August 09 2013

What About the Businesses? 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 skyscraperpage.com. Data linked to sources.

Abbey Seitz

Abbey Seitz is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Design of Art in Architecture and minor in Sustainability Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Growing up in a small suburb of St Paul, Minnesota, she knew no different than cold snowy winters filled with snowball fights and summers spent swimming in one of Minnesota’s many lakes. It was there that she gained an interest for the urban environment. This interest brought her to study in Chicago, Honolulu, and now Minneapolis, where she has honed her studies; how we can design and repair our cities to be environmentally sustainable and livable. Specifically in Minneapolis, she is intrigued in investigating how livable communities can be created through complete streets, public transportation, and urban agriculture.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 9th, 2013 at 9:22 am and is filed under Infrastructure, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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3 Responses to “What About the Businesses? Impacts of the Twin Cities Light Rail”

  1. Martin Says:

    Hi,
    can you possibly describe the other points a bit more (besides hurting business because of the constuction restrictions).
    Thank you.

  2. Abbey Seitz Says:

    Hi Martin- In this article in addition to affecting businesses I wanted to point some issues such as rising housing costs that could push out low income residents in areas along Central Corridor and the possibility of building mass underused infrastructure. However, although not highly discussed in this article, the ability for the Light Rail to create livable and walkable neighborhoods, reduce the Twin Cities dependence on oil consumption, implement a stronger connection between Minneapolis and St Paul, and provide low cost transportation for both low and high income residents in some of the most congested areas of Minnesota are also crucial to acknowledge. Hope this explains my article a little more clearly.
    Best,
    Abbey

  3. Does Less Parking Space Mean More Incentive to Walk? | streets.mn Says:

    […] Paul Central Corridor. As mentioned in a previous blog post through Global Site Plans, What About the Businesses? Impacts of the Twin Cities Light Rail, the central corridor will displace 87% of parking space for commercial space. Although this […]

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