in, they would see a red button, a mushroom-shaped button, for the emergency brakes. Once again, there are many names for it -- magnetic brake, rail brake, track brake -- which doesn't matter so much as getting train operators to use the emergency brake in emergencies.

Looking over recent light rail crashes and deaths, it seems like some cities have a transit culture that permits emergency braking and some do not.

Emergency brakes activated on powered bogie

Does Minneapolis have a culture that prevents train operators from using the emergency brakes?

Transit documentation says yes and no.

A light rail train operator was reprimanded for using the emergency brakes to stop at a red light. The operator should have used the throttle to decelerate and stop but used the emergency brake instead and was reprimanded. The operator and the union took the reprimand to an arbitrator. Metro Transit rolled on about the dangers of using the emergency brake:

“[Metro Transit] indicated that it is possible to damage the wheels of the train by such a stop [using emergency brakes] as the wheels slide across the tracks. This can create a flat spot on the wheel which causes vibrations and may even necessitate the replacement of the wheel... and passengers could have been jostled” - arbitration of train operator reprimand for using emergency brakes - MCTO-ATU, BMS Case 13-PA-0462, March 21, 2013.

Yes. Using any mechanical device runs the risk of wearing it out.

The Metro Transit Rail Operations Rule Book claims:
Safety is of the first importance in the discharge of your duties... In the case of doubt or uncertainty, the safest course of action must be taken.” - Metro Transit Light Rail 2008 - Rail Operations Rule Book 5th Edition (pages 7-8)

The most recent emergency situation on the Minneapolis Hiawatha Line (Blue Line) was on March 23, 2013.

A northbound Hiawatha light rail train hit a westbound car on East 26th Street at 6:30pm. The train pushed and crushed the driver's side of the white four-door sedan for one block before coming to halt. A fire burned in and around the car. The car's driver, 49 year old Francisco Antonio Sanchez-Andrade, died at the scene, in front of the Metro Transit rail technical support center. One passenger described the impact as, “We didn’t even feel it, that’s how soft it was,” almost as if brakes were not applied.

Sanchez-Andrade died a bloodied, fiery death, but at least the passengers weren't jostled.

How do these train operators sleep? Do they justify the deaths over potential reprimands?

If train operators are willing to stop the trains, can they stop the trains?
          Siemens S70 LRV #201 emergency braking                2.25 m/s² (if used) to stop 25 tons per car
          Bombardier Flexity Swift LF-70 emergency braking    2.73 m/s² (if used) to stop 26 tons per car

If light rail train operators can't or won't use the emergency brakes, what can anyone do?

Victims of the inability of light rail trains to stop need to know the variety of information that can aid a lawsuit. (Most should start by getting a good lawyer.) Lawyers will seek information in a Request for Production.

Things to Request: accident & incident reports (police & transit), black box event recorder data, brake-rate test reports (annual, post-accident, recent), emails, police interviews (was the emergency brake touching the rail?), post-accident medical report, Rail Control Center (RCC) communication transcription, Rail Operations Rule Book (current edition), supervisory memos, train operator certification, transit & state inspection reports, video camera recordings (inside & outside the train), visual reports (track brake on the rail), witness reports (was the emergency brake touching the rail?)

Rail Volution 2014 in Minneapolis should address the light rail culture against braking.

They won't.

A Minneapolis mechanic denied being addicted to brake fluid.
He said he could stop anytime.

Monday, May 6, 2013

American Institute of Certified Planners’ (AICP) examination answers

Here are sample questions and answers for the American Institute of Certified Planners’ (AICP) examination.

The Gateway Corridor has entrusted their plans to west bank University students. Are they engineers? No, they study public affairs -- technically they study how to get a good score on the AICP exam. One of the main rules for both the Gateway Corridor and the AICP exam is that guessing is expected -- there is no penalty for wrong answers. Ethics and professional conduct only count for 5%.

