St. Paul streetcar: Council member would rather give each business $1 million than build line

StPaulStreetcar.jpg
City of St. Paul
These are the seven streetcar lines being considered by St. Paul officials (click to enlarge image).
Next month, St. Paul officials will hold two open houses about the city's plan to build a $246 million, four-mile streetcar line down West Seventh Street. The proposal will then go before the city's planning commission on January 24.

SEE ALSO: Check out this awesome time-lapse tour of the Central Corridor [VIDEO]

For those of you keeping score at home, that's more than $50 million per mile. Supporters argue that among other benefits, the streetcar line will generate more than $130 million in economic development. But opponents argue the city could use that money in a more productive way -- like just straight-up giving it to area businesses.

During a conversation with KSTP, longtime St. Paul City Council Member Dan Bostrom called the streetcar proposal "obscene" and said he'd "rather give every business along the corridor $1 million, and that would generate more economic development than the streetcars."

The West Seventh line is the first of seven St. Paul officials are ultimately interested in building, along with Rice Street, Payne Avenue, East Seventh Street, Robert Street, Grand Avenue, and Selby/Snelling (see the map at the top of this post).

The Pioneer Press, citing city planning documents, reports that the West Seventh route would cost $8 million a year to run and draw an estimated 3,100 daily riders.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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88 comments
Keith Morris
Keith Morris

It needs to be built where it's needed most (Payne, E 7th, W 7th and Rice), while strips like Grand, Selby, and Snelling are by and large already healthy. The best thing to do with those is make them bike-friendly and reduce Metro Transits' ridiculously excessive number of bus stops. I have to ask why the Snelling-Selby line doesn't directly connect to Grand and then W 7th? Unless stops are spread out sufficiently it's going to take a long time for residents there to have to go Downtown and transfer just to reach destinations in the completely opposite direction on Grand, Selby and Snelling.

beckyhead66
beckyhead66

What they need to fix to right of way for rail based transit. They should not be subject to stop and go much like regular wheel based traffic, otherwise, what is the freakin point. Light rail is SUPPOSED to by pass conventional traffic regulation.

beckyhead66
beckyhead66

Good god. After living south of the river for umpteen years, and working between MPLS and STP, these are all welcome changes. Everyone benefits from mass transit. This is a tangible benefit of taxpayers dollars. A stadium is not...and I challenge anyone here to say otherwise. Mass transit encourages business development to everybody, not a select few, such as food vendors, etc. 

Laura Westley-Williams
Laura Westley-Williams

The saddest part about this is that the dumbest comment on this thread has the most likes.

keithkam191
keithkam191

In case no one noticed, just about every street in St Paul (and Mpls for that matter) where streetcars ran were healthier with them than without. Streetcars anchored walkable economic development and there used to be lots more stores in lots of old, stately buildings lining former streetcar lines like University which St Paul turned into a generic strip-mall that's a shell of its former self potmarked with huge parking lots, W 7th has clearly seen better days and needs something, in this case rail, to attract development to hit-or-miss, not-too-walkable urban districts lining this street.Turning into a high-speed car sewer hasn't helped and neither have the buses.


And in any case, no one here asking about whether it will pay for itself asks the same question about roads, highways, and our bus system.

Andrew Muntz
Andrew Muntz

"Hiawatha got slow so let's slow down University too. Hmm, another road I've always wanted to slow down is...." -Your Local Partisan Politicians-

midwestexplorer81
midwestexplorer81

Funny, buses were the wave of the future back in the day and they were and still are better than the street cars they replaced. Funny how we learn nothing from the past. This is really just about awarding expensive contracts in an attempt to stimulate the economy short term. The problem is they'll have to build something else after this to keep their shell economy going. Maybe we can build a horse and buggy trail from the airport to the convention center next time we need to burn some money.

Brian Nelson
Brian Nelson

Yep, bars, restaurants, condos, art galleries, soon a Lunds, etc. That's what the gentrification process entails. That wasn't there ten years ago. Seriously, were you expecting it to change overnight? Now, if by real cities you mean suburbs, then yes, big boxes are the thing. But, look at Mpls (especially NE, Uptown, and the North Loop), Seattle, Brooklyn, Manhattan (south of 14th street), etc. you'll see small brick and mortars are what's taking over. BTW, I live two minutes from, Lowertown--less if I hit all green lights going down Kellogg.

