Nicollet Mall Reconstruction Project

Downtown - North Loop - Mill District - Elliot Park - Loring Park
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Re: Nicollet Mall Reconstruction Project

Postby amiller92 » August 11th, 2017, 12:47 pm

Silophant wrote:
August 11th, 2017, 12:27 pm
Nitpick: the Mall goes all the way to Grant, and the Hyatt and Millennium hotels are on it, albeit on the southenmost block that isn't closed to cars.
My bad.

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Re: Nicollet Mall Reconstruction Project

Postby alexschief » August 11th, 2017, 2:34 pm

I think Moose has the right idea about what Nicollet Mall ought to shoot for, but I share some of amiller92's pessimism about whether the street will achieve this.

I think a good comparison is Philadelphia, which has two primary retail streets in Center City. Walnut Street is a two-lane westbound street, and Chestnut Street is a two-lane eastbound street, two blocks to the north. For a couple decades, starting with the bicentennial in 1976, Chestnut Street was closed to car traffic and used as a dedicated transitway. As the parable goes, transit riders benefited, but businesses on the street did not, and Walnut Street came to dominate Center City retail while Chestnut Street withered. The transitway was removed in 1997, and Chestnut Street has gradually recovered, and now is as busy and trendy on some blocks as its southern neighbor.

Asked about the failure of the experiment, Ed Bacon (father of Kevin, and legendary Robert-Moses-esque Philly planner) said: "It got made into something that was not a pedestrian walkway and not a street."

I think the same can be said for Nicollet. The busway down the center makes it so that Nicollet is not a pedestrian boulevard in a European style, but the lack of car traffic makes it more difficult for retailers to attract the eye of wealthy suburban customers (who really should be looking at the road, but...). So you have this street which is a weird hybrid, and ends up serving neither role especially well. The biggest loss of this entire process might've been that a chance to completely rethink the mall was lost. Either it should've been opened up to cars again with aggressive calming, or it should've been made pedestrian only, and the temporary bus routes that everyone is suffering now could be made permanent. Alternately, it could've been decided that functioning essentially as short stretch of BRT for many bus routes is the best way to use the street (which is, I think, an argument you can make; Cleveland for instance is battling between a Mayor and a transit agency over whether to allow buses in a redeveloped square downtown, and the Mayor's anti-bus stance is a bit troubling for how it seems to prioritize appearances over real benefits to poorer transit riders), but then the money that was spent on Nicollet Mall's pedestrian amenities might've been better spread across the downtown, and the fiction of Nicollet Mall as an answer to La Rambla could've been dropped entirely.

I'm not sure there are good answers to the problem. If the bus rerouting were adequate, I'd have preferred the pedestrianization of the entire right-of-way, but from what I've heard, the bus rerouting has been a pain. Given that the design is nearly complete and the vehicle travel lane remains, I dunno if I'd copy Philly and suggest that Nicollet Mall be opened to cars, with the understanding that bus service may suffer. Sacrificing bus reliable bus service for the potential of creating a great, high end, downtown shopping street is not exactly a step forward in achieving social justice, even if it is a step forward in urban design. If I were king of Minneapolis, I'd probably order all the signals changed to prioritize the light rail and C and D line aBRT, and that might make me feel good enough to pedestrianize Nicollet Mall.

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Re: Nicollet Mall Reconstruction Project

Postby Silophant » August 11th, 2017, 4:19 pm

To be honest, I'd prefer the buses to stay on Hennepin. While it was confusing at first, everyone's pretty used to it now, and the benefits of having all the N-S buses use the same street to ease transfers is useful. Though, I suppose suppose you could make the same argument for moving everything, including the 4 and the 6, back to Nicollet.

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Re: Nicollet Mall Reconstruction Project

Postby amiller92 » August 11th, 2017, 8:02 pm

I think adding cars would only hurt. I think getting rid of buses would be nice, but not make a meaningful difference to retail. People downtown know what's there and will walk to it if it's worth walking to.

The problem is it's not and the buildings are an obstacle.

I'd like to move the buses too, but when I've tried it (rarely) Hennepin wasn't working well, with buses stacked on top of each other.

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