12 Ideas to Improve Downtown Mobility

I was walking through the skyway near Nicollet Mall on Monday and watching the backed up traffic below. Single occupancy fossil fuel vehicles, car commuters, were “blocking the box” and preventing buses full of other commuters from getting home on time. The flow of pedestrians at every signal cycle was more than the number of cars had passed through.

It’s not radical to say that we need to radically change how we get around in the Twin Cities.

Employers find success relocating to connected downtowns where there is greater access to talent, and right now that talent is stuck in congestion on a bus that can’t get through an intersection. Downtown Minneapolis accounts for 34.8 percent of all metro office space, and Downtown St. Paul accounts for 8.9 percent.

Improving mobility in downtowns isn’t just good for business, it also reduces carbon emissions, cleans the air of harmful pollutants, and increases safety.

Here are a few ideas of how we can improve mobility in our downtowns. They are ranked from “just need some paint” to “we really need a bigger excavator.” Comment below with your favorite one, or if you really disagree with any of them.

Lime Scooters At Gateway Park May 23 2019

Lime scooters at Gateway Park on May 23. Photo: Author

Auction for a New Scooter Cap at 4,000

This one is very simple and doesn’t need any paint! It’s hard to find a nearby scooter in the afternoon or evening that doesn’t have a dead battery. We know that electric scooters are a popular way to extend your trip to or from transit or navigate Downtown. For 2020, both cities should raise their caps to 4,000 scooters and auction off those slots to make the most return on the public investment. Operators would be limited to half of the cap. An auction with full payment up-front would decrease the chance that an operator would walk away after a few months, like what happened with Jump — owned by Uber — in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Scooter Parking At 100 Washington Square August 5 2019

Scooter parking installed by Minneapolis Public Works at 100 Washington Ave S. Photo: Author

Public Scooter Parking

This is an idea that is already being implemented. We have a lot of vacant street parking for single occupancy vehicles and neighbors complaining about scooters being parked near crosswalks or blocking narrow sidewalks. Public Works in Minneapolis has recently been installing scooter parking.

Public Bike Parking

As a Streets.MN reader, you don’t need me to tell you that there is a dearth of accessible bike parking in Minnesota, let alone the downtowns. Like with scooter parking, Public Works could easily replace street parking with high-quality bike parking in a matter of weeks with the right funding.

A note on street parking: The stated purpose of street parking for single occupancy fossil fuel vehicles is to give people outside of Downtown an easy way to get to a meeting in Downtown, and subsidize their parking so they frequent local businesses. So we have a situation where some people are being subsidized to use 160 square feet of prime real estate, just so that they can save money when visiting their lawyer.

I strongly believe Downtown streets should be designed for Downtown residents and workers first. This ties into a later idea.

Woman riding on a two-way protected bike lane, not dying. Photo: Seattle DOT

Protected Bike and Bus Lanes

Every street in Downtown should have one lane converted from single occupancy fossil fuel vehicles to bikes and scooters. If possible, and working with Metro Transit, cities should design routes for bus lanes. It may be advantageous to convert smaller streets to one-way to include a car lane, two-way bikes and scooters, and two-way busses with a median to stop at.

Awnings and intersection rain shelters in Wellington.

Better Bus and Light Rail Shelters

This one is simple, but needs investment. Ridership on bus and light rail will improve if we don’t have to stand in the rain or snow.

Northstar heavy rail line from Minneapolis to Big Lake

Only about 2,000 trips are taken on Northstar every day. Map: Metro Transit

Replace Northstar with a Commuter Bus that Goes to St. Cloud

The last time that the Metropolitan Council crunched the number on farebox receipts, it found that Northstar was subsidized to the tune of $18.31 per passenger compared to $1.84 for light rail. The most expensive express bus, to Prior Lake, was still less than half the subsidy of Northstar, at $7.47. There were only 723,000 trips on Northstar around 2015, about 2,000 per day. Diesel electric, heavy rail is not the answer here. If a commuter bus that goes to St. Cloud makes it with an eight dollar subsidy, great! But if it doesn’t make sense, then let’s invest in affordable housing where jobs are in both downtowns and the exurbs.

Skyway grand opening in 1963.

Skyway grand opening in 1963.

Allow Wide-Door Skyway Development to Expand

It’s easy to hate skyways, but as a Downtown resident, I love them. I love that I can walk across the street, enter the skyway, and walk to Target without being in the heat, snow, or rain. I also don’t have to worry about getting run over by a single occupancy fossil fuel vehicle, like what has nearly happened so many times while crossing Washington Ave S or Hennepin Ave S.

