Downtown Buses Slow as Hell, Three Miles of Transit Tunnels and Bridges Planned Elsewhere

For a couple of months now, local route buses heading north and south through Downtown Minneapolis have been detoured off Nicollet Mall while a $50 million dollar rebuild of that street has gotten underway. Right now buses are running three blocks away on 3rd Avenue South, but they’ll be moving over to Hennepin Avenue next month. The detoured routes include the Route 10, 11, 17, 18, and 25–some of the busiest in the system.

It’s been…less than ideal so far, and will probably get worse with the move to Hennepin Avenue, but winter is coming. I’ve probably substituted half my downtown transit trips with Nice Ride or walking if I can think of some sort of errand halfway between my office and apartment. With winter and snow and ice and fewer bikers, the bus ride will probably not be great. The Route 4 and 6 on Hennepin Avenue are also very busy routes in the system, and the 6 is pretty legendary for being terribly slow in rush hour–it’s less than three miles on Hennepin from 4th Street to Lake Street, but it can take anywhere from half an hour to three to five business days on a bus.

Previously, buses would bunch up three or four or five to a block on Nicollet Mall, right now they’re winding around the gauntlet below, mixed in with rush hour automobile traffic. I was on a bus whose mirror hit the mirror of another bus. Not the end of the world! But ridership is down–good for remaining users, honestly, but probably not a great business plan.

It’s a tricky situation. Nicollet Mall was badly broken as a transit facility–it should not take 15 or 20 minutes to travel a mile in the afternoon rush hour. But at least Nicollet is in the middle of everything.

Looking at other options, Lasalle Avenue doesn’t go all the way through and Marquette and 2nd Avenue can’t really take on the additional local route buses given the ton of express buses it deals with during rush hour. There have been vague rumblings about the appearance of suburban express buses getting a superior route through downtown; I’m all about complaining about the appearance of that, but anecdotally those buses are already stacking up eight to a red light and we probably don’t want to screw that up out of spite. Here’s Marquette Avenue yesterday.

Downtown Minneapolis has a pretty high transit modeshare–about 40% of its 160,000 workers take a train or bus and that employment is pretty densely packed around a few north-south avenues in the western half of downtown. Employment has been flat for a while, but there are cranes everywhere, and the downtown area has been adding a thousand residents every few months for a bit now.

The recent decision by Minnesota United FC to build a soccer stadium in Saint Paul notwithstanding, Downtown Minneapolis is very much the economic, cultural, and spiritual heart of a large and prosperous metropolitan region that will probably continue to grow and be prosperous for a while. Plans for a 50 story tower on Marquette Avenue were announced just yesterday! We have a future to prepare for.

So, you know, one thing we should probably be doing right now is planning some sort of transit tunnel in Downtown Minneapolis.

~*~the sound of hundreds of Very Serious And Realistic People clicking x on this tab registers ever so slightly on the big map on the ground floor of the Science Museum of Minnesota that displays seismic activity~*~

There is no money! Things cost money, and we have none of that money–money is not available and cannot be found. You are terrible for even suggesting it and you, specifically, Magrino, you’re an idiot and the only three things you’ve written that anyone has read were crude and boorish.

Hard to disagree with some of those points, however, there is a ton of money that is spent on transit in Minnesota, somehow. Much of it is, as you know, is sort of tied up in weird knots in specific buckets on different platforms on ships sailing away from each other in a sea of political considerations. But a lot of the time, there is some initial decision to, say, build an $85 million dollar public amphitheater behind Target Field using transit money–even if the feds pay for half, the other half is still coming from somewhere.

We’ll skip making a list, but rest assured there are hundreds of millions of dollars of local spending flowing to transit capital projects around here on a regular basis, and many of those projects are dubious. Not to mention the billions of dollars in total metro area transportation spending building speculative freeways out into the hinterlands. You should apply for one of the vacancies on the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Advisory Board. Applications are due today.

One thing we could think about, for example, are all the bridges and tunnels on the Green Line extension after it leaves Minneapolis. This has been wildly under-reported in the media and elsewhere! Please sit down and watch this entire YouTube video.

Don’t want to watch it? Alright here’s a slideshow–er, can’t do it, the YouTube video and the engineering PDFs are not zoomed out enough to fully capture the three largest bridges or the Kenilworth tunnel in a single frame.

