Don't run Southwest light-rail through Chain of Lakes

  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 8:50 PM

Southwest light rail

Visitor questions Chain of Lakes route

I’m from the Bay Area in California and recently visited friends who had moved to Minneapolis. I had heard and read references to Minneapolis as a progressive city in the Midwest. Even with the high expectations I had visiting for the first time, I was truly impressed by the city’s beautiful parks, lakes and extensive walking and biking trails. As we walked from lake to lake to lake, I remarked on what an asset and how wonderful it was to have this beautiful green space available for everyone to enjoy. It was then that my friends informed me of the intention to install a light-rail system right along a bike path between two lakes. I was incredulous.

I live in the densely populated city of Oakland, where Bay Area Rapid Transit, BART, was completed in the 1970s. A consequence of BART in the East Bay has been to facilitate the growth of the eastern suburbs and exurbs. Where did the planners of your system get the information that light rail is needed to assist urban dwellers who want to get to the suburbs? This is not the case in the Bay Area. The great majority of BART riders are coming into Oakland and San Francisco to work; then they head back to the suburbs for the evening. On weekdays during commute hours, the seats are taken on BART trains coming from the eastern suburbs, and urban riders almost always stand. The number of BART trains and passengers on the reverse commute are few. There are quickly growing job centers in the suburbs, but most of the employees are not urban dwellers who travel to suburban jobs on BART.

In the Bay Area, in the 21st century, I do not believe a public planning decision would be made that resulted in defacing an urban open space of such beauty as the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The trend here is in the opposite direction. The Bay Area is working with focus and determination to reclaim open space areas when and where we can, and it is surprising to see Minneapolis headed the other way.

Here, trading urban open space for light-rail transit would be rejected as not green, and especially so if the mass transit installation ran through an area that was emblematic of the city. The Chain of Lakes is to Minneapolis as Golden Gate Park is to San Francisco. It would be a great loss to residents and visitors alike if a city did not protect its treasures.

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