Map of the Day: Average Jobs+Population Density in Hennepin County

A couple weeks ago, I posted a map showing average jobs+population density along the planned Southwest LRT corridor. By request, I have created a similar map for Hennepin County as a whole:

Average jobs+pop density per acre.  Map by the author.

Average jobs+pop density per acre. Map by the author.

This map was created in the same way as my previous map, taking 2010 Census population data and 2011 jobs data (also available from the Census Bureau) at the census block level and averaging them out. We can see that, not surprisingly, the densest parts of the county are downtown, the U of M campus, and parts of Phillips and Ventura Village. Most of Minneapolis and the inner ring suburbs have a density of at least 5 per acre, which is generally considered the minimum threshold to support basic bus service.

As noted with the Southwest LRT map, there are a number of clusters that are connected by that planned line, and the Blue Line connects to the cluster centered on the Mall of America. There are a number of other clusters, though, that are not along a current or planned LRT line, including southern Edina, Southdale, the southwest corner of 394/100, and near the General Mills headquarters.

A curious anomaly on the map is the lack of density around the airport. At first, I thought this was an artifact of how I created the map, as there are thousands of jobs located at the airport. However, these jobs are also spread out across multiple square miles. With one square mile equaling 640 acres, these jobs are technically spread out across a large area when looking at the data on a census block level.

What else do you see?

Adam Froehlig

About Adam Froehlig

Adam Froehlig, aka "Froggie", is a Minneapolis native who grew up studying the state's highways and bicycling the Minneapolis parkways and beyond. A retired US Navy sailor who worked as a meteorologist and GIS analyst, he is now losing himself among the hills and dirt roads of northern Vermont. He occasionally blogs at Just Up The Hill.

33 thoughts on “Map of the Day: Average Jobs+Population Density in Hennepin County

  1. Elliot AltbaumElliot Altbaum

    Thanks for making the map.
    I go back and forth on whether or not public lands (like parks and lakes) should be taken out of the population calculations. If the interpolation excluding lakes and parks I would think the areas around the Chain of Lakes would be even denser. Do you have a sense of how much more dense they would be?
    Second, out of curiosity, what did you choose for your neighborhood size on the interpolation?

    1. Thomas Mercier

      Parks are employment centers too, just very low density. Omitting lakes & wetlands (i.e. non-developable areas) would be a more justified modification in my opinion but I’m not familiar enough with GIS to know if that is feasible in this spatial analysis.
      On another transportation related note, several of those outlying density centers are or soon will be connected via multi-use trails to each other or to the Minneapolis core.

    2. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig Post author

      My base data was at a Census Block level, and some of those census blocks go fairly large, so I couldn’t go with a small interpolation range. I did create small cell sizes (roughly 1 acre), but my interpolation range was set at 1 mile because of the larger census block sizes.

      Regarding filtering out lakes and wetlands, that is a theoretical possibility…could possibly set up some sort of mask, though it’ll require work and more time than I currently have available.

      1. Elliot AltbaumElliot Altbaum

        Thanks for the clarification.

        Not a criticism — I was just trying to think through the implications of doing so.

  2. Gary

    Also, it’s sad to see the way Bottineau will skirt right around the edge of the cluster of jobs in North Minneapolis.

      1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig Post author

        There’s other reasons why SWLRT is bypassing Uptown and Nicollet. Hard to interline with Hiawatha/Central, for starters.

        IMO, a potentially viable, and separate line would connect downtown to Uptown to Southdale. The problem with such a line would be it would have to go through a few miles worth of residential area, filled with the types of residents who have already shot down bike lanes on Penn Ave. They’d probably flip a lid at the thought of LRT passing through their neighborhood.

        1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

          Sort of a shame that the Linden Hills streetcar right of way has largely disappeared. Some sort of connection there then turning south along France would have been great. Though it likely would require tunneling from 44th to 62nd.

          1. Elliot AltbaumElliot Altbaum

            While it’s not as great as a full LRT, I’ve thought that a Midtown streetcar that goes south on France after meeting the Green line at Lake Calhoun would be a good option. It would run at grade in mixed traffic from Lake to 62, but would have separate lanes after 62.

          2. David Greene

            A lot of that ROW still exists, though some of it is used for parking. Much of it is even still in public hands.

        2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          What about a slightly less direct route via Bryant/Lyndale/Nicollet till 66th (or Crosstown corridor), then 66th (or Crosstown corridor) to Southdale?

          Tricky, because it looks like the actual epicenter of the Southdale job/population center is farther south, vicinity of Centennial Lakes. But the transit hub is at Southdale Center near 66th.

          The Nicollet corridor maintains much more active transit service today than the 6 to Southdale.

          1. Elliot AltbaumElliot Altbaum

            That is also a good option. It is likely that the Nicollet streetcar will continue to be built further south. I like that it hits the hub shopping center.

            I will quibble on a the 6 corridor. While it is true that Nicollet has better ridership, the 6 is seriously hindered by not having high frequency. The branches split at 39th st and so the line loses its predictability south of there. By running a streetcar on France, the 6 could be consolidated to Xexeres.

            Neither of these options solve the problem of Hennepin, however.

            1. David Greene

              If we’re ever going to do tunnels, Hennepin is an obvious one. Tunnel under Hennepin to Lakewood and then hop on the Como-Harriet ROW to France, then head to Southdale.