That’s a lot of bridges over freeways and swamps, as well as some just over regular roads. There’s a tunnel under Highway 62, as well as under that bike trail in Kenilworth. Here are the numbers, including the length of each stretch. They’re at 60% engineering right now and numbers are subject to some final adjustment. The numbers are from the project office:

  • Bridge over Prairie Center Drive & Technology Drive – 2,686 feet
  • Bridge over I-494 – 195 feet
  • Bridge over Prairie Center Drive & Highway 212 onramp – 997 feet
  • Bridge over Nine Mile Creek & Flying Cloud Drive – 1,406 feet
  • Bridge over Highway 212 & Shady Oak Road – 2,919 feet
  • Tunnel under Highway 62 – 582 feet
  • Bridge over wetlands and Canadian Pacific tracks near planned OMF – 3,000 feet
  • Bridge over Excelsior Boulevard – 1,620 feet
  • Bridge over Minnehaha Creek – 90 feet
  • Bridge over Louisiana Avenue – 146 feet
  • Bridge over Highway 100 – 212 feet
  • Tunnel under Kenilworth – 2,236 feet
  • Bridge over Kenilworth Channel – 75 feet

A mile is 5,280 feet, and the above encompasses just over three miles of grade separated transit–you’ll note that the existing Green Line runs through Downtown Minneapolis and along University Avenue at grade, among and across some of the busiest streets in the region.

Nicollet Mall from Grant Street to Washington Avenue is about a mile. The east to west stretch from the elevation change near Target Field to the elevation change near the new Vikings Stadium is a little over a mile. Is the above list of tunnels and bridges at all financially comparable to tunneling under Downtown Minneapolis? Obviously, no.

But at some point, a decision was made to pick that Eden Prairie alignment through swamps and over highways, and it was picked over a different Eden Prairie alignment in existing railroad right-of-way. You’re probably familiar with that Uptown vs. Kenilworth routing discussion in Minneapolis, but there was also a choice out on the tail end of the line.

“1” alignment in blue, “3” alignment in yellow

The “1” alignment stuck to an old rail corridor that Hennepin County purchased some number of years ago, though unlike the “3” alignment, it didn’t really hit much other than single family houses. The “1” alignment beats the “3” alignment on golf course access (score: 2-0) while one of the now-deferred stations on the “3” alignment is a mere 15 minute walk from the American Eagle Outfitters at Eden Prairie Center Mall.

Either way, not really amazing, but hey! A decision was clearly made here, and there was an obvious engineering challenge and cost difference associated with the decision.

The “1” alignment had a single bridge and tunnel west of Hopkins (page 21) whereas the chosen alignment has six bridges and a tunnel (it also turned out to be routed through hundreds of millions of dollars worth of swamp, but no one could have known there was a swamp there). The Hennepin County board and others looked at the situation and decided that attempting to serve the stuff along the “3” alignment was worth the extra cost. A mere six years later, the train isn’t quite running, nor has construction even started, but we are finally accounting for the number of “significant” trees in the Kenilworth corridor.

The Green Line extension to Eden Prairie is happening, though. And again, there does appear (?) to be money for transit. Not to mention political capital–a lot of effort went into saving the line during its recent $341 million dollar cost increase/near-death experience.

And so what we need now is for serious people to start seriously discussing the need for one or two transit tunnels in Downtown Minneapolis, rather than 15 or 20 years from now. Could be a combination bus/rail tunnel like Seattle, could be a bus tunnel like Boston, could be a streetcar tunnel that would make the Nicollet-Central project a far more worthy endeavor. There are many roads to Duluth, a wise man once said.

Every few months a new development project is announced downtown, and we lose another surface parking lot that could be a potential tunnel portal or potential property whose increase in taxable value could be used to fund said tunnel. The existing north-south transit routes through Downtown Minneapolis are terrible, and they’re not slated to improve in the next 15 years. We should be planning for the future, not some version of 1987.

Nick Magrino

About Nick Magrino

Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.

44 thoughts on “Downtown Buses Slow as Hell, Three Miles of Transit Tunnels and Bridges Planned Elsewhere

  1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    The Seattle transit tunnel is pretty amazing. And a friend once told me that tunneling in Minneapolis is actually much cheaper than in many other cities, due to something to do with our bedrock. Could actual geologists or structural engineers confirm this?

