Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Battle Begins Over NoMi Light Rail Options...

Photo And Blog Post By John Hoff

A couple nights ago at UROC, a large community room was packed to standing room only capacity during a neighborhood meeting about light rail options in North Minneapolis. Most of the main city, state and neighborhood movers and shakers were there, as well as assorted political wannabes who--thankfully--didn't shout and disrupt the proceedings.

As complicated as the issue of NoMi light rail may be, the debate really boils down to two main options...

Will the light rail come through the heart of North Minneapolis--along Penn and Broadway--or will it skirt the areas with people and businesses, going along the existing rail corridor at the edge of Theo Wirth Park?

There are trade-offs for either option, which are labeled D1 and D2 by the transit geeks. D1 is "Theo Wirth" and D2 is "Broadway and Penn." Rather than using alpha-numeric gibberish to talk about something tangible and real which will impact human beings, I'm going to insist on using the terms "Theo Wirth Route" versus "Broadway/Penn route."

IF THE LIGHT RAIL AVOIDS THE HEART OF NORTH MINNEAPOLIS and goes along the edge of Theo Wirth Park, it will be cheaper initially, but will have little positive economic impact because there are no people and businesses located in the park and putting the rail there won't spur anything to develop. This route will also be marginally faster by a minute or two because there would be less stops. People who live in North Minneapolis and want to access this route will have to use "feeder buses." (In this way, we will become the "chum" which is "fed" to the "feeder buses.")

Going along Theo Wirth park will allow suburbanites from Maple Grove and the affluent part of Brooklyn Park to avoid passing through North Minneapolis while sipping their Starbucks latte and reading their morning paper. One can't help but note there is no push from the suburbs to RAM THE RAIL THROUGH THE HEART OF NoMi. No, rather, the suburbs seemingly want the light rail to themselves and wish to share it with North Minneapolis as little as possible. They would prefer lovely arboreal views of Theo Wirth Park over, for example, stores along Penn and Broadway where one could buy a nice bottle of wine to take home for dinner. Things conveniently located at Penn and Plymouth include UROC, Urban League, Northpoint Health and Wellness, and a lot of vacant land for development. There is also talk of a Minneapolis Public Schools Headquarters near that spot, with a grocery store. Some of this talk came up recently at a WHO meeting, according to one of my sources.

IF THE LIGHT RAIL RUNS DOWN BROADWAY AND PENN, it will spur tremendous economic development in areas where such development is needed the most. Planned rail stops would include Broadway and Penn, Penn and Plymouth, plus Van White Boulevard and Highway 55.

At the meeting, some individuals brought up the ghost of St. Paul's Rondo Neighborhood and talked about how light rail would somehow cut neighborhoods in half. Of course, a light rail is nothing like an interstate highway. You can walk right across the tracks. Any property lost in the course of widening streets, any parking sacrificed for the sake of mass transit would be made up for many times over by the increase in property values and the business revenue generated from potential customers riding the light rail. Some in the audience expressed worry about the light rail going through the heart of NoMi, but one member of the audience--Matthew McGlory--urged listeners to read "Powernomics" and to see the light rail as opportunity, not something negative.

One woman expressed a fear that if light rail came down Penn Ave North that "children won't be able to play in the street." To which I respond as follows: if your children are playing in the street on Penn Avenue North, you have much worse problems than light rail coming through. I'm just saying. Another participant at the meeting passed out a news release invoking the ghost of the Rondo neighborhood and announcing a recently filed lawsuit over the Central Corridor Light Rail Project.

State Rep Bobby Jo Champion put things well by saying, "Even if something was not intended for our good, we can MAKE it for our good."

Knowing the final light rail route will impact the development of our neighborhood for the next century, this blog will go all out to inform readers and relay information about the light rail. Getting the best option for our neighborhood will take a massive effort to be louder and more organized than the poverty pimps who want to keep NoMi from changing for the better, and also the suburban crowd who want to hog the light rail all for themselves.

Some revitalizing neighbors have started public conversations about how to begin organizing and lobbying to make the Broadway/Penn route become the reality. One neighbor, Jordan neighborhood super-volunteer, Megan Goodmundson, has sent emails to several active list servs to drum up interest and help in organizing the movement for Broadway/Penn.

Any JNS readers who want to get involved, want to express their thoughts, interest and support for the Broadway/Penn route should email Megan at so that a broad list of supporters can be built.

This is an extremely important issue and NoMi needs all hands on deck to pull this one through the governmental red tape bureaucracy.


MikeT said...