Skyways promote pedestrian activity, and for those who have mobility challenges, they can be a great amenity and one of the only ways to safely and quickly get around Downtown.

Right now, Minneapolis has barriers to skyways expanding into the North Loop or across Washington Ave S into the residential area of the Mill District. I think that’s a mistake, and I know a lot of developers and residents who would love to expand skyways. They are like the subways of pedestrians.

In exchange for expanding skyway growth, I would require that walking paths be at least 20 feet wide and that sliding doors have at least 14 feet openings when open. This can be done with three-pane sliding doors. This will allow for future expansion of the network on new arteries and create a greener, healthier pedestrian environment.

McDonald's global headquarters in the West Loop of Chicago. Photo: Sterling Bay

McDonald’s global headquarters in the West Loop of Chicago. Photo: Sterling Bay

Cap Contract Parking for New Office Developments

When McDonald’s relocated from the suburbs to Chicago’s West Loop, it built only 295 parking spaces its 2,500 employees. Today, “more than 90 percent of workers arrive via non-auto modes, mostly Metra and CTA.” That’s a business and transit success story.

We can replicate that by having more businesses work with organizations like Move Minneapolis that consult with transportation options for commuters.

Unfortunately, some employers still have a “windshield mentality” when it comes to the daily commute. As we saw with the recent victory on the Heritage Landing Parking Ramp, cities can step up and insist on 21st-century solutions to the climate crisis and mobility. Disclosure: I was one of the residents who organized against the ramp.

2638–2646 35th St. E., in an 8-Unit Cluster Development Near the Blue Line (2002)

Upzone Every Block Near Light Rail

There is no reason why a triplex should be the limit for what you can build near many light rail stations. It’s a travesty that we see R1A within one block of a light rail station. Simply, have every property within a quarter mile be zoned C3A and all else within a half mile be zoned R6.

Utopia Ave

What could be done with a 80 ft wide right-of-way. Vehicle passenger and delivery drop off areas could go between transit shelters. Graphic: Author

When Reconstructing Streets, Make Sidewalks 20 Feet Wide

This one is simple, but needs funding and political courage. We want to encourage more pedestrian activity and reduce our reliance on single occupancy fossil fuel vehicles. Widening sidewalks puts those values into practice. Removing street parking on both sides of a street and converting to wider sidewalks would be a great improvement for many Downtown areas.

The Bowery, New York Times, 1896

A steam train on the Third Avenue El, over the Bowery, New York City, 1896. Photo: The New York Times

Create a Transit Bank to Invest in New Transit

Right now, the biggest beneficiaries of transit development — homeowners, landlords, and developers — don’t pay the full cost of transit investment. Creating a Transit Bank could create a vehicle for municipalities to receive transit funding by financing off the projected increase in property taxes, especially with upzoning and new development.

In the early years of the subway and el trains, speculators made fortunes off of developments that followed future routes of transit investment.

By upzoning, and tying financing to property taxes, cities by themselves could fund billions in transit investment.

Circle Line from Minneapolis to Saint Paul to the Airport

Let’s think big. Map: Author

Build a “Circle Line” Between Minneapolis, St. Paul, and MSP

Now we are in a future hopefully not far away. Bikes lanes are everywhere, upzoning has created new affordable apartments near jobs, everybody has an electric scooter instead of a car.

What’s next?

With investment from the Transit Bank, let’s build a loop subway route that connects both downtowns to each other and the airport, and creates new corridors for transit-oriented development. The route would be about 35 miles and at the going U.S. rate of $600 million per mile, it could easily cost $21 billion, more than Minnesota has ever done before. Of course, the federal government subsidized over half a trillion dollars in real terms for the interstate highway system. For the Southwest Green Line extension, the federal government is expected to subsidize 46.4 percent of the cost, not the 90 percent the federal government subsidized the interstate system. The Transit Bank could help make up the difference.

When I was in China in 2013, I was very impressed by their new subway lines. One feature was sliding doors on the platforms so you could never get pushed into an oncoming train. Beijing has two loop lines, the 2 and the 10, and a grid of branching and connecting lines.

The name “Circle Line” comes from that the route forms a rounded triangle, and London, which I visited in 2015, has a popular line that forms a circle in the shape of West Virginia.