    What would be the speed savings X how many people would benefit from these savings X how many new riders would be attracted to transit that actually moved through downtown faster than you can power walk?

    Tunneling under a lake is more difficult, I am assuming.

    But you know downtown Minneapolis is all about skyways, not tunnels.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      A recent story about the Anderson library said that sandstone beneath the harder upper layers made it’s huge underground caverns possible. Not sure how much broader that applies.

    2. Nicole

      Tunneling is expensive no matter what the ground conditions are here or anywhere. The best way to sell the idea of a tunnel, and particularly a deep bore tunnel, more than 1/2 mile long where you can take advantage of tunnel boring machine technology, to a community is to promote the priceless benefits. Quality of life–for everyone whether you’re in a car underground or on bike or foot above ground. Jobs for people building the tunnel and for operations work after it’s completed. Less disruption on the surface during construction compared to open-trench work.

      1. Matt Brillhart

        Those are really great suggestions for building public consensus. I’d add “It’s cold as heck here 5 months out of the year and a tunnel would partially protect from the elements”.

        At the bare minimum, we could at least allocate money for a tunnel study. Of all the things we throw money at studying, I feel like people could largely agree that spending a couple million on a tunnel study would not be the worst thing.

      2. Wayne

        Just as a fun thought experiment, I wonder how deep and how expensive it would need to be to bore straight under the river and falls? I know there were accidents in the past when they tried to dig tailrace tunnels between islands for mills, but if you go deep enough are things geologically stable enough to support it? I doubt laying down precast tunnel sections isn’t feasible for the crossing (at least not around downtown/Hennepin/third ave), so it seems like you’d need to bore way down to connect the east bank of the river or bring any tunnel back up to the surface for the crossing. If you ever wanted to convert it to subway style rail for the longer trains, that would be problematic to keep the grade separation necessary for that kind of service.

      3. Alex

        That’s a great point. The recent Nicollet Mall reconstruction planning would have been a great time to bring up the advantages of a bus tunnel there — all the people clamoring for the buses to be moved off of Nicollet could have been rallied around the tunnel idea. But that would have taken leaders who think realistically about transit, and the Twin Cities doesn’t have any of those.

        It’s not irrelevant to mention that tunneling is cheaper in the Twin Cities than in many places though, because any discussion of tunneling is always immediately cut off when someone mentions that tunnels cost a billion dollars a mile in Seattle or New York. There is actual proof that tunneling can be done cheaply here – in 2004 a tunnel over a mile long was built with one station under the airport for $120m. That is actual proof that exists in a fact. So, yes, expensive, but not as expensive, and definitely worthwhile mentioning the many positives.

        1. Wayne

          I’ve been advocating for the tunnel idea for about a decade, and I got extra vocal when they started talking about rebuilding the mall. But everyone was too busy arguing about SWLRT being totally necessary and the bestest transit improvement ever to pay me any attention.

    3. Doug TrummDoug T

      The Seattle downtown transit tunnel is pretty great but as the city attempts to get more light rail lines up that just the one it will quickly get congested with buses in there and there is already talk of digging a second one. So I guess doing everything in one tunnel is great in theory but its hard to get the busses out of there should trains need the space as they scale up.

  2. helsinki

    Los Angeles is building a two-mile downtown subway tunnel, connecting 4 LRT lines (eerily similar to our Blue/Green/SWLRT/Bottineau configuration). It’s called the Regional Connector. The cost is $1.42 billion.

    Consider, though, that it’s (1) in an active seismic zone – which Mpls is not, (2) the topography of downtown LA is extremely uneven – again, unlike Mpls, and (3) they’re using a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) which is vastly more expensive than the “cut and cover” method, which would be perfectly suitable for Minneapolis.

    1. Nicole

      I can’t speak specifically to the Regional Connector, but a lot of the LRT and public transit development in LA, including some of the other tunnelling for light rail lines, has been approved by voters, as part of Measure R, I believe. They know they have a lot of public support from the get go, which helps when selecting something like tunneling vs. cut and cover and other less innovative options.