On the surface of it, it seems the Broadway Route would be a better benefit to North Minneapolis. The Rondo argument is silly for the reasons you've outlined.
By the same token, I can see where if I lived in the suburbs, the Theo Wirth route would be nicer and, sorry, but safer.

dsfriberg said...

Thanks for the update. Penn/Broadway all the way!

Anonymous said...

Two additional items:
The county is usingn 2000 census data in their study.
The acquisition costs along Penn have dropped dramatically due to the housing crisis. Approx 150 lots and properties on Penn between Broadway and Olson Hwy are currently held by Henn Cty or CPED.

The County needs to update these figures to get an accuarate assessment.

Also, the central Corridor suit was not about blocking light rail but gaining three more stops in the Rhondo and Frogtown ares (lower income areas) of St Paul. The Feds stepped in last week and annouced that these stops will be added.

Anonymous said...

Love the comment about playing in the street! I suppose w/ LRT on Penn our neighborhood hooker won't really be able to hop in and out of cars as easily.

MeganG. said...

Folks: This is extremely urgent and extremely important to the betterment of the most under-served and disenfranchised neighborhood in the state.

I'm trying to be very optimistic and hopeful and cooperative that the Met Council, the County and the Feds will do the right thing and bring opportunity to an area that needs it most. History clearly shows that LRT lines spur positive development, so the idea that they would chose NOT to makes absolutely no sense.

I'm hoping that NoMpls neighbors do not have to resort to tactics like the Central Corridor lawsuit in order to get these governmental agencies to stand up and take notice that they have an obligation to serve the under-served areas. But I'm not ruling out the last, desperate resort of filing legal action to get this issue pushed through.

As the blog post states, I am very interested in helping organize these efforts, so please help me by emailing me at

Some other emails you can use to reach important public officials who have a hand in this matter:

County Commissioners:

Met Council Reps: (*this is our rep*)

State Electeds:

Congressman Ellison's contact form:

Henn. County contact:

Bottineau Transit Page:

The next meeting of the community advisory committee is coming up THIS Thursday, 2/4 at 7pm at Brookdale Library. I plan to be there, I'd love to have more NoMi Homies there with me.

Anonymous said...

I've heard stories about the characters that ride the bus routes from NOMI to MOA etc and if I was a suburbanite paying most of the taxes that fund this boondoggle i'd prefer not to risk my safety by picking up the riff raff on West Broadway.

Johnny Northside said...

If the debate is REALLY about rider safety and bad behavior on buses in NoMi, then let's have that debate instead of pretending it's about the cost of routes, etc.

Riding buses in North Minneapolis, I'm appalled by the behavior I witness but even more appalled by the lack of consequences and enforcement of standards on the buses. Instead of civilized behavior, we have stupid posters of teddy bears telling people to be civilized.

However, for some reason the behavior is much, much better on light rail.

veg*nation said...

as a northside resident who commutes to work by bus and bicycle, i have to say that the allegations about the lack of safety of northside buses just seem wacky to me--it just doesn't mesh at all with my experience.

and, having lived in Atlanta, where they have light rail, representations of bus & lrt as somehow commensurable really miss the mark. it's hard to do justice to what a huge QUALITATIVE difference there is between having a train come by every 6 (or ten) minutes or so, and zip you to your destination, vs. waiting out in the weather for your bus to come lumbering along at some point or another. building an lrt line isn't the same as adding a new bus line--it's investing in infrastructure that decides which areas of the city are going to thrive, and which aren't.

that being said, i have two questions for the Met Council:

a) is it REALLY the case that the Met Council's mandate is to provide public transit first and foremost for people who already have cars, and to bypass the communities where public transit is actually needed?

b) is it REALLY the case that the Met Council has also been charged with the task of setting in stone the segregation of North Minneapolis from the rest of the metro area, for decades to come?

Anonymous said...

Build it. Run it, and police it.
Zero tolerance for Idiots. Zero.

Anonymous said...

Dyna Sez:

Odds are, we'll never see light rail on this route- even though the cost effectiveness standards this line couldn't meet have been thrown out, there'll still be a competitive process to decide what lines get funded. With such poor cost effectiveness, we won't see light rail on this line until sometime late this century.

It's notable that after the republicans substituted BRT for commuter rail on this route there's been no study comparing commuter rail with LRT. I suspect commuter rail with it's lower costs would easily beat LRT for cost effectiveness on this route and stand a much better chance of earning federal funding.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is true but you have to ask. Don't we technically need somewhere to contentrate the dreggs of society? If NOMI improves where will the scum go? It's got to be easier to manage in a concentrated area for the good of all other areas. Those who bought their $20,000 house in NOMI cannot be resonably be torked off at others who do not deal with the results and paid 5-10x more for the same size house and pay more in taxes. You can't just move into an area for cheap and expect others to lift it up for you.

