ST. PAUL, Minn.—When the first light-rail trains set out between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the two cities threw a party 11 miles long. At the ribbon-cutting in downtown St. Paul, politicians proclaimed their hopes that the new Green Line would re-twin the Twin Cities, bridging an old rivalry. At a stop on the University of Minnesota’s campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders mingled with the crowd, and the university’s Goldy the Gopher mascot posed for photos. And along St. Paul’s University Avenue, at the stations that almost didn’t get built, people of every color joined the party: a Hmong dance troupe in St. Paul’s Little Mekong district and African-immigrant restaurateurs in a tented food-court stop two miles west.
More than 45,000 people rode the Green Line on its first day, June 14, 2014—the first time trains had connected the Twin Cities’ downtowns in more than 60 years. The $957 million project had taken eight years to design and build, but it was 30 years in the making if you counted the time it took to line up political support. The party wasn’t a simple celebration of a civic triumph. It was also a chance for light rail’s supporters to start winning over residents and business owners along the route who had been skeptical, even downright hostile to the trains. It was their chance for the supporters to start making good on promises that light rail would do more good than harm.
That opening day, Isabel Chanslor and her 8-year-old granddaughter, Alycia, stopped at each of the Green Line’s 23 stations. Even after a storm drenched them and sent tents flying, Alycia was determined to collect the commemorative buttons being passed out at each stop. “I was begging her, ‘Can we please stop?’ ” Chanslor recalls. “She’s like, ‘No, we’ve got to go to the beginning.’”
For St. Paul, too, reaching the Green Line’s destination meant persevering through a lot of adversity. Despite the significance of uniting the Twin Cities’ downtowns, the light-rail line means more to St. Paul. Its stretch of the Green Line, about 50 percent longer than Minneapolis’ portion, simply needs more of the economic benefits that light rail can bring, and it attracted much more controversy and resistance along the way.
Chanslor knew that as well as anyone. For five years, as a program director for the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Center, Chanslor had registered the concerns of 450 businesses along the St. Paul route. She had rushed to their defense when University Avenue was torn up right to the store fronts, lobbying the transit builders to unblock their doors, redo confusing signs and remove portable toilets from in front of restaurants. She knew their sales and customer traffic had dropped during the construction.
Then, soon after the Green Line opened, that changed.
“Folks about a week or two in, they were like, ‘People were coming! Off that train!’” Chanslor recalls.
Today, the Green Line is the most popular of the Twin Cities’ two light-rail lines, carrying 40,000 people on weekdays, smashing ridership forecasts by almost 50 percent. It carries college students and immigrants, professional and retail workers, and links college campuses, hospitals and the Minnesota state Capitol (in St. Paul) to both of the downtowns. Less than three years since it opened, it has already helped to revitalize stretches of University Avenue, an aging, formerly car-dominated thoroughfare, as new businesses open near the stations and longtime businesses there attract new customers. Transit-dependent low-income and working-class people are commuting to jobs across the metro area, while new housing for professionals is springing up in an old industrial area. And the Twin Cities aren’t done. Planned expansions would more than double light rail’s reach, taking the Green Line and its counterpart, the 13-year-old Blue Line, straight through Minneapolis to the western suburbs and beyond.
The story of how St. Paul and Minneapolis did it is full of lessons for other cities hoping to show that rail can be a key to revival. Twin Cities leaders found ways to persuade reluctant Republican legislators to contribute state funding to transit and, when that support dwindled, figured out how to fund a greater share of it themselves. They figured out that converting an old streetcar route back to transit after a half-century of automobile domination can be a wrenching change, one that demands special care to help small businesses survive. And perhaps most significantly, downtown power brokers had to be willing to significantly alter their plans when low-income people of color and immigrant businesspeople along the route insisted that a rail line that bypassed them, while benefiting people traveling between two downtowns, was not acceptable. Instead, they argued, the near-billion-dollar project had to improve the lives of the people who live and work along the route.
Peter McLaughlin, handsome and silver-haired, stands near the Green Line tracks, the newest leg of a transit system he helped create. At 67, he’s been a county commissioner in Minneapolis since 1991 and a state legislator in the late 1980s, and he’s pushed for better public transportation in the Twin Cities the whole time.