      It’d be great to have more underground infrastructure in Minneapolis, but after watching the SW Light Rail alignment debate I have little faith it will ever happen.

      1. helsinki

        Yes, much of the funding came from Measure R. At the same time, a large portion of Measure R revenue is dedicated to roadway and highway “improvements”. Indeed, the measure bears a strong similarity to the MoveMN campaign in the manner in which it disguises automobile infrastructure investment under the mantra of multi-modality. So, the notion that individual projects were “approved” by referendum is somewhat misleading.

    2. Nathanael

      LA has all kinds of crazy geological problems. MSP is simple.

      NYC… has problems with the contracting system which allow the contractors to grift like mad. Most of the costs in NYC are basically graft, I’m sorry to say. Those prices shouldn’t be used as a model for anywhere else in the world.

  3. Matt Brillhart

    In general, I’d prefer a North-South tunnel for buses (and possible streetcar) over tunneling for the existing 5th Street LRT spine.

    Tunneling the LRT spine itself might be doable, but connecting back to the surface would seem extremely difficult/expensive on both ends. Too bad we didn’t take advantage of the massive excavations done for those two stadiums, building station portals at the same time. Doing that would have required planning for a tunnel a decade ago when the Blue Line opened and we failed to do so. In terms of time savings, I don’t think the LRT tunnel would save as much time as people might think it would. It would have one less station (combining Nicollet & Hennepin into one larger underground station), but would still travel pretty slowly throughout downtown. How much time would that really save between the football stadium and the baseball stadium? 2 minutes per trip? Is that worth a billion dollars?

    At first blush it seems like a N-S bus tunnel would be the better transit investment because it could replace Nicollet Mall AND the Marq2 facility. Sure, Marq2 is just 5 years old, so it and the “new” Nicollet will last at least another 25 years. I don’t see the harm in starting to plan for their replacement. In fact, given that Met Council’s current land use and transportation plans are called “Thrive 2040”, it would seem foolish NOT to plan for a north-south transit tunnel to open in the year 2040. We’ve got <25 years and counting…let's get started.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      It’s almost like a $5 million per block redo of Nicollet Mall would have been the perfect time to also get in a cut-and-cover tunnel for buses and future trains under Nicollet Mall.

      1. Wayne

        This is the number one biggest missed opportunity in the twin cities in the last decade (and probably the next).

        It reminds me of how Boston dropped the ball on including the North-South rail link between their two downtown train stations when they did the CA/T (big dig) project that quite literally went directly between both stations and had impacts to both during construction. Except that was a lot more expensive and pretty much sealed the fate of the north-south link as never going to happen.

        1. Nathanael

          The Big Dig in Boston was fundamentally a criminal enterprise. They promised a bunch of transit expansions as legal mitigation for the vastly increased tailpipe emissions… then spent over 25 years trying to weasel out of their legal commitments. People should be executed for that.

          They were, however, obligated to clear a path for the N-S Rail Link as part of the Big Dig; basically they can run through and remove the dirt and they have a tunnel. This makes the portion of the tunnel under the Big Dig easy.

          The cost for the N-S Rail Link has always been the connections at both ends, where it separates from the Big Dig. At the north end, they need a new underground station, a new tunnel under the river, an underground flying junction, and connections to two rail lines. At the south end they need a new underground station, a new tunnel under a canal, two underground flying junctions, and connections to *three* rail lines. The center section of it would actually be the easy part.

          1. Wayne

            They’re actually *still* trying to get out of the transit committments they made by inflating the price of the green line extension to Somerville and Medford and crying poverty.

            But I’d say your spot on about everything except the last line. The center section *would have* been the easy part, but with the big dig over but still fresh in everyone’s memory, no one is eager to tear it all up again and the engineering challenges in working around a highway tunnel that wasn’t built to accomodate a rail tunnel nearby make it just as difficult as the other sections would be.

            Also I’m not sure how they could possibly add an underground approach at south station with I-90, silver line, and red line tunnels already threaded around the area and the grade needed for heavy rail.

  4. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

    I don’t think the cost would be as high as some estimate. I’ll repeat a comment from a different Magrino post:

    “Well, Baltimore’s Red Line LRT project includes a ~3 mile tunnel through downtown with 5 stations. Looking at FTA docs/other sources, it looks like the downtown tunnel added about $550m compared to a surface line along the same route. Assuming a 1.5 mile tunnel length through downtown with a few fixed costs, I’d say $300m is not an outrageous guess.”

