News about communities, transit, parks, water issues, regional planning

Media coverage of the Met Council and the Twin Cities region

Twin Cities' first rapid-transit bus line coming soon

Pioneer Press, Updated November 23, 2015
Metro Transit's quest to find a speedier option to connect the Twin Cities' light-rail lines and beyond is coming soon.
Starting next year, the "A Line," a $27 million bus rapid-transit project with features similar to light rail, will run along Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway in St. Paul to connect Rosedale Center in Roseville to the 46th Street light-rail station in Minneapolis.
The line will be the first one established out of a dozen bus rapid-transit lines that the Metropolitan Council has proposed in recent years. It comes at a time when more Americans are settling in the urban core, reversing a decades-long trend of moving out to the suburbs.

What do F & C readers think about a transportation sales tax hike?

Finance & Commerce, November 19, 2015
We asked readers of Politics in Minnesota and Finance & Commerce to tell us what they think about the proposal to institute a half-cent metro-area sales tax increase to fund transit improvements and build-outs.  Would Twin Cities residents support a metro-sales tax?
Most of our 83 respondents across the two websites said they were eager to pay a little more to fix Minnesota’s transportation system. About 80 percent of readers chose the option, “Absolutely, I want to do my part to improve our infrastructure!”

An additional 10 percent said they’d support the sales tax but would “prefer the legislature find a different funding mechanism.” Only 10 percent of readers were wholly opposed to the possibility of the tax — about half of whom took the extreme stance that they’d “rather crawl blindfolded across I-94 at midnight.”

A lot of people believe the Twin Cities needs more affordable housing; a lot fewer agree on where to build it

Peter Callaghan, MinnPost - Nov. 5, 2015
It looked exactly like a public forum on affordable housing, complete with a congressman and a cabinet secretary listening to concerns and complaints from residents and activists.

What it turned out to be, though, was something else — more like the opening session of a peace conference between warring factions.

Doing nothing is the costliest transit plan for Twin cities

Revised price for Bottineau light-rail line should be kept in perspective.

Editorial Board, Star Tribune, October 30, 2015
Investing in transit projects is expensive, but doing nothing to address growing gridlock would prove even more costly to the Twin Cities economy.

That’s the thought Minnesotans should keep in mind as they consider the nearly $500 million increase in the estimated cost of the proposed 13-mile Bottineau light-rail line (also called the Blue Line Extension) that would travel from Target Field in downtown Minneapolis to near Target’s corporate campus in Brooklyn Park.

The revised $1.48 billion price tag is not the result of any mismanagement by the Metropolitan Council, which would build and operate the line. The higher cost reflects the additional data now available after 15 percent of the engineering and environmental work has been completed. Previous estimates were based on just 1 percent of that work being finished.

Counterpoint: Kersten and her critics are wrong on housing plan

Mike Maguire, StarTribune, October 10, 2015
As the mayor of a successful suburban city, I value good data — it helps to develop a community plan and a path to prosperity. As in business, planning community success in a competitive and changing marketplace requires that we in local government understand the demographic and market trends that will affect our cities and the region we’re part of.

Two recent commentaries criticized the Metropolitan Council’s housing plan with different but equally tired and unproductive perspectives.

6-acre solar array unveiled at Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment plant

SW News, October 8, 2015
The Metropolitan Council, in conjunction with SunEdison, Oak Leaf Energy and Xcel Energy, unveiled a new 6-acre solar panel array at the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment facility in Shakopee on Tuesday. The array will provide 1.57 megawatts of power to the facility, replacing 10 percent of the facility’s total energy needs with solar power.  “This is a great example of how public and private entities can work together,” Laura McCarten, regional vice president for Xcel Energy, said at the ceremony.

As Minnesota stalls, some states ramp up transportation funding
It’s important to stay competitive with critical infrastructure investment.

Star Tribune Editorial, October 6, 2015

Minnesota lawmakers hit the brakes instead of the accelerator on transportation funding this year, and that’s regrettable. But there’s some consolation in knowing that not every state has stalled on critical infrastructure.

Fifteen states passed major transportation packages in 2015. Seven raised gasoline taxes. Eight raised various driving fees. Four launched bonding programs to finance new roads or transit projects. Republicans controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature in 10 of those 15 states, including six that raised taxes. Among the highlights:

Metro Transit's vision: fewer solo drivers, more car-sharing

Pioneer Press, September 27, 2015
Metro Transit officials are seeking to build a new business model -- one that partners more with nonprofit and private organizations -- to move people away from the one-car, one-occupant model.
One of the driving ideas behind a new system, which is attracting national attention: a single tool, such as an app or fare card, that could access "all non-drive-alone modes" of transportation.
More important, the card would also work for some private or nonprofit groups, such as businesses offering hourly car rentals.