What are your ideas for improving mobility in your community? What are your bike parking hacks? Do you think Minnesota will ever have a subway? Share your electric dreams and your fossil fuel nightmares in the comments.

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

68 Responses to 12 Ideas to Improve Downtown Mobility

  1. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker August 14, 2019 at 12:08 pm #

    Expand skyways but ban new retail at the skyway level is a compromise that might get some agreement.

    • Brian August 14, 2019 at 7:16 pm #

      How does your proposal make the least bit of sense? Forcing all the retailers to ground level just means they are missing out on all the customers who are one floor above in the skyway.

      • Jim B August 14, 2019 at 8:01 pm #

        With enough density, both the skyway and street levels will be vibrant. Skyways are one of the few things that make our downtown unique. The anti-skyway sentiment is a distraction.
        Thanks

  2. Matt Steele
    Matt August 14, 2019 at 12:15 pm #

    I am fully supportive of more bike and bus lanes downtown, but I am convinced they would be best if they’re either 1. barrier separated or 2. contraflow from car traffic. This solves for motorists routinely creep onto bike and bus lanes to turn left or right.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller August 14, 2019 at 3:57 pm #

      Ideally they’re be curb or grade separated.

      • Brian August 14, 2019 at 8:03 pm #

        The grade separated bike path on Washington Ave looks awful for bikers and pedestrians even though it is separate from motor vehicle traffic.. All it is really is a wider sidewalk with the bike portion in colored concrete.

        • Monte Castleman August 15, 2019 at 7:44 am #

          Could be better (see 66th or Jackson Streets or just about any suburban MUP), could be worse (see all those lanes “protected” with nothing but plastic flim-flam sticks). Although there’s no boulevard space so it’s right next to a traffic lane at least there’s a real concrete curb.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 10:39 am #

          It’s too curvy than the right turn lanes (should be there and) cause conflicts with cars and the signals are weird and overdone, but it is the closest thing we have to a proper Dutch cycletrack.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 10:39 am #

            *should not be there

    • Stuart August 14, 2019 at 4:17 pm #

      You do realize that most of those drivers that move into the bike lanes to turn are following the law and obeying the lines as marked, don’t you? I’m all for building separate, protected bike infrastructure, but in our current system, people on bikes and people driving cars around corners are supposed to share that space.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 10:42 am #

        You’re correct if the bike lane is next to the curb, but striped correctly it shouldn’t be. There should be mixing space before the intersection to allow people on bikes to get inside of the turning cars.

        But even when striped correctly, drivers often don’t make much effort to get all the way over to the curb lane so that bikes going straight can pass them on the inside. Doing so would require that they take the turn on a tighter turn radius and have to slow down.

  3. Anon August 14, 2019 at 12:53 pm #

    A no-private-car street that runs perpendicular to Nicolette downtown.
    Scooters that can detect when they are mis-parked or fallen over. Scooter companies should pay re-parkers, in addition to rechargers. In exchange, let’s reduce their tax burden.
    Skyway-enclosed light-rail station. So many people want this. What if the train dipped below ground at the government center and let people off in the tunnel that is already there? Then, the plaza with the fountain could be expanded.
    Allow developers to build as much parking as they want, provided that it is entirely underground. Parking would only be built if the higher expense is justified, and it would not steal (as much) valuable space from other potential uses. Also, fewer ugly parking lots and parking podiums.
    Uniform temperatures in the skyway. I suspect the skyways are windy because of the temperature differentials.
    Skyways should go through buildings, not alongside them.

    • Anon August 14, 2019 at 12:55 pm #

      Somehow my numbering was got lost. Sorry, it is hard to read.

  4. Bill Dooley August 14, 2019 at 12:55 pm #

    I favor a no public transit fare system to encourage folks to move from their cars to public transit. I would make up the operating difference though a sales tax increase.

  5. Brittanie August 14, 2019 at 3:07 pm #

    Speaking with people at work, many simply aren’t interested in public transit (and I work where that garage you voted against was for). I have a coworker who lives on a frequent route that has a stop literally right outside work and she still doesn’t consider it. Though it pertains only to car users, better vetting at the DVS would help EVERYONE. Minnesota has some of the worst, spaciest drivers I’ve ever seen and teaching them to drive better while offering incentives for opting for public transit over driving would help with things like blocked intersections, rather than making busses free (which I’m against even as a transit daily user).

