I-494, the mass transit orphan?

As The Deets covered yesterday, Google Transit recently launched — letting you easily search for mass transit opportunities along destinations in the Twin Cities.

I’m pumped. It’s the honest truth that last night I was on Southwest Metro Transit’s Web site trying to figure out if I could hop a bus from Chaska to my office in Bloomington.

It’s just up 212 and down 494 a few exits, so it seemed simple enough. However, their poor site is horrendous when it comes to usability, so I thought perhaps it was user error that no buses seemed to go down 494 east to west.

So this morning, upon reading Ed’s post, I did a quick Google Transit search for the 20 mile trip from Eden Prairie to Eagan, and nope, no buses go down 494. Instead they recommend a 40 mile, two hour trip through downtown Minneapolis.

Can someone tell me why? One of my biggest arguments against the colossal tax payer subsidies given to LRT and the Department of Transportation has to do with the fact that mass transit — as it exists today — benefits a fraction of the commuting population.

It seems like there are a significant number of residents and workers down here in the southern burbs along 494. And considering the horrendous gridlock that is 494 between 169 and 77 pretty much all day long, you would think our well-funded DOT would offer us some alternatives.

Am I missing something?

29 Comments so far

  1. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 11:34 am

    patience young grasshopper:


    Southwest is next after the Central Corridor

  2. rhagelstrom on September 12th, 2008 @ 11:50 am

    The system here has always been Hub/Spoke which all revolves around the apparent center of the Universe, Downtown Minneapolis. Why they don’t have a beltway express loop between major stations I don’t know. I work in EP and the express buss from Chaska to SW Station runs either at 6 am or 9 am. The normal rush hour hours, the bus just skips SW Station and beelines to Downtown.

  3. Justin Heideman (justinph) on September 12th, 2008 @ 11:58 am

    One of my biggest arguments against the colossal tax payer subsidies given to highways like 494 and the Department of Transportation has to do with the fact that vehicular transit — as it exists today — benefits a fraction of the commuting population.

  4. greg on September 12th, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

    @solace – thanks for the link, but that version of the LRT will still just go to Minneapolis — still nothing across 494 west/east.

  5. yoshi on September 12th, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

    As rhagelstrom mentions – the design is hub and spoke with Minneapolis and St. Paul being the main hubs with malls being mini hubs. This is a pretty standard design methodology btw.

    The problem with you "southern burg workers" is that your homes and businesses are so spread out that it makes absolutely no sense to put in transit. It would be a colossal waste of money. When you chose to live in Chaska (good god why?) did you take this into account? Did your business take into account transit issues when it chose to locate where it did? You can argue that MTA’s design sucks and there -are- deficiencies in it – but you and your business decided to make the choice that you did. Now deal with it.

    (btw – don’t the Deets live in woodbury? one of the more horribly design suburbs in the metro in which you can’t get anywhere without a car?)

    /born and raised in woodbury

  6. greg on September 12th, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

    @yoshi great points. I suppose that reinforces my inclination that there’s a perfectly good ROAD for CARS that goes straight from my house to work. Thousands of people drive on it everyday — much more than would ever benefit from LRT. Thus, perhaps we should divert the transit money to the roads for the best ROI.

  7. barry on September 12th, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

    I believe ‘the deets’ (Ed) lives in the Longfellow neighborhood of S. Mpls.

    I’d use MetroTransit’s interactive map. To the best of my knowledge, it incorporates all the different transit agencies routes.


    It is too bad that the system can’t seem to extend the 540 or 542 into Eden Prairie by hitting the mall and SW Station. Those are the lines that run parallel to 494 on the N & S sides of the Interstate. They appear to die/circle somewhere inbetween 100 & 169. I think now that the new 212 is complete, you might see more of an opportunity for extension of those lines.

  8. barry on September 12th, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

    greg – there is a limit to how many more lanes you can continue to add to a ROW whether it’s for car, bus or transit.

    Consider LRT’s absolute superiority in the use of ROWs – One line of light rail has more than 8 times the capacity of one lane of freeway during peak times (scroll down to the capacity section). There comes a point where it makes little sense to ADD more lanes to a highway and the optimum solution is to add transit in the form of bus lines first and then rail when it becomes appropriate in order to ease congestion on the existing lanes of road.

    This is why Hiawatha was chosen for the first LRT, the ROW was already owned and in terms of moving people (not cars) it has much more capacity. Yes it is more expensive – but just where exactly do you suppose they were going to put an additional 8 lanes of freeway and at what cost?

    The problem in the ‘burbs is that they’ve been designed with a car-centric philosophy for the last 50 years. How do we get your ‘car’ from point A to point B… not how do we get YOU.

  9. rhagelstrom on September 12th, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

    So according to Yoshi if I choose to live outside of the where transit is an option for me then that is my choice. I agree with that and I have no problem. I do have a problem however when a system is designed for a small number of people and then is subsidized by the population as a whole. The people who ride the transit system should at least fund it’s operating cost but as is fares only cover 30% of the operating budget.

    I’m told that I need to take transit by the Green new urbanest crowd. I can’t take it, but I need to pay for it anyhow and that expanding it to my area is a waste of money. A waste of money IMO is paying for other peoples transit.