  •  $495 first-timers (63% pass), $425 try-try-again
  •  70 multiple-choice questions
  •  150 scored; 20 are pretest items (pool of 600 questions)
  •  3.5 hours
  •  15 minute orientation before you begin
  •  Plan to arrive early
  •  No penalty for wrong answers
  •  Guess, don’t leave anything untouched

The test will say "wards." Most of the country should read wards as county or district. The term wards is used because the AICP test was written by the American Planning Association (APA) of Chicago, Illinois. Chicago has wards. (Chicago had Montgomery Wards.) Why Chicago? Pay attention planners, this will be on the AICP test. Chicago was leveled in the fire of 1871, causing the city to rebuild with brick and stone to become a very modern city when it hosted the Columbian Exposition in 1893. After the rebuilding and the successful world's fair, planner Daniel Burnham established a plan for Chicago in 1909 (after everything was built and done).

Geography Question
What do many consider Frederick Law Olmsted's greatest example of a suburb?
        A. Petaluma, California
        B. Belle Isle, Michigan
        C. Riverside, Illinois
        D. Ramapo, New Jersey
The answer is C. The question is asked because Riverside is part of Chicago and Frederick Law Olmsted was the first president of the American City Planning Institute, forerunner of the AICP and APA. There is no practical purpose for this information. It is just APA advertising.

Demographics Question
According to 2010 Census Data, where is the mean center of population for the United States?
        A. St. Louis County, Missouri (St. Louis, MO)
        B. Phelps County, Missouri (Edgar Springs, MO)
        C. Texas County, Missouri (Plato, MO)
        D. Cook County, Illinois (Chicago, IL)
The correct answer is C for 2010. The answer for 2000 was B. The purpose of this question is the quantification of people without divisiveness nor specificity to any location.

Safety Question
Rubber mats cover the unused light rail tracks at University of Minnesota crossings to prevent light rail cement-embedded track dangers. Which of the following objects have become stuck in light rail tracks, causing deaths?
        A. Stroller
        B. Wheelchair
        C. Motorcycle
        D. A and B
The correct answer is D. This question compares wheel sizes to embedded tracks, addressing safety issues of objects trapped in the tracks. Notice the noun-verb agreement requires a plural answer. This is a dead giveaway. [light rail hazards]

Geographic Safety Question
Debris has caused light rail trains to derail. Match the debris with the location of the derailment.
        A. Leaf oils and rust in Tacoma & gravel in Cleveland, Ohio
        B. Gravel in Tacoma & leaf oils and rust in Cleveland, Australia
        C. Marbles in Portland & motor oil in Detroit
        D. Sand in Chicago & motor oil in Detroit
The correct answer is B. Gravel in the tracks derailed a light rail train in Tacoma in 2012. Leaf oil and rust was blamed for the derailment of a light rail train into a station bathroom in 2013.

Legal Question
Which federal agency governs the standards for cement-embedded light rail tracks?
        A. AREMA
        B. FRA
        C. both AREMA and FRA
        D. there are no Federal standards
The correct answer is D. Chicago has neither light rail nor embedded tracks. APA doesn't care. APA gets confused by multiple federal agencies.

Diversity Question

Which of the following pieces of federal legislation focused on slum clearance?
        A. 1906 Antiquities Act
        B. 1934 Federal Housing Act
        C. 1949 Housing Act
        D. 1968 New Communities Act
The correct answer is C. The question provides the legality for the acquisition of low income housing for higher income development.

Financing Question
Who is credited with the following quote "a budget may be characterized as a series of goals with price tags attached"?
        A. Jane Jacobs
        B. Aaron Wildavsky
        C. Matthew Barnaby
        D. Robert Moses
The correct answer is B. The question is asked as a nod to every planner's dream of unlimited funds, originally known as the Las Vegas planning experience, now called the Dubai experience.

Transportation Question
The current federal transit planning process, with its policies and institutional emphasis on cost effectiveness, biases the alternatives analysis toward routes with existing right-of-way and ease of obtaining right-of-way, especially for rail service, without regard to potential real estate developments on inexpensive land. This results in transit lines that are direct and cost-efficient from an engineering standpoint, but do not have the dangers associated with embedded tracks and multimodal roads encouraged by the planning profession.
Which best identifies the transportation goals of transportation planners?
        A. Eliminate urban blight, low-income housing, and diversity
        B. Economic growth of real estate developers
        C. Federal money for infrastructure increases chances of Olympics or Super Bowl, just not for Minneapolis or Detroit
        D. Planner pride in change for change's sake
"There are no right or wrong answers," the American Planners Association will say before they start grading. They will only mark B or C correctly, most of the time. There is no oversight.

