From: John Birrenbach <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Re: [StPaul] Bring The Streetcars Back
> St Paul, Minneapolis the entire metro area was designed to be a place
> to drive your car (for goodness sakes we have one of the remaining
> DRIVE IN THEATERS in the East Metro).  People in MN are attached to
> their cars and that is not likely to change.  We might, if the
> transit system metro wide, is convenient enough, get a few people
> from WI, Northern, Western, and Southern suburbs to use LRT to get to
> and from work, but traveling to the airport and between DT's is not
> really gonna happen to as great a degree as I think (my Opinion)
> others believe.
> LRT is very nice idea to bring people in and get them off the
> Interstates.  But you have to do it smartly kinda like Chicago does.
> Pick a point (Union Station) and have all your communter trains from
> the burbs converge there, then it's just a matter of picking up
> either another train or a bus to reach your local destination.  No
> where do Trolly's fit into a picture of a ever changing transit
> system needs.

Let me correct this base assumption right off the top. The core cities of
Minneapolis/St. Paul were, in fact, designed for and using trolley
transportation from about 1870-on - after William (?) Lowry built Archbishop
John Ireland's Grand Avenue streetcar line all the way out to the farm
fields near the river where St. Thomas College was built and expanding even
then. Lowry had a lock on the public transit system in the cities - what
became the Twin Cities Street Railway system, the Twin Cities Rapid Transit.

Anyone alive in the Twin Cities of the 1940's backward rode those exquisite
electric streetcars. They were sold off to General Motors in about 1951 by -
thank you - Carl Pohlad, with whom the public system had been privatized -
again. The whole idea was to rid cities of rail system and replace them with
gasoline-powered rubber-wheeled buses. GM promptly ceased running
streetcars, sold them off in different directions and engineered the
asphalting and cementing over of the street rail. The rails in some places
remain buried, but almost all of it was finally ripped out with the major
sewer projects and roadbed reconstruction.

The TC Metro would have had its urban backbone in place all these years and
accustomed to using transit without argument had this corporate boondoggle
between Pohlad and the rapacious GM been disallowed as matter of
condemnation, if necessary.

Now we're trying to retrofit an all-too-developed metro area with
multi-modal rail - commuter and LRT at the moment - and its costing
multi-billions. This was the beginning of Minnesota's regression from a
strong progressive policy state to the tax-timid, privatizing politics of
the 21st Century - a prescription for disaster if ever there was one.

Yes, we desperately need all of this and the paranoia over ridership issues
has been splattered by the Hiawatha line's incredible acceptance and the
ancillary development along the corridor. This was the project that
naysayers kept shouting - you can't build your way into acceptance of this -
they all want their cars, not a rail system.

HA! The critical mass of rush-hour parking lots that we call freeways has
changed everything, and this was predictable 50-100 years ago, you'd better

Trolley's along the main corridors of the urban core remain a highly viable
and stable option. John is incorrect here. The inner cities are not so
changing or changeable as to create arterials where none now exist or to
eliminate existing arterials through development. Streets like Grand, St.
Clair, Selby, University, Payne, Concord, Arcade, and West 7th, etc. etc.
will ever be thus.

Now, let's see, especially in the wake of legislative defeats of transit
obstructionists, whether we've got the hindsight and a bit of foresight and
courage to stand up to the road-builders in MnDOT (esp.. The Lt. Governor
and her crew) to take advantage of the Hiawatha experience and, as the Star
Trib said last Sunday, exert the political will to really link this area of
190 separate municipalities.

Andy Driscoll
Crocus Hill/Ward 2

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