A Minneapolis City Council committee voted Tuesday to pursue a streetcar line rather than improve bus service along Nicollet Avenue.
The proposed "starter line" would run from Lake Street up Nicollet and across the Hennepin Avenue bridge to 5th Street Northeast. The 3.5 mile line would cost up to $200 million. The city will need federal money to make it a reality.
Enhancing bus service on those streets would run a quarter of the cost of rail. But city staff concluded streetcars had more public support and more economic development potential.
Council member and mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges agreed.
"Streetcars aren't just about getting from point A to point B. Streetcars are about economic development. They're about growing our population," said Hodges, who sits on the council's transportation committee. "They're about growing the services that go to that population and they're about growing our property tax base."
Mayoral candidate Cam Winton criticized that conclusion at a city council hearing. The analysis lacked objectivity, Winton said.
"Of course they came back with streetcar, because you're the bosses and you said you wanted a streetcar," Winton said. "Good work, staff. It's a heck of a report, but the outcome was pre-judged from day one."