Labor Question
For bus and rail operations, labor costs are directly linked and become a financial burden on the system itself. Which of the following scenarios have labor implications:
  I.    Bus drivers make too damned much money for steering, braking, and collecting fares.
  II.   The honor system of light rail fare collection requires no cashiers or ticket takers. Businesses should consider using this exchange model.
  III.  Light rail train operator training just sounds redundant, especially for a job without steering, braking, collecting fares, or making announcements.
  IV.  Houston light rail planners promised quiet light rail to residents and when residents complained, MetroRail track workers began manually greasing the rails several times per week. MetroRail has since introduced automated rail lubrication for noise abatement and reduced derailment.
  V.   Transit security officers are replaced with cameras.
  VI.  The Atlanta Olympics insulted local bus drivers by offering $6/hour. Hiring from outside Atlanta, caused a massive transportation debacle. Bus drivers got lost, crashed buses, and quit during their shifts.
  VII. Changes to cement-embedded light rail tracks must be made with a jackhammer.
        A. All of the above.
        B. None of the above.
        C. I and II. Couldn't read any more.
        D. II, III, and IV
The correct answer is A. The question addresses the labor component of transportation, to reduce a positive impact for low income neighborhoods. When you run into long questions like this one during the test, use the Mark option on the exam to mark it and move on to shorter questions that involve less reading.

Planning Question
Which is the most common mistake made by planners?
        A. not talking with community residents and businesses
        B. not providing insider investment information to politicians
        C. not developing corridors where property values are low for quick turnaround
        D. not using the Critical Path Method, the Ouija board of decision making
The correct answer is A, but the American Planning Association will make the mistake of marking C instead because that's where the money is. "That's why, without consulting anyone, I spent the entire town budget on the thing that is under this tarp." - Mayor Shelbourne, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Eminent Domain Question
Which best describes the result of Kelo v. City of New London (2005)?
        A. Planners can take private property if the property is part of a spiffy real estate development project.
        B. Planners banked on companies to increase the tax revenues and attract a wealthier population in place of the lower middle class home owners. The property was taken and sits abandoned eight years later.
        C. Eminent domain was strengthened  by the Supreme Court, the President, and several states.
        D. The NLDC did not change its name to RCDA. Connecticut Governor John Gowland (federal inmate 15623-014) and development commissioner Peter Ellef did not go to prison for corruption.

The correct answer is B. Watch PBS Constitution USA episode 2 which shows the property damage and personal hardship resulting from the New London CT fiasco. Forty-four states (and a Presidential order) have since enacted legislation restricting eminent domain. Opposition to the ruling was widespread but never filtered down to the APA. The APA material says, "government’s pursuit of a public purpose may benefit or depend upon individual private enterprise" and then it mumbles to itself "until they screw up and leave us holding the bag." Pfizer closed its New London facility in late 2010 with a loss of over 1000 jobs. In 2012, its New London tax breaks were set to expire which would have increased Pfizer's property tax bill by almost 400 %. The developer, Corcoran Jennison Companies, couldn't get a loan despite being given 91-acres of waterfront land for $1 per year.

Condemn-Nation Question
Between the moment a project redraws maps and city inspectors are sent to find property defects to determine condemnation, homeowners and businesses can learn if their property will be targeted for condemnation. How?
        A. Freedom of Information Act
        B. by hiring a lawyer
        C. by inviting the city inspectors over for coffee and/or a brewski
        D. transparent government

The Washington Post received the list of properties, that Maryland would be either condemning (or otherwise acquiring) for the Purple Line, through a FOIA request. The correct answer is A, although B isn't a bad idea either. Columbia University Professor Tom Merrill provides a concept for legally requiring greater than fair market value. But what's the FMV of a forest? An ancient woodland in Kent, England was condemned for its rocks in September 2013.

Step Down Method Question
The latest census reported the population of Centerville to be 24,000. Riverside is the neighborhood you are studying. Riverside is located within Centerville, and has historically been one of the larger, more vibrant neighborhoods. At the time of the last census, 8% of the population lived in the Riverside neighborhood. Five years have passed, and City has experienced growth in all of its neighborhoods. The current population of Centerville is estimated to be 32,000. Use the step down method to calculate the population.
        A. 1,920
        B. 2,016
        C. 2,560
        D. 19,200
Use the Tongue To Corner of Lips Method also. The question implies that the answer should be calculated for the current population. It doesn't say that. Take 32,000 x .08 = 2,560. The answer is C.

