A transit revolution alternative to Southwest Light Rail

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July 30, 2014 // UPDATED 2:24 pm - July 31, 2014
By: Bob “Again” Carney Jr.
Bob “Again” Carney Jr.

Minneapolis Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer wrote in a recent Journal column: “Approving SWLRT is the critically important next step” to “leading the nation in Transportation options.”

But the $1.7 billion cost is so unsustainable it’s ridiculous. Consider just two facts:  First, at current rates we could reduce all Metro Transit fares to zero for 18 years for less than $1.7 billion.  Second, at the 2030 projected 30,000 riders a day (forget the offset for current transit riders), Southwest LRT would provide only 0.6 percent -- that’s six tenths of one percent – of today’s daily metro area trips.

Here’s an alternative: a Revolutionary improvement in bus service -- using inexpensive Metro Mobility size busses and lots of them.  Metro Mobility buses cost $100,000 or less – standard city buses cost $300,000 and up. 

My Transit Revolution plan is based on five minute day and evening service.  We had this in 1920 -- with about three times the annual riders all of Metro Transit has today.  There were no printed schedules for busy hours.  If you missed one streetcar, you could literally see the next one coming.  Our city was designed and built for and with that level of transit service.  Our entire metropolitan area can and will be congestion-free and thriving if we simply return to the frequency of Transit service we had a century ago.

Transit Revolution is also a giant job program – with thousands of part time driver jobs at $17/hr W-2 plus mandatory employer-paid benefits.   A small vehicle Transit system with five minute service is the WPA for our time. 

I’m working on inventions to make shopping practical using Transit.  I’ve got a plan for a freeway grid of five minute service inside the 494-694 beltway.  With a Revolutionary improvement in Transit service households inside the beltway will need one less car… or no car.  Access to this Transit quality won't be limited to people near a light rail line.  When we eliminate dependence on cars we will eliminate congestion.  We can also cut regulations limiting the number of people living in a house.  The result: drastically lower transit costs, and more affordable housing.  This is the best available solution to our “equity” challenge.

Let’s build a 21st century Transit system!  Let’s not build a 19th century system at 22nd century prices. 

Bob “Again” Carney Jr. is a candidate for the Hennepin County Board, District 3