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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

One Hundred Reasons in Six Miles, Mass Transit and The Scam on Developers

In Washington County the pro- transit propaganda is in full swing to lure in businesses along the proposed Gold Line from Woodbury to St. Paul:  

Yet the writing is on the wall for the nearly half billion dollar bus corridor after it had federal funding denied indefinitely, or at least as long as a republican is president. But it's not stopping politicians from telling developers whatever they want to hear. 

It's a well known fact that transit planners constantly over promise what a transit line will deliver. Some even admit the mistake  and call it a failed experiment. Whether a train or bus line, mass transit lines let us all down. Whether it's the people that are killed being hit by the trains and buses every year by speeding down busy streets (they're impossible to stop quickly); the thousands of crimes such as assaults and thefts at each of the lines every year; slow serviceunreliable service;  the billions of dollars they spend to provide no traffic congestion relief; or the millions in yearly operating costs that are nowhere near covered by the riders.

Perhaps the biggest undocumented destructive force of mass transit lines is the con sold to local businesses and developers close to the transit lines. Before the transit line is built the planners tell existing businesses the line will bring them streams of customers. For developers they say people will flood the area looking to live in high density housing and shop along the transit line. The trap is set and like a moth to a flame some businesses and high density housing complexes are built. The Met Council blindly says that over eight billion dollars has been spent along the transit lines in the metro. Taking credit for development that would have likely happened regardless of the transit line (like US bank stadium).  

However, do the transit lines really deliver the boom to the local economies? Or is it just a temporary illusion, a fragile house of cards built on bad promises? If you listen to the local media and the politicians you hear the billions that have been spent along the lines and see pictures of the ribbon cuttings at beautiful new buildings. But how are they doing years after they are built? There's been little follow up.

What better transit line to fact check the hype than that of the newest transit line in the heart of the metro, the Green Line. Completed in 2014, at a cost of a billion tax dollars, it runs 11 miles from St. Paul to Minneapolis and planners promised that the corridor would transform and improve the struggling area along University Avenue. Planners claim $4.2 billion in development happened because of the Green Line. Again, anyone can point to an impressive new 5 story apartment building and claim it's delivering on the promises; but what good are the apartments if they are empty? What good is a transit line if constructing it killed many of the existing businesses and seriously hurt the survivors when being built? (when customers couldn't reach them). How much shopping can a person do and carry it with them on the train or a bus?

To provide the most comprehensive answer possible we give you pictures of over a hundred closed down businesses, empty store store fronts, and struggling high density housing begging for renters. It's been four years since the Green Line opened so there's no claiming that it should be given time to prove itself. The pictures are screenshots off Google from 6 miles along university ave. Excluding the end of the line within the UofM because the area is stable before and after the Green Line came. Also excluded is the couple miles that wind behind the capital buildings and then over I-94 and into Union Depot. It'd be unfair to expect development on the capital grounds and on the mile from there to Union depot because of the high rise office buildings that are already occupied.

The over 100 images from a short 6 mile stretch of road is undeniable evidence. There's no claiming that big areas were overlooked in this tour with so many pictures. No one claims the area was a sought after area for development before the Green Line. Many images show the area was doing better before the green line. At least as good as a business can do in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Both are known for their oppressively high taxes and anti-business policies such as $15/hr minimum wage, removing parking ramps and on street parking in exchange for bike lanes.  Don't forget St. Paul's 24% tax increase. Combine that with the State's designation as the second worst State to live in for taxes and it's no wonder politicians and transit planners have to deceive development into building along transit lines like the Green Line.

Hopefully this article leads to further follow up with the developers along transit lines that have clearly been let down with the lies that they would lead them customers. With coverage of this, future bad investment along transit corridors can be prevented. Especially the Gold line that is likely not going to be built!

-Matt Behning


Click on first picture and scroll through if images of the proof of closure are difficulty to see.