To pit bus rapid transit against streetcars is an apples-and-oranges proposition.
Know your transit methods’ purposes
As policymakers, state Sen. David Osmek and state Rep. Linda Runbeck (“Why the Legislature should put brakes on streetcar dreams,” Jan. 18) should know better than to cite bus rapid transit (BRT) as a cheaper alternative to streetcars. Like light-rail transit, BRT requires dedicated lanes and is meant primarily for longer point-to-point commutes.
Streetcars are different. They share the road with other vehicles and serve instead to connect areas of contiguous urban fabric, such as along a commercial corridor. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, these areas essentially form live-work campuses that offer residents access to jobs and also the myriad goods, services and civic attractions that make the city a draw.
A fast bus is not going to make Nicollet Avenue or Broadway more attractive as places to live or have a business. The reliability, regularity and comfort of a modern streetcar line most definitely will.
JOHN VAN HEEL, Minneapolis
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While the article contained thought-provoking ideas about how the metro area should proceed in designing its transit system, it also contained off-the-cuff accusations that would leave the uninformed reader to assume that the current light-rail system is suffering from low ridership, which is certainly not the case. Osmek and Runbeck also state that the system is “deficit-ridden,” which seems to be a phrase thrown out by legislators not in favor of building 21st-century transit amenities — as though building roads were a profitable undertaking for the government.
Osmek and Runbeck mention businesses that have closed during the construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line, yet they make no mention of the many businesses that decided to stick it out because they are confident that the new line will be beneficial for them. The legislators also make no mention of all the new businesses that have opened or that are in the process of opening along the Central Corridor.
By now, our legislators ought to be clearly aware of population trends in Minnesota and nationally. Additionally, we need to be aware of what employers face when competing for employees, and what metro areas face when competing for employers. Those discussions continue to point toward public transit that includes light rail and streetcars.
JAMES NASTOFF, Minneapolis
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I can’t believe I’m writing this, because I almost always disagree with Republicans who oppose mass transit spending and raising taxes to pay for it. But Runbeck and Osmek are absolutely right about streetcar lines.
The big point they make, that streetcar tracks are inflexible, makes the expenditure to build them all that much more obscene. Hybrid buses can, at least, go around obstructions or even take a different route under exigent circumstances.
Light rail is different because it serves more than one community and can move many more people during, say, rush hour. Plus, it’s on dedicated tracks away from the main roadway. Streetcars take up a lane and gum up traffic even more than it is. Better to spend that money on resurfacing the streets and highways that are in horrible, even dangerous, condition.
KEVIN DRISCOLL, St. Paul
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