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

are you trying to tell me there is something in lowertown? bars that's all..I live 5 minutes away..so I know of what I speak..Big box stores are not a thing of the past in real cities

corykpeterson
corykpeterson

This guy used to make a living by convincing governments to incur huge debt to build infrastructure projects.   Could there be an economic hitman working in Saint Paul?  http://youtu.be/TFC18pFvo1g 

Jeremy Dowd
Jeremy Dowd

Not worth it. Each rider would need to pay at least $7 per trip to cover operating costs, much more to ever recoup construction costs. I love transit, but this is obscene.

Bob Crowther
Bob Crowther

Very true, Charlie, it would be costlier to build a subway, and cost is an issue. I don't disagree with you on that, and I also don't approve of tax payer money going to fund a stadium for the Vikings. On-the-other hand, I would rather see a portion of my (our) tax dollars go toward building a combination of the two systems (where appropriate) phased-in over the next few years than see only light rail throughout the Twin Cities. I don't agree with a lot of the spending decisions our representatives make. However, I think this would be a better use of public funding. Again, this is my opinion, and I realize that some may not agree with me, and that's OK.

Bob Crowther
Bob Crowther

I agree in that where there are hills and waterways, tunneling for an underground subway is not be an option, but in other ares , such as the Twin Cities, a combination of light rail and an underground subway should be a long range consideration in my opinion.

Lauren Elizabeth
Lauren Elizabeth

Streetcars all the way! San Francisco is holding onto the original twin cities cars whenever you are ready to have them back :)

Charlie Seto
Charlie Seto

Subway's pricier than surface. And in a recession when everyone is raising a stink about price (and now that we're 500M in for Vikings stadium...)

Charlie Seto
Charlie Seto

Find the areas that'll have enough traffic to justify a streetcar. In Minneapolis, turning Nicollet into streetcar instead of taxicab and bus-frenzy would be relatively short and not a bad idea. Don't know enough about St. Paul to say...

Woody McBride
Woody McBride

Well the rest of us think it's a great idea and good for the environment too - America can't stay in the dark ages forever

Mary Sorman
Mary Sorman

What is the difference between light rail and subway? Distance?..they are both important as they help in the larger picture...in a city like Seattle, we have hills and water so you must have light rail, tunnels and perhaps longer lines that you call 'subway'? it's all the same thing to me...it depends on the geography you are working with I suppose. I guess I should ask a transportation engineer...but my understanding is that they eventually meet at some conjuncture to make it all happen.

Kenny.Steve
Kenny.Steve

Dan Bostrom's shortsightedness should be a sign to the people of our capital he should be moved on to other less important tasks than City Council.  Most of the major cities I have traveled worldwide are served by train and trolley which move the masses quickly, efficiently and in the long run in a cost-effective manner.  "Obscene"  are the number of autos being driven by single drivers, the congestion which slows our travels and the pollution which fills our skies.  We should be expanding light rail and in between these routes trolley lines so we can leave our cars home more often than not! Steve

Emily Summers Leabch
Emily Summers Leabch

But the W. 7th line IS heavily used, it is just outdated. We don't have a lot of parking lots along this route, it is mostly on street parking which will be reduced significantly. We have a light rail system that sent so many locally owned businesses out of business during its construction and W.7th is almost all locally owned businesses. What we need to look at is improving what we have in place in a way that does not make it impossible for the businesses to remain in business. THAT will help reduce car traffic without reducing the number of already limited parking spaces. I am sorry, but it is expensive nostalgia when the same thing can be accomplished in a way that will not cast $50,000.000 per mile. And it is not light rail, it is trolley cars.

Danielle Henkels
Danielle Henkels

This isn't talking about light rail though. It's talking about street cars. Two different things. They can run bus lines to connect to light rail, they don't need the proposed street car.

Danielle Henkels
Danielle Henkels

Couldn't agree more! Just like Minneapolis. Forget the street car and get a better lightrail system throughout the entire metro!

