By James Schoettler
A recent flyer from Ramsey County now says the West 7th Modern Streetcar is “Planned to be compatible with Green and Blue Lines, so the streetcar can share tracks, power and stations.” This is an admission that it will be a light rail (LRT) vehicle, which back in 2016 Ramsey County explicitly said should not be on West 7th, because LRT requires its own dedicated guideway.
Floor height and vehicle width are the two key differences between a streetcar and LRT. For streetcars, floor height must be as low as possible for passengers to step on from the curb. And vehicle width must be as narrow as possible to limit impact on motor vehicles in adjoining lanes. Every inch makes a huge difference.
The 14-inch height of the Blue and Green Line stations precludes step-on from the curb, greatly reducing one of the most attractive aspects of a streetcar: the ability to locate stops just about anywhere. Instead, it requires full stations with 14-inch-high platforms and ramps in order to board.
Mind the Gap: In order to meet the LRT station platforms of the Blue and Green Lines with a minimal gap, Riverview’s “Modern Streetcar” must have the same width as the LRT vehicles, which is 8 feet, 8-3/8 inches. To appreciate the impact of a vehicle this wide, the maximum width of vehicles permitted on Minnesota highways is 8 feet, 6 inches. The “Modern Streetcar” in a narrow West 7th lane will be wider than the biggest truck allowed on the freeway. This is not good. Moreover, the height of the “Modern Streetcar” in operation is higher than the 13’6″ allowed on Minnesota roads.
We agree that LRT must not be on West 7th Street. But the Corridor is an essential regional LRT link, one of the three most important in the metro area, and should be on its own dedicated right-of-way. The Canadian Pacific spur is the ideal location for this LRT right-of-way.
The next time you drive along West 7th Street, imagine driving adjacent to, behind or in front of this behemoth; and remember that it’s on rails, so it cannot swerve to avoid hitting you (or a pedestrian or bicyclist).
It doesn’t have to be this way. Tell Ramsey County you want LRT on the Canadian Pacific Spur.
James Schoettler, along with Jerome Johnson, Jay Severance, Mat Hollinshead, Greg Struve, PE, Brennan Malanaphy and Joe Landsberger 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.