Because costs far exceeded the Southwest light-rail line’s budget, public officials recently have been paring stations, park-and-ride facilities and amenities such as station furnishings, art and landscaping from the project’s balance sheet to make ends meet. All told, more than $250 million was carved out of the budget, which now stands at $1.74 billion.
Station art was cut by 100 percent, saving $4 million, while landscaping was pared by 75 percent, and furnishings, 50 percent. The loss of these amenities at Southwest’s 15 stations was among the concerns raised by members of the Metropolitan Council, which had the final say on the cuts.
Council member Gail Dorfman, who represents Minneapolis and parts of Hennepin County, worried that the stations would be “too utilitarian. We want them to be inviting.”
Each municipality along the route, which stretches from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, can chip in for more station amenities, and other sources of funding (perhaps from nonprofit organizations) may be explored, too.
This is different from the Central Corridor (Green Line) and the Hiawatha (Blue Line), where $4.5 million and $4 million, respectively in project funds paid for station art. The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative also provided $500,000 to help build out Hamline, Victoria and Western stations.
For this daily transit commuter, furnishings rank the highest on my list. If I want to sit down at my bus stop, there’s a fire hydrant. Those weird lean-to seats at Green Line stations are not terribly inviting, either.
Transit experts say the investment is worth it. “Great experiences in great places attract people, more people means more ridership,” Cynthia Nikitin, from the New York-based organization Project for Public Spaces, wrote in a recent essay.
Transit agencies often “fail to layer in the features that elevate stops from mundane structures that provide protection from the elements to enjoyable — even attractive — public amenities,” she said.