Track across the Heart of MSP


With pride, I participated in the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative Annual Meeting on Wednesday, the 9th of May. The Funders Collaborative, supported by a group of local and national philanthropic funders, is “investing beyond the rail” by funding and coordinating groups of stakeholders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to collaborate around specific development issues on the Central Corridor. I took pride not only in the role that Wilder Research plays to enlighten some of the Central Corridor decision making with good information, but also as a resident of Saint Paul, living not far from the line, that our Minneapolis and Saint Paul communities have joined together to use transit innovatively to improve the region’s quality of life.

Mayor Coleman and Mayor Rybak noted:

  • A new spirit of working together (As Major Coleman said, the stakeholders involved in the Central Corridor are “Putting the ‘win’ back in Twin Cities”)
  • The mosaic of languages and cultures along this transit line and other lines in the region
  • The ability of the Central Corridor line to create a new backbone for the Twin Cities
  • The likely economic advantages of this line and the mutually reinforcing elements of access to jobs and education that accrue from the line

Sue Haigh, our Metropolitan Council Chair, emphasized the important interconnections among housing, jobs, retail and commercial development, and our overall quality of life.

The transition to light rail in the Central Corridor produces turmoil, as all major transitions do. I experience that turmoil first hand each time I approach or leave my office along the line. Also, I’ve witnessed impatient honking, expressions of drivers’ anger, and other flare-ups. One morning last week, my computer screen shook so much from the construction vibrations that I had to stop using it for a while. Business owners have many frustrations as they learn that some customers give up trying to figure out how to reach their establishments. (Come on over to “Discover Central Corridor!” and give them your business!) Neighborhood residents have legitimate concerns and sometimes discontent with noise issues and with communication which they receive about the construction, even though most crews seem to attempt to minimize inconveniences and facilitate traffic flow as much as they can.

Notwithstanding the expectable turmoil, we will all hopefully enjoy the fruits of the line upon its completion.

Wilder Research tracks the social and economic impacts of this project, and we will report those impacts after we have had sufficient time for measurement. In the meanwhile, Jane Tigan of our staff, noted some of the context and churning which she has observed on the corridor, including:

People of many income-levels call the Central Corridor home, with 20 percent who are very low income (earning less than $10,000/yr) and 14 percent who are high income (earning more than $100,000/yr).

Since construction began (February 2011) to the end of the year, changes in business establishments along the Corridor have included 53 openings, 49 closings, 8 relocations off the Corridor, and 15 relocations within the Corridor.

Contracting for the completion of Central Corridor light rail transit appears on par to meet goals for inclusion of disadvantaged businesses, women, and minorities.

If interested in more findings and deeper details, you can go to the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative site.

In addition, we have an evaluation up and running to understand the effectiveness of the business support programs intended to help the businesses along the line. More on that when study findings emerge.

Hilda Morley, in the poem, “New York Subway”, writes of “the beauty of people in the subway” on a Saturday evening,

…“holding the door for more than 3 minutes for
the feeble, crippled, hunched little man who
could not raise his head,
whose hand I held, to
help him into the subway-car…
& someone,
seeing us, gives up his seat,
from us what we had learned from each other.”

We will have a Central Corridor light rail, not a subway. I hope to see you and learn from you on the train; and I hope that we all learn from whatever results this grand project produces!