    Seattle’s bus/LRT tunnel cost shy of $500m about 25 years ago for 1.3 miles, but that’s also in a seismic zone with much more difficult soil conditions.

    That said, I agree with Matt that a N-S tunnel would be a better investment if you had to pick one. We did miss the boat with 2 stadium constructions, but realistically the Blue and Green lines aren’t slowed down that much by lights today, and we likely won’t have any additional service on the tracks any time soon. My thought experiment for time savings from the same post:

    “Just a thought experiment. If we assume a tunnel similar to Seattle’s that does bus+LRT (handles 19 bus routes in addition to trains), we could move all the E-W buses down there as well. That’s well north of 10k bus passengers plus Blue/Green riders (let’s say combined 30k a day through downtown, being conservative). $300million bonded over 30 years at 5% is $28.5m/yr.

    Let’s assume all 40k passengers every weekday save just 1 minute per trip in a tunnel. That’s 10.4 million minutes saved a year (only on weekdays), or 173.3k hours. That’s spending $164 per hour saved – pretty high and probably not worth it. This ignores savings to drivers, pedestrians, buses crossing the LRT’s path, etc, but also ignores added time to get below the surface. 1 minute may also be underestimating the average time spent waiting.”

    1. Wayne

      I disagree with your math. For starters the downtown bus congestion issue is closer to 15-20 minutes (30 on really bad days) if you’re a through-traveler. Secondly, using current ridership discounts the future riders whose time would also be important. AND by getting exclusive ROW through downtown you can actually increase capacity to carry even more riders. They use ridership growth estimates for roads all the time to justify expenditures, and they don’t even have to live in reality where those estimates match up to actual growth (since they’ve been consistently overestimating it for … way too long? forever maybe?). Plus no one bothers trying to calculate saved time for cars to justify capacity expansions, why the double standard? Let’s just start estimating 10% yearly growth in transit ridership and demanding excessive funds to meet the demand. We can build out enough transit with the funds to induce demand and even if it doesn’t hit the 10% estimate we’ll keep using the same estimate year after year and not bother adjusting it for reality (just like they do for cars!)

      1. Wayne

        Unless of course I misread that to think you were talking about N-S and not east-west. I still think east-west is needed, but not anywhere near as urgently as N-S.

      2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

        To your point below, yes I was talking the E-W spine. In general, N/S streets don’t have the traffic that demands long signal timing the way E-W streets (that funnel to multiple freeways on each end) do, hence why a N-S tunnel would probably make more sense. I don’t know that 15-20 minutes of congestion on N-S routes is accurate, since the schedule for buses says it only takes ~13-15 minutes to go from 3rd St to Grant St. A tunnel would help a lot, but right now a good portion of the time comes from boarding times & travel speeds. I’m guessing you could cut out a couple minutes at best with a tunnel (and given the ridership on N-S routes it would be totally worth it), but nothing on the order of >10 through downtown.

        “Plus no one bothers trying to calculate saved time for cars to justify capacity expansions” – actually, they do. It’s a big problem with justifying spending money for gains that won’t actually materialize, only in how much people value their time. I only did the calculation as a rough thought exercise using standard methodology. It’s a good way to equate costs and benefits and compare them across different potential spending opportunities, but a bad way to actually go spend the money IMO.

        1. Wayne

          Here’s one place where the schedule is imaginary fun land compared to reality. Even before the detour 30 minutes on the mall was pretty standard during rush hours (on a good day). I’ve had days where it took more than an hour from one end of downtown to the other. I very seriously could have (and sometimes did) walk faster by a large margin. I don’t see anything they’re doing in their fun little rebuild of the mall to actually improve anything for transit riders (in fact, I’m pretty worried it’s going to make it worse).

          So yes, if the world worked according to metro transit schedules the time savings is small, but in reality the numbers are so far from the truth it’s laughable. And even if it was only a few minutes, the capacity improvements would be worth it alone. Speaking of the boarding times though, I find it hard to believe they’d build out a tunnel and not put either off-board payment or even turnstyles in as part of that. Which would certainly give some great speed gains you can’t get from a pretty little gentrified nicollet designed to make office workers more comfortable and transit riders less so. Those ticket vending machines just look so out of place with the cute seating they want to add to sip coffee on!