Mary Sorman
Mary Sorman

existing public transit in any city means combining all types of mass transport...its working in many cities...infrastructure is hard to improve when populations keep growing and it's expensive and you have money/politics that hold it down...people usually squawk at first and then ridership improves over time. It's hard to ween the' one driver per car person' to alternative ways of moving around. The car people forget that there is a huge part of the population that does not drive or can afford to.... Seattle was able to get going on some light rail with some federal money that other cities had turned down! It's a hefty bill but I think a heftier one if you don't address the problem.

Brian Nelson
Brian Nelson

Because people work for various companies downtown. And, besides, have your been to lowertown? Big box, "major retailers" are a thing of the past.

Marion Dooley
Marion Dooley

Hell No. The light rail construction made daily life on university miserable. We don't need more wasteful spending.

Mary Sorman
Mary Sorman

I would not call light rail 'expensive nostalgia', I would call it an incredibly important move towards healthy growth and sustainability of a city. Having light rail does not mean taking away your car entirely, it means streamlining an old system. We don't need more parking lots in a city hub, we need fewer people in cars driving to the city. Here in Seattle we are taking out less used bus routes, improving others, to link up with the train more efficiently. It is no different than doing home improvements on your house...a city has to do home improvements on a city that is always growing/changing...

Matthew Martin
Matthew Martin

Because these streetcars are benefiting purely St. Paul (unlike the Light Rail that will connect both cities) let St. Paul pay for all of it. Improving the existing transportation will be cheaper than making a new Streetcar system.

Mary Sorman
Mary Sorman

Unfortunately we made a big loop back to the first choice and that should of never happened. Oil and rubber company's expanded buses which caused the trolley lines to be handed over. The hurdle is getting the land back. Through the years many of the public lines have become private property. That is where the bulk of the problem lies.It's political, expensive and downright messy. It takes a lot of time to build light rail but in the long run a city will benefit from it. There are far too many examples of this. I live in Seattle and we have light rail from the airport to downtown and extending farther north, soon.This country is behind on this issue...all the major cities in the states have this identical problem ....it takes a lot of time to build light rail but in the long run a city will benefit from it. More locals leave the car at home and take light rail to the airport. Overcrowded parking at big sports events allows people to ditch their car and come to the city. The environmental impact is huge...a city can stay vital and alive with proper transportation. The more we clog our cities with cars, the less livable they become. I've been on rail all over Europe, Chicago, New York... and I find those who oppose it have rarely or never have used rail. They love their cars...you can still love your car, just get out of it more often and help fix the congestion problem. It should be law that every major city should have light rail from their airports to the city hub. That is not wasteful or foolish, that is just downright smart.

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

and why would the lines all end downtown? is there anything there? we couldn't even hold onto a major retailer..

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

such a ridiculous waste of money

alexjarvis88
alexjarvis88

Streetcars already failed here once.  And, they just create more confusion for traffic to deal with.  I'll pitch in $10 for each business with his million to keep them out of Minneapolis.  

dave
dave

@keithkam191  

keith i will give you a quick education.

Businesses flourished along major city streets in ST PAUL years ago not because they had streetcars its because there were  far less regulations on businesses and we had a city council  and mayor that were more business friendly.

if you think  by putting in a streetcar line it will magically revitalize a neighborhood you're insane.

Look at central corridor blight rail on university for example. there is a huge amount of business development going on but thats only due to the fact that most of it if not all of it is heavily subsidized with tax dollars.

as soon as tax dollars dry up you will see a different University ave.


byork00
byork00

but will they need it in 15-20 years?  It is Capital INVESTMENT - When city planning you must plan for the future and plan for EVERYONE. 

byork00
byork00

Wasteful spending? or Investment in our future?  

ttoms
ttoms

I think they were saying streetcars were expensive nostalgia. Nostalgic because they're from the past.

orangevening1
orangevening1

Exactly, and nobody is happy with that except big oil/auto

orangevening1
orangevening1

Streetcars didn't "fail" here. They were completely dismantled by corrupt politicians from the inside out, like they were in other cities in the US. And the typical I-own-the-road attitude is on the way out.

alexjarvis88
alexjarvis88

@orangevening1 Well, dismantled or not...they don't exist anymore so by evolutionary standards, they failed.  And yes...I can see how your attitude is on the way out.

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