Transportation for a Booming Dinkytown

Attention, Dinkytown regulars! If you’re interested in helping advocate for sustainable transportation solutions for the neighborhood, you’ll have a chance at next Tuesday’s Dinkytown Transportation Forum!

dinkytown changes

Proposed Dinkytown-area transportation upgrades


Dinkytown is getting crowded

The SE Minneapolis business node has emerged with one of the most prolific redevelopment markets in Minneapolis. With six housing developments currently under construction along with a pilot Target Express location and potentially a hotel coming to the area, this SE Minneapolis business district needs to be ready to accommodate a continuing massive influx of people.

Even before these projects come to fruition, the area’s parking infrastructure is quite overwhelmed. Redevelopment taking place on surface parking lots has vastly reduced the net quantity of public parking available in the area, while vastly increasing the number of people who need to get around Dinkytown. The Venue and The Marshall have replaced 300 parking spots with 65 and 45 respectively, each open only to tenants of those buildings. [Edit: The Venue’s parking structure actually does allocate some space to public parking, although at a higher price point than the previous surface parking]

One of Minnesota’s best walk/bike/transit neighborhoods

This isn’t to say that Dinkytown is completely unprepared when it comes to non-vehicular transportation options. The area is one of Minnesota’s great bicycling crossroads, including rich on and off-street connections to the U of M’s East and West Bank, Downtown and Nordeast. 15th Ave SE, one of the neighborhood’s principal arterials, is actually the most cycled street in the state.

bike volume central minnesota

Darker green denotes high bicycle volumes. Dinkytown stands out as a particularly dense concentration of high-volume routes. Source: Minneapolis Public Works

The neighborhood is also served by Metro routes 2, 3, and 6U, some of the highest ridership bus routes that Metro Transit provides. The East Bank station on Metro’s Green Line light rail is also ¾ of a mile from the heart of Dinkytown.

Superior connections that could be even better

Even with these already robust figures, Dinkytown is rich with potential. Neighborhood leaders have identified a number of improvements that could help the area’s non-vehicular mode share truly blossom. An easy win would be to establish a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) for the area’s busiest traffic signals. You might be familiar with this ambiguity-eliminating signalling scheme, which has been giving pedestrians an early green light in Uptown since 2012. Combined with increasing ridership on Dinkytown’s already over-performing bus lines, the area could be well on its way to a transit rider’s paradise.

uptown LPI

Intersections like 4th St SE and 14th Ave SE could receive pedestrian-first signalizations (top) like those at Hennepin and Lake (bottom).

The area’s bicycle infrastructure has several gaps in connectivity that may have simple solutions. Dinkytown’s new Greenway is probably the best bike path in the area, but suffers from not actually having an exit in Dinkytown. Luckily, a staircase along the Dinkytown Greenway’s south wall has been given the green light. This funded project has yet to see preliminary engineering, which means that there’s still a chance for this connection to end up as a Midtown Greenway-style ramp. This would provide direct bicycle connections between Downtown East and all three U of M Twin Cities campuses.

Dinkytown Greenway Entrance

What a Dinkytown Greenway exit might look like

Another gap in connectivity at the Stone Arch Bridge terminus on the east bank of the Mississippi, which lies only around four blocks away from the Dinkytown Greenway. The neighborhood and city have collaborated on a ‘Mississippi River Trail’ task force, which is currently negotiating with the railroad company that currently owns the right of way. If completed, this connection would not only provide off-street bicycle and pedestrian connections from Dinkytown to Downtown Minneapolis’ front doorstep, but also down the Park and Portland Ave buffered bike lanes to the Midtown Greenway and beyond.

Finally, those who cycle Dinkytown regularly surely notice the sudden disappearance of the SE 4th St bike lane between 13th and 15th. The neighborhood is considering bridging this gap, exchanging some of the most valuable parking in Dinkytown for a continuous bike lane. This option is only feasible if the city can allow metered parking on the neighboring bridges over Dinkytown Greenway. The city is already studying the possibility of protected bikeways on 4th St SE and University Ave SE, and this parking maneuver could only bring that dream closer to fruition.

License Some rights reserved by Doug Wallick

Allowing parking on this bridge could make room for a 4th St SE bike lane through Dinkytown

If you’re a Dinkytown regular who’d love to see the neighborhood realize its true transportation potential, please make your voice heard at the forum!


Dinkytown Transportation Forum

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

@ The Varsity Theater

5:00 – 8:00 P.M.


This article is cross-posted at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition Blog

Cameron Conway

About Cameron Conway

Cameron fell head over heels for cities while living in DC and Seattle. Now in Minneapolis, he advocates for equitable urbanism through the Midtown Greenway Coalition, the CARAG neighborhood board and the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. He wants to build dynamic urbanism in your parking lots.