Saturation of Plans - Spatial Areas of Practice Question
Smart growth includes reduced fiscal burden on governments and their taxpayers caused by the costs for financing and maintaining ever-increasing infrastructure deficits or shortfalls. Which of the following is not an example of smart growth?
        A. A balanced transportation system that makes it possible for residents to walk or ride a bicycle to a store, school or work.
        B.  In 2010, Federal Transit Administration head Peter Rogoff chastised transit agencies for planning new rail lines when they couldn't maintain current ones.
        C. Smart growth encourages urban sprawl by extending metropolitan transit into rural communities instead of allowing inner city housing construction to increase urban density.
        D. Every transit agency that builds new rail lines eventually hits a financial wall that forces service cuts. San Jose hit the financial wall in 2001, cutting service by 25 percent and losing more than a quarter of its riders. Portland hit the financial wall in 2012, cutting service by 12 percent and predicting cuts of as much as 70 percent will be needed to meet its financial obligations.

This question is in the Saturation of Plans section but it seems to be another transportation question. The APA should know that just about the entire country needs plans to address critical water shortages, except for Chicago which slurps from several straws in Lake Michigan. This question should be about water: fixing leaking water mains, prioritizing needs, reducing runoff... but no, water doesn't make the AICP Current Topics list. LOL. The correct answer is C.

 Other resources: APA Bulletin
                             AICP Exam for May 2013
                             AICP Exam Prep for 2013, 2012, 2011, & 2010
                             American Planning Association policy guides
                             State Chapters with good materials: Florida, GeorgiaNorth Carolina, & Utah
                             Light rail crashes
                             Flash Cards of planning law

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Minnesota Bills & Gateway Corridor

2014 Minnesota Transit Bills

The 2014 Minnesota state legislature is in session now, committees are meeting, and legislators want to know how to vote for the bills in front of them. Help Minnesota legislators to know how to vote.

House File 2751 (status) and Senate File 2268 (status) Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee - amendment S2268A2 (May 14, 2014, defeated 56-73):
"Sec. 3. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.399, subdivision 1, is amended to read:
Subdivision 1. General requirements. (a) The council must identify in its transportation policy plan those heavily traveled corridors where development of a transit way may be feasible and cost-effective. Modes of providing service in a transit way may include bus rapid transit, light rail transit, commuter rail, or other available systems or technologies that improve transit service.
(b) After the completion of environmental studies and receipt of input from the
governing body of each statutory and home rule charter city, county, and town in which a transit way is proposed to be constructed, the council must designate the locally preferred alternative transit mode with respect to the corridor.
(c) The council shall ensure that any light rail transit facilities that are designated as the locally preferred alternative and that are to be constructed in the metropolitan area will be acquired, developed, owned, and capable of operation in an efficient, cost-effective, and coordinated manner in coordination with buses and other transportation modes and facilities.
(d) Construction of light rail transit facilities in a particular transit corridor may not commence unless and until that mode is designated as the locally preferred alternative for that corridor by the council, and requirements under section 473.3994, subdivision 1.215a, are met.
(e) The council may not enter the federally authorized preliminary engineering phase on a light rail transit project until the project is specifically authorized by a law enacted by the legislature.

Sec. 4. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.3994, subdivision 3, is amended to read:
Subd. 3. Preliminary design plans; hearings and local approval. At least 30 days
(a) Before the hearing under subdivision 2, the responsible authority shall submit the physical design component of the preliminary design plans to the governing body of each statutory and home rule charter city, county, and town in which the route is proposed to be located. The Within 60 days of submission of the preliminary design plans, and following public notice of at least 30 days, each statutory and home rule charter city, county, or town shall hold a public hearing, at which the responsible authority shall present the physical design component of the preliminary design plans.
(b) Within 45 days after the hearing under subdivision 2 90 days of a hearing under paragraph (a), the city, county, or town shall review and approve or disapprove the preliminary design plans for the route to be located in the city, county, or town in writing.
A local unit of government that disapproves the plans shall describe specific amendments to the plans that, if adopted, would cause the local unit of government to withdraw its disapproval. Failure to approve or disapprove the plans in writing within 45 days after the hearing the time period is deemed to be approval, unless an extension of time is agreed to by the city, county, or town and the responsible authority.
(c) Following disapproval under this subdivision by one or more local units of
government, the responsible authority shall (1) resubmit amended preliminary design plans, (2) prepare final design plans with amendments identified by the local unit of government, or (3) decide not to proceed with the project. Upon resubmission of amended preliminary design plans, each local unit of government shall follow the procedures under paragraphs (a) and (b).