Anonymous said...

Dyna suggests another route:

How about heading northwest from the Twins Stadium station under the long freeway bridge along 4th St. N., then somewhere around Plymouth jogging to the northeast onto the CP railroad line along the river. Follow the CP line up to Camden, then west on the CP to Crystal. In Crystal switch to the BNSF tracks to Osseo and beyond.

This route serves the more populated side of the northside and all the workplaces along the river as well as the Camden and Broadway shopping districts.

Wadya think?

run4ward said...


According to the county's official "Alternatives Analysis Study," commuter rail has been eliminated as an option:

"Detailed discussions regarding the commuter rail station spacing characteristics, limited accessibility to study area travel markets, lack of service frequency throughout the day and lack of a north end terminus activity center were significant factors in this decision [to eliminate it as an option]."

Given that they are now seeking input on a route preference for LRT in the corridor and that there are funds available from the federal government and the metro-area transit tax, I think there will be a line. We just need to make sure it doesn't bypass NoMi.

MeganG. said...

@Dyna - from what Mark Stenglein said at the meeting, there WILL be a line coming down Bottineau Corridor - a few of the details have to be worked out - and that is what we need to lobby for to make it service the under-served area, not bypass the under-served.

@Anon951 - the 'concentration' approach to society is outdated and erroneous. Concentration causes more social ills than an approach of integrating impoverished and/or ex-offenders and/or vulnerable people into a healthy functioning society. It may be hard for you to wrap your head around the concept, but think of it this way - concentration of the 'dreggs' of society is like a cancer that will spread and spread and make the whole 'body' ill. Spreading out the difficult/vulnerable/low-income/challenged, etc - will be like injecting healthy cells and boosting the immune system.

And I fully agree with the Zero Tolerance commenter.

Kevin Sawyer said...

I plan to respond on my own blog to this, but a few observations:

1) The Rondo and children playing in the street arguments sound like planted talking points, designed to appeal to the white guilt sensibilities of people who have never been to North Minneapolis. This is the sort of issue that attracts astroturf on both sides.

"a) is it REALLY the case that the Met Council's mandate is to provide public transit first and foremost for people who already have cars,"

In the case of light rail, where reducing congestion is the primary benefit, I would say yes.

"is it REALLY the case that the Met Council has also been charged with the task of setting in stone the segregation of North Minneapolis from the rest of the metro area, for decades to come?"

If this is even a possibility, then the proper response is to oppose any and all attempts to expand light rail at all. Which, for the record, I do.

veg*nation said...

@ Anon 9:51:

your armchair sociology is flawed: there's no metaphysically predetermined "need" for a certain percentage of any population to live a dysfunctional lifestyle. it's like with any other process--if the conditions are created where certain behaviors thrive, then those behaviors will thrive. take away the conditions, and you'll get different results.

Anonymous said...

To Kevin Sawyer, what's the blog url?

To Vegnation: I don't buy it. I used to live in a great neighborhood in Brooklyn Park near 85th and 252. Five years later folks from North migrated and the neighborhood turned. Loud parties, shootings, increased loitering and petty crime. So quite the opposite of what you mention occurred. Providing easier ways for riff raff to leave North and commit crime elsewhere and then return via taxpayer funded transportation is not helpful. I wouldn't say there is a need for anyone to live a dysfunctional lifestyle, however I would argue that it spreads to any new neighborhood that the inhabitants enter so making that easier benefits North but not other areas.

MeganG. said...

Nicely said, Veg*Nation.

Change the conditions. They dysfunction will change.

The fact that Met Council, Fed Govt, HennCo can provide transit, reduce congestion, reduce pollution, spur economic development AND change the conditions of a dysfunctional environment all in one fell swoop - IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY.

veg*nation said...

@ Kevin:

this is precisely the kind of circular, self-fulfilling reasoning that i was concerned about. thank you for validating my concern. hopefully, you don't actually speak for the Met Council.

no, the proper response is to design LRT correctly.

Anonymous said...

