The Met Council and Metro Transit have two problems; both interrelated and neither easily solved. One is the Southwest Light Rail line; four years behind schedule, $450 million over budget and, already, the most expensive public works project in Minnesota’s history.

The other is a ridership decline that’s wiped out all the gains made since the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) took over from Twin City Lines in September 1970. Together, they threaten the long-term future and credibility of transit in the metropolitan area at a time when we need an alternative to automobiles. We’ve seen what cars, freeways, growth and sprawl have done to the environment, and the region, since the end of World War II — nevermore.

John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who spent 40 years working in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul Union Depot.” To submit questions or topics for community columnists, email