Sec. 5. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.3994, subdivision 4, is amended to read:
Subd. 4. Preliminary design plans; council hearing and review. If the governing
body of one or more cities, counties, or towns disapproves the preliminary design plans within the period allowed under subdivision 3, the council shall may hold a hearing on the plans, giving the commissioner of transportation, if the responsible authority, any disapproving local governmental units, and other persons an opportunity to present their views on the plans. The council may conduct independent study as it deems desirable and may mediate and attempt to resolve disagreements about the plans. Within 60 days after the hearing, the council shall review the plans and shall decide what amendments to the plans, if any, must be made to accommodate the objections presented by the disapproving
local governmental units. Amendments to the plans as decided by the council must be made before continuing the planning and designing process.

Sec. 6. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.3994, subdivision 5, is amended to read:
Subd. 5. Final design plans; hearings and local approval. (a) If any of the
following applies, the responsible authority shall submit the physical design component of the final design plans to the governing body of each statutory and home rule charter city, county, and town in which the route is proposed to be located:
(1) the final design plans incorporate a substantial change from the preliminary
design plans with respect to location, length, or termini of routes; general dimension, elevation, or alignment of routes and crossings; location of tracks above ground, below ground, or at ground level; or station locations, before beginning construction, the responsible authority shall submit the changed component of the final design plans to the governing body of each statutory and home rule city, county, and town in which the changed component is proposed to be located.; or
(2) a local unit of government disapproved the preliminary design plans under
subdivision 3, following any resubmission if applicable.
(b) Within 60 days of submission of the final design plans, and following public
notice of at least 30 days, each statutory and home rule charter city, county, or town shall hold a public hearing, at which the responsible authority shall present the physical design component of the final design plans.
(c) Within 60 days after the submission of the plans 90 days of a hearing under
3.20paragraph (b), the city, county, or town shall review and approve or disapprove the changed component located in the city, county, or town final design plans in writing. A local unit of government that disapproves the change shall describe specific amendments to the plans that, if adopted, would cause the local unit of government to withdraw its disapproval. Failure to approve or disapprove the changed plans in writing within the time period is deemed to be approval, unless an extension is agreed to by the city, county, or town and the responsible authority.
(b) If the governing body of one or more cities, counties, or towns disapproves the changed plans within the period allowed under paragraph (a), the council shall review the final design plans under the same procedure and with the same effect as provided in subdivision 4 for preliminary design plans.
(d) Following disapproval under this subdivision by one or more local units of government, the responsible authority shall (1) resubmit amended final design plans, or (2) decide not to proceed with the project. Upon resubmission of amended final design plans, each local unit of government shall follow the procedures under paragraphs (b) and (c).

Sec. 7. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.3994, is amended by adding a subdivision to read:
Subd. 5a. Municipal consent for construction. The responsible authority may not commence construction on light rail transit facilities under sections 473.3993 to 473.3997 unless each statutory or home rule charter city, county, and town in which the route is proposed to be located approves the design plans as required under subdivision 3 and, if applicable, subdivision 5."
Page 2, delete line 30 and insert "This act is effective the day following final
enactment. This act applies in the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington. Section 3, paragraph (d), and sections 4 to 7 apply to a project in preliminary engineering, or final design, on or after that date."

House File 3250 (status) gives $50 million (in Section 17) for a list of transit projects, including the Gateway Corridor mystery vehicle and East 7th Street (?) mystery corridor. (What East 7th Street plan? Some sort of real estate gift wrap for 3M-Beacon Bluff?)  Section 16 of the bill has $27 million more for rail projects to welcome back 19th century Minnesota.

