A growing coalition of organizations and transit riders launched a campaign and website on Thursday to promote a new dialog around construction of the Southwest light rail as the municipal consent process of public meetings gets underway. The first is a public forum in North Minneapolis to be held at Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) between transit riders and Met Council members on Saturday afternoon, May 10.
"While Southwest light rail wasn't built with our community in mind, it has the potential to improve racial and economic equity in Minneapolis and across the region. But not unless we negotiate improvements that benefit lower-income transit riders and which address persistent inequities across the city of Minneapolis and our region," said NOC Executive Director Anthony Newby.
The website, PeoplesTransit.org, was launched by NOC, TakeAction Minnesota, ISAIAH, the Sierra Club and the Harrison Neighborhood Association to promote an array of equity enhancements the Met Council, City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County should embrace as they enter mediation and the process of gaining municipal consent. The coalition says equity concerns must be placed at the center of the debate and move past the protracted infighting over the Kenilworth corridor.
Alex Tsatsoulis, Land Use Chair of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, wants SWLRT to move forward. "Our shared vision for a more sustainable and resilient Twin Cities region depends on easy, affordable access to good jobs for everyone. Southwest is a vital part of that access. We have an opportunity with this project to do better. Let's get this done."
The website itself lays out a broader vision for transit that lifts up people of color and low-income communities along the SWLRT corridor, including:
More bus service and higher frequency routes 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 or free 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 next to the Van White station
Bus shelters that actually shelter transit users, including heated shelters
"We believe SWLRT is a crucial opportunity for communities who rely on public transit but who are always left out of the conversation. We want to make sure these individuals have a voice at the negotiating table as decisions about SWLRT are finalized," said Doran Schrantz, Executive Director of ISAIAH.