A growing problem in the Twin Cities is traffic. The suburbs have been steadily growing around a city with an out-dated info-structure, and debates have gone back and forth in the quest of figuring out what to do.
In 2004, the light rail was opened, and it reported 6 million rides in it's first year of being open--61 percent higher than the original projections (1). The light rail has shown that people will use mass transit if it is put in.
As of yet, the light rail has done little to curb the traffic in the Twin cities, but it has shown us that people will use it, and opened the door to new possiblities for transportation in the future.
The success of the light rail has spurred on planning for the rest of the metro. Two other routes have already been planned, the Central corridor route and the Northstar Commuter Rail. The Central Corridor Route would run from downtown Minneapolis to downtown Saint Paul--which would also serve the U of M! The Northstar Commuter Rail would run from Minneapolis to Big Lake which is midway between Minneapolis and St. Cloud.
The Northstar Commuter Rail is in desperate need. The Northwest suburbs are growing very fast, and the roads can no longer handle the additional traffic that is being added every year. The Northstar Commuter Rail could provide 2.1 million rides per year and gaurantee a 35 minute commute--which normaly takes 55 minutes without a snow day (2)!! The Northstar Commuter Rail would not only decrease commute time, but also reduce pollution and traffic in the Twin Cities Metro area!
In fall 2006, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted the Northstar Commuter Rail project approval to enter the final design phase of development (3). Tens of millions of dollars have been secured for the project, and it will not be long before work begins!
Even though the cost of the light rail is high, research has shown that they boost the economies of the areas in which they are installed. Many countries around the world have had mass transit like the light rail around for many years, and the majority of them have shown very positive results!