          My point was more than when they do those analyses for cars they use made up numbers with little basis in reality and no one ever checks their work or gives them guff for being really wrong over and over again in their estimates. Yet we’re stuck using methodologies that consistently underestimate transit ridership and are *so* surprised when they beat the dodgy estimates after a year or two.

    2. Peter Bajurny

      It’d be interesting to ride the train back and forth downtown all day and see how long it spends at stop lights on each journey (maybe Metro Transit has that data some way or there’s a way to calculate it somehow from other data). A transit tunnel, if it went underground before Chicago, would also greatly improve transfers at DTE, as that whole area between the interlocks and DTE station is a mess. I’ve taken the train into downtown twice a day every work day for 11 months now, and I think I could count on one hand the number of times the train didn’t have to stop at the stoplight to cross Chicago.

      It’d also be interesting to calculate this added downtown ridership from Blue and Green extensions.

      1. Kay

        Sounds like a great crowd-sourced data collection project for readers. You could track time stopped at red lights, boarding passengers, etc. There are some cool multi-track stopwatch apps that would make this stuff easy for anyone on their commute to collect.

  5. Julia

    Intriguing idea. I’d like to throw into the mix a suggestion that we draw from Seoul’s subway system, which includes a number of really vibrant commercial districts underground. Granted, when we’re at current low-density, we run into the risks of social stratification/private jurisdiction of public spaces and commercial unsustainability of non-ground-level retail, as we’ve seen with the skyways. But with appropriate planning (to preserve the public good/freedom of speech, etc), by the time any subway system is built, I would expect downtown Minneapolis to be able to sustain three levels of commercial (or two, if the skyways get the boot).

    Additionally, what about Osloing/Suwoning downtown Mpls, or at least 1-2 streets in each direction for transit? I love subways, but we (and our climate) need more reliable/higher volume mass transit starting much sooner than it’ll take to agree on, fund, and tunnel.

    (Am I the only one who just doesn’t refer to streets downtown by cardinal directions? Upstream/downtstream? Towards/From river?)

  6. Joe ScottJoe Scott

    Good article but I just have to change one thing: Downtown Minneapolis *used to be* very much the economic, cultural, and spiritual heart of a large and prosperous metropolitan region that will probably continue to grow and be prosperous for a while, *but is now an embarrassing corporate office park most residents rarely visit.*

    1. Wayne

      Up until recently I would have agreed wholeheartedly with this, but the sheer amount of housing added in the last 5 years makes me a bit wary to go along with downtown bashing like I used to. There’s going to be three downtown grocery stores and tens of thousands of units of housing, many of them new. It certainly isn’t quite the downtown of olden days, but for modern times it’s actually doing pretty well in most economic/cultural measures. They just refuse to catch up in terms of pedestrian and transit infrastructure. It’s still built like a race-track for cars and that’s what really needs to change.

      1. Julia

        Same here. I used to avoid downtown post-Block-E, except for bus transfers, biking through to the U, and the library, though I’d hung out downtown in highschool and went there frequently in grade school. I hated going there on a Friday/Saturday–rowdy suburbanites spilling out of places I was uninterested in, honking and dangerous car traffic.

        Now I have friends and family who live there, though. I do some (grocery/wine) shopping there because it’s often on my way. I’m heading there for happy hour in a bit with someone who also avoided it in the past much as I did.

  7. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

    FYI (for everyone), the ca. 1990 LRT studies envisioned the downtown LRT tunnel going primarily underneath Marquette Ave. It veered off near the northern end and would have surfaced near the river and west of Hennepin.

    1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

      You know, I’d be fine with any future N/S running down Marquette. One block off Nicollet ain’t bad. More hotels and residences are there anyway.

      1. Matt Brillhart

        I’d agree Marquette is probably the ideal street to tunnel under. On the north end, the tunnel could probably just surface right in the middle of Marquette Avenue, somewhere on that superblock between Washington and 1st St. Buses could then turn left or right on 1st, to cross the river on Hennepin or Central, respectively.