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller August 14, 2019 at 4:01 pm #

      Seems like people you work with might be able to understand how incentives work…

      • B August 14, 2019 at 4:31 pm #

        Cute. Incentives only work if those you’re offering them to are interested.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller August 14, 2019 at 5:40 pm #

          No, that’s not at all how incentives work.

          • Brian August 14, 2019 at 7:23 pm #

            My employer in downtown practically gives away transit passes and yet employees who could easily take the bus still drive. They are spending $150 to $200 more per month on parking plus gas and wear and tear.

            One of my co-workers refuses to ride the bus because he doesn’t want to sit next to strangers! The other bus riders on his bus route are all professionals who are are neatly dressed.

            • Monte Castleman August 14, 2019 at 7:38 pm #

              The privacy a private car provides is pretty valuable to a lot of people even if the person you would sit next to on transit is wearing a suit. That’s why I think this whole idea that no one is going do anything but use TaasPool in the future is wrong. Our society is moving towards demanding more space and privacy, not less.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt August 15, 2019 at 1:37 pm #

      It’s completely rational to not be interested in public transit when we’ve so heavily subsidized and prioritized driving oneself.

      • Jeff L. August 15, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

        I’m envious of those who have such a black & white view of things

  6. ianrbuck August 14, 2019 at 4:32 pm #

    Instead of getting rid of the North Star line, I think completing the North Star is the solution. If it went all the way to St Cloud as originally intended, I bet ridership would increase dramatically. As it currently stands, Twin Cities residents like myself don’t have any reason to take the train because it doesn’t go anywhere useful.

  7. ianrbuck August 14, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

    I believe I heard that the geology of the Twin Cities isn’t suitable for subway lines? Either way, I desperately want them to complete the triangle and build a light rail route from downtown St Paul to the airport.

    • Eric Ecklund August 15, 2019 at 1:25 pm #

      I’ve heard the opposite; the geology of the Twin Cities, or at least Minneapolis, is perfect for a subway.

  8. Scott August 14, 2019 at 6:12 pm #

    Twenty foot sidewalks aren’t going to make downtown that much more pleasant to walk. Blank facades, parking ramps and lots, and vacant retail combined with boring/ non-existant streetscape are a big problem IMO. Those stupid skyways taking half the pedestrians off the street won’t help either. I’m starting to think the CBDs of both downtowns are a lost cause- even Nicollet Mall.

  9. Brian August 14, 2019 at 7:29 pm #

    Why doesn’t the author just get it out of the way and just tell us he wants rid of all motor vehicles in Minneapolis?

    By the time you allocate 40 feet of ROW to sidewalks and 10 feet or so to bikes that leaves the vast majority of roads without any room for motor vehicles, be they buses, delivery trucks, or cars?

  10. Monte Castleman August 14, 2019 at 7:35 pm #

    If you replace NorthStar with a bus, a significant number of passengers are going to decide they’d rather drive than take a bus, even a commuter coach. Rail bias is extremely strong in our area. Nor is it going to be easy just to take metro transit’s money from NorthStar and give it to whoever to build houses.

  11. Jim B August 14, 2019 at 8:11 pm #

    I like the idea of converting one car lane to bus or bike lane. I’m not sure which streets which would be most suitable but, I’d start with 12th street. There’s room for both a bus lane and expanding the bike to a two-way cycle track.
    I’d also like to experiment with removing a bus lane, during the summer, from Nicollet. Buses would travel one- way on Nicollet, using a parallel road to return in the other direction. The second lane on Nicollet would be reserved for bikes and scooters.

  12. Mark August 14, 2019 at 9:16 pm #

    I’m curious about the authors proposal to expand skyway connections into the North Loop, especially since available development is winding down. Frankly I don’t think it’s remotely feasible to extend a skyway from his condo to the Starbucks across the street, let alone continuing skyways into the sea of new 5+1 buildings and protected historical buildings, but I’m curious what specific steps he believes can be undertaken to achieve it.

  13. Eric Ecklund August 15, 2019 at 11:16 am #

    Regarding Northstar, there are a few express bus routes in the region that have a higher subsidy. The highest subsidized is MVTA Route 492, with a subsidy per passenger of $56.64 as of 2016. Also comparing the subsidy per passenger of light rail to Northstar is comparing an apple with a burger; they are completely different in terms of operation and the areas they serve.

    Replacing the Northstar with bus service isn’t going to increase riders, it will do the exact opposite. Northstar needs to be a regional rail service to St. Cloud, not a commuter rail service that ends half way to St. Cloud.

    I will also note that there is no express bus in the region with higher ridership than Northstar. Route 94 is the highest with 542,000 as of 2016.

    • Dan August 19, 2019 at 11:35 am #

      This! It makes zero sense to cut a train service to replace it with bus in the name of increasing ridership. While the Northstar could have higher ridership, the best way to increase it would be to make it more useful as you say–extended it to St. Cloud and schedule it properly throughout the day as true regional rail. Calling for the removal of a rail service due to subsidy/passenger in a world where subsidies/car are not even in the political conversation, and rail projects are decried as boondoggles while being more efficient per person is decisively auto-centric.

  14. ERIC August 15, 2019 at 2:14 pm #

    I’m tired of all the talk about dedicating space to bike lanes and scooters. Perhaps if you are a 20-something it sounds like a good idea. But in realty this is Minnesota = the land of ice and snow. Not everyone is willing or able to bike downtown (especially in the winter months). The elderly, the very young, the homeless, the handicap, the injuried, the business person in a suit. These people are not served by dedicating more space to bike lanes and scooters.

    Bike lanes take up valuable space all year, but how many people use them when there is snow on the ground or the temperature is in the single digitals? Only a small minority. Focusing on bike lanes and scooters is short-sided. We need solutions to appeal to the masses. Mass transit – light rail, commuter rail, street cars, whatever that solution is. It needs to be usable 12 months a year by the majority of people, be affordable per use, be convenient, and help reduce traffic congestion.

    I agree with Brian, the author has a definite opinion (anti-car). If you are not going to be impartial then let someone else write the articles.

    Maybe the author would prefer to ride their bike around Lake Calhoun.

    • Jeff L. August 15, 2019 at 2:19 pm #

      Now you did it, the year-round bikers like Adam, will soon be here to inform you why they’re better people than you are because they biked 23/28 days last February.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 3:10 pm #

        If you mean me, I did not ride a bike at all between January 17 and March 9 this year. Too much snow and too many cars parked in the bike lanes (because there was snow in the curb lanes).

        I had intended to do more winter bike commuting this last winter, but the snow and the parking got in the way.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 3:07 pm #

      People who cannot do anything but drive – a much smaller set of people than most presume – already have a massive, extensive, fully built-out set of infrastructure to serve them.

      We’re making improvements to transit too – have you seen the new A and C lines? But those things are expensive. Re-allocating space so that people have an option other than driving is an inexpensive way to make incriminant change.

      Unless you’ve got really good congestion pricing, you’ll never get people onto transit by reducing congestion. As long as driving is faster, cheaper and more convenient than every other choice, people will keep choosing it.

      • ERIC August 15, 2019 at 3:31 pm #

        Its not about the “people who can not do anything but drive” Again, its about the elderly, the very young, the homeless, the handicap, the injuried, the business people in a suit or dress clothes. And (spoiler alert) business people make up 94.3% of downtown’s population Monday – Friday.

        You’re right however about people choosing the option which is the fastest, cheapest and most convenient. That’s actually what decisions are based on.
        When is the last time you went out of your way to pay more and be inconvenienced by it?

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 3:51 pm #

          I commute by bike and bus. It’s less convenient. It has other benefits (for example, I hate driving in rush hour traffic).

          Driving is cheaper and more convenient because we don’t do anything to price the externalities it causes (death, damage, emissions, congestion, gutted urban spaces, etc.) and instead subsidize it (free parking and roads paid out of general tax dollars).

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 7:02 pm #

            You’re in the wrong place, friend.

            • ERIC August 15, 2019 at 7:07 pm #

              I’m on the internet. I am in exactly the right place. If you want to be somewhere everyone agrees with you, go home and look in the mirror.

          • Stuart August 16, 2019 at 9:10 am #

            So you’re saying that more space should be dedicated to bikes and scooters? So that they aren’t forced to ride in dangerous automobile lanes?

    • ERIC August 15, 2019 at 3:10 pm #

      I just realized the Heritage Landing Parking Ramp, mentioned in the article was that proposal to create parking for all the people visiting the area downtown next to the river. A parking ramp (or parking lot) does NOT bring cars to your neighborhood. All the new housing built over the last 10 years, along with the shops, bars and summer-time activities brings cars to your neighborhood. – Not proposed parking ramps. If you are that much against giving cars a place to park then don’t create an atmosphere to encourage people to move into your neighborhood or visit your neighborhood. — don’t get me started.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 3:48 pm #

        “A parking ramp (or parking lot) does NOT bring cars to your neighborhood.”

        Empirically, it does.

        • Brian August 15, 2019 at 4:42 pm #

          If someone built a free 1,000 space parking rampin the middle of a farm field miles from anything would anyone ever park there other than someone looking for a place to party or sleep?

          I’m being silly, but the point is there has to be something to attract people before parking ever becomes an issue. Additional parking may pull people from other forms of transportation, but parking by itself does not attract drivers.

          If lots of parking attracted drivers then dying suburban shopping malls would be full of people. They generally have lots of empty free parking.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm #

            This has been studied. Parking induces driving. It is not an open question.

            There is already something to attract people.

            • ERIC August 15, 2019 at 7:22 pm #

              Putting on an event, advertising it, marketing it and asking people to come invites people to … you know, come. The same can be said as to building new homes and opening stores. Its an invitation for people to gather.

              If you don’t believe me, ask Dear Abby.

              There is a study to prove/disprove everything. There are studies of the hollow-earth theory. Doesn’t mean it is right.

            • Brian August 15, 2019 at 8:22 pm #

              If I converted my backyard to a parking lot and let people park there for free would it induce more driving?

              Probably not as there is nothing to attract drivers. Nearest park is four miles. Nearest restaurant is five miles away. Nearest retailers are about eight miles.

              Drivers have always been able to park on the street, but nobody does as there is nothing to attract them to the area. (Neighbors all have driveways and garages.)

            • Brian August 15, 2019 at 8:47 pm #

              Say there is a grocery store in south Minneapolis that has a parking lot that is never more than 50% full. The store owner decides to double the size of the parking lot.

              Does that larger parking lot now double in size induce more people to drive? If so, why?

              The parking lot was never more than 50% full before so no driver ever had a problem finding a spot if they chose to drive. Does a parking lot that is now only 25% full and is 75% empty somehow induce more to drive to the store?

              • Adam Miller
                Adam Miller August 15, 2019 at 9:00 pm #

                Brian: go look at the research.

                • Brian August 16, 2019 at 5:55 am #

                  I absolutely agree that building more parking in an area that doesn’t have enough parking will result in more driving. If parking was free in downtown and supply was adequate more bus riders would drive instead.

                  However, just building more parking in general isn’t going to result in more driving if there was already adequate parking to start with.

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica August 15, 2019 at 11:05 pm #

      It’s Bde Maka Ska.
      Also, writers, like all people, have biases. Yours is showing.

    • Karen Nelson August 20, 2019 at 1:54 pm #

      Bike lanes are not built for people who are adamantly opposed to ever biking themselves, not meant to make everyone bike.

      Nor is do any of us think cities like Twin Cities will bike at Amsterdam rates all year long.

      But bike lanes still make sense even with these limitations, because:

      You don’t have to be a cyclist to benefit from bike lanes

      and…

      Our cities don’t have to get Amsterdam level participation all year for bike lanes to make whole lot of sense.

      Reasons Why Bike Lanes Make Sense and Benefit Everyone,
      Even if We Will Never be Amsterdam and
      Most Drivers Will Never Bike:

      1) First bike lanes make sense because they are mostly just basically “free” real estate left over that otherwise would be idle. So why not get the benefits at such a low cost.?

      I know this may sound crazy, but work with me.

      In modern re-design of safer streets, done for mainly for drivers’ and pedestrian’s benefits (road diets), road width that was formerly used for car lanes is left empty and available, not because of what cyclists wanted, but because this road diet makes driving safer with little impact on trip times.

      Most the rest of bike paths, not directly next to car roads, are using space that drivers/cars weren’t ever using anyways (narrow bike paths along existing or abandoned RR alignments, trails through, along nature/parks).

      So bike lanes aren’t taking road real estate at high cost, rather they are using space that would otherwise be idle, to create something that benefits for everyone, a separate space for cyclists.

      (Given the counter-intuitive thing about narrowing roads, reducing lanes is mostly all about how good it is for drivers and it doesn’t ruin car trip times, we can talk about that more if you don’t believe it – or you can google “road diet videos” and get explainers on it. Narrower lanes, less lanes, actually improves road safety by reducing peak speeds, and providing dedicated lanes for left turns that reduce crashes, and such road diets actually have very little impact on car trip times)

      2) Separated bike lanes benefit other people who are moving around , not on bikes.