              1. David Greene

                Or you could even shorten the tunnel to 31st. Traffic isn’t that heavy south of there so a shared ROW seems reasonable.

              2. Elliot AltbaumElliot Altbaum

                That would work, but if we are tunneling wouldn’t we want a longer train than one that could run in mixed traffic south of Uptown?

                Other than that, I think it’s a good choice. The right-of-way exists.

              3. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig Post author

                Given that the old streetcar ROW is effectively an alley through Linden Hills, I’d imagine residents there would *HOWL* if an attempt at restoring a streetcar (let alone LRT) were ever attempted.

                1. Wayne

                  Tunnel the ROW and cover it with a linear park like the red line extension or orange line relocation in Boston then?

                2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

                  That would really be a shame. Over half of the ROW is >50′, enough room to put up some greenery to screen the train and reduce noise. Much of runs along commercial or multi-family properties (not that MF don’t deserve as much political say), both of which tend to be less against this type of investment. And, as noted, parts of it are used as a sea of parking – would train tracks and a train really be worse visually than that? Why is it politically okay to run streetcars down Nicollet, 15 feet from commercial and residential properties (or a light rail along University), but not in an old streetcar right of way? Just because the residents are wealthy? Because single family homes deserve more separation from rail than people in apartments?

                  1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig Post author

                    I checked a few data sources I have. Besides the neighborhood resident issues, there’s another problem. As you noted, most of the 50ft right-of-way is still intact (at least until Beard Ave). But there’s a roughly 3 block segment (from Queen over to what would be Vincent), conveniently situated in the Linden Hills commercial district where there’s parking along the old right-of-way, where the public right-of-way is only 16ft wide. The rest of the old right-of-way through here reverted back to the adjacent property owners. So you’d have to buy out that right of way in order to fit a rail line back in.

                    1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

                      Worst case scenario, an LRT or streetcar could run single track in this section. I would hope that a frequent rail line with a station right near all that parking would be good enough to justify buying it back. Definite challenges, but compared to other transit projects this seems fairly minor 🙂

            2. Keith Morris

              Less bus stops on Hennepin would help, as would some inclusive cycling infrastructure: sharrows and “bikes use full lane” signs would be an improvements.

              The Nicollet-Central streetcar at its total length from 46th St to the Co Heights transit center is 9.6 miles: that’s at least twice as long as either of Portland’s streetcar lines both well under 5 miles each and about a half hour to ride from one end to the other. Over here the problem is that they want the same spacing which means you’re looking to need at least an hour to go from one end to the other: just like you would today with the bus with google saying it’s 58 minutes to cover that on the 11 with 81(!) stops. We need to halve the number of stops for a reasonable end to end trip time and building the middle section of the streetcar line 1st so that instead of one transfer between the 8 and 10 it would require taking a bus and transferring to the streetcar and then another transfer to another bus regardless from which end you start. Either do 46th to Downtown or the transit center to Downtown so that there’s only one bus transfer or don’t bother at all.

  3. Shawn

    Seems like Hwy 55 from DT to Plymouth via SLP’s West End is still ripe for some sort of improved transit. Is that in any of the longer ranged plans?

  4. helsinki

    To me, the map suggests that the entire mid-section of the city between Lowry in the north and 36th St. in the south could benefit from a grid of aBRT lines (like the proposed “A” and “C” lines, but in a square grid, essentially), perhaps de-emphasizing the hub-and-spoke without sacrificing connectivity to downtown.

    1. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      I’ve been mulling this over for a while. You’d think that with the addition of SWLRT, Bottineau, Orange Line,and other highway BRT lines that all act as a more rapid, frequent dedicated ROW hub and spoke model that sacrificing some of the bus lines going downtown and instead continuing on a N-S or E-W path skipping by the core. Transfers would be possible to those radial lines with 10 minute headways most of the day.

      I’m not married to it, of course. About 50% of jobs in Minneapolis are located in downtown, so it makes sense to have transit go where a bunch of people are going anyway. But a far lower % of residents & other daily amenities are not in downtown. Another argument against, it *could require other infrastructure (new street connections across rail yards, or natural features). Plus, the lakes and winding nature of our river (with relatively few crossings) plus the skew of both downtown grids make it a challenge. Anyway, I’d be curious to see a proposal similar to Houston’s for MSP…

      1. helsinki

        All true.

        Still, at the very least, there should be a direct route from North Mpls to SW Mpls, or at least North direct to Uptown. North-South on Lyndale, for instance. It seems like an odd gap in connectivity. All North Mpls lines (5, 22, 19) are routed through or terminate in downtown. Makes more sense to me at least than a number of those tortuously circuitous routes Metro Transit is running now with their innumerable permutations.

  5. Ben

    Looks like this data suggests the extention of the blue line to the NW suburbs does not make sense. I like that.

  6. Monte Castleman

    Things I see:
    Green Line should end in Chanhassen.
    A line from downtown to General Mills to Carlson?
    East-West line from Chanhassen to the airport?
    Nicollet and Greenway streetcars should be good.

    1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig Post author

      I’d like to do this for the other metro counties. The problem is that the census data isn’t in the format I need it to be in order to do such an analysis. I was lucky in that Hennepin County’s was pre-made in a format that made it easy for me to work with.

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