Minneapolis City Council keeps streetcars on track
In 1920, streetcar ridership in the Twin Cities was 238 million. Today, the Minnesota Streetcar Museum's Como‑Harriet Streetcar Line and Excelsior Streetcar Line are all that remain of the once mighty system. And Friday, the Minneapolis City Council may have made another modest start back to a future in which streetcars replace buses, not visa-versa.
The Council approved a long-range plan that envisions six streetcar lines, and authorized city planners to apply for federal funding to help move the project ahead.
Five of the lines that would replace bus routes:
- Nicollet Mall/Nicollet Avenue from Washington Avenue to 46th Street South (#18 bus)
- Nicollet Mall/Central Avenue from 13th Street South to Columbia Heights (#10)
- Washington Avenue North and Broadway Avenue from downtown to Robbinsdale (#14)
- 9th/10th Streets South and Chicago Avenue from downtown to 38th Street South (#5)
- Hennepin Avenue and University Avenue Southeast/4th Street Southeast from Lake Street through downtown to Stadium Village and the University of Minnesota #6)
A sixth route would add new service: Midtown Greenway from Hiawatha light rail to the projected Southwest light rail line.
The next step is for the city and its partner agencies to narrow down these six lines to two or three lines for further study, and to then proceed with a first funding application to the federal government for one line.
The Council's vote followed a change in the way the Department of Transportation approves federal dollars for transportation studies. Under the Bush administration, the approval process favored studies that proposed moving passengers from city centers out to suburbs. Under the Obama administration, the department accords new weight to plans that seek to enhance urban livability and economic growth.
"When Minneapolis started planning for streetcars a couple years ago, some people said we were moving too fast, because we didn't have a federal partner who was willing to help us," Mayor R.T. Rybak said in praise of the Council vote. "Last Friday, the Council took a big step forward toward make sure we put modern streetcars where they belong -- along the commercial corridors in Minneapolis that used to have them."
Want to know more about streetcars in Minneapolis? Visit the Minnesota Streetcar Museum and read the city's Minneapolis Streetcar Feasibility Study page. Here's what the Minneapolis streetcar map looked like in 1949: