"How the Twin Cities got transit right."
That's the headline of a recent CNN Money piece that offers a glowing review of Metro Transit's Green Line not even five months into the track's life.
The story, written by Steve Hargreaves and Dominic V Aratari, is part of CNN's "Most Innovative Cities" series. Minneapolis-St. Paul came in sixth on the list.
Their argument: Choosing to route the line through neighborhoods is paying dividends.
The piece – which is visual-heavy – follows the Green line itself, starting with Target Field and heading toward St. Paul's Union Depot. There are reports of success stories every few stops as you scroll down.
For example, businesses such as Afro Deli and Republic at the West Bank stop have seen increased sales in recent months. Surly's new destination brewery is also along the line, and the owner told CNN they chose the spot near the Prospect Park stop partly because of the proximity. There's an expansion of a senior living facility at Fairview, a large affordable housing development at Hamline, and more.
A trio of stops toward the St. Paul finale pushed up the cost by $15 million, and slowed down travel time by a few minutes, but CNN notes it gave the area's minority residents better access to the train – and also gave outsiders better access to the local minority-owned businesses there.
The piece also acknowledged echoes of fear from the last major neighborhood-cutting construction project – the creation of Interstate 94 which cut through the city's Rondo neighborhood, forcing residents from their houses and breeding a lack of trust in such projects that is still present today, MPR reported.
Good news followed by good news
Since opening for business in mid-June, the Green Line has seen a run of mostly positive press, with only a bump or two along the way.
In fact, the only ongoing blemish so far is the line's speed.
A couple months after opening, criticism about unnecessary delays due to stoplights along the route began surfacing, with an editorial in the Star Tribune saying the stops added about 15 minutes to the ride from one downtown to the other.
At that time, the Pioneer Press reported trains were averaging 53 minutes westbound per full trip, and about 52 minutes eastbound, with some even taking an hour. Trains had been on target just 55 percent of the time.
Aside from that, train performance indicators have been widely praised.
In September, the return of University of Minnesota students to the Twin Cities campus (sporting a brand new Green Line station) was credited with a big bump in traffic.
And a month later, Metro Transit said there were 1,063,512 rides taken on the Green Line in September, which brings the year-to-date ridership to 3,477,945 since service began. Average weekly ridership in September (37,178) was 35 percent higher than the ridership projection for 2015, and is nearing the 2030 weekly ridership goal of nearly 41,000.
Last week, officials from counties in 20 different states were brought to the Twin Cities for a mobile workshop along the Green Line, for a problem-solving, idea-sharing session concerning issues facing counties, including in the transportation sector.
One initial concern was an increase of crime along the line, especially among residents in the U of M campus neighborhoods.
But according to the Minnesota Daily, Metro Transit police Capt. Jim Franklin said crime rates are steady, and there is no uptick that is directly related to the light rail.