Map of the Day: Historic Streetcar Grid vs. Current Density

This isn’t a chart, but it’s a great map that the folks over at MN2020 put together, juxtaposing the historic streetcar grid against current densities.


(It’s worth remembering that historic 1950 densities in Minneapolis and Saint Paul were far higher than is reflected here. Much of the dense housing was bulldozed, and current household sizes have been shrinking for years.)

Here’s what Eliot Altbaum, the research intern who put the map together, had to say about the result:

As Minneapolis grew, it built an extensive streetcar system to efficiently move people in and out of downtown and between the neighborhoods. Each of these transportation methods leaves a mark on our towns and cities. […] Sixty years after the end of the streetcar network, the housing development that mirrors that network makes clear the connection between transportation and housing development.

To my mind, Eliot is onto something compelling. You cannot separate transportation from land use. You cannot pull apart roads or rail from the kind of buildings we inhabit and the patterns of everyday life that form around them.



Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.