The Long View, circa 1984: LRT can advance the prosperity and mobility of our region for the next generation.

The Short View, circa 1984 and every year and every day since: Transit is "social engineering", a waste of taxpayer money and a boondoggle.

The Long View is winning.

This past weekend the triumphant rail transit link between our largest cities was joined. With a flick of the switch, the Twin Cities has transformed itself from a region with a light rail transit line to a region with a light rail transit system.

The windswept, rain soaked opening of the second LRT line is a sweet victory for those of us who slogged it out in the trenches two and three decades ago, a time when even DFL leaders opposed LRT. One of the most important DFL City Council members at the time derisively called LRT "a cute little toy". Most Minneapolis legislators were opposed to it. The Star Tribune's editorial page was firmly against it. And the fledgling far-right was as intransigently opposed as they are today.

So why did it happen?

The answer is in the stars, and in our selves. The determination and grit of several elected officials played a pivotal role. The bravery and enlightened self-interest of the Chambers of Commerce did, too, as well as the energy of fomenting community support. Not to mention the facts.

Mostly, LRT happened because local and regional government learned a critical lesson about collaboration: All of us works better than one of us.

Think about it.

The first to propose a regional transit system including rails was Hennepin County, which had no particular authority to implement it. So they went to the Capitol and won approval for taxing authority to study and maybe build it.

Then Hennepin coalesced with other metro counties to form a Joint Powers Board. It secured the help of Ramsey and Anoka Counties and each levied taxes to help pay the costs. 

The Met Council stepped up to galvanize bi-partisan critical mass at both the local and state levels. Then the rest of the metro and some outlier governments got involved. Together, they formed alliances with the state's city and county associations that got their members dreaming about "commuter rail" that would one day connect the cities with the exurbs and rural Minnesota.

The official opening of the Green Line is the culmination of a colossal coalition built by altruism, faith and common sense; business, government and advocates.

Transit has proven to be more than a means to get from Point A to Point B. It is a potent economic development tool to add tax base, spur development, attract new residents, accomodate green space and help make communities more compact, livable and green.

It is a win for the Twin Cities, the region, state--and taxpayers.

The Green Line is really a lifeline to our future. Its impact will be catalytic and inspire more smart urban investment to help knit our common interests together in the name of community, culture, companies and citizens. It will help reduce poverty, increase employment and help our regions economy grow and prosper according to the destiny envisioned by our predecessors. At this moment in our regions history, LRT arrived right on time.

Well done.

Older Post

Mark Andrew: Climate and commerce

Newer Post

Preparing for the next urban forest