A Modest Proposal Regarding the Skyways

Sam Newberg’s recent streets.mn post arguing for the destruction of the skyways crossing Nicollet Mall could not have been more wrong-headed. The skyways are not only a critical piece of infrastructure that make Minneapolis a great place to work and live, they are also a key piece of our Minnesota identity. Tear down the skyways? We might as well drain our 10,000 lakes. No, what Minneapolis really needs is more skyways. Many, many more skyways.

Look, we live in Minnesota. Aside from the the few days each year when it’s 70º and sunny, with a light breeze, this place is an uninhabitable hellscape. The very idea of setting foot outside between October and May gives me the chills. Thankfully, skyways provide a welcome shelter from the unforgiving Minnesota outdoors.

And that’s great, as long as you’re content to live your life downtown. But Minneapolis has so much more to offer! There are the hip entertainment districts in Uptown and Northeast, the natural beauty of Minnehaha Falls. Unfortunately, for most of the year there’s just no reasonable way to get to any these places. Until now.

I propose a dramatic buildout of the skyway system so that the benefits of these amazing pieces of infrastructure move beyond downtown Minneapolis to encompass the entire city. Want to have dinner at Burch before catching a show at the Guthrie, and then head up to 612Brew in Northeast for some post-theater drinks? There’s a skyway for that.

Finally, the ability to enjoy Minnehaha Falls from the comfort of a skyway.

Finally, the ability to enjoy Minnehaha Falls from the comfort of a skyway. [Photos: Creative Commons/Krista Kennedy and Adam Fagen]

Now, obviously, this would be great for Minneapolis. But what if you don’t live in Minneapolis? Commuters from the many Twin Cities suburbs are faced every day with the dangerous task of stepping outside and into their heated cars for a drive into the city followed by another harrowing transition back indoors before they are again safely ensconced in the skyway system. By simply extending the skyway network to reach as far as say, Wayzata, this needless risk could be avoided.

As for the challenge of covering the 11 miles between the two cities in an efficient manner, the solution already exists: Segways.

The benefits to all citizens of our region brought by skyway expansion are self evident, but I’ll be the first to admit that this plan comes with a major downside. To wit: expanding the skyways will of course greatly increase the system’s popularity, and as the passageways become congested with tens of thousands of daily users (not to mention the Segways) any mobility benefit will be negated. But here, again, the answer should be obvious and it is — again — more skyways. Enter the superskyway.

By constructing a second tier of skyways ten stories above the existing system, we can help relieve congestion in the system. The high-altitude superskyways would be expensive to build, but that cost could be easily defrayed by charging a small user fee — also ensuring that superskyways are only used by the people who really value them. For, say, $50 per month, citizens could use key cards to access the high-speed elevators up to skyway level two, where they would enjoy much less heavily trafficked passageways — not to mention the terrific views!

Behold: the superskyway. [Photo

Behold: the superskyway. [Photo: Creative Commons/David Levinson]

It is distressing to think that at a time when, with minor civic commitment, Minneapolis could be building the skyway system it deserves — the system it needs — writers on this website are arguing to cut it off at its kneecaps. I hope your readers will see reason and line up behind the only true vision for a vibrant Minneapolis for all: skyways for everyone, skyways forever.

9 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal Regarding the Skyways

  1. Adam MillerAdam

    I took a spin yesterday through perhaps the worst part of the skyway system, depending on what you think makes for bad skyways, along the northeastern-most loop.

    Once you leaving The Crossings going east, there is not a single skyway-level retail business until you get all the way back around to Thrivent or HCGC. Not one.

    While this isn’t the most densely trafficked part of downtown by any means, the Federal Court House, City Hall, a Wells Fargo office and Grain Exchange complex must house a reasonably decent number of workers. Surely all of those people enjoy the thriving bustle of surrounding ground-level retailers who don’t have to compete with skyway businesses, right?

    Nope. You’ve got a couple of strip clubs (federal judges have to have somewhere to relax?), a sex shop and that’s about it.

    The existence of skyways is neither the only nor primary challenge to an active downtown streetscape. Lack of people and poor design are much bigger issues.

  2. Jon


    I also think slides would be a fun way to get to street level from the skyways. It would also make Sam Newberg happy because then people would be stuck at street level. Unless people tried climbing back up the slides then you would have chaos.

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