Thursday, May 12, 2011

Build a Stadium to Make Transit Investment Look Better

The Minnesota Vikings want a new football stadium, and they want the people of Minnesota to pay for most of it. This is fine as far as silly stadium building goes (though still silly).* Yet some folks aren't happy with where the stadium will go due to transportation options. The StarTribune's Editorial Board doesn't like the suburban Ramsey County location because:
No one county -- or one pro football team -- should be able to set the state's transportation priorities.

The paper's Patrick Reusse is more direct about what opponents of the suburban plan perceive as the state's transportation priorities:
We know Arden Hills does not fit the dream of the transit crowd. Currently, those dreamers are busy spending scores of millions to turn University Avenue into a modern version of post-war East Berlin, all in the name of a choo-choo from downtown St. Paul hooking up with the Hiawatha Line in downtown Minneapolis.

One vestige of previous construction is a large train station in front of the Metrodome. Another is the hub serving Target Field. Thus, the transit crowd could live with either a new Metrodome or the Farmers Market site, to offer impressive ridership numbers on Sundays in the fall and early winter.

Reusse is hinting at the enormous costs associated with the stadia recently built and the hundreds of millions invested in new rail transit. Should the state build a billion dollar football stadium near a billion dollars worth of rail so that a dozen or so days a year the trains will be filled with football fans? (Might having thousands of drunk football fans crowding the trains turn off other potential riders?)

If the performance (ridership) of transit investments is meaningfully increased by a few thousand football fans, then that transit spending was not likely very wise to begin with. Siting a stadium should certainly consider existing infrastructure, but it is sort of weird that two opinion pieces about the Vikings' stadium proposal focused on the transportation angle.

*Minnesota should follow the lead of New York, which gets all the upside of having football teams but got New Jersey to build the last two stadia in which they play. I think a new Vikings stadium should go to in Hudson, Wisconsin.
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