House File 2490 (status) and Senate File 2605 (status) is Governor Dayton's 2014 bonding bill with $1.3 millon for greater Minnesota transit, whatever that is. It also has $15 million (in Section 17) slush fund for a list of transit projects, including the Gateway Corridor mystery vehicle and East 7th Street(?) mystery corridor. The $5 million for Saint Paul's Palace Theater says the money can't be spent until an equal amount of non-state money could be found -- shouldn't most bonding items include that provision? The House passed HF 2490 on Thursday, May 15, 2014 (technically early Friday). The Senate passed HF 2490 on Friday, May 16.

House File 3172 (status) and Senate File 2785 (status) give $37 million to the befuddled Southwest Corridor (page 80). Plus, $500 thousand to light rail planners for the next rail misalignment (page 75). On Thursday, April 3, 2014, the MN House of Representatives passed this bill. On Tuesday, April 8th, it passed the Senate. There was no mention of the $37 million funding for the divisive Southwest Corridor at the House of Representatives, despite its questionable alignment, its questionable construction method, and an unknown total cost. The current Southwest Corridor starting prices are:
     $1.6 billion for Kenilworth Shallow Tunnel
     $1.7 billion for Kenilworth LRT Tunnel
     $1.7 billion for MN&S North Freight Rail Relocation

So many people believe this plan should be either scrapped or moved to Uptown and the Midtown Greenway where it could benefit Minneapolis. Tucking SW Corridor (and other bills that couldn't have had a prayer on their own), under the disability bill is wrong. Minneapolis and St. Louis Park residents have told the Southwest Corridor they'd rather have freight traffic than light rail. Here is Safety in the Park, an MPR video, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges' statement, and here's a Minneapolis City Council meeting from March 5, 2014. And the Metro Council sent the wrong plans to Minneapolis in April 2014.

House File 3260 (status) and Senate File 2858 (status) give $37 million to the befuddled Southwest Corridor. Plus, $500 thousand to light rail planners for the next rail misalignment. Two identical sets of bills?!? The purpose is to either confuse the public or speed up the committee process (or both).

House File 3250 (status) gives $50 million for a list of transit projects, including the Gateway Corridor mystery vehicle.

House File 2061 (status) and Senate File 2077 (status) is $10 million to Ramsey County for whatever will increase rail capacity in the east metro. Is their a rail capacity problem in Ramsey County's east metro?!? This is very vague. Is this a slush fund for streetcars or Gateway Corridor? If this bill were to pass and Ramsey County used or attempted to use this money without actually causing any increase to rail capacity, any litigious individual would have the civic responsibility to challenge the purpose in a court of law. Contact the House Transportation Finance (schedule) or Senate Finance (schedule) committee members to voice your opinions.

House File 2332 (status) and Senate File 2074 (status) is $5 million for Gateway Corridor (see details below) despite no decision on whether it is a bus or a train (big difference!) or if it is needed at all. Contact the House Transportation Finance (schedule) or Senate Finance (schedule) committee members to voice your opinions.

House File 2231 (status) and Senate File 2251 (status) is $75.3 million Met Council funding for the next two years for the 7 metro counties. Usually, the Met Council only asks for one year at a time.

House File 2395 (status) and Senate File 2107 (status) gives $200 million to Corridors of Commerce as study money and to begin property salvage and seizure (eminent domain). Was Kelo v. New London (2005) so long ago that state legislators have forgotten its lessons? After a $1.2 billion surplus, the plan is raise the gas tax rate to either: ten cents per gallon or five percent of the Minnesota wholesale gasoline price per gallon, whichever is more (added to the existing MN 28.5¢ & 18.4¢ US per gallon). If gas is $3.50 per gallon, the new tax is 17¢ per gallon ($3.50 x 5% = 17 cents per gallon). If gas is $2 or less, the tax is 10 cents per gallon. Plus there's a sales tax increase of 1%. Plus an additional tax of $20 on cars purchased. All of this money will be spent by a new GEARS Committee and must be used for the Southwest light rail transit project and the Bottineau Boulevard, Riverview, Robert Street, Red Rock, Gateway, I-394 Commuter Corridor, and Rush Line transit ways. Scott and Carver counties add money without receiving any. But without federal money, there will not be any big transportation projects. According to the Washington Post, with the Federal Highway Trust Fund forecast to go bankrupt next year and the current U.S. transportation bill expiring Oct. 1st, Congress is struggling to find funds for a new long-term transportation bill. Contact the House Tax (schedule) or Senate Finance (schedule) committee members to voice your opinions. The transit advocates talk in committees about roads and bridges, but the bill puts gas taxes to transit not roads and takes the MN Legislature out of the decision making process.

