RIDING THE LIGHT-RAIL INTO THE FUTURE
Over the past decade, Minneapolis has made great strides to be
recognized on a global scale. Minneapolis combines New York’s arts scene and
business excellence with Chicago’s culinary prowess and cultural diversity while
contributing its own bonus of exceptional livability.
Where Minneapolis falls short, and why it isn’t yet on the list of great
American cities, is its deficiency of established public transportation. But that’s
not for lack of trying. In the last ten years, the city of Minneapolis has made
billion dollar efforts to completely redefine public transportation.
Although still in its adolescent stage, Minneapolis’ light-rail trains are
already comparable to Chicago’s “L” or New York’s subway system in terms of
their ability to make a large city extremely accessible. While the extensive bus
system and the Northstar train are essential to maintaining a modern-day city, it
is the light-rail line that brings Minneapolis to the present.
When planning for the Blue Line—which now connects Target Field to the
Mall of America—began in 1998, there were five main goals: to "preserve the
livability of all adjacent neighborhoods through careful planning for land use
and station area development"; to "strengthen neighborhoods by reinvestment in
housing, multi-use facilities and renovation projects"; to "attract new
employment opportunities throughout the corridor"; to "improve alternate
transportation options [including bus service]"; and to "promote the continued
growth, accessibility and economic vitality of downtown Minneapolis."
Since its opening in the summer of 2004, the Blue Line has exceeded
expectations, especially in terms of ridership. When the line first opened, the
projection for ridership was nearly 25,000 passengers per day by the year 2020.
However, only two years later, ridership had more than doubled, coming within
1,500 riders of the original projection.
Ridership on the new Green Line has grown even faster. In only about
eight months, Green Line ridership is already close to eclipsing the 2030
prediction. There is no doubt that the projection will be met—probably even
within this year—since the Green Line is already seeing over 36,000 people per
The fact that those ridership predictions are so quickly being surpassed
indicates a city-wide appreciation and necessity for interconnectivity. That
ridership data demonstrates the people of Minneapolis’ commitment to the light-
rail system, justifying the combined $1.67 billion investment the city has put into
It is precisely that kind of investment that Minneapolis needs in order to
stand out on an international scale. The fast, easy and reliable connection
between the airport, the state’s capital and the business and cultural center of
downtown Minneapolis is what moves the city ever closer to being perceived as
one of America’s greats.
When Chicago’s Metropolitan West Side Elevated began service in 1895, it
represented a revolutionary technology that not only opened doors of
transportation for the next 120 years but also worked to increase accessibility
within one of the most forward-thinking American cities at the time.
The light-rail system of Minneapolis accomplishes the same sort of
centralization. By bridging the Mississippi River and connecting the Twin Cities,
the Green Line transforms two distinctly separate cities into one massive center
of metropolitan achievement. It could be said that Minnesota is no longer home
to the Twin Cities, because the Twin Cities no longer exist. The light-rail system
has introduced a cohesiveness that effectively combines these two cities and will
serve to carry them onward into the future.