Loring Park is a pretty cool neighborhood. It’s one of the few residential parts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area that could be convincingly described as urban. Parking is a nightmare. But, it’s conveniently located adjacent to Downtown Minneapolis, and you can easily walk to, among other things, a place to play horseshoes, 150,000 jobs, a great co-op, and an upstart new orchestra. Walking is the best.
Right now, there are two major planned street reconstructions that will touch the edges of Loring Park. The $9.1 million dollar Hennepin/Lyndale bottleneck reconstruction runs along its west side and the ~$50 million dollar reconstruction of Nicollet Mall pokes into its right shoulder. These are contentious and expensive, respectively. There’s another street, Grant Street, right in the middle of Loring Park that I cross at least a few times a day, either on foot or on a bus. Grant Street’s okay to walk on or across, but on days where I manage to use all three of these streets–usually a Sunday where I go to the gym and the Wedge–it occasionally strikes me that there are a number of easy improvements that you could make to a two and a half block stretch of Grant Street that would cost considerably less than millions and millions of dollars. There are many, many similar streets in Minneapolis.
Of the following, one is free, several are cheap, one is expensive; one is far off, the rest might be in reach soon.
Cut half of the bus stops (free)
There are three bus stops for the southbound 25L on the north side of this two and a half block stretch of road. I cut out two of the stops. The red shaded box is the regular 25, which continues down Nicollet Avenue. This change isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but this is a great example of stop spacing that’s far too generous, which is an issue all over the city. Metro Transit has made some efforts to fix this, my favorite example of which is actually on the map below but no longer listed, but documented here, on the northwest corner of Nicollet Mall & Grant Street. There’s mysterious Laffer Curve-like math involved with what stop spacing is best for the system, but I think we can all agree that when you exceed one stop per block, you’re probably stopping too often.
Spruce Place crosswalk (almost free)
The Loring Greenway is probably the most pleasantly walkable urban place in Minneapolis. Whenever I have someone visiting from out of town, I make sure to include a trip down the Loring Greenway. However, if you walk south down the greenway to cross Grant Street, it gets a bit dicey, especially during rush hour. Something like 6,000 vehicles a day use Grant Street, and anecdotally, a lot of them are flying down the street (probably trying to get to I-94 without using Hennepin) without much regard to anyone. We should really be building on one of our best examples of pedestrian (and cycling) infrastructure and trying to extend that experience to the rest of the area.
Put in at least one curb extension at Grant Street & Nicollet Avenue (cheap-ish)
This intersection has way too much street. I use the bus stop on the northeast corner of this intersection pretty regularly, and you can easily walk five or ten feet into the asphalt on the southeast side without impeding traffic. Maybe, in the future, the surface parking lot on the corner can be redeveloped. In the meantime, extend the curb out.
Get rid of at least two of the curb cuts (probably not that cheap)
There are two (2) adjacent buildings on the north side of Grant Street that, between them, have five (5) curb cuts. Both of them have a surface parking lot as well as structured parking. These lots could be reconfigured relatively easily with just a couple lost spaces, or in the case of One Ten Grant on the right, they would probably gain a few if they ditched the driveway. It ought to be a condition of any redevelopment of these sites that they stick with a single curb cut for each property.
Other thoughts without MS Paint
- Bike lanes, obviously.
- Consider turning Lasalle Avenue back to a two-way, depending on how traffic reorganizes when Nicollet is reopened at Lake Street. Currently, Lasalle carries a lot of traffic at high speeds next to an elementary school playground.
- Make sure the eventual redevelopment of the gas station at Lasalle and Grant is done well–LPM Apartments, the new 36 story tower directly to the south, includes about a 1:1 parking space to unit ratio. Maybe the gas station redevelopment could include no structured parking? We’ll have to see how (/if) the Nicollet streetcar works out.
- Encourage some kind of use (pocket parks? badly-needed community gardens?) in the dead space on the corners east of Lasalle.
It can be harder to do little things with your own money than to do big things with federal and state money, but some of the suggestions above are the kinds of things we can do all over the city, almost immediately, to improve our pedestrian and cycling experience.