Met Council Credits $6.8 Billion in Economic Development to Light Rail

Credit: Metropolitan Council

Met Council says Metro Transit LRT has brought almost $6.8 billion in economic development, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson is skeptical

St. Paul, MN – The Metropolitan Council released a report Tuesday crediting light rail lines for almost $6.8 billion in economic development.

The Met Council has tallied up over $6.78 billion in new construction and property redevelopment along current and proposed light rail lines. They believe the light rail lines are the driving force behind an increase in investments.

The Green Line, connecting downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, has brought the most economic development, according to the Met Council. There has been an estimated $5.1 billion in investments including new mixed-income housing and general revitalization of areas around the line.

Construction hasn’t started on the Southwest Light Rail extension yet, but it’s still is getting credit for more than $515 million in development. The project recently received approval to enter the final design phase. Construction is set to begin sometime this year.

While the Met Council is confident the light rail has spurred this increase, some people are skeptical. Alpha News spoke with Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson about the latest report.

“I have to believe that some of it would have occurred regardless of a transit line,” Johnson said.

He related it back to basic economics, explaining that investors might have chosen to develop within close proximity to the line because there is an increased demand in that area. If the lines were not there, investors may choose to develop somewhere else.

“In the end, it’s not like it somehow increased the pie, if you will. It just moved the pieces around,” Johnson explained.

Johnson also brought up government subsidies, suggesting some development may in fact be partially funded by the government. Grants, funded by taxpayer dollars, are given to developers as incentive to build in close proximity to the transit lines.

“The government can then say that the transit lines were the reason for the development,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s theory appears correct in the case of the West Side Flats project in St. Paul. In December 2016, St. Paul announced they were awarded $1.6 million in grants from the Metropolitan Council for the West Side Flats project, which is just blocks away from the Green Line.

Johnson recently released a video explaining the need for reform of the Met Council.

Both the SouthWest Light Rail (SWLRT) and the Blue Line extension are on track to be open for service in 2021.

Christine Bauman