“Before you build this stuff, people say all sorts of things,” says McLaughlin. “They’d say, ‘Oh, Minnesota people will never ride a train.’” He is standing on a platform at the Green Line’s West Bank station, in Minneapolis near the Mississippi River, and a steady flow of college students and an occasional East African woman in a hijab walk by as he talks. About 2,400 riders board the line here on an average weekday, about 6 percent of the line’s total passengers.
McLaughlin was on the state House transportation committee, in the 1980s, when he and other transit advocates started pushing for a light-rail connection between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Like most Midwestern cities, they had junked their streetcars in the 1950s. At one time, the streetcars had carried a combined population of 615,000 on 238 million rides a year, more than a trip a day per person. But as sprawl, urban abandonment, pollution and traffic congestion grew, advocates like McLaughlin were convinced that trains could get people around more efficiently, with less pollution. It was a tough sell in a state where big spending on passenger rail had fallen out of favor. “We were spinning our wheels,” McLaughlin says.
In Minnesota, urban counties are the leading advocates for transit investment. That dates back to 1980, when the state authorized the creation of regional railroad authorities. The law’s original intent was to preserve freight-rail service for rural grain elevators, but Hennepin, where Minneapolis is located, and other urban counties realized they could use the law to plan for light rail.
McLaughlin, elected to county government in 1991, soon became chairman of a multicounty group pushing for mass transit, using a state law that had been intended to preserve freight-rail service for grain elevators. A Minneapolis-St. Paul connection seemed most logical, with the most potential riders. But opposition to such a line was strong. It included Republican Governor Arne Carlson, the editorial boards of the region’s major daily newspapers and the good-government Citizens League, which considered light rail inefficient and preferred buses and car-pooling.
“We made the decision as counties that trying to get the Green Line built first was politically not feasible,” McLaughlin recalls. “It was just too tough. The opposition was so strong.”
Meanwhile, the Hiawatha Corridor, a right-of-way running south from downtown Minneapolis to suburban Bloomington, was just sitting there, waiting. “We had the pieces in place,” says McLaughlin. The corridor, which led right to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, was acquired in 1960 for a freeway project that was later canceled. A 1985 deal called for a light-rail line and a narrower highway on the route. Only the highway had been funded and built. But a 1985 environmental impact statement for light rail was still usable. “I said, this is our chance to try this technology,” says McLaughlin. What’s more, the Mall of America, just south of the airport, had opened in 1992, attracting 40 million annual visitors and 11,000 employees every day.
Like rail advocates elsewhere, McLaughlin and his allies also changed their argument, downplaying the environmental in favor of the economic. Transit wasn’t just efficient and clean transportation, they said—it would also attract development. A powerful ally helped make that case to the skeptical governor. “The thing I know helped change his mind was, the business community in Minneapolis stepped forward and said this is essential for our prosperity,” McLaughlin recalls. Minneapolis’ Downtown Council, a business group, had declared traffic gridlock the biggest obstacle to downtown expansion. Its director lobbied Carlson directly.
In late 1998, just before his governorship ended, Carlson struck a deal that dedicated $40 million in state bonds to the Hiawatha light-rail project. His successor, Jesse Ventura, a Reform Party member and enthusiastic rail supporter, added $60 million more. Federal funding came through in the Clinton administration’s last days. The 12-mile, $715 million Hiawatha Line—now named the Blue Line—opened in 2004, connecting the airport and America’s largest mall to downtown Minneapolis.
“It was a way to get one line out there,” says McLaughlin, “so people could see it, kick the tires, and decide whether it worked or not.” Ridership soon exceeded projections; it’s now about 30,000 people on an average weekday. The Mall of America’s Blue Line stop station is now the busiest transit station in Minnesota, serving 2.2 million passengers a year on the train and 11 bus routes.
With one successful light rail line running, support for a second was easier to assemble—but not that easy. State funding remained the biggest hurdle. The original plan, to get the state to fund a third of the Minneapolis-St. Paul line, wasn’t politically realistic. “It was going to be virtually impossible to get that kind of money from the state Legislature,” says McLaughlin. Anti-tax Republicans from rural counties and outer suburbs wanted money to go to roads instead. “It was too big a bite.”
