by James Schoettler
While introducing his third wife, a friend of mine commented that he was going to keep doing it until he got it right. It didn’t stop with number three. This came to mind while reviewing the history of the Riverview Corridor. We keep trying to do it, but we never seem to get it right.
Starting back in 1989, Ramsey County designated the route as an important transit corridor. It was first named the Riverview Corridor in 1997 and assigned a higher priority than the Central Corridor (Green Line). In 1998, Ramsey County determined Light Rail Transit (LRT) would not be cost effective, preferring a busway. In 2000 the Busway, including a four-foot widening of the street, got a shot in the arm from then Gov. Jessie Ventura, but was then cut. Metro Transit made some bus improvements in 2003 and Route 54 came to life. Around 2010, the Metropolitan Council’s affection for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) grew and West 7th became one of nine arterial streets designated for BRT, and in 2012 it was identified as one of two candidates, along with Snelling Ave. Snelling went ahead, but West 7th was delayed in 2013, at the request of St Paul, for Ramsey County to make a study of transit options. In late 2017, Ramsey County came out with its proposal for a streetcar.
Four years later, in late 2021, Ramsey County is: tangled up with shoehorning the streetcar through the existing Fort Snelling tunnel; still not reconciling its streetcar proposal with the reality that it must be LRT in order to run on the Blue and Green Line tracks at either end; still not facing the reality that there is no room for LRT stations on West 7th St.; and has reduced ridership forecasts by a third. Ramsey County has suggested that if it can’t run its tracks through the tunnel, the only alternative is a bus.
Like my friend, Ramsey County needs to think deeper about what it is really trying to accomplish, and it must give equal weight to the other party, in this case the transit riders of the future.
Jerome Johnson, James Schoettler, Jay Severance, Mat Hollinshead, Greg Struve, PE, and Brennan Malanaphy represent Citizen Advocates for Regional Transit (C-A-R-T), an informal association of Twin Cities executives focusing on the need for a balanced regional approach to transportation planning and development.