ARTICLE BY JIM ANDERSON via STAR TRIBUNE
The Green Line doesn’t even officially launch until Saturday, but a new east metro advocacy group says it’s already a good time to look beyond the new light-rail connection between St. Paul and Minneapolis — both literally and figuratively.
East Metro Strong, a public-private effort formed a few months ago for cities and businesses in Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties, on Thursday previewed nine informational kiosks that will be set up at Green Line stations in downtown St. Paul and along University Avenue.
The kiosks, heavily decked in green, will present information in several languages about transit connections to key sites and how to get there, said Will Schroeer, executive director of East Metro Strong.
At the Union Depot stop, for example, the kiosk points out that the State Capitol complex is less than 10 minutes away, the station is a 10-minute ride on the 294 express bus to 3M Co. headquarters during rush hour, and you can even get to White Bear Lake in about 45 minutes by hopping on the 265 bus.
The kiosks, customized for each stop, include maps guiding light-rail patrons to restaurants. At Union Depot, it will show museums and other nearby amenities like Mears Park and the Farmers Market.
Schroeer said the kiosks highlight what is sometimes not emphasized enough about the Green Line: it’s not just about getting to the two downtowns or stops along University Avenue.
“The Green Line is an opportunity to connect to a much broader set of … destinations,” he said, such as state government offices, 11 colleges and universities, nine medical campuses and all that the two downtowns have to offer.
“To link them all together,” he said, “is simply amazing.”
Beyond the helpful information, the kiosks also boldly proclaim East Metro Strong’s driving message: “The Green Line is Just the Beginning.”
They include maps of five more transit corridors in varying stages of development in the east metro, which Schroeer said his group wants to see on a faster timetable for development. The last light-rail line, the Blue Line in Minneapolis, opened 10 years ago.
“That’s too long,” he said. “We think the entire region needs more lines. We have an opportunity here that we don’t want to lose.”
That’s because good transit drives economic growth, he said. Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties, now with 1.1 million residents, are poised to add 300,000 people in the next 25 years.
“To serve that growth and ensure people can get to and from good jobs, we need a 21st-century transportation system,” he said. “The launch of the Green Line is a great time to continue and expand that conversation.”