Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mass Transit: The Plan

I'm sure it's no secret by now that I'm a fan of (mass) transit. I've lived in (as well as visited) a number of cities with excellent transportation networks, and I'm convinced that the benefits of quality transit systems outweigh their problems. Paris, New York, Chicago, DC, London, and Taipei all have excellent transit systems. The people who use them are not somehow genetically different from all of us. They are not born with a special gene that makes them capable of using buses / trains / subways. They are normal people who make use of transportation infrastructure available to them.

As a new resident of Minneapolis, I would love to see a first-rate Paris-style subway system put in place. If I had a spare $10 billion, I would gladly invest it in a gigantic capital construction project to dig subway tunnels all over the city. Subways would be great: they're efficient, fast, reliable, and since they're underground they're less susceptible to the problems of weather. As you may have heard, it gets a bit chilly here in Minnesota during winter.

Sadly, I'm forced to conclude the political willpower necessary to raise sufficient construction funds for such a project is impossible. To build political support for a $10 billion bond measure would take decades of grassroots efforts, working at the neighborhood, municipal, county, state, and federal level. Maybe by the time I have grandchildren we'll have enough political support to actually build a subway system.

Faced with this reality, I'm forced to contemplate an incremental approach to building quality transit. How can we move, step-by-step, bit-by-bit, rail-by-rail, towards a viable transit policy? What improvements and changes are possible in the short run that advance us towards a full-scale high-quality mass transit system?

I'll be posting more on this subject, and would love to hear your input on the urban planning & political requirements to make this happen.


Blogger Katie said...

Visit Transit for Livable Communities at I manage communications for this nonprofit organization, which is working to create the momentum for a dedicated source of transit funding in Minnesota.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Arthur Willoughby said...

Steve, I really doubt that a subway system would ever work here. We simply don't have the concentration of folks living in the city proper...nor an expansive enough merit it.

I love the NY city subway, I think it's a marvel of human ingenuity and is absolutely needed there.

As bad as congestion seems to be in the Twin Cities, however, I don't think we'll ever, ever have anything remotely resembling NYC or similar cities. As bad as it gets, commuting will always be seen as just a minor inconvenience here. If one can still get from downtown Minneapolis to Bloomington in 90 minutes, even in an ice storm, people will complain but it'll be worth it for one's "right" of automobile ownership.

The expense would be unfathomable. Light rail is already near unfathomable and at best is a colorful attraction for tourists to snap pictures of and take to the Mall of America.

11:19 AM  

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