      Drivers and pedestrians are helped by bikes being taken out of their space, reducing car congestion, conflicts, stress and improving driver and pedestrian safety. Pedestrians don’t want scooters and bikes going 10-15 mph zipping down sidewalks. Drivers don’t want to have to veer around lots of bikes in same lane as them. Providing good bike infra to cyclists, benefits safety and comfort of drivers and pedestrians.

      3) Bike lanes are proven to increase amount of people who will bike, and more bikers improves things generally for our cities, including non-bikers.

      More people biking reduces use/need for car parking spaces, reduces pollution/green-house gas emissions, reduces harms from car crashes.

      Our towns will likely never have Amsterdam level of biking, but we can sure get a ton more people biking by having good bike infrastructure – every town, even in the north, like Toronto and Montreal and Norway, Finland etc that builds bike infrastructure, gets huge increases in biking. Ever additional trip that is done by bike instead of car benefits us all.

      4) Bike lanes save money by being cheaper to build and maintain than road pavement for cars and heavy trucks and allow for more efficient land use. Visualize thickness of pavement and base under separated bike lane up by sidewalk compared to thickness of pavement and base on road designed for cars and trucks. Visualize space to park a car (parking spots, lanes to get to parking spots, versus space needed to park a bike)

      5) Bike lanes create revenue. They are proven to boost business by bike lanes and real estate values. They make for attractive, comfortable streets that increase business activity and demand.

      So…. we don’t have to bike all year in mass numbers to have bike lanes make sense.

      Because of pt 1) – we already know bike lanes cost little, they are most often just are making use of road/trail real estate otherwise that would be idle – so even if bike lanes got very few new bikers, but just made pedestrians safer, drivers safer, given their low cost, just making use of what would other wise often be empty space, why not get benefit?

      If bike lanes did cost a ton of treasure and only benefitted cyclists, I can understand how non-bikers might object to an expense for a minority of people who wanted a healthier form of transportation but will not even be biking everyday all year!

      But bike paths don’t cost a ton of treasure, they are wildly affordable compared to crazy expensive car infrastructure because they are making use of otherwise idle space and even if they just get a few more people out of cars for only 8 months a year, these fewer car trips benefit everyone.

  15. ERIC August 15, 2019 at 4:25 pm #

    People parking cars is the “result”.

    Events, restaurants, stores, people visiting people who live in the neighborhood is the “cause”.

    Without a reason, no one would be driving down to there.

  16. Nicole Salica
    Nicole Salica August 15, 2019 at 11:04 pm #

    Wow there sure are a lot of massively-subsidized-car-storage fans in the comments here. Whew.
    Anyway, my favorite idea here is definitely better transit shelters. This should include access to bathrooms, for sanitary reasons and also for the comfort of the riders.

    • Brian August 16, 2019 at 5:51 am #

      Unfortunately, enclosed transit shelters with bathrooms would just become defacto homeless shelters.

      I use the Lake Street LRT station from time to time. It has an enclosed portion and that portion is absolutely disgusting. It is filthy as all get out. My last time through there the escalator was out of order and I was with someone who couldn’t climb the stairs. We used the elevator and it stunk to high heaven from people urinating on the floor.

      • Nicole Salica
        Nicole Salica August 16, 2019 at 9:35 am #

        People gotta piss somewhere… I’m suggesting the RADICAL IDEA of giving them somewhere they should so we can all stop smelling it.

        • Brian August 16, 2019 at 11:07 am #

          Why are transit shelters the right spot for public restrooms? Besides, it would cost hundreds of millions to add restrooms to all of the transit stops.

          The reason most buildings downtown don’t have public restrooms is because they get totally trashed by some of the users. I worked in an older building downtown that was built before skyways. The bathrooms on the second floor (skyway level) are all locked and only for tenants. Most newer downtown buildings either have no bathrooms on the skyway or ground level, or they are are hidden for tenant use only.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller August 16, 2019 at 11:55 am #

            Who said “all of the transit stops?”

            Yes, building owners/operators would rather close bathrooms to the public than provide attendants and/or take other measure to keep them available. That’s understandable, but bad, and a reason for providing public restrooms.

            More on downtown restrooms here (slightly out of date in places): https://streets.mn/2017/04/13/downtown-needs-bathrooms/

    • Mark August 16, 2019 at 1:09 pm #

      While downtown clearly needs more publicly accessible bathrooms, including them in transit shelters just isn’t feasible. Connecting them to water/sewer would be a massive undertaking and costs would be extreme. I’d rather that extra money be spent on adding more routes and having the City force neighboring businesses to open up their existing bathrooms.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller August 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm #

        Yes and no. There are existing bathrooms in transit centers that could simply be opened or unlocked (Leamington, 394 ramps, not sure whether/when the stadium plaza/stop bathrooms are open). There are places it might make sense to spend what it takes (Warehouse District light rail, Lake Street Station). And others where portable toilets might be enough (they’ve already added them at the Lake St and Franklin stations).

