Jul 30, 2014

How Much Will Southwest LRT Really Help Hopkins Students?

With Hopkins High School so far from the planned light rail line, School Board Director Kris Newcomer questioned whether students would actually be able to use LRT to travel to courses offered at the University of Minnesota.

How Much Will Southwest LRT Really Help Hopkins Students?

One of the benefits of the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line, promoters say, is that west metro high schoolers could use the line to take college classes at the University of Minnesota.

School Board Director Kris Newcomer was skeptical, though. Hopkins High School is about four miles from the nearest station. At a joint meeting with the City Council on Tuesday, she wondered how the students are going to get there.

The discussion centers on Southwest’s green line extension,which would allow riders to get all the way from Eden Prairie to the University of Minnesota and on to St. Paul.

That’s a perfect fit for the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, light rail advocates say. That program allows high school juniors and seniors to take classes for both college and high school credit—with the cost of tuition and textbooks subsidized by the state.

Metro Transit plans to rearrange bus routes once Southwest trains are running—using LRT as a spine that bus routes along the line connect to.

But Newcomer’s worry isn’t an idle one.

The school district’s Legislative Action Coalition has urged the public to ask Metro Transit to redirect Route 615 around Hillside Lane to pass Hopkins High School and expand hours of operation so students and parents can attend evening events. As it stands, the nearest stop is two to three blocks away from the high school and buses only run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.—making it difficult for families to use public transportation for school events.

Officials say they’ve heard those concerns. Plus, districts could always route their own buses to the stations. But if a solution isn’t found, it’s hard to see how students could take advantage of light rail the way planners envision.


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