On track: Central Corridor Light Rail benchmarks its progress as it gets under way
By Jonathan Sage-Martinson, Central Corridor Funders Collaborative
Last month, the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) approved its share of the funding for the Central Corridor light rail transit line, approximately half of the $957 million for the project. With this decision, the 11-mile long, 23-station light rail line has cleared its final hurdle, allowing construction on the line between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul to proceed and operations to begin in 2014. This LRT line has long been planned – and with construction funds secured from the FTA, it is now officially on its way!
As long as it has been planned, the Central Corridor LRT has also raised hopes for its potential power to bring economic development and fears for its potential power to displace current businesses and residents.
The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative was founded in 2008 to address these hopes and fears. The Funders Collaborative is comprised of 13 local and national foundations working with others – local resident organizations, community groups, nonprofit and business coalitions, and public agencies – to make the Central Corridor a place of opportunity for all.
Our vision is for a Corridor where residents and businesses thrive – their neighborhoods places of opportunity that are accessible to people of all income levels, reflect community identities, and link all people to local amenities and regional opportunities. In pursuit of this vision, we seek to achieve four specific outcomes:
In pursuit of these outcomes, we undertake three activities:
Making progress of these outcomes will require lots of partners working together across jurisdictional and sector boundaries. To help us all – foundation members and our many, many partners – track our progress on these four outcomes, the Funders Collaborative worked with Wilder Research to develop the Central Corridor Tracker.
The Tracker measures data – and, eventually, changes – across 13 indicators aligned with affordable housing, workforce, business development, land use, coordination, and communication. The Tracker was compiled for the first time in March 2011 and will be updated annually to help drive and inform action by government agencies, nonprofit service providers, business associations, community groups, and foundations toward achieving these goals.
The Tracker shows, for example, that the Corridor has a higher percentage of very low income households than Minneapolis and Saint Paul as a whole, especially on the eastern end. It also shows that while families living in the Central Corridor pay a smaller share of their income for housing and transportation costs combined than Minneapolis and Saint Paul as a whole, low income families still pay 46 percent of their incomes on these two expenses.
It also found that 48 percent of Corridor residents can access their jobs via public transit in 45 minutes or less – a measure that will give us some sense of whether the Corridor will better connect residents with job opportunities over time. Finally, the Tracker shows that while 64 percent of stakeholders surveyed believe that common goals are shared for the Corridor, only 45 percent feel ‘very well informed’ by what is happening in the Corridor.
Each of these examples raises questions or provides focus for where, when, and how Central Corridor stakeholders should tackle issues ‘beyond the rails’ of the Central Corridor LRT.
In the last three years, the Funders Collaborative has supported multi-sector, multi-jurisdictional working groups seeking to address affordable housing, business development, construction workforce and disadvantaged business enterprise inclusion, and the coordination and leverage of public investments. Three of these working groups have produced corridor-wide strategies for how to achieve their joint goals – and the housing strategy is due later this year.
In each of these working groups, a unique set of partners has come together to work across traditional boundaries and produce innovative tools – policies, programs, and projects – that can achieve the opportunities and mitigate the challenges associated with the construction of the Central Corridor LRT.
We believe it takes just this kind of effort – all of us working together – to achieve a tremendous goal like this. We also believe that our work will be strengthened by timely, objective data – like the information in the Tracker – that can help all parties understand the context in which they work and adjust their strategies in real time to better achieve their goals.