  10. barry on September 12th, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

    rhagelstrom – how is adding LRT along the Hiawatha corridor any different than adding two lanes of traffic to the Hiawatha corridor, rebuilding the 35W bridge or building 610 in the northern suburbs?

    Answer – it isn’t. You paid for all of these with your tax dollars. have you driven 610? How about the new 212? will you be using the replacement 35W bridge? If your answer is no, why are you not raising a stink and hue about your tax dollars going to such a waste of money? if your answer is yes, i have 2 million other miles of roads that i can list to ask if you’ve driven those?

    And if you’ve driven the Hiawatha corridor since LRT has been introduced, you HAVE benefited from LRT by increased capacity on the road due to a decrease in the number of cars – which decreases your travel time and gets you home (or to work) faster. Your tax dollars have, in fact, worked for you. Congratulations!

  11. Erica M (ericam) on September 12th, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

    I’m a big fan of the light rail. I think it’s benefits won’t be fully realized until we have a more comprehensive system in place. I think we should continue forward with the proposed LRT lines (SW transitway being just one of them).

    And I would love to be able to take the train or bus to work instead of driving.


    This whole part where it’s nigh unto impossible to move between suburbs via transit is kinda ridiculous. The answer to that problem is not as simple as "move into the city." I may have some say in where I live, but I have less say in where my employer is located. If your choices are to live in the city, 15 miles from work in the suburbs, and take a looong transit route to get there OR to live in one suburb (a first tier suburb, even) and have a four-mile commute, which do you do?

    There are a heckuva lot of people who would love to ride the bus to work instead of driving, but there ain’t no bus. Seems unreasonable to refuse to run buses where people are already going. If there’s enough car traffic to cause rush hour congestion on a highway in the first place, of course there’s enough people going in that direction to make a bus worthwhile.

  12. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

    drivers are subsidized at a MUCH MUCH higher rate than LRT or other Mass Transit options, just look into the actual numbers if you don’t believe me.

    like it was pointed out above, why should *I* have to pay for the new 35W bridge now that i never drive over it anymore, even though i did for 7.5 years prior to it’s collapse?

  13. barry on September 12th, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

    Erica – agreed. but until the anti-transit ‘more-lanes’ lobby stops shouting louder, it will never happen in the ‘burbs. Transit’s maximum cost-effectiveness is in high-density areas, and the ‘burbs just ain’t that. which means it requires *more* of a tax subsidy to run them (or unfeasible fares), and good luck running that by the conservative majority that reside in the ‘burbs.

    they don’t seem to mind the tax subsidies to build new 610s and 212s though!

  14. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

    also, people need to realize that Suburbs grow at rates unseen in urban areas, therefore the capacity and and especially mass transit needs can rarely catch up.

    if it was super easy to predict what the next great influx of suburbia is going to be, it might be easier to stay ahead of the curve, but as a result…

    if you stop and relize that Lyndale, Nicollet, and Broadway have all been around as long as Minneapolis has been around (150 years), yet Eden Prairie had 2000 people living there in 1960…

  15. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

    realize even

  16. smarlett on September 12th, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

    Like Erica says – 494 isn’t the only problem. I live on the Hopkins/Minnetonka border and I’d love to bus to work in Eden Prairie. I can bus downtown just fine. Probably even Uptown (but who works in Uptown – no one – it’s just a means of getting downtown). It would probably take me 3 hours to get to St Paul on bus. The traffic problem will never be alleviated if we don’t improve suburb to non-downtown routes.

  17. derushaj on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    People who complain about how much drivers are subsidized miss an important point. We use roads for trucking, and almost all of the goods in our country are delivered via truck. We need those roads in order to get the organic produce delievered to your local co-op. The bus and the train does nothing for that. So comparing transit subsidies to road subsidies is absurd.

  18. Erica M (ericam) on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:08 pm

    See the dollars and cents is where I get confused. Because you know the $$$ trumps the theory and the principle every time.

    That’s a good point Jason.

    I just don’t see what’s the big deal about running a few more buses along the highways we have (that aren’t 394 or 94). And I know the intricacies of busing folks to appropriate locations OFF the highway is complicated.

    I’m willing to make a tradeoff in driving time vs bus or train time, but there’s only so much time I have to give.

  19. rhagelstrom on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

    People benefit from roads even if they don’t drive on them. Goods and services move on Highways all the time. Even if I don’t drive on a road personally, my produce, mail,fuel, and goods come via them. I can’t same the same for LRT.

    solace, I’m not sure how you can say drivers are subsidized at a higher rate than LRT. At least 40% of the MSVT goes to fund transit, state gas goes to fund transit, excise tax (for those affected counties) goes to transit and Federally collected gas tax goes to fund transit projects such as the 35W bridge AND Central Corridor. Road users subsidize mass transit. I’m sure you could say that overall roads get more money but on a per user rate it’s not even close.


