Stops for Us
The Saint Paul neighborhoods surrounding University Avenue from Snelling to Rice have high concentrations of low income and/or minority families, immigrant-owned small businesses, elders, children under 16, and persons with disabilities. Many rely on public transit throughout the day to get to jobs, school, medical appointments, stores, and cultural or social activities, which results in one of the highest transit ridership routes in the metro area. Despite this fact, the initial Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project proposal spaced stations one mile apart in these neighborhoods, unlike the rest of the line where stations were spaced a half-mile apart. Also, the frequency of local bus service was being cut in half during rush hour and by two-thirds midday. Why? To receive federal funding for the project, it was necessary to stay within the Cost Effectiveness Index threshold. Omitting stations at Western, Victoria, and Hamline and reducing local bus service would help achieve that end. Unfortunately, this meant that those who needed transit the most would have to either walk farther to catch a train or wait longer for a local bus to arrive. It also meant that the neighborhoods that could benefit the most from the economic development associated with light rail would have to wait the longest to realize the opportunities.
Communities members and organizations did not believe this was the right or fair way to build a public transit project. Thus began a 3-year effort to restore the missing stations and to move closer to transportation equity in the Central Corridor. A variety of strategies were employed by the Stops for Us coalition and by individual coalition members: commissioning research on station spacing, convening community meetings, producing community reports, organizing for public hearings and listening sessions, building our case over time through the public comment process, meeting with elected officials, filing Title VI complaints, filing a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of the Environmental Review, and meeting with federal officials—including FTA Administrator Rogoff. Local officials worked tirelessly behind the scenes to advance construction of these stations at every decision-making point. The City of Saint Paul made an early commitment of $5.2 MM to build a station at the first opportunity, and Ramsey County committed funds to ensure additional environmental work could be completed.
3 LRT Stations, a significant change in Federal policy regarding use of the CEI, a stronger community, a more equitable public transportation system, and a national model for working together to “build it right”
On December 15, 2010 the Transportation Equity/Stops for Us Coalition received the 2010 National Environmental Justice Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.