« Blog Prompt 1 | Main | Day one. »

Wir wollen freiheit für die LRT!

I think It's pretty safe to say that Public transportation has always been a social-design issue in this city. It's a social issue because everyone needs to get around, yet not everyone has the money for a car. It's a design issue because well, someone has to design the infrastructure. I would argue that there simply isn't enough public transportation infrastructure in the city, particularly in the suburbs surrounding the city. This wasn't always a problem for the city. At one time Minneapolis used to have an extensive system of Street cars Running all over downtown and as far out from the city as Hopkins and lake Minnetonka. Sadly some of the longer distance lines were abandoned due to pressures from the great depression and other factors. The entire downtown system slowly met it's demise beginning when a New York investor, Charles Green, gained control of it and began syphoning off funds. Green did meet some legal consequences for his actions but he had already set in motion the phasing out of the Streetcar lines in favor of busses. General Motors and Firestone also stood to gain from the streetcar's demise. By 1954 just about every street car had been replaced with a bus or abandoned altogether. Image from: http://www.tholt.com/images/cohatrol.jpg While there is an extensive bus system in the city today, just think how effective our transit system could have been if we had kept the streetcars and built on them with more lines and busses. it is still woeful when compared to just about any city in Europe. Many republicans, such as former Minnesota senator Dick Day, will argue that we should be investing tax payer dollars in roads since traffic congestion is becoming a growing problem in the Twin Cities. This, however, is a very short sighted and unfair use of our money. Not only can many people not or barely afford a car, but putting transportation dollars toward roads as opposed to more public transport also thrusts us further into the crisis of global warming. To really begin to work to solve out environmental woes, we need to get as many Automobiles off the road as possible and to do this we need to invest in a truly all-encompassing transit system. This will not only get cars off the roads but also make transportation more available to the less fortunate. Now heres where I tie in the bit about street cars. I believe that busses are necessary to provide an all encompassing transit system given our existing infrastructure of roads, however busses are slow and inefficient when compared to a rail line. That is why I strongly support the expansion of the LRT system. It may be much more expensive in the short term, but in the long run it will save money, and more importantly, carbon emissions. Now I realize that Light rail is not emissionless. The electricity that runs it has to be generated by burning something, however, Electricity to motion is much more efficient then combustion to motion. Also, not only is much of the energy in a combustion engine lost to heat but the frictional coefficient of tires on pavement is much higher than steel wheels on steel tracks. Image from: http://www.lightrailnow.org/images/min-lrt-trn-emerging-airport-tunnel-2004dec-cameo_ddobbs.jpg What I would ultimately like to see is Light rail lines coming in to the city and running between all major suburbs of the Twin cities area. This might seem like a very ambitious project, however it is absolutely vital if we are to have any hope of reducing our carbon emissions and eliminating the need for many people to own a car. The gaps where the light rail lines don't run could then be filled with busses branching out like the veins in a leaf. Also existing tracks could be used in conjunction with diesel electric trollies to reduce some of the initial cost of the project which could perhaps later be phased out when sufficient funds exist to build overhead lines and convert to fully electric trollies. Transit fares would obviously have to be subsidized to give all classes the ability and incentive to ride the system. This would most likely mean higher taxes which would have every republican in the state crying foul but can we not think about the bottom line for once? An all encompassing transit system would give everyone the freedom to travel around the city and huge initiatives like this are necessary to get the ball rolling on the long road toward curbing this country's obscene waste. Informational Sources: 1. http://www.dickday.org/ 2. http://www.trolleyride.org/index.htm