  20. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

    Jason, i was comparing Road & Mass transit subsidies, only that so many anti-Mass Transit folks seem to think roads and bridges require pennies on the dollar to maintain. sorry if that’s what it seemed. btw, i’m not an organic or co-op shopper whatsoever ;)

    smarlett, why not take the 690 down 169 from Louisiana Ave Transit Center to the Southwest Transit Center in EP?

    rhagelstrom, i didn’t mean per rider sorry, just in terms of overall dollars (which again, many anti-mass transit people tend to ignore or not understand).

  21. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    oh, and the more people who ride LRT, the less traffic on your roads, i’d say that’s a benefit…

    look, i have a nice car, i happen to ride the bus to work and have for almost 2 years now. i couldn’t imagine going back to driving, and it’s not even the $$ issue.

    but it was pointed out above, that transit options should surely be taken into consideration when purchasing a home, something my wife and I definitely did when we bought our house in Nokomis last month.

  22. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    err, was = wasn’t, comparing

  23. barry on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

    Actually Derusha & rhagelstrom, bus and LRT do tons to improve the ability to get goods delivered by truck. By removing cars from the roadways, the remaining traffic moves faster & freer – including trucks. This lowers costs of the goods and keeps your low low prices at the cash register.

    TxDOT did a study and determined that not ONE road in the Lone Star state is paid for by gas taxes and user fees. Indeed, not one road is HALF paid for by gas taxes and user fees. What makes up the gap? Subsidies. :) Now, if anyone here in MN thinks that doesn’t apply here – perhaps you should re-read Pawlenty’s budgets. Hard for me to see how transit fares covering 30% of the operating cost is any different than gas taxes & user fees covering "considerably less than 50%" of a road’s cost.


    The biggest anti-transit myth propagated is that someone who does not use transit does not benefit from the investment in and use of transit by others. Transit frees capacity on over-burdened roads, lowers gas prices, lowers insurance rates (lower accident risk), reduces time spent in traffic for all, lowers carbon footprint, increases literacy (reading on the bus), lowers medical premiums & bills (fewer trips to the psychologist for road-rage and doctor for high blood pressure)… i could go on and on.

    ok… the last couple I started getting goofy. but really, it’s quite simple. If increasing the available capacity on the roadways benefits the community – why should it matter how that capacity was increased? Adding additional lanes for more autos or removing cars by offering transit – don’t both accomplish the same benefit?

  24. solace on September 12th, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    i also think a lot of it is public perception…

    i know some people who look at me like i’m crazy when i tell them i bus to work every day. with questions like "is it safe??? do you carry protection?" etc., that tells me people have this perception that buses are overrun with thugs and punks, etc. when in reality, even in my short time riding buses and LRT regularly, i can tell you that while there’s plenty of crazy folks on the occasional bus route, it’s much less than the crazy ass drivers out there, and i feel 1000x more safe riding a bus than i do driving in rush hour traffic.

    if you could show many of these outstate people who are so against mass transit that regular white AND blue collar folk ride mass transit and are just like you and I, they might not look down upon it as much as they do.


  25. David (jacc) on September 12th, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

    Boy did I arrive at this party late.

    Transit is sort of like energy, diversification is probably the best answer.

    Also, I don’t think it matters if we look at cars vs. LRT or bus vs LRT or whatever; if it’s government agency vs government agency there’s going to be obfuscation,inefficiency, and politrix.

    Am I missing something?
    Obviously, you moved to Chaska.

  26. greg on September 12th, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

    I still think it’s nuts that I drive right past the park and ride lot in Chaska, then drive by the huge SW Metro Station in Eden Prairie, and then pull up to my office at 100/494 in Bloomington where there are two bus stops — yet can’t take a bus that connects in less than two hours/40 miles/multiple connections.

    Considering the number of people I work with who work in EP and Eagan alone, you look at that map up there and can see we have a pretty significant hole in the system.

  27. David (jacc) on September 13th, 2008 @ 12:17 am

    There’s a hole in our bucket,Metro Transit, Metro Transit
    There’s a hole in our bucket, Metro Transit a hole

    Well fix it dear Porridge, dear Porridge, dear Porridge, well fix it dear Porridge, dear Porridge, fix it

    With what shall I fix it, dear Metro, dear Metro, with what shall I fix it, dear Metro, with what?

    With teh webs, dear Porridge, dear Porridge, dear Porridge, teh webs, dear Porridge, dear Porridge, teh webs.

    . . . sorry my exposure to children’s music is at an all time high.

  28. greg on September 13th, 2008 @ 8:49 am

    Lol. "The wheels are the bus go round and round, round and round…"

  29. amycrea on September 14th, 2008 @ 8:22 am

    Just one small note re: picking a place to live based on where you work. That’s fine, as long as you don’t change jobs, or find your job nonexistent anymore. In the past decade, my husband has worked in Eagan, Hopkins, and Minneapolis. We live in Eden Prairie. There’s great bus service to Minneapolis, but none to Hopkins or Eagan. Realistically, we aren’t going to move every time a job change takes place (and these weren’t voluntary job changes). I have several neighbors who work in Bloomington, Eagan, and St. Paul, all of whom would love to see some kind of public transit. Because work hours vary, carpooling doesn’t tend to work. We’d love to see a 494 line as well.

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