Variety of LRT station designs planned in St. Louis Park

The neighborhood station type would be used at Wooddale Avenue. The town square station type would be used at Belt Line Boulevard. The landmark station type would be used at Louisiana Avenue. The landscape station type would not be used in St. Louis Park.
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The town square station type would be used at Belt Line Boulevard.

Southwest Light Rail Transit line planners envision variety in three stations proposed for St. Louis Park.

All stations along the line would contain the same dimensions and layout to help riders locate ticket machines and other features, but the architectural elements would vary, according to a set of recommendations.

The light rail line’s project office has suggested four types of station varying from bold to understated for the line, which would run from Mitchell Road in Eden Prairie through Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park to downtown Minneapolis, where it would continue on to downtown St. Paul as part of the Green Line. Service would begin in 2019, under the current project schedule.

The stations designs are unique to the Southwest Light Rail Transit line but take inspiration from the existing Green Line, said Manager of Design Ryan Kronzer at an April 8 open house at St. Louis Park City Hall.

Designers considered the physical aspects of each station area to find a type that fit best, Kronzer said. For example, they noted that the Wooddale Avenue station area includes dense residential development with tight spaces while the Belt Line station area provides a blank canvas with redevelopment potential. The Louisiana Avenue station would be in an area currently containing warehouses.

All the stations will feature concrete, steel and glass.

The most understated type of design for the line, the landscape station type, is not currently proposed for any of the St. Louis Park stations. Designed for a natural setting or a gateway to natural features, planners have proposed using the landscape station type at 21st Street in Minneapolis, Penn Avenue near a regional trail and the Opus Station in Minnetonka. The station type features a low-profile station with a flat roof.

The station at Wooddale Avenue in St. Louis Park would contain a neighborhood station type of design, according to a set of suggestions from the project office, which is more high profile than the landscape design and is intended to be sensitive to the pedestrian scale of the surrounding area and engages with neighborhood features, according to the project’s “Extending Tracks” newsletter.

Unlike the landscape station type, the neighborhood station type would contain two roofs, with one suspended above the other.

The Wooddale station is near newer mixed-use development and established neighborhoods, “Extending Tracks” notes. Buses would provide connections on 36th Street and Yosemite Street.

The more prominent town square station type is proposed at a station at Belt Line Boulevard. The design recognizes a significant place in the community and is intended to enhance public spaces, “Extending Tracks” states. It includes a “lantern element” that projects through the roof, said Senior Project Coordinator Sarah Ghandour during a presentation.

The Belt Line station would contain a park-and-ride lot with 540 stalls and bus connections. Planners are considering opportunities for a redevelopment at the station site.

The boldest station design, the landmark station type, is proposed for a station at Louisiana Avenue. Larger elements, including a pair of roofs set at angles to each other, would add visibility.

The station would actually be located along Oxford Street east of Louisiana Avenue and north of Methodist Hospital. A park-and-ride lot of 230 stalls is proposed while buses would drop off riders at Louisiana Avenue and Oxford Street.

The colors of roofs and design elements, textures and patterns will provide more variability among stations along the line, Ghandour said.

Different colors will provide visual cues to riders about which station they are approaching, said Laura Baenen, communications manager for the project. The differentiation could be helpful for people who cannot hear well, who have limited English skills or who are simply in a hurry.

Artwork at each station would also provide wayfinding, Baenen said.

“It’s not just to make it pretty,” Baenen said. “It really does have a purpose.”

Artwork could reference the history of a station area or its natural characteristics. For example, the Fairview Avenue Station on the Green Line in St. Paul includes acorns and oak leaves while a station near the Capitol contains the Minnesota Bill of Rights.

A West Bank station in Minneapolis includes images of migratory birds and an African fabric pattern in recognition of the immigrant influx in the area.

The project office is hiring artists to design the Southwest Light Rail Transit stations. Designs could be available for public review by this summer with the art process wrapping up by the end of 2015.

Baenen suggested that the artists may take inspiration from St. Louis Park’s long railroad history and its natural areas.

“It’s pretty wide open,” she said of the art.

All the stations would feature canopies to protect riders from precipitation and glass walls to block wind, similar to existing light rail stations in the metro.

“They’re meant to provide protection for typical weather,” Baenen said. “They’re not meant for blizzards and monsoons. The point is to strike a balance between being accessible and comfortable and have a sense of openness for public safety.”

Designers are minimizing the use of solid walls that could block views. The stations will also have lighting and multiple security cameras. Warnings, guardrails, signs and fencing will discourage passengers from walking in the guideway.

Baenen noted the stations are not intended to be places to stay for long periods of time.

“We don’t want to make people too comfortable,” she said, adding that individuals on Metro Transit train platforms are required to have tickets.

Project staff members made the station suggestions after consulting with staff members of cities along the line, Baenen said. They also considered lessons learned from creating stations along the Green Line and the Blue Line between Minneapolis and the Mall of America.

For example, planners for the Blue Line designed platforms to accommodate two-car trains rather than the three-car trains that Metro Transit added as the service quickly increased in popularity. Platforms had to be retrofitted later.

Designs call for all stations along the Southwest Light Rail Transit line to accommodate three-car trains. The existing Green Line platforms already accommodate trains with three cars.

Additionally, they learned from advocates of individuals with disabilities to provide a standard layout so that riders who are blind, for example, do not have to memorize different layouts for each station.

Additionally, glass panels and other aspects will fit a standard size to provide easier and less costly maintenance rather than requiring custom designs if replacement is necessary.

Several residents checking out the designs at the April 8 open house expressed general support for the station plans.

“They look like they’re going to fit in with the neighborhoods,” said John Olson, a trustee and former president of the St. Louis Park Historical Society. “They won’t be overwhelming and stick out.”

He added that train riders should have a good view of historic sites like the Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator owned by Nordic Ware and the Historic Milwaukee Road Depot at Jorvig Park.

Of the designs, Edina resident Laird W. Beaver said, “They’ve done a good job, but it will be a couple years yet before they really put bricks on the road.”

Providing consistency with stations elsewhere in Minneapolis and St. Paul makes sense, Beaver said, but the architectural details did not matter a great deal to him.

“I don’t care if it’s red, green or blue,” Beaver said. “That doesn’t do much for me.”

Rather, he said he hopes project staff members will work to ensure the stations are truly pedestrian-friendly. He also suggested designs should consider the possibility that the Metropolitan Council could add turnstiles in the future to ensure riders pay fares, although he said he did not believe more Metro Transit police would be the answer to lost revenue from riders who do not pay.

He alluded to Minnesota winters but said planners have done about as much as they could do to address the weather while keeping an open station design.

His main concern, though, is ensuring the line is built at all. As someone who has used train systems all over the world, Beaver said he does not understand the problem in building transit lines in Minnesota.

Beaver said, “It’s kind of like the ball field – build it and they will come.”

Members of the public may comment on the station designs through Tuesday, April 28.

For links to the materials and presentation from the meeting as well as a comment form, visit bit.ly/1Pu3C75.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]