I rode the Green Line this weekend, and I'm very pleased with it. That said, there are lot of little details that leave much to be desired. For example, how walkable are the sidewalks alongside the light rail? What are the crosswalks and station connections like? How are the bus connections? Will the land use regulations foster walkability? Will there be bike lanes connecting to the stations?
These are all things that have little to do with the light rail train per se, things far outside the purview of train conductors or traffic signal engineers. But in another way, these little details are the key to the whole enterprise.
For example, look at bike parking. The average 10-mile Twin Cities intra-city light rail connection costs $1,000,000,000. Meanwhile, the average bike rack costs $250. For those keeping score at home, that's a four million-to-one ratio.
Let's look at a few spots where this lack of the obvious is the most absurd. If "penny-wise, pound-foolish" is a thing, what might you call this?
Spot #1: the Washington Avenue bicycle and transit mall
One major change catalyzed by the Green Line was to re-design Washington Avenue through the University of Minnesota campus into a bicycle and transit mall. There is now a large bicycle-only lane (complete with expensive bicycle-only turn signals) running through the East Bank, which is the #1 place in the entire state of Minnesota where people ride bicycles a lot.
Good luck finding a single bike rack along Washington Avenue, which is lined with businesses where people riding bicycles will stop and do things. Instead, bike riding people will lock their bikes to anything they can find...
Spot #2: the Washington Avenue bicycle and transit mall
Person #1: Hey let's design a street for bicycles, only have nowhere for them to park.
Person #2: OK. Let's spend a billion dollars on it too.
Person #3: I can't think of any problems.
[Repeat for three years.]
|[A winter one just for fun.]|
Spot #3: the Union Depot
This is a $250,000,000 multi-modal facility next to the $1,000,000,000 train. After a great deal of pleading from the downtown Saint Paul bicycle community, the managers of the Union Depot installed convenient bike parking right by the massive station entrance, which is where 99% of bicyclists riding to the Union Depot will look for it.
|[Six months ago: a semi-useful bike rack.]|
|[Technically, these racks were placed a bit too close to the railing.]|
Don't worry, they're gone now.
|[Today: the place where bike racks used to be.]|
Spot #4: Anywhere else along University Avenue
Oh yeah, there really isn't any bike parking along the ten miles of University Avenue either.
|[Don't worry, this bicycle is purely symbolic.]|
Spot #5: Anywhere in Downtown Saint Paul.