Dyna notes: Given how cheap northside land is, perhaps it'd be cheaper to buy out the law abiding citizens left here so we can move out, then let the jails dump as many criminals here as they wish?

veg*nation said...

on one level, it's something of a relief to see that the "real" objections to LRT going through NoMi are starting to be articulated openly, peeking out from behind the flimsy cost argument.

i think that it will be very helpful when we ask the Met Council to stand up in front of the city and argue that the "real" reasons for planning to divert the LRT away from NoMi is that the city has officially decided that one segment of the metro area will be "sacrificed" by systematically starving it of transportation.

having moved to the Northside from South Minneapolis, i can tell you that the the decrease in transportation service is real,m and it is noticeable. the "systematic starvation" plan has been in the city's m.o. for many years--believe me, we don't need the NIMBY types in the suburbs to explain this to us! what you may not have noticed is that, not only is it morally objectionable, but is isn't working very well.

i think that now that these arguments are laid out on the table in the cold light of day, that Minneapolitans will find them reprehensible, and totally at odds with the Minnesotan value of fair play. we ARE a better city than that.

Kevin Sawyer said...


Do you know what circular reasoning is? It isn't just reasoning that supports a conclusion with which you disagree. It is reasoning that relies on it's own inherent validity in order to be logical.

rob m said...

I have requested assistance from Rep. Champion's office to hold another meeting for the Northside community to discuss LRT options. It is imperative we the community voice our concerns so our representatives can represent our wishes.

Essentially, the options presented have been to possibly place light rail going through the Northside or, to place light rail going around the Northside

If we wait to see.. or do nothing till construction happens, the LRT will go around the Northside via Theodore Worth Park for the economics of that route.

Can we hear commitment statements from our Neighborhood organizations who's mission statements include economic development and or public transportation equality/access as to what route(s) presented these organizations feel would best serve the community.

Do we want this train to go around us or do we choose to be on line?

Thank you
rob macintyre
25 year Northside resident

veg*nation said...

Kevin Sawyer:

Here's a nice example of circular reasoning:

Q: do w, as a city, want action X to get result A or result B?

A: since action X is currently designed to get result A, then it must be that reason A is the bestest reason EVA, and we should stick with that!

Anonymous said...

Dyna, with friendly respect, you have been saying online for YEARS that you no longer wish to live in northside. We all get that. The thing is, some of us law-abiding citizens DO want to live here.

So, unless there is some real reason that you want to work AGAINST the LRT line coming down Bway/Penn, please do not work against your neighbors, work FOR something. Not against.

Do you want the line through Theo Wirth? Want it down Lowry? Want something else like BRT or street cars? JUst work for whatever it is you want and please don't mess up this already messy issue with your unhappiness in your neighborhood. Some of us are working very hard to make some changes happen around here.

rob m said...

HI Rob,

I agree that residents need to give their impute to the elected officials on the LRT. The meeting we had last week was to provide residents with good base of information. Our hope is that people will take that information and study the opportunities. Residents of the Northside will make the best decision for community with comprehensive information that we plan to continue to provide. NRRC is working with Rep Champion and we would gladly host another meeting to inform residents. At this time the NRRC Board has not taken a position because they want to hear from their fellow residents on this issue.

At the meeting many people signed up to work on an advisory group to study the issue and formulate recommendations. Their meeting will always be open to the greater community of residents. When their schedule is established I will make sure that you get notice and will also post it for the general public.

Sherrie Pugh


Anonymous said...

Dyna replies: Anon, I was playing devil's advocate. Fact is, it'd be cheaper to buy us all out than to build a billion dollar LRT line through NOMI just to encourage economic development. That said, I find it hard to justify investment in NOMI. I'm currently looking at investment options for a small inheritance from my mother. I was left a house by my grandmother and I'd like to return the favor to my nephews. My house in NOMI is beyond economic repair and it's impossible to build new in Minneapolis for less than $200,000. There's plenty of homes for sale at tempting bargain prices in NOMI, but once you're the owner of record the city will make your life miserable. So the inheritance will be invested outside of Minneapolis. In a nutshell, that's an explanation of why much of NOMI has been abandoned.

Kevin Sawyer said...

My response is here, FYI (sorry to blog pimp, JN, but I thought it would be better than blogging in your comments section).

Kevin Sawyer said...

"Q: do w, as a city, want action X to get result A or result B?

A: since action X is currently designed to get result A, then it must be that reason A is the bestest reason EVA, and we should stick with that!"

In addition to being poorly expressed, this is not an example of circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. If anything, I am pointing out the circular reasoning of the light rail movement.

Anonymous said...

Coon Rapids is a nice place to own investment property.

Unknown said...

North Minneapolis, and Willard Hay in particular, is doomed until its residents learn the power of working together.

Divided we fall (again and again and again), and we bring it upon ourselves.

MeganG. said...

JNS Readers: What questions do you & your neighbors want answers to now? I will try to get them answered and share them around the community. Post your questions here or email them to me at

Ariah said...

The entire meeting video is available here