The Southwest Corridor is supposedly another turn of the LRT crank, number 3 in Metro Transit's master plan. Actually, it embodies a completely different business model that will require much larger subsidies than the Hiawatha and Central Corridor lines. The reason is obvious: these first two lines actually take people to places they want to go. To illustrate this, let's ride the three trains, comparing them stop by stop.
All three originate at Target Field, where they meet the Northstar commuter rail such as it is. The Hiawatha and Central Corridor share the next four stops as well: Hennepin Avenue (library, bus routes 4,6,...), Nicollet Mall (bus routes 10,17,18,...), Government Plaza (City Hall, et al), and the Metrodome, all busy places. But the Southwest LRT stops are Royalston (Farmers Market), Van White Blvd, Penn Ave, and 21st St east of Cedar Lake.
The Farmers Market runs only six months a year, mornings only (6 am to 1 pm), and by itself little reason to even stop here. The Van White station supposedly includes extension of Van White Blvd south of Olson Highway through the Minneapolis Impound Lot, across Bassett Creek to meet Dunwoody Blvd where it turns into I-394 Westbound. I see little reason to board or depart here either.
The Penn Ave Station is similarly situated in an "undeveloped" railroad right of way near Kenwood Parkway. Like the 21st St. Station a mile or so further south, few Kenwood residents are likely to board. The bus route 25 that serves this area makes about 10 trips a day total, during rush hour weekdays. For every resident taking the train there will be several more unhappy with the noise and disruption of their formerly quiet neighborhood. Such complaints are already being voiced, with the courts for once telling Metro Transit that they for once cannot simply ignore such concerns.
So, instead of four busy stations serving commuters, shoppers, and downtown workers, we have two largely vacant industrial sites and two in a wealthy neighborhood not currently disposed to use public transportation, quite possibly hostile to it in fact.
Let's go out another three stops. On the Hiawatha, this is Cedar-Riverside, Franklin Avenue, and Lake Street, all busy places. On the Central Corridor, this will be the University of Minnesota - West Bank, East Bank, and Stadium Village, basically taking the healthy ridership of routes 3, 6, and 16. But on the Southwest LRT, we only have the West Lake (near Whole Foods), Beltine, and Wooddale stations. The last two are also drawing resident fire, forcing rerouting of freight traffic. But regardless, these are again basically industrial locations of little general interest. Only the West Lake station can be possibly considered a destination, being near Lake Calhoun, and many riders would prefer Uptown, strangely bypassed by our all-knowing route planners.
In part 2 we'll go the rest of the way, to the Mall of America, downtown St. Paul, and - a future Park & Ride in Eden Prairie? It's more of the same, an especially expensive trip to places we typically drive through, not drive to.
Cross-posted and comments welcome at Speed Gibson.