Embracing Transit, Resisting Transit-Oriented Neighborhoods

People in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region seem to like the addition of big new transit projects to their neighborhoods, writes Jim Kumon at Strong Towns today, but they have a different reaction when it comes to shaping their neighborhoods into places that get the most out of those transit investments.

Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Line. Photo: Steven Vance

Kumon starts off an in-depth essay about transit planning in the Twin Cities with this observation:

Everyone is very excited to talk about new high-end bus lines or rail in various formats until you start talking about what you might have to do to implement them and ensure their success.

Multi-story buildings aren’t in the character of our neighborhood. Why would we need to change our land use to allow them?

What do you mean we can’t put the parking structure at our stop right next to the station?

But we own this right of way (next to/in the freight rail or stroad), why wouldn’t we use it?

Much of this comes from the average citizen not having a cultural understanding of how land use patterns in the auto-oriented era of the last 60 years have fundamentally different performance capability from the traditional development pattern of the older, gridded core.

They are not dumb. They are not ignorant. They just don’t have the benefit of the life experience where their transportation options included something that was equal to or better than getting into a car for every trip. Even if you’ve lived in the core of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the prospect of taking transit may not have even come close to making sense in terms of time and money in the past.

Jim’s full post is a great read and raises a lot of tough questions about how political incentives get in the way of smart transit decisions.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Rails-to-Trails’ Trails Blog explains which trails will not be affected by this week’s Supreme Court ruling. Systemic Failure explains the dreadful plan to widen California’s famous coastal highway. And Denver Infill has a photo update on a new building rising next to Union Station.