New transit options may include the U

by Heather Fors

Plans are now in the works to better connect the greater Twin Cities to downtown Minneapolis and the University.
City officials and transit officials met with about 30 community members Wednesday to discuss plans for a possible transitway along Hiawatha Avenue or a light rail transit system along the same route.
While these are preliminary talks, officials have already seen one possible obstacle, funding for light rail.
Officials said the University is one of the higher traffic areas in the Twin Cities, which is why they would want either transport system to connect to the campus.
“It’s kind of like the ‘build it and they will come’ scenario,” said Otto Schmid, planning director of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“However they get here, hopefully it will get more people out of cars and onto buses,” said Paul Tschida, the assistant vice president for the Department of Health, Safety and Transportation at the University.
Although the University would not be connected directly to the transitway or light rail system, it is proposed that the campus connector buses extend their route that normally ends at Willey Hall. The route would then extend downtown and provide buses with a layover station during off times.
Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County commissioner said when he was a student at the University in 1975, there was a 15 minute rush time. Now there is a rush hour, if not more.
He said he thinks the state needs to take bold new initiatives to solve the growing transportation problems plaguing the metro area. These initiatives include the light rail system.
While McLaughlin advocates the institution of a new light rail system, others say the implementation of more buses and more convenient road ways or transitways is more practical and beneficial.
“We want what’s the most convenient to get people to jobs and services,” said Lyle Wray, the executive director of the Citizens League.
“When someone is going to give you a Cadillac you take it, but if all you can afford is a Toyota Corolla, that’s what you’re going to buy,” Wray said.
However, advocates of the light rail transit system are lobbying the federal government for funding similar to that allotted to other major metro areas around the country.
The proposal passed the House Transportation Committee on Monday and is now competing with other proposals in the Bonding Committee. Until the funding is solid, the major plan still lies with the transitway, which was modeled after the University campus transitway.
Yet the overriding concern is still with the convenience of the passengers.
“If you make transit easy, people will ride on it,” said Schmid.