St. Paul: Fast buses to connect people to jobs

Pioneer Press Editorial, September 23, 2015
The east metro's Gold Line, a bus-rapid-transit route that runs along the Gateway Corridor from downtown St. Paul to Woodbury, received welcome recognition from the federal government this month.
A $1 million grant -- funded by taxpayers -- will help fund planning for development around 13 proposed stops, a step that could help boost the line's appeal and usefulness to riders and create economic benefits for the region.

Met Council chair takes risky but appropriate track on SWLRT's fate
Adam Duininck is right: Legislators need to make call on funds.

Star Tribune, September 9, 2015
The route to building or rejecting a southwesterly Green Line light-rail extension has taken so many turns that future historians of public policy may have trouble determining which moves mattered to the ultimate result. But chances are good that a decision that came to light last week will loom large in hindsight.

The decision: The state’s final $138 million share of the $1.74 billion project will be appropriated — or denied — by a vote of the politically divided 2016 Legislature. An end run that would have averted the need for legislative approval will not be attempted, Metropolitan Council chair Adam Duininck said.

Twin Cities transit triumph
Bolstered by the success of the Green Line LRT, Metro Transit is setting ridership records

Railway Age, September 9, 2015
This past June marked one year since public transportation operator Metro Transit, which covers the Twin Cities area, opened its $957 million, 11-mile Central Corridor LRT, the Green Line, connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The Green Line is Metro Transit’s second LRT line after the Blue Line, which when it opened in 2004 marked the beginning of Metro Transit’s expansion into rail, a half-century after the last Twin Cities Rapid Transit streetcars were taken out of service.
Having served more than 11.1 million riders in its first year and generating about $3 billion in development along the corridor since construction on the line first began, Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb says the Green Line is about more than numbers.

Businesses thrive on Green Line
Stadium Village stores along the route are performing well after construction challenged some local businesses.

Minnesota Daily, September 9, 2015
Despite a loss in sales for many businesses dealing with construction along the Green Line light rail , a new report showed Stadium Village businesses did better than most.

Solar farms grow at wastewater plants in Minnesota

Midwestern Energy News, August 21, 2015

In early June, workers began the installation of a $3.5 million solar farm next to the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee, Minn.  It's part of an ambitious plan by the Metropolitan Council  -- a government agency dealing with mass transit, wastewater, parks and affordable housing for the seven-county Twin Cities region -- to use marginal land it owns for photovoltaic solar installations. Along with Blue Lake, the council is also doing a solar farm at another wastewater facility in suburban Empire Township.

To save water quality, think before you flush

Treatment plants can't handle some of those products being discarded
Star Tribune, August 21, 2015
You flush, and it goes away. Or does it?  There’s more going down the sewer pipes than you might imagine, and some of it is damaging stuff.

Newspaper headlines report the presence of drugs in our drinking water, male fish producing eggs, and the alarming fact that tiny plastic beads may be killing our lakes. It’s easy to ignore our role in all of this. We just assume that someone, somewhere, is dealing with our waste — if we think about it at all.

Keep the Wipes out of the Pipes (VIDEO)

City of Bloomington, Oct. 23, 2013
Cloth-like bathroom wipes are cause for concern for Bloomington Utility employees.  Take a look at why wipes don't belong in the pipes.

Affordable housing in the Twin Cities: the who, what, where and why

Pioneer Press, August 22, 2015
A new report from the Metropolitan Council indicates that the amount of affordable housing being built in the seven-county metro has hit a record low. This is occurring as luxury housing production picks up.  Here's a closer look at frequently asked questions about affordable housing in the Twin Cities:

Numbers tell the story of light-rail's steady growth in Twin Cities

It’s also key to consider future needs when judging transit. 

Star Tribune, August 3, 2015

 It’s been 11 years since Blue Line light-rail service began in the Twin Cities, and more than a year since that line acquired its Green companion, formerly known as the Central Corridor. Yet anecdotes and misimpressions continue to shape views of the two transit lines’ worth.

