Imagine the city came to a local business street or node and proposed something like a bike lane, wider sidewalks, or any other design change that might cause vehicle traffic passing by to choose another route instead. Maybe the city wants to put in parking meters. The expected drop in traffic would be something like 10-20% over the next decade. What would the business community’s reaction be?
What if I told you daily traffic counts along major commercial streets in Minneapolis have been dropping for the past 10-15 years? The map above shows points along a selection of streets across Minneapolis, with nearly all of them losing motor vehicles passing by each day. Here’s an example chart showing points along Hennepin Ave from Franklin to Uptown:
The average drop in daily traffic counts across all points measured was just shy of 20%. East Lake Street is the only one of the bunch that saw traffic counts generally hold or grow over the time period. And, like nationwide VMT trends, the peaks typically occurred before the economic downturn in 2007:
Most areas of the city are seeing residential and commercial renaissances, with the greater Uptown area adding thousands of residents since traffic peaked along Hennepin, Lake, and Lyndale between 2003 and 2005. But for a few micro-economies along these corridors, it’d be hard to argue businesses have struggled as a result of falling vehicle traffic. I doubt most business owners are even aware of this trend. My takeaway: we should be at least a little skeptical when businesses predict doom and gloom due to public realm changes.