        Nobody is saying we should add a bathroom at every bus shelter. But we should be thinking about where we can add bathrooms, and transit facilities should be a place to start.

        • Brian August 16, 2019 at 6:38 pm #

          Filthy restrooms aren’t going to get more riders to take buses. Would Metro Transit really clean the bathrooms multiple times a day as would be required to keep them clean? Would they even clean them daily?

          If the Lake St station is any indication I bet transit bathrooms would be a disaster. I don’t know how often Metro Transit cleans that station, but it certainly isn’t every night and maybe not even every week. No facility isn’t going to get that filthy with daily cleaning.

          If restrooms were kept clean restrooms would help.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller August 16, 2019 at 9:47 pm #

            Restrooms are about people having a place to go, not generating ridership (which
            literally no one has claimed).

            But why can’t you even imagine restrooms that are adequately maintained? Oh, right…

            • Brian August 16, 2019 at 10:24 pm #

              No, I can’t imagine Metro Transit being able to keep public restrooms clean when they can’t keep trains or train stations clean. The last two times I took the green line over to the U of M the train car stunk of urine.

              • Nicole Salica
                Nicole Salica August 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm #

                Run the numbers on cleaning a bathroom vs cleaning a train where someone’s taken a piss. I’ll bet you a $5 donation to St Stephens it’s cost effective to clean a place that’s designed to have been pissed in.

        • Mark August 17, 2019 at 8:09 am #

          I never said a transit facility shouldn’t have a bathroom, those would be easier to add. If you actually read what I wrote I limited my comments to shelters. There is a significant difference between the two, and cost to add a bathroom to a shelter would be exorbitant and that money would be better spent on adding new lines.

          • Brian August 19, 2019 at 8:30 pm #

            It was Nicole who suggested bathrooms at transit shelters.

            I would be all for it if they could be kept clean and not vandalized. I am skeptical that Metro Transit could actually keep them clean and in good repair. I occasionally am in public restrooms in parks and such with broken/missing mirrors, broken toilet seats, writing on the walls, and so on.

  17. Dan August 19, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

    Seems sensible enough, the situation of all these scooter companies isn’t exactly stable, so it makes sense to have flexibility in allocating the allowed #s while increasing them.
    Makes #1 more palatable by hopefully reducing the # of scooters left obstructing things.
    All for it! the number of bikes that can be parked in racks in just a single parking space makes this a much more efficient use of it.
    Marquette and 2nd already are bus-only in one direction each, and of of course there’s Nicollet. Maybe those streets could have some improvements, and some perpendicular routes added? Definitely support improving and expanding the protected bike lanes that already exist downtown, such as giving the ones on 3rd the same sidewalk-level treatment as the lanes on Washington (though maybe with the sticks between the bike lane and the sidewalk to reduce walkers wandering into the bike lane).
    Absolutely!
    I don’t think I agree here. While I don’t think that service to St. Cloud (or prior Lake) should be near the #1 priority for transit investment in the twin cities, we might as well keep a train that already exists. I think it needs some changes to have higher ridership than it does, like changing the scheduling so it is not only for commuters, and above all actually extending it to St. Cloud.
    Given how skyways tend to create a class-segregated environment and have a detrimental effect on street life and retail due to concentrating many pedestrians on the second story, I reckon their expansion should be limited.
    Yes!
    100%, light rail stations should absolutely be able to support denser nodes than that.
    Broadly agree, though implementation could be slow given the scheduling of street reconstruction.
    Interesting, any recent US examples?
    Respectfully, this seems a bit redundant, given that the existing green & blue lines, and planned riverview corridor lines will essentially follow that circular route once riverview is completed. Would rather see a subway built to either put the existing LRT along 5th downtown underground, or a subway under Nicollet for a hypothetical Central-Nicollet LRT line.

    • Dan August 19, 2019 at 12:44 pm #

      Sorry, had these numbered 1-12 but it seems the numbers were deleted when I posted, and there is no way to edit….

Note on Comments

streets.mn welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. streets.mn sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on streets.mn!