Let’s Make Arcade Street a Walkable Neighborhood Center

arcade 1Most older cities, including Saint Paul, have a downtown center that is distinguished by greater density and mixture of uses. On a smaller scale, many neighborhoods have a center where there is a greater concentration of commercial activity.

In Payne-Phalen that neighborhood center is Arlington Hills, and the commercial concentration is along Payne Avenue and Arcade Street.


Books are written on the topic of what makes a place “walkable,” and author Jeff Speck lists these fundamental qualities to a walkable place:
● Useful – there are places to go, not too far
● Safe – pedestrians and cyclists aren’t threatened by cars
● Comfortable – public seating and shade trees
● Interesting – varied architecture, things to look at


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Saint Paul 2013-2015 Ped Crashes


Arcade Street Is Not “Walkable”
In its current condition Arcade Street does not meet the qualities of a walkable street.

● Somewhat Useful – there are some places to go, but lots of empty space
● Unsafe – cars are the highest priority, doesn’t feel safe to walk or cycle
● Uncomfortable – there is no public seating and almost no street trees
● Somewhat Interesting – only certain stretches have neat old buildings

Currently Arcade Street serves as a first choice arterial for people who have no destination on the street itself. Trading underused street space for cycling and pedestrian comfort would be increasing capacity for local users.



Business Benefits, Community Benefits

Research has shown that even if cyclists sometimes spend less money per trip than drivers, they are likely to spend more time in the area and to make more frequent shopping trips. I believe most drivers on Arcade Street are not going to any business or location on Arcade Street. They are traveling through as quickly as possible to shop in Maplewood or work in downtown Saint Paul.

Transforming excess street space for cycling and pedestrian comfort will help turn Arcade Street into an asset for the local community rather than a burden and a barrier.arcade 6

In Arlington Hills we have a somewhat unique position and opportunity. If we can shape both Payne Avenue and Arcade Streets to be comfortable, walkable, and
successful main streets, the homes in between will be highly desirable for their proximity to both. Desirable retail and homes will lead to a larger customer base to support our local businesses.

Arcade Street

arcade 7Arcade Street is also known as US highway 61. In the City of Saint Paul it extends approximately 2 miles between Larpenteur Street and 7th Street E. After US 61 turns west at East 7th, Arcade continues another 2 blocks south to 6th Street.

Sections of Arcade Street include:

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A. By the Golf Course: between Larpenteur Avenue and Nevada Avenue (0.4mi), Arcade Street has 4
travel lanes, one turn lane, and one parking lane.

B. By Johnson High School: between Nevada Avenue and Hawthorne Avenue (0.5mi), Arcade Street is four lanes with no parking.

C. Denser Commercial Zone: In these middle 11 blocks (0.7mi), there is a mix of full parking on both sides and parking limited to just one side.

D. Over the Bridge: between York Avenue and East 7th Street (0.5mi), Arcade Street is four or five lanes with no parking.

A Note on Traffic Volumesarcade 9

Many transportation organizations recommend a “road diet” for volumes under 20,000. Traffic volumes on Arcade Street south of Wheelock Parkway range from 10,200 to 13,600 – all well below the range for a “road diet.” Even north of Wheelock Parkway the volume only increases to 16,100.

Traffic data from MnDOT.

Road Diet info from FHWA.

Adding Bike Lanes

With excessive car traffic lanes for the current volume, the entire Payne-Phalen neighborhood would benefit from increasing the multi-modal capacity of Arcade Street. Instead of only accommodating cars and buses, a multi-modal Arcade Street could increase the comfort and opportunity for pedestrians and cyclists on this important arterial and commercial street. This can be done without negatively impacting the current uses in any significant way. This would go a long way to making Arcade Street more “walkable” and enhancing Arlington Hills, Payne-Phalen’s neighborhood center.


What Could Arcade Look Like?

Here are some before and after images for various sections of Arcade Street.

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Trading Unused Lanes For More Uses

Along most sections of Arcade Street, we could add bike lanes by reducing the excess car lanes. This would not necessarily decrease the volume of car traffic, but it would likely increase the bike and pedestrian traffic to neighborhood businesses and for recreational purposes. On a few blocks adding bike lanes would require removing on-street parking on one side. Because Arcade Street has so many parking lots the effect of this loss would be minimal compared with the return on investment from greater customer access by bicycle.

arcade 24Only five blocks appear to have full on-street parking for both sides of the street.

Block #1 Geranium-Jessamine

Block #2 Jessamine-Magnolia

Block #3 Cook-Lawson

Block #4 Lawson-Jenks

Block #5 Jenks-Case


Block #1 Geranium-Jessaminearcade 20
1. American Legion (parking lot)
2. Vogel’s (parking lot)
3. Chiro Health Clinic (parking lot)

Because of existing parking lots, there would be little adverse effect from losing parking on one side.



Block #2 Jessamine-Magnolia
Businesses:Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 3.37.15 PM
1. HM Metro Realty (side street parking)
2. HA Auto Repair (parking lot)
3. Shops on Arcade (parking lot)
4. Peso Services (parking lot)
5. Walfoort Liquor (parking lot)
6. Saigon Express (parking lot)
7. Tou’s Haircuts (parking lot)
8. Closed Bar (side street parking)

Because of existing parking lots and side streets, there would be little adverse effect from losing parking on one side.

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Block #3 Cook-Lawson

1. Acme Tattoo (street parking)
2. Betta World (street parking)
3. Gold Grillz (street parking)
4. Berger’s Refinishing (empty lot, street parking)

Businesses are only on one side of the street. Some adverse effect could occur from losing parking on one side. However, large empty lots could be utilized for temporary or permanent parking.



Block #4 Lawson-Jenksarcade 22

1. Metro Wireless (empty lot, side street)
2. Church (parking lot)
3. Karen Market (parking lot, side street)
4. Trusted Family Insurance (parking lot)
5. Cadem Law Group (parking lot)
6. Health & Wellness Chiro (parking lot)
7. J&E Antiques (street parking)
8. Checkerboard Pizza (perpendicular side street spaces)

J&E Antiques may have adverse effects from parking loss. The large empty lot could be utilized for temporary or permanent parking.

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Block #5 Jenks-Case
1. Spartan (parking lot)
2. All About Insurance (city parking lot)
3. Union Made Buttons (city parking lot)
4. Sensuel (city parking lot)
5. 52 Market (parking lot)
6. Minnesota Ceramic Supply (parking lot)

Because of existing parking lots, there would be little adverse effect from losing parking on one side.



A Final Note on the Mill and Overlay Plans

Some previously available MnDOT documents indicated they will be performing a mill and overlay (resurfacing) of Arcade Street between Wheelock Parkway and East 7th Street in 2022. According to this document MnDOT and the City of St. Paul are already considering a 4-3 conversion on portions of East 7th and Arcade Street. This may be the only chance to do anything significant to improve Arcade Street for a very long time.

Eric Saathoff

About Eric Saathoff

Eric Saathoff is a public school teacher living in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul. He is a regular walker, cyclist, transit user, and driver with his wife and three young children. Eric serves on the Payne-Phalen Community Council and the St Paul Transportation Committee.