19 thoughts on “Transportation for a Booming Dinkytown

  1. HazelStone

    It is a shame that in adding density, more care wasn’t taken to keep the charm and character of Dinkytown. There’s hardly a reason for a non-student to go there anymore, other than Shuang Cheng and Al’s Breakfast.

    Density is good but real vintage urban places are priceless.

      1. Joey SenkyrJoey Senkyr

        Of course not. They came to go to shows at the Varsity and buy books at the Book House!

        And now they don’t, I guess, or something.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          Yeah, that’s what’s so weaselly about “charm and character.” None of what’s yet been built in Dinkytown recently has replaced anything that had much value as an attraction (although I’d argue there was some architectural appeal to Marshall High School). And yet…

    1. Cameron ConwayCameron Conway

      I think you can argue that the newest developments in Dinkytown don’t demonstrate the same level of long term investment towards their surroundings as many of the historic buildings that already existed there. At the same time, we stopped building those kinds of buildings quite a long time ago, so I think the criticism needs to be lobbied at society: why do we settle for such low standards? I also agree that places that feel ‘real,’ a feeling that Dinkytown’s many older businesses tend to embody, needs to be something that we prioritize. The fact that we even have people starting to bemoan these character-less structures is a good sign. Still, there are a lot of folks that are still happy to enjoy the status quo. Until that changes…

  2. Peter

    I feel the need to disagree with the entire premise here as written, as it’s factually inaccurate. The Venue includes a public parking component.

    I realize this is about biking improvements, which I’m 100% behind, it feels disingenuous to frame it in terms of a factually inaccurate assessment of auto parking deficiencies in the area.

    1. Cameron ConwayCameron Conway

      I was informed that the Venue’s public parking was specific to its retail vendors. If you can provide any hard evidence to the contrary, I’ll happily correct the article.

    1. Cameron ConwayCameron Conway

      That image itself was created by Brave New Media on behalf of the Dinkytown Business Alliance. The content within is a summary of improvements that the DBA and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association are considering for the area.

  3. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

    Just an fyi, your link to the highest ridership routes goes to the wrong Metro Transit (Seattle). Good article overall though.

    Other quabbles ; bridges are expensive as all heck! If we built the bridge wide enough to accommodate a lane of parked cars, then why’d we ever spend the extra money in the first place? It may be a question more for review than for looking ahead, but it should be considered before rebuilding any of the bridges if we do see parking on them.

    Leading Pedestrian Intervals have been installed already, biking through the area tonight I saw the walks turn almost exactly 3 seconds before green every time. (Minimum for this timing, but still, it’s there)!

    1. Cameron ConwayCameron Conway Post author

      Thanks for calling that out! I was having some problems with an equivalent document from our agency (I think they may have been having intermittent server issues yesterday), and replaced it with what I thought was the same info. Funny that route 16 is one of the highest ridership routes in both systems! The link should be good now.

  4. Keith Morris

    “The area is one of Minnesota’s great bicycling crossroads.”

    If true, that is pretty sad. Ever biked down 4th or University? And have to take a left turn? They do at least have bike lanes, but with the untamed traffic whizzing by it’s not a bike-friendly street, it’s a “bike-tolerant” street. 15th is pretty much the same, but narrower and two way. 5th is great though as a one-way for cars and two-way for bikes as is the ped-bike bridge that’s tucked away: enough that I didn’t know it was there for well over a year after living here and having had biked through the area several times..

    “The neighborhood is also served by Metro routes 2, 3, and 6U, some of the highest ridership bus routes that Metro Transit provides.”

    And in response to this “highest” ridership Metro Transit is upgrading all of these routes to hi-frequency status. Oh wait, instead of getting all of these people to where they need or want to go in a more timely manner they’ll be getting LRT to Eden Prairie: and no significant upgrade on any of these bus routes. Ever (hyperbole, yes, but it might as well be since no one has, is, or will talk about upgrading service on these routes, even on this site I don’t think I’ve seen anyone advocating for at least doubling our current hi-frequency bus network sans BRT. )

  5. Rosa

    is there a way at all to get from the Dinkytown Greenway to 15th Ave? My occasional work commute is usually 15th Ave, I typically get there from the Washington Ave Bridge (which is awesome, all around – I hadn’t gone through campus on purpose in years and in the meantime they connected the bridge really nicely to the East Bank streets) but going through downtown to the D Greenway would keep me completely off Cedar Ave, so I was planning on taking the D Greenway again with more of an eye of how to get to 15th Ave, since I didn’t notice anything when we just rode it to see how it was.

    1. Froggie

      You basically just have two choices (which might be why this post suggests a new connection):

      – Connect to East River Pkwy near the river by the #9 bridge.
      – Follow the “D” to the connector at 17th Ave (by the tennis courts) and backtrack along 5th St.

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