Battle continues for additional LRT stations on Central Corridor

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On December 11, the Metropolitan Council presented a new study on a long-debated issue in the proposed Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Line along University Avenue. The study argued that the implementation of three additional LRT stations—located at the intersections of Hamline, Victoria, and Western Avenues—would not be feasible.

Opinion: Battle continues for additional LRT stations on Central Corridor

The study was in large part a response to community concerns that low-income neighborhoods in Saint Paul are not being equally served by LRT development as it is currently designed. Stations along the east end of University Avenue, the most transit- dependent area of the corridor, are currently planned at one-mile intervals.

According to the study, each station would add a cost of $5.5 million to the overall project budget of almost $1 billion. Also, the study shows a loss of ridership for every second added to travel time, and because each station would add an extra 30 seconds, the stations are said to reduce overall usage of the transit line. Both cost and ridership are factors of the Cost Effectiveness Index (CEI) that the Federal Transit Administration will use to determine whether or not the project will be funded.

The community has long argued that the additional stations are essential to the low-income neighborhoods along the Central Corridor. Recently, a separate study produced by the District Councils Collaborative (DCC) provided several justifications for these stations:

– There is no transit line through a similar urban neighborhood in the United States with stations spaced at more than .75-mile intervals.
– Previous studies have shown that most rides on the Central Corridor bus route take place within the corridor, not from one downtown to the other.
– Studies consistently show that people typically will walk up to .25-.33 miles to ride a transit line, which leaves many residents out of walking distance. This point suggests that ridership would increase if stations were added. Lower-income residents are also more likely to use transit, further supporting this point.
– The low-income neighborhoods along the corridor are being used to justify the need for the transit line, and thus deserve the justice of benefiting from its development.

The DCC study was presented to the community on November 29. The study argues that, although the CEI is a legitimate constraint, it may still be possible to add stations by either recalculating ridership with more accurate measurements or by using an “off-model” analysis that is occasionally allowed by the FTA even if the CEI does meet their requirements.

The Metropolitan Council will officially present their findings to the public at their Community Advisory Committee meeting on December 20 at 5:00 PM at the Goodwill-Easter Seals building located at University and Fairview Avenues in St. Paul. Many community groups are encouraging residents who disagree with the findings of the study to attend this meeting and voice their support for additional stations.