A 2001 Greenway Trolley study was commissioned by the Midtown Greenway Coalition. A different streetcar study, issued by the City in 2007, lays out a 20 to 50 year potential streetcar plan for Minneapolis; this study also incorporates a potential streetcar line up the Greenway.
There are many people out there who have been following this issue for years, who have a high level of expertise in transportation issues, and who know all the ins and outs of the proposed Greenway Streetcar. I'm not one of them; I admittedly have a lot to learn. Still, based on what I know so far, my opinion boils down to several key points:
- Uptown needs light rail. A streetcar connection to the Hiawatha line and to a Kenilworth alignment of the Southwest line does not serve the residents of Uptown well. Uptown needs quick, direct rail transportation to downtown. Those who believe a streetcar connection would be an adequate substitute are probably not transit users themselves. Those who use the bus for daily transportation (and not just to go to the airport, sports games, or for a fun day out and about) want their transportation to be efficient, easy, and fast. Screwing around with a Kenilworth Connection just to get from Uptown to Downtown is none of that.
- I agree that the neighborhoods along the Greenway Corridor need and deserve improved transportation options. Lake Street is a heavily traveled artery, and taking the bus up its length seem to take forever. Some sort of rail transportation would speed up transportation time, attract new riders, and spur development. These are all good things.
- Streetcars are cool. I love streetcars. I love the idea of a vintage trolley. The Greenway report has lots of examples from other cities, and I think it could be a great addition to Minneapolis. The Midtown Greenway Coalition and I agree on that point.
- Can't we have both light rail and a streetcar? Does it have to be an either/or proposition? The City's plan shows a proposed line that connects Hiawatha with the Southwest line. I want a streetcar, but not at the expense of light rail.
- Does it have to be IN the Greenway? This is my biggest question. I think a streetcar would be wonderful, and I think they'd be an asset to South Minneapolis. I don't understand why it needs to go in the Greenway. Why can't we put the line up Lake Street instead? I realize that construction is disruptive to residents and to businesses, but ultimately it seems to make more sense to have a streetcar run up a major commercial corridor. People can easily get off to run errands or grab lunch. If riders are zipping along the Greenway they'll have a pleasant ride, but it won't help local businesses if riders don't know the commercial wonders located just a block away. A Lake Street route would be convenient for riders as well as benefit the local economy.
I fully support the idea of the Greenway as a transportation system. I hope that Uptown gets its light rail line, which of course would run on part of the Greenway. I love the concept of the Greenway as a bicycle and pedestrian path. I have no problems with the idea itself of a streetcar sharing that space. I'm just not convinced that the Greenway is a logical place for a streetcar line.
Transportation issues seem to move at a snail's pace in Minneapolis, so for better or worse I suppose I have plenty of time to investigate this in more depth and to be convinced one way or the other that a Midtown Greenway streetcar is the way to go. I'd welcome any and all thoughts on the issue.