There has been much discussion about how to connect north Minneapolis to the Southwest LRT, and that’s important, but even more important are the connections to the existing Blue Line and Green Line. The connections aren’t very convenient today and they could be much better. Even after Southwest is built, there will be more north siders headed south and east to the U of M, St. Paul, south Minneapolis, the airport and MOA than to points in St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.
Basic coverage of north Minneapolis comes from Route 22 on Lyndale Avenue, Route 5 on Emerson/Fremont and Route 19 on Penn Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway. All three pass through downtown on 7th Street (northbound) and 8th Street (southbound). In a couple of years those are planned to be joined by the C Line BRT which will follow the same route as the 19 bus, with fewer stops but enhanced service. The LRT travels on 5th Street through downtown, which means it’s a two to three block walk to transfer to/from LRT. That’s not very convenient.
For the current plan of the Southwest LRT, which is an extension of the Green Line, the transfer will take place at the Royalston Station (see the map from the SW project office). The 5, 19 and 22 buses would use new stops on 7th Street at 5th Avenue N. Transfer passengers would walk west one block on 5th Avenue, then south one block on Royalston to reach the station. The distance? About 600 feet, still not very convenient, and that’s only the connection to the Green Line. There’s no improvement in the Blue Line connection.
The thing is, if done right, a single station can make convenient connections to all of them– Blue, Green, Southwest and Bottineau, too. The answer is an elevated station that straddles N. 7th Street at Olson Highway, located where I added “Bus transfer point” to the map below. It would resemble the existing Blue Line station at Lake Street. Bus stops would be located directly underneath the station. Presto—convenient access to all LRT lines in all directions.
Please note that the Bottineau Line would share the elevated station. Besides the bus connection, it would offer a cross-platform connection between Bottineau and Southwest, with no backtracking via Target Field Station. That’s a far better idea than the current scheme which has Bottineau dropping down to street level and passing diagonally through the busy 7th-Olson intersection to reach the median of Olson Highway. That’s a bad idea for both traffic delays and safety, and it offers no transfer opportunity.
The bottom line is that despite a chorus calling for better connections between North Minneapolis and LRT, the current plans don’t get the job done. There’s no excuse for that when the solution is so obvious.