Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak & St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman have demonstrated that they are short-sighted politicians who lack the insight people often expect from elected officials. It would be easier on ones sanity to believe that Rybak & Coleman both are aware of why certain plans of theirs are fundamentally flawed and the issues their plans address are out of their hands.
At a recent presentation given by both mayors to extol the virtues of Twin Cities regionalism and organization in hopes of becoming a sort of “world-class business hub”, the mayors publicly vented many frustrations, mostly over their failures to join their respective cities with a rail transit line down University Avenue. Presently, the University of Minnesota has successfully held up the rail proposal, arguing that laboratory equipment in their research facilities would be compromised by vibrations during construction and subsequent use of the trains, rendering much research useless.
Unfortunately for Mayors Rybak & Coleman, they want to spend spectacular amounts of money on an issue that, as said before, is out of their hands. They seek to rebuild something the Twin Cities had years ago, but destroyed due to the sort of shortsightedness which now imbues the mayors.
During the early half of the 20th Century, the Twin Cities area already had an extensive, efficient, self-sustaining, and privately-owned light rail network. Twin Cities Rapid Transit operated a system of trolley cars throughout the area, ranging from the Lake Minnetonka area out to places like Hugo and Stillwater and the then-rural countryside and small farm towns that have since been absorbed into the metro area.
Obviously, Twin Cities Rapid Transit no longer exists. Its demise came from several sources related to automobiles. First, the federal government built the Interstate Highway System, bringing a need to own a car to millions of Americans. Sprawling suburbs built from the same car-centric philosophy paralleled the Interstates, making cars all the more vital to everyday Americans. Meanwhile, the artificial inexpense of the Interstates wreaked havoc on streetcar lines and heavy railroads across the country, undermining the economic viability of both. At this point came what is called “The Streetcar Conspiracy”.
The Streetcar Conspiracy was a scheme by officials in the tire manufacturing and automotive industries to buy streetcar lines across the country, dismantle them, and replace them with buses. The bid was successful most places it was tried, including the Twin Cities. To this day, buses still ply the streets over which long-forgotten trolleys once roamed.
The old streetcar line operated on the basis of money freely given it by patrons. Everything about it was voluntary; if you did not want it, you did not pay for it. Sadly, Rybak & Coleman have absolutely no problem with building their train using money paid by others who, if they refused to pay, would suffer at the hands of the State. Positions like this taken by the mayors provide more insight into the psyches, scruples, and characters of these two men than any number of press conferences. That they are willing to perpetrate further madness and support it by force of arms is troubling to say the very least.
So what should be done now? The Interstates are built, the streetcars are gone, and attempts to rebuild by force what existed voluntarily until artificially destroyed are well underway with little chance of being stopped. This situation was decades in the making and will take decades more of consistent, nationwide disassembly. Efforts to take steps away from the mindset that created the present situation must begin at home and work their way upward. Such an undertaking will take great awareness and insight of the truth of the situation, things lacking in those who instead step toward the aforementioned mindset…people like Mayors R.T. Rybak & Chris Coleman.