Instead, in 2008, the state Legislature voted to fund just 10 percent of the Green Line, and it gave the state’s urban counties the authority to raise their sales tax by a quarter-cent to fund 30 percent, with federal matching funds picking up 50 percent and urban rail authorities 10 percent. The Legislature—motivated by a sense of urgency after the 2007 collapse of a freeway bridge in Minneapolis killed 13 people—overrode a veto by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, with a few Republican legislators, mostly from near the Twin Cities, joining the Democrats. The sales tax, passed by five counties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, generates $120 million a year for new transit projects.
That reliable funding stream helped the Green Line project compete for money from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, which pays for half the cost of large transit projects. Among transit-ambitious cities, “We went from the B group to the A group when we got the sales tax,” McLaughlin says.
But that was only the beginning of the Green Line’s challenges.
A half-mile west of the Minnesota state Capitol, Va-Megn Thoj runs the nonprofit Asian Economic Development Corp. out of a University Avenue storefront. Green Line trains hum by, one in each direction every 10 minutes, their connections to the catenary wires just visible above the curtains. Paintings cover the walls all around Thoj’s cramped office: a Green Line train coming into a stop, a mural-style panorama of neighborhood buildings against the city skyline, a collage of floral images against faces of Asian, white and Somali women. They’re reminders of how both the neighborhood and Thoj’s job have changed because of the light rail line.
For 20 years before the Green Line came through, Southeast Asian immigrant businesses had gathered near the corner of University and Western avenues, attracted by the cheap rent. Nearby homes had attracted Asian immigrants too, especially the Hmong from Laos. But the neighborhood never had a name until its businesses hired Thoj (pronounced Taw) to manage their response to light rail’s arrival. In 2011, as part of their survival strategy on the eve of construction, they branded their corner Little Mekong, after the Mekong River, which runs through Southeast Asia.
“As an organization, we were very careful not to say we were for or against light rail,” Thoj says. “Most individual businesses were against it. Our position was, we wanted it to be the best it can be, with the harm minimized.”
Thoj, a former St. Paul City Hall employee, had gotten to know the business owners in 2006, as planning for the Green Line ramped up. Like many of them, he was a Hmong immigrant—he’d come to the United States as a refugee at age 9—so he helped them overcome their language barriers. By late 2009, he was working for the business owners, fighting for help to get them through the many months of construction. Red lawn signs stashed inside the building’s back door still tell the story. “Light Rail Is Coming! Save Our Businesses and Jobs,” the signs read, over images of railroad tracks, crossed and broken.
Across St. Paul and Minneapolis, from city halls to the metro area’s regional government, public officials were touting the economic benefits of light rail, predicting transit-oriented development would spring up near station stops and residents would get to jobs faster. But at several spots along the line, opposition sprang up. Some of it came from major institutions. The University of Minnesota pushed for the Green Line to go around its massive campus in Minneapolis, not through it. Campus officials feared vibrations from the light rail would upset sensitive lab work, including chemistry-lab laser experiments. In downtown St. Paul, Minnesota Public Radio defied public broadcasting’s liberal reputation by resisting the Green Line, afraid the trains would rattle tables and equipment during broadcasts. (After long negotiations, transit officials agreed to pay for various mitigations to address both complaints.)
And many poorer communities along the route simply didn’t believe the Green Line would benefit them. They saw light rail as a threat that would disrupt their neighborhoods and bring gentrification—a sequel to the urban-renewal projects of the mid-20th-century that bulldozed poor communities for the sake of suburban commuters. Yet paradoxically, many in those communities also argued that if the train came, it shouldn’t pass them by.
Transforming University Avenue from a car-dominated, six-lane street back to a train-centered corridor was a wrenching change. In 1890, the first trolleys connecting St. Paul to Minneapolis were built along the avenue, but as streetcars were eliminated from the Twin Cities in 1954, the street transformed around the automobile. Car dealerships, repair and custom shops, and drive-ins lined University Avenue’s six-mile stretch from the state Capitol to the University of Minnesota. Drag racers roared up and down the strip from the 1950s onward. Most of the dealerships migrated to the suburbs around the 1970s, but Porky’s, the avenue’s storied drive-in restaurant, lasted from the 1950s to 2011, when it closed in part due to light rail’s impending arrival. For most of those decades, on-street parking was free and plentiful. Businesses relied on customers pulling right up and dashing inside, especially during Minnesota’s harsh winters.