Mobility-based housing programs seek to move low-income families to low-poverty neighborhoods

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis - July 27, 2015
When housing voucher recipients relocate to areas of greater opportunity, the positive outcomes can be long-lasting and substantial. When Rita Ytzen, a senior program supervisor at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), discusses her organization’s relatively new initiative to help low-income families with children move to low-poverty areas, she uses words that evoke optimism and fresh starts.

“The hope is that if we can help impoverished people move to areas of greater opportunity, they’ll have access to better schools for their children and a safer environment in which to raise their families,” she says. “We want to help people who want to help themselves. We want to give them a second chance.”

The latest news favors integration in housing

StarTribune, July 2, 2015

A Harvard study has affirmed it (when done right). And the Supreme Court has kept it possible.

In June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision establishing that the Fair Housing Act prohibits the segregation of racial minorities and other historical targets of discrimination, even when that segregation is created by seemingly neutral policies like zoning laws. This legal milestone has arrived at an opportune time for advocates of civil rights and social justice. This is because, just months ago, new research effectively settled a long-running debate about the effect of neighborhoods on endemic poverty.

For nearly two decades, housing policymakers have been split over a fundamental question: Does moving to wealthier, less-segregated neighborhoods help families escape the cycle of poverty?

Seizing the Moment to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

National Housing Institute Roofline blog, June 3, 2015

Regional agencies like the Met Council guide billions of dollars in public investments—investments that shape the structure of opportunity and disadvantage across regions. The new fair housing rule provides a path forward to begin to channel these investments in ways that counteract decades of inequitable growth patterns and move us towards the vision of regional equity.


Minnesota business groups back transportation tax hike

StarTribune, May 6, 2015

A group of regional chambers of commerce in both the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota came out Wednesday in support of transportation-related tax increases to pay for road, bridge and transit projects.

"Investment in transportation is critical to Minnesota's competitiveness, so we also support an increase in revenue that allows us to properly plan and build a transportation system that will ensure regional competitiveness, vitality and economic growth in our state," read a letter to legislative leaders signed by the presidents or executive directors of regional business groups including chambers of commerce in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Mankato and Marshall.

But despite all the acrimony over costs, delays, routing, and now what looks like engineering ineptitude, calling it quits on light rail in the corridor, or converting it to a rapid bus line, would be the wrong thing to do. Here’s why:

Chart of the Day: Data for Every City in the Metro, April 29, 2015
Hats off to the Met Council! When they’re not busy with pedestrian bridges and light rail planning, they provide amazing amounts of easily digestible data about Twin Cities communities. Check out the interface, which generates charts for different cities at the click of a button.


Ten suburban mayors: A growing, prosperous Twin Cities area needs transit
Businesses in our suburban communities need to access a workforce that lives beyond the borders of their cities.

Star Tribune Opinion, April 20, 2015

As suburban mayors, we aspire to see our cities thrive. We know that hard work and careful investment are essential to realizing those goals.

Through a challenging recession, public and private partnerships began to help our region prosper. Thanks to comprehensive planning and to the success of individual Minnesotans, our metropolitan area came roaring out of the Great Recession and is now touted as having one of the most successful regional economies in the country.

As our economy improves, our population continues to expand. By 2040, our state is projected to add more than 1 million residents, with 800,000 of those new arrivals living in the metro area. To accommodate this growth and reach our full potential, we need to make smart public investments to ensure continued private-sector success. We must invest in a first-rate education system, in research and development to help companies succeed and, just as important, in a world-class transportation system.


Today’s arguments about the Met Council were had at the time of its formation.

Star Tribune Opinions, April 10, 2015
Back when the Metropolitan Council was formed, nearly 50 years ago, some of the same arguments about its members’ selection were raised as those in the letters on April 9. Appointments by the governor, elections by districts and other methods all were all discussed. In the end, the gubernatorial appointment option was approved.

One rationale was that another layer of campaigning and campaign spending would prove excessive, draining and perhaps confusing for voters who already faced choosing among candidates for state, legislative district, county, city and special district offices.

The American Dream is alive in the Twin Cities, but not for everyone

PBS Newhour - March 18, 2015

In a report on the PBS NewsHour this week, anchor and correspondent Judy Woodruff visited the Twin Cities to find out why it is a national destination for millenials – but one also battling a sharp racial inequality gap.

In her introduction to the piece, Woodruff says, “It might surprise you to hear that one of the hot destination cities, especially for young so-called millennials, is the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. I traveled there recently as part of our partnership with The Atlantic to explore the findings in a recent article in the magazine, and to try to find out whether the so-called Minneapolis Miracle is really paying off for everyone.”





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