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What About Business? Impacts of the Twin Cities Light Rail

Even as a child, I loved the idea of rail being used as a source of public transportation. I was mesmerized by the images I saw of the design of what would eventually become the Twin Cities Light Rail. It was not until I grew up and lived in Minneapolis where I learned that the impacts of rail are not all positive, especially in areas that are already highly developed. Based on failed urban planning techniques, mindless sprawl methods, and automobile dependency, the sudden decisions to build mass rail lines can have a multitude of negative effects.

The latest controversy in Minnesota surrounds the addition of the Green Line (also known as the Central Corridor) to the Twin Cities Light Rail. While smaller than the 12.8 mile Blue Line that connects downtown Minneapolis to Bloomington, the Green Line will connect the eleven miles between downtown Minneapolis and St Paul. Following the paths of Bus Route 50 and 16 on University Avenue, the Green Line will serve a whole new community of commuters such as working professionals, university students, and citizens seeking the many businesses along the corridor.

Map of Green Line Connection Between St Paul and Minneapolis

Among the concerns for the Green Line project include:

  • Unreasonable higher residential prices for minorities;
  • An 87% decrease in parking for businesses;
  • Loss of other transportation options such as bus services; and
  • Negative construction impacts for businesses.

Since the beginning of its construction, the various businesses along the corridor have been hard pressed because of the closure of many automobile, bus, and pedestrian routes. Although, as of July 2013, the Central Corridor's construction was 93% complete, the rail is still not set to begin operating until spring 2014. Because of the limited accessibility to businesses in the area for the past three years, a sea of 'businesses still open during construction,' signs have lined University Avenue, making clear the struggles of businesses during the Twin Cities' transportation shift. The Twin Cities must learn from the flawed planning techniques of this project for future transportation projects to be fully conscious of the neighborhoods and businesses affected by construction.

Closed Sidewalk Leading to Businesses Along University Avenue in Minneapolis

How can we mitigate the affects of mass transit construction and implementation? What urban design techniques can we use to avoid such costly infrastructural transitions?

Credits: Images by Abbey Seitz. Maps by Data linked to sources.