Another reason for opposition—which surprised transit planners and city leaders—was the long memory of St. Paul’s older African-American residents, who’d been victimized by racist highway policy a half-century before. Rondo Avenue, the main business strip in St. Paul’s largest black neighborhood was bulldozed to make way for the I-94 freeway in 1960. That destruction of more than 600 black families’ homes and dozens of black businesses—a tragedy the federal government replicated in black neighborhoods across the country—ripped apart the city’s African-American middle-class economy, inflicting lasting damage to black families’ wealth and homeownership. (A play about Rondo, The Highwaymen, played this February at St. Paul’s History Theatre.) So for some black residents south of University Avenue, another transportation project in their neighborhood felt like war.
Nathaniel Khaliq, who was president of the St. Paul NAACP at the time, lost his childhood home on Rondo Avenue to I-94. To avoid any repeat of the disruption the freeway had caused, he preferred an earlier proposal to place the train tracks down the center of I-94. When transit planners chose University Avenue as the route instead, the NAACP sued. “It wasn’t really a transit system built to help folks in our community get from one place to the next,” Khaliq argues. “It was really built to help folks on the eastern end and western end of St. Paul to get to their sports games and activities.” (The Green Line passes by the homes of all four of the Twin Cities’ major-league sports teams.)
The NAACP’s suit was meant to stop the Green Line project and force a more detailed evaluation of the project’s negative impact. In the end, the suit, and a similar complaint filed by Thoj’s group, had little effect. A judge ordered the Met Council to conduct a more detailed impact study, but it once again underforecasted the economic damage that construction would cause businesses along the corridor.
But another, more powerful critique emerged from the African-American neighborhood. Along their stretch of the 11-mile route, the Green Line would stop only once per mile, compared with once every quarter-mile in downtown Minneapolis.
The transit planners at the Metropolitan Council, the Twin Cities’ regional government, argued that they had no choice. During the George W. Bush administration, transit projects could get federal funding only if they scored high enough on a cost-effectiveness formula based on price and time saved per rider. With stations a mile apart in central St. Paul, the project barely squeaked by with a passing grade. Add anymore stops, and the slower, pricier train line failed.
Local organizers didn’t quit. Activists organized the “Stops For Us” campaign, to push for three more stops in poor neighborhoods in St. Paul, spaced a half-mile between the originally planned stations. Thoj’s Asian Economic Development Corp., which had also filed a civil-rights complaint against the project over the possible economic damage the construction would cause, joined the Stops For Us battle, to add a station at Western Avenue, in their neighborhood. Rather than try to take away a station farther west on the line, the Stops For Us group focused on getting the federal formula changed.
Several Stops For Us activists traveled to the “Rail-volution” conference in Boston in 2009, buttonholed Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff while he was in line for coffee at the conference hotel’s Starbucks and argued their case. Concerned, Rogoff visited St. Paul, and saw how the rigid cost formula was clashing with civil rights concerns. “It was probably the starkest, in-your-face example of the deficiencies of how the administration was evaluating these projects,” recalls Rogoff, who’s now CEO of Seattle’s transit system, Sound Transit. He found that the cost-effectiveness formula’s focus on time saved per rider valued long-distance commuters more than residents of poorer neighborhoods such as St. Paul’s, because poorer residents tend to take shorter trips—for shopping rather than commuting, for instance.
Victory came in January 2010, when Rogoff and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced they were changing the federal formula to weigh a transit project’s cost-effectiveness equally with other criteria, such as mobility and economic development. Two weeks later, at a snowy news conference on the corner of Victoria and University avenues—one of the corners targeted by Stops For Us—LaHood, Rogoff and local officials announced funding for St. Paul to add three more stops. Ridership numbers show that those three stops account for 9 percent of the annual boardings on the Green Line.
“It was a great win,” Rogoff recalls, “a community coming forward, seeking help, and getting it.”
To St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, mass transit is the 21st-century version of a port, a railroad or a freeway—a key to a city’s future well-being. “It’s the decision to build the railroad through your town, or build it 20 miles away,” he says. “One town had tumbleweeds going through it. Another town thrived.”
