Connecting the Twin Cities

We’ve previously visited Minneapolis and experienced the Metro Blue Line link to the airport. Back in Minnesota for the annual eating fest that is the Minnesota State Fair, we took a ride on the Green Line across to downtown St Paul.

IMG_4403

Opened in June 2014, the Green Line shares its route through downtown Minneapolis with the Blue Line before it forks east and crosses the Mississippi heading towards the state capital, St Paul. The central corridor it uses allows trains to serve the businesses and sports venues in Minneapolis before threading through the middle of the University of Minnesota campus and onward on a direct route to the State Capital complex and downtown St Paul. We saw evidence of new residential development stimulated by the location of new stops along the way.

At the St Paul end of the line, the service terminates at the city’s impressive Union Depot. Here, interchange is now possible with Amtrak’s Empire Builder service which has recently moved its Twin Cities stop from Midway Station. With the new connection available between Green Line and Amtrak, it’s now possible to travel between the cities of Minneapolis and Chicago by rail after a break of many years. These two rail services help give the station a sense of purpose, becoming the transport hub of St Paul.

It is noteworthy that in addition to the rail services at the station, long distance coaches and local buses use the former rail platforms below the waiting hall, allowing all interchange movements to be routed through the main station building, with its appropriate passenger facilities.

At the Minneapolis end of the line, rail interchange is provided with Northstar commuter services at the terminus stop, Target Field, where the two services are connected by escalators between street level and the heavy rail platforms below.

With interchange points available at both ends of the Green Line and the access provided to the airport on the Blue Line, it seems clear that planners in the region intended to create a truly integrated network. This provides a positive context from which to demonstrate the benefits that light rail can bring to a city. The fact that the light rail route serves both the University and the main sports venues should help to encourage additional mode shift away from car and maximise fare revenue which can subsequently support further developments in the cities’ transport plan, such as to expand the investment to other areas and grow new public transport markets. For this, the city authorities deserve credit for a well planned system.

During my visit, I used the Green line to travel to a Twins game at Target Field, the train was full of passengers heading towards the stadium and transit staff appeared rehearsed and well prepared for the volume of passengers.

The Twins won!

Author: Liam Henderson