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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Posted by: Hammer / 11:15 AM

The Guru at Minnesota Politics cheers the funding of the Cedar Avenue busway (PDF) (map). The plan is to spend about $20 million to wreck my commute to work for the next 5 years. Additional expansions will cost a total of $135 million to be spent over 20 years. Back in 2000, the original plan was for a light rail corridor along Cedar, but that was deemed too expensive.

Personal carping aside, this is a huge project which is probably doomed to failure. For $20 million, you get to ride a bus from downtown Lakeville (where practically no one lives) to the Mall of America. This will benefit some shoppers and mall employees, but will it relieve congestion? I don't think so, because the busway won't get people where they want to go.

Does the busway get me to work? Nope. If I don't work at the Mall of America, I'll need to transfer buses. Any transfer will add at least 10 minutes to my commute. As of today, I'd have to bus almost all the way to Saint Paul to catch a bus back south to my employer. Alternatively, I could walk 2 to 3 miles from the bus stop to work. That's not a time saver, either.

Does the busway get me anyplace I don't want to drive? Maybe. I usually take light rail for events downtown. I drive up to the MOA park and ride to catch the LRT. It would rarely be faster to take the bus than to drive to the LRT, since I rarely make the trip during rush hour. It would only be more convenient if I didn't have to drive at all. Right now, I'd have to drive about 3 miles to the Apple Valley transit station to catch a bus to the LRT. If I could walk to a bus station and take transit all the way to the Autumn Beer Review and back, that would be convenient. I wouldn't have to budget two hours and a hamburger at the end of the tasting to be fit for the drive home.

Light rail works because it goes where people don't want to drive and because the train is cooler than the bus. No one is going to take transit to the Mall of America or Ikea or the airport if they will have parcels that won't fit comfortably on their lap.

I hope the civil engineers responsible for this project know what they're doing and will come up with something attractive to the Cedar Avenue busway that I'm missing -- a superfast trip downtown, for example. Otherwise, I'm afraid we'll spend $130 million to prove that bad transit doesn't work.


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