Community Leaders, Transit Riders Call On Met Council, Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis to Make SWLRT More Equitable
Minneapolis, MN (April 8, 2014) – Local organizations, community leaders, and transit riders gathered Tuesday morning in North Minneapolis, calling on the Met Council, City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County to negotiate to maximize Southwest Light Rail’s ability to deliver on economic opportunity for residents along the corridor. Speakers said the SWLRT has the potential to expand equity and economic opportunity not only in Minneapolis, but throughout the region, if guarantees can be effectively negotiated.
“Southwest Light Rail can be a boon for our Northside community and we’d like to see the project move forward,” explained Paul Slack, President of ISAIAH and lead pastor of New Creation Church in North Minneapolis. “But as it stands right now, our community needs guarantees to realize the promise SWLRT holds for promoting transit equity and economic development for local Minneapolis residents. The Met Council, City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County must join together, negotiate and get this done.”
Slack was joined by TakeAction Minnesota and organizers and transit riders from Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) delivering a common message: “SWLRT should go forward but we need guarantees that the city of Minneapolis must push for with Hennepin County and the Met Council.”
Michael McDowell, a transit organizer with NOC believes much more is needed on the Northside for individuals and families to be able to benefit from SWLRT the way residents along the rest of the sixteen mile route will. “I doubt the project would have been halted for us. I want to be a part of ‘One Minneapolis’ where everyone has access to transportation, including bus shelters that actually shelter people from the cold and the rain. Right now we don’t have many shelters, certainly none on Broadway,” he said pointing across the street to a barren stop. “And we need high frequency bus routes that will make it possible for our community to use the light rail and move them to where they need to go for jobs and housing.”
“This is a big moment for the Northside. Transit equity is a conduit for human rights,” said Bishop Richard D. Howell Jr. of Shiloh Baptist Temple. Howell believes the moral imperative is in using SWLRT to connect those communities who traditionally have been left out so they can realize the opportunities promised by light rail transit.
Claire Bergren, an organizer with the Harrison Neighborhood Association, outlined portions of the Bassett Creek Valley Master plan for the redevelopment of the area around the Van White station. The plan has been in development by the community for over a decade with the neighborhood hoping to take advantage of the economic development possibilities around the proposed Van White station to reduce the current 20% unemployment rate. Bergren said the Harrison community “cannot wait for increased access to economic opportunity. The Southwest Light Rail and the Van White station stop are the catalyst for this development to begin, if done right.”
Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, said Minneapolis must lead the charge in negotiating with Hennepin County and the Met Council. “The reality is, SWLRT wasn’t built for equity. But the decisions metro leaders, including Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the Met Council, make over the next two months can ensure that equity is placed at the center of the debate so that barriers to living wage jobs, affordable housing and economic development are lifted for communities across our region. We believe Minneapolis should, and can, lead this charge on behalf of the region. Mayor Hodges was elected with a mandate to do this.”
Tuesday’s speakers were united that SWLRT and future transit development in the region must embrace a broader vision, including:
- More bus service and higher frequency routes (including the #5, #19 and #22) connecting the Northside to SWLRT
- Modern streetcars that can fit along narrower corridors and begin to reverse the disinvestment of the past with new jobs and housing
- Reduced bus fares in targeted stations along the alignment
- Targeted investment in the Harrison Neighborhood, through implementation of the Bassett Creek Valley Master Plan
- No diesel train storage in Harrison, next to the Van White station
- Bus shelters that actually shelter transit users