Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weather and Mass Transit

As warnings of hailstorms over St. Cloud roll in this Wednesday evening, my first reaction is to think: "Be careful driving!". My immediate concern is safety; hence I naturally worry about road safety in inclement conditions.

This worry, however, is a product of the nature of our car-dependent transportation systems. If Minneapolis had a city-wide subway system, for instance, thunderstorms would not be so much of a problem. You might get a little wet walking down the sidewalk to the subway stop, but once underground you wouldn't have to worry about the train hydroplaning into another train at 70mph. Instead, you could relax, get to work (or home) on time, secure in the knowledge that the bad weather above couldn't hurt you, the passenger, below.

This is particularly relevant given that Minneapolis is plowing ahead with a mostly above-ground light rail plan. When you consider how long and bad the winters can be in this part of the country, it is worthwhile to consider the underground option.

A subway system is largely impervious to inclement weather. It will run in rain, sleet, snow, or hail. It is also, incidentally, pretty much free of traffic!

I'll try to write more in the next week or so on what a subway system in the Twin Cities would look like.


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