Same as it Ever Was

Generally, I'm a fan of the Central Corridor project in the Twin Cities (for any out of town readers, it's light rail transit that will, when finished, travel the roughly 8 miles between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, a trip that currently takes way longer than it should in a car or bus). As the metro area continues to grow, and the price of gas continues to climb (and it ain't getting any lower, not in any meaningful way) it's not really going out on a limb to say that better mass transit is going to be an increasingly important urban amenity.

But: it's also worth remembering that one of the neighborhoods bearing the brunt of two to three years of incredibly disruptive construction is Rondo, along University Avenue in St. Paul. Rondo, which in the first half of the twentieth century was a safe, vibrant, working class neighborhood that was in many ways the economic and cultural capital of black Minnesota, (see link) was torn in two and largely destroyed by the construction of Interstate 94 in the 1960s (similar to what Robert Moses did to large chunks of the South Bronx). The route the light rail is taking makes sense, but little to nothing was done to reach out to the business owners and residents along the route, to ease the myriad issues that come with tearing up their streets and limiting access to their entrances and parking lots.

A number of conservatives from outside the Cities believe light rail transit to be an overpriced boondoggle that will steal valuable resources from road maintenance or tax cuts, and only serve to ferry homeless people and ne'er do wells from one city to the other. A lot of people in the neighborhoods it will go through view it as another paternalistic and destructive effort at urban renewal that takes no stock of the wishes or concerns of those it will supposedly serve. Only one of these groups has a point.

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