Senate File 1963 (status) tells the Met Council, cities, and counties how to address disagreements like what has happened to the Southwest Corridor project. Contact Senate Transportation & Public Safety committee members to voice your opinions (schedule).

House File 2817 (status) and Senate File 2491 (status) appear to be a blank check for Southwest Corridor. The bill shows no dollar amount -- understandable since the route has not been decided.

House File 2613 (status) and Senate File 2162 (status) somehow makes transit a watershed district activity! Senate File 2162 passed the legislature.

2013 Minnesota Transit Bills

House File 1444 the Omnibus Transportation Finance bill will be taken by the Minnesota House for a vote on Wednesday, April 24th. The bill is a compilation of previous transportation bills.

Representative Runbeck had an interesting amendment, H1444A30:

1.1.................... moves to amend H.F. No. 1444, the third engrossment, as follows:
1.2Page 29, after line 22, insert:

1.3    "Sec. 15. Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 473.408, is amended by adding a
1.4subdivision to read:
1.5    Subd. 11. Transitway fare collection system. The council shall develop and
1.6implement a controlled access fare collection system for each light rail transit line or bus
1.7rapid transit line that enters into final design on or after the effective date of this act.
1.8The system must include physically secured access at each stop on the line that prevents
1.9boarding, and entrance to a waiting area, prior to demonstrating proof of payment."
1.10Renumber the sections in sequence and correct the internal references
1.11Amend the title accordingly

Los Angeles is in the process of adding gates and eliminating the light rail honor system of payment. KABC-LA reported that in a test, revenue increased as much as 32%. An April 2013 article in the LA Times, discusses the status of the implementation of the gates.

Using Metro Transit data -- in 2009, the light rail passenger fares were $9,315,345 times 9,863,042 riders = 94 cents per ride. If each of the 9,863,042 riders paid the off-peak $1.75 fare, the annual passenger fare should be $17,260,323 instead of the reported $9,315,345.


[Earlier information:]

Two bills of consequence for the Gateway Corridor will be working their way through Minnesota Legislative committees (for public input) and potentially appearing before the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate for votes in the next few weeks.

House File 1223 would allow Washington County to proceed with the Gateway Corridor as a bus rapid transit system, although news items indicate the Gateway Corridor Commission has not yet decided whether the Gateway Corridor is a bus system or light rail system. The determining factor has been reported as "whatever funding allows." The first step for this bill is to appear before the Transportation Policy committee at 2:15pm on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Committee path for House File 1223. On March 21, 2013, Chair Hornstein laid HF 1223 over for possible inclusion in the Omnibus Transportation Finance bill (HF 1444). House File 1444 was presented Friday, April 12, 2013 at 9am in the State Office Building basement.

House File 793 would provide a slush fund of $26 million for any intercity passenger service through the sale of Minnesota bonds. Gateway Corridor would connect St. Paul, Minnesota with Wisconsin (or the border), making it an interstate passenger service, not an intercity passenger service. By name the bill separates the Gateway Corridor from other passenger service projects. This bill would remove the Minnesota Legislature from specific light rail and bus transit system funding. It is a blank check. The first step for this bill is to appear before the Transportation Finance committee at 10am on Thursday, March 14, 2013. Committee path for House File 793.

If House File 793 includes the Gateway to Wisconsin (Corridor), it would give the blank check to Wisconsin commuters. Wisconsin commuters still owe Minnesota money. (A recent report says the MN & WI revenue departments agree that Wisconsin owes Minnesota $69 million. Minnesota wants an additional $6 million annually to cover lost money from Wisconsin commuters.)

The problem with any blank check for transit has been highlighted by the Central Corridor's disconnection with its communities (businesses and residents). The Metropolitan Council needs help. Legislative committees need to help ask the tough, detailed questions. The Gateway Corridor has already headed down the wrong road, failing to assure residents that any rapid transit system will be kept off residential streets.