Light rail, Coleman argues, brings more economic development than buses—and that includes bus rapid transit, often touted as cheaper to build than rail. “If this is purely a mechanism to get people from point A to point B, it is not the most cost-effective,” Coleman says. “But I think you see over and over that fixed rail, a system like LRT, that is more appealing to folks to ride, and more reliable. That spurs the economic development that I think is critical.”
The Green Line corridor has seen $5 billion in investment in the past several years, according to a tally kept by the regional government. It’s nearly impossible, though, to say how much of that wouldn’t have happened without light rail’s arrival. Of the $5 billion, which doesn’t include sports stadiums, half is located in downtown Minneapolis and half along the rest of the line, including St. Paul.
Development is most visible on the west side of St. Paul, near the border with Minneapolis. There, the Green Line runs from the University of Minnesota into an industrial area, where abandoned grain silos give way quickly to a landscape of new and under-construction apartments and condos along University Avenue. Many developers there have either said they wouldn’t have built without light rail nearby, or they’ve cited its proximity as a factor in their decisions, say city and regional officials. Near the Green Line’s halfway point, the soccer team Minnesota United plans to build a new stadium. Coleman says light rail was key to that project. In general, about half of soccer fans, he says, go to games by transit, biking or walking.
Farther east on the line, in the black and Asian neighborhoods, development is slower, with nonprofits leading the way. Three of St. Paul’s community development corporations are working on projects near a Green Line stop.
“We are doing all affordable development on this end,” says Nieeta Presley, executive director of the Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp., which is converting the former Old Home Dairy processing plant near the Western Avenue station into a mix of low-cost housing and commercial space. “We want to do it now, before light rail comes and we can’t afford to do affordable housing.” Presley grew up in Rondo, and her organization joined the St. Paul NAACP’s challenge to the Green Line—not to stop the project, she says, but to demand deeper study of the effects light rail construction would have on the neighborhood. She also took part in the Stops For Us campaign, which brought the station to Western Avenue. Now, she says, she’s focused on how light rail could bring new customers.
Beverley Oliver Hawkins, executive director of Model Cities, a longtime nonprofit in St. Paul’s black community, supported the Green Line. “It increases our capacity to do development,” she says. Model Cities is developing BROWNstone, a mix of housing and office and retail space that’ll also include a reading room focused on the history of black railroad workers who lived in the neighborhood. It’s located next to the Victoria Avenue Green Line station—another of the three stations added thanks to the Stops For Us effort.
Mike Temali, founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Development Center, is trying to get a project going on a vacant lot next to the Dale Street station. Light rail, he says, is “pretty much a plus” for the neighborhood. His organization worked with Presley’s and Hawkins’ to build Frogtown Square, another development at Dale Street and University Avenue. It would’ve happened without light rail, he says, but the trains’ arrival helped them find a tenant for its first-floor restaurant space, the Mexican restaurant Los Ocampos.
The Green Line—which costs $1.75 to ride, or $2.25 during rush hour—is bringing new customers to University Avenue businesses, especially those near the train stops. Long Hang, owner of Thai Garden, which opened in December 2015 in Little Mekong, says his business increases 10 to 20 percent a month, and the train is one reason why. “I have a group of customers who get on the Green Line, get off here, and eat and go back to work from downtown St. Paul,” Hang says. University of Minnesota students come on the train from the other direction.
Still, local merchants cite light rail as a factor in Little Mekong turnover. Mai Village, a Vietnamese restaurant at Western and University since 1992, closed in November 2016 after a long financial struggle. It nearly closed during light rail construction in 2013, but hung on in part because the St. Paul City Council forgave a $500,000 loan.
Construction took almost a year at each stretch of University Avenue—five months on one side of the street, five months on the other. About 100 businesses closed along the Green Line corridor around the time of construction, according to Met Council, but more than 100 businesses have opened. That there weren’t even more closings is thanks to a major effort by activists, nonprofits and government.
The Twin Cities’ major foundations, many of which had long invested in St. Paul neighborhoods, formed a collaborative that concentrated $12 million in funding along the route. Under pressure from activists like Thoj in Little Mekong, government and the foundations offered about $4 million for businesses hurt by construction. Little Mekong businesses received free advertising on billboards and Metro Transit buses. Loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses helped keep many afloat; the loans will be forgiven if they stay at their current locations. Businesses also received development grants for storefront renovations and parking lot improvements. The support program Isabel Chanslor managed for the Neighborhood Development Center played a major role in keeping the businesses going. NDC is now exporting its model: A nonprofit alliance in Albuquerque is adopting its approach to help small businesses during the construction of a bus rapid transit line on Central Avenue, the old Route 66.
