East Lake Murals

Symptoms and Causes of Car Dependency on Lake Street

I want to talk about Lake Street. Specifically, East Lake Street. More specifically, East Lake from about 35W to about 36th Ave S.

There’s a ton I like about this stretch. Every tortilleria, taqueria, and independent grocery, for example. The proximity to Powderhorn Park, a jewel in the Minneapolis Park system. The Midtown Global Market.

But right now, I want to talk about this:

A Map of Auto parts Stores on Lake Street

A Map of Auto Parts stores on East Lake

How? Why??? Why are there 6 auto parts stores on Lake in a 2.5 mile stretch?

Now compare that pattern to how the hardware stores and pharmacies are distributed:

South Minneapolis Hardware Stores

A map of South Minneapolis Hardware Stores

Pharmacies in South Minneapolis

A map of Major Pharmacies in South Minneapolis

There are NONE on or near the same stretch of Lake Street—no those two red pins in the middle aren’t actually hardware stores. Are those business types allergic to the neighborhoods or residents of Phillips, Powderhorn and Corcoran? Do we not need prescriptions filled, or tools and home-repair goods?

I’m not going to speculate how either of these patterns of geographic distribution make sense (they don’t). But I am going to talk about how it makes me feel, as someone who lives in the center of this… phenomenon.

It sucks. Particularly as I go up and down Lake Street on a bus, past auto parts store after auto parts store. It’s a constant reminder of how many people need to be DIY car mechanics because we don’t have adequate transit or complete neighborhoods, even in the core of the city. We force people into expensive car ownership; as a result we get this ridiculous auto-parts store density on a major transit corridor — Route 21 was Metro Transit’s second busiest route in 2017. And people have to come (in their cars) to clog up Lake street because those stores are concentrated there instead of distributed more sensibly.

The net effect is that East Lake Street less hospitable to everyone outside of a car, and in particular the people who live near it. In order to get non-car necessities we have to take a trip out of our neighborhood, and people who need to repair their own cars need to make a trip into our neighborhood to get what they need. The result: a manifestation of and a contributing factor for the vicious cycle of car dependency in the middle of Minneapolis..

I’m just going to end this by saying no, these patterns and geographic distributions aren’t necessary consequences of economics or “the market.” So what’s it going to take to encourage a new pattern to emerge and for the people of East Lake to get access to a wider variety of necessities? How can we ensure / encourage / incentivize sensible, more efficient distribution of retailers to bring about the complete neighborhoods we need to break the cycle of car dependency?

Christa M

About Christa M

Attorney. I do law stuff, ride bikes, and paint murals. Member of Hourcar & Nice Ride, and customer of Freewheel Bike and The Hub Bike Co-op.

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