        Obviously the tunnel would need to be wider underground to allow for stations (etc.), but is there any reason the portals themselves would need to be much more than ~26′ wide? (two 11′ lanes, plus 3′ each side for curbs, walls, etc.) Couldn’t this bus tunnel just surface right in the center of the street on either end?

        Example: Like twice the width of this guy here,-93.2753742,3a,37.5y,188.53h,79.39t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spXNMHeIYXVgf0bDFD8Qk4A!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

        1. Joe T

          If it’s commuter buses I would want 3 lanes, 4 for local (3 maybe if stations were offset for NB/SB) so that loading buses don’t delay those behind them. Essentially, let’s build it to a higher level of BRT than Nicollet Mall just without stop lights.

        2. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

          I can think of one good reason to make the portals wider than 26ft: to enable future conversion to rail. You’d need a minimum 34ft (and more likely 36ft) in order to fit LRT.

  8. Sam

    If people want these local routes to use the bus lanes on Marquette and 2nd ave, I’d encourage them to actually go take a ride down Marquette and onto 35w during afternoon rush hour. After riding these routes for 2 years, I finally discovered that the 18 will almost always get me to Nicollet and 46th quicker than the 146 or 535 (not to mention that the 18 runs much more frequently). The marq 2 corridor has got to be over capacity, not to mention that it takes foreverrr to load those Southwest coach buses that only have 1 door and 6 steps up to climb.
    Trust me, those of you that can’t/don’t use Marq/2, you’re NOT missing anything.

    1. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

      Yeah, I think it’s a bad idea and they’re not doing it.

      If it weren’t for parking garage access along Marquette and 2nd Avenues, it would have been nice to have done that treatment with the express buses on one single street (both ways) and then the other street for local buses.

    2. Wayne

      I only want local buses to the use the Marq2 lanes if the suburban buses can get booted to a random mish-mash of detours all over downtown and have those detours change a couple times a year to keep them guessing and make sure it’s never too convenient for too long.

      Except that will never happen because metro transit thinks if they’re slightly inconvenienced they’ll go back to driving and it will be the ruination of the entire transit system.

    3. Wayne

      “Trust me, those of you that can’t/don’t use Marq/2, you’re NOT missing anything.”

      I’m missing electronic signs with real time arrival information. At most of the detoured stops I’m missing any kind of shelter or map or schedule information (those handwritten signs with the list of buses that stop SURE ARE HELPFUL).

      The shelter issue will go away when the detour changes to Hennepin, but the fact they put a detour in place without shelters or proper signage/information in the first place is reprehensible.

      But seriously, when are we getting real time arrival information for local buses? Is that even part of the nicollet mall rebuild? Because if it’s not, I’m giving up on even pretending there’s equity between suburban and urban service here. I can’t wait to see what kind of ‘light breezey’ shelters they put on Nicollet that probably won’t provide any actual protection from the elements because that might get in the way of their grand vision and look tacky or encourage people who aren’t downtown yuppies to congregate there.

    4. Nathanael

      Blame Jarrett Walker for selling his particular brand of “buses can do everything trains can” to Minneapoiis planners.

      That got you these terrible “Marq2” bus lanes.

      He’s good at designing grid networks, but he’s a complete idiot when it comes to infrastructure, because he has an irrational bias against trains.

    1. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

      It would help, and I hope it gets done, but with 6 or 7 or 8 busy bus routes the real problem is going to be bunching and cross streets. That was the issue with Nicollet, it’s going to be way worse on Hennepin. Gonna feel at least a little bad for people from South Dakota going to a [insert country musician] concert accidentally getting in the turn lane and getting boxed in.

      …if you think about it, that angle is maybe how we should be lobbying for an enforced bus lane. We might confuse some tourists!

    2. Wayne

      Haven’t you seen the signs? The right lanes are already restricted to buses, bikes, and right turns only.

      It’s the last part that breaks everything because there’s nothing to discourage drivers from driving in that lane the entire way and on the slim chance they were ever stopped for it they could just say they were about to turn right. Of couse they don’t have to worry about that anyway because the police have put zero effort into enforcing it. It’s more of a laughable suggestion at this point.

  9. Pingback: Please Enforce Hennepin Avenue Bus + Bike Lanes |

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