In Little Mekong, the Asian Economic Development Association has brought new visitors to the neighborhood with its Night Market event, a street festival modeled after outdoor markets in Southeast Asia. “Most businesses have recovered fully to where they were pre-recession and pre-light rail, or better,” says Thoj.
Now, the concern is gentrification. Anecdotal evidence suggests rents are rising for University Avenue storefronts and for housing nearby, say Thoj and other neighborhood activists along the Green Line. “I don’t know if anyone’s being displaced yet,” says Thoj, but he’s watching the trend with concern.
It’s a dilemma Coleman, the mayor, acknowledges.
“How do we create economic vitality without gentrification?” he asks. “The challenge in any of these projects is, you want to bring vitality to any community. You don’t want property values to be flat or declining. In the long term, you want more people coming to your community, more people wanting to open a business, shop and eat in your community. So you can’t always control values, but you can try to mitigate with other strategies.” Since 2010, his administration has provided public funding to help build 2,260 affordable housing units within a half-mile of the Green Line.
How the Green Line has helped commuters is, so far, harder to measure. A 2015 University of Minnesota study estimated that the average St. Paul resident can get to 5 percent more potential jobs within 30 minutes because of light rail.
“I ride it almost every day,” says Maisie Boe, 30, who lives in St. Paul and works in food prep at the Minnesota Vikings’ US Bank Stadium. She says friends of hers take the Green Line to the Blue Line to reach their jobs at the Mall of America—a faster commute than the two-bus trip they took before.
Light rail has played a major role in helping the Twin Cities’ East African immigrant community, the nation’s largest. Many Somali immigrants get their start while living in Riverside Plaza, a 1,300-unit apartment complex in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Somali immigrants line up at the Blue Line’s Cedar-Riverside station in the morning, heading to jobs at the Mall of America and the airport. The neighborhood’s second light rail station, the Green Line’s West Bank, has increased their job prospects further.
“The metro Green Line really has been very helpful to us,” says Nasibu Sareva, executive director of the African Development Center of Minnesota. “It has helped give us that access to the east metro area”—St. Paul and the suburbs beyond. It’s also increased the flow of St. Paul residents to Cedar-Riverside, Sareva adds, including more customers for the neighborhood’s East African restaurants and African artists’ performances at the Cedar Cultural Center.
Soon, the Green Line may reach thousands more jobs. Expansion plans call for the train line to more than double in length, through Minneapolis to the southwest suburbs, including the booming town of Eden Prairie. The $1.86 billion Green Line extension would supplant the original Green Line’s construction as the biggest infrastructure project in Minnesota history. A $1.54 billion Blue Line extension to Minneapolis’ northwest suburbs isn’t far behind.
The biggest lesson Metro Transit will take from the Green Line experience in St. Paul, says deputy general manager Mark Fuhrmann, is to ask, “How can the extensions maximize providing access to communities of color and communities of lower income?” Fuhrmann says certain suburban stations on the Green Line extension route, in Eden Prairie and Hopkins, will serve neighborhoods where people of color are more than 30 percent of residents.
Both the Green Line and Blue Line extension projects are in the pipeline for federal New Starts funding, with medium-high rankings in the federal funding formula. But the Trump administration’s budget for fiscal year 2018 calls for eliminating New Starts funding, placing those projects in doubt.
The catch, as always in Minnesota, is state funding. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton is a strong supporter of rail, but it’s become a partisan issue. Republicans, who took control of the Minnesota Senate in the 2016 election and the House two years earlier, are largely against rail expansion. So the Twin Cities area’s counties are considering raising their sales tax another quarter-cent to raise more transit funds.
“We’re trying to reconnect people, particularly people with high levels of unemployment, to the job market of today,” says McLaughlin. “These trains are a highly efficient way to do that.” Linking the cities and suburbs benefits both, he says. “We’re talking about older, first-ring suburbs that don’t have a lot of commercial, industrial tax base. A lot of them were streetcar cities. This is allowing them to reimagine their future and connecting them to the economy of the 21st century.”
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