Nicollet-Central Streetcar

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minntransplant
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby minntransplant » February 20th, 2018, 12:47 pm

talindsay wrote:
February 20th, 2018, 12:41 pm
nordeast homer wrote:
February 19th, 2018, 12:50 pm
Isn't the "beauty" of a streetcar system that you don't have to do as much prep for laying rails. The cars are much lighter than LRT and there should not be the need to move any underground utilities. They should be able to do the line in considerably less time than an LRT line with less disruption to the rest of the road.
While that's traditionally been true, my understanding is that most US streetcar systems are built with about the same specs as light rail, since that allows more flexibility in vehicle selection. I've sort of assumed all along that any "streetcar" we get will probably just be using single Siemens S70s as their vehicles, since that offers more operational flexibility.

Everybody likes the little streetcars they use in Portland, but they violate Buy America, and they've apparently been hard to get parts, bad production timelines, etc. Streetcars require so few vehicles, and there's so few streetcar systems in the US, that there's not much compliant rolling stock available here, so it's cheaper, easier, and a safer decision to just use single LRVs.
Tucson also used the same streetcars as Portland for its tiny streetcar line. There were delays in streetcar production that delayed the line opening.

mattaudio
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby mattaudio » February 20th, 2018, 1:20 pm

Of course another funding stream is the new (or at least agreed upon) 20 year Parks and Streets tax increase, producing $800 million over the next 20 years. If we took even 10% of that for urban transit improvements in Minneapolis and offered it as a 50% match for any county and/or state dollars for BRT in Minneapolis, we could leverage that $80 million into nearly the entire Minneapolis aBRT network.

nordeast homer
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby nordeast homer » February 20th, 2018, 2:53 pm

That's really interesting. I was basing my information on meetings way back when Hiawatha was just being built; several of our city and regional leaders had gone to Portland and possibly Denver to study regional transportation. One of the highlights that they were touting was streetcars -vs- LRT and how much more cost effective and less disruptive the streetcars would be to build out.
If the streetcars are shorter and virtually the same weight it would seem that there may actually be more track bed prep work and you would definitely need to move utilities.

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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby Qhaberl » June 14th, 2018, 4:40 pm

Maybe someone on the form can explain this to me. I really don’t understand why the Nickolet/Central Streetcar is a thing.

Based on my understanding, streetcars do not really speed up transit. I do not believe Street cars work with signal priority.

It just surprises me. I feel like the Nicklett Ave., Corredor would be wonderful for bus rapid transit.




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Bakken2016
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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby Bakken2016 » June 14th, 2018, 5:27 pm

Qhaberl wrote:Maybe someone on the form can explain this to me. I really don’t understand why the Nickolet/Central Streetcar is a thing.

Based on my understanding, streetcars do not really speed up transit. I do not believe Street cars work with signal priority.

It just surprises me. I feel like the Nicklett Ave., Corredor would be wonderful for bus rapid transit.




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The city wants it for DEVELOPMENT and that it’s more attractive than a bus.


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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby VacantLuxuries » June 14th, 2018, 6:38 pm

I used to really like the streetcar but after hearing how Frey talked about it (and talking about it with him in person) I don't think we're doing it for the right reasons and probably could start building aBRT on the corridor immediately with whatever is in the TIF fund.

tmart
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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby tmart » June 14th, 2018, 6:58 pm

I think the truth on streetcars is somewhat more positive than transit wonks make it out to be, even if the drawbacks (namely, capital cost) are real. They're not bad transit. They're equally fast as a bus, can have higher capacity, can be run carbon-free, and have lower operating costs. They also often feature dedicated lanes, signal priority, and fewer stops than buses--though that's more a question of people's expectations and political will; those things are certainly possible if much rarer on buses. And people like to ride them; despite the desire to abstract away transit into destinations per dollar, it is OK to sometimes prefer modes that are more comfortable, more spacious, smoother, easier to use, and more predictable.

With all that said, I do think aBRT probably makes the most sense for Nicollet--as a temporary but immediate and meaningful improvement, until we can get our act together and consider a proper tunnel serving traffic into Downtown from the south.
VacantLuxuries wrote:
June 14th, 2018, 6:38 pm
I used to really like the streetcar but after hearing how Frey talked about it (and talking about it with him in person) I don't think we're doing it for the right reasons and probably could start building aBRT on the corridor immediately with whatever is in the TIF fund.
IIRC the law doesn't allow that money to be redirected to uses other than a streetcar serving the defined district.

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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby DanPatchToget » June 14th, 2018, 9:13 pm

tmart wrote:
June 14th, 2018, 6:58 pm
I think the truth on streetcars is somewhat more positive than transit wonks make it out to be, even if the drawbacks (namely, capital cost) are real. They're not bad transit. They're equally fast as a bus, can have higher capacity, can be run carbon-free, and have lower operating costs. They also often feature dedicated lanes, signal priority, and fewer stops than buses--though that's more a question of people's expectations and political will; those things are certainly possible if much rarer on buses. And people like to ride them; despite the desire to abstract away transit into destinations per dollar, it is OK to sometimes prefer modes that are more comfortable, more spacious, smoother, easier to use, and more predictable.

With all that said, I do think aBRT probably makes the most sense for Nicollet--as a temporary but immediate and meaningful improvement, until we can get our act together and consider a proper tunnel serving traffic into Downtown from the south.
VacantLuxuries wrote:
June 14th, 2018, 6:38 pm
I used to really like the streetcar but after hearing how Frey talked about it (and talking about it with him in person) I don't think we're doing it for the right reasons and probably could start building aBRT on the corridor immediately with whatever is in the TIF fund.
IIRC the law doesn't allow that money to be redirected to uses other than a streetcar serving the defined district.
Equally as fast as a bus? Depends on the corridor, but sometimes the bus is actually faster. I pray that Nicollet ABRT would have 60-foot buses, but considering the C Line will have them I think that's likely. The C Line will have battery electric buses, so we don't need diesel nor do we need overhead wires.

If a streetcar route is for upgrading transit (making it faster and more reliable) then I'll support it. If its just to attract development and does nothing to upgrade from the existing service besides a smoother ride and more capacity then I prefer ABRT.

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby VacantLuxuries » June 15th, 2018, 1:02 am

IIRC the law doesn't allow that money to be redirected to uses other than a streetcar serving the defined district.
Well Frey seems to think he can take it and use it on a streetcar on Washington instead for some reason.

minntransplant
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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby minntransplant » June 15th, 2018, 7:42 am

Even if a street car wasn't allegedly still on the table, I don't think anything meaningful would happen on Nicollet/Central until the K-Mart is gone. Since Sear's/Kmart's death looks more imminent by the day, it is an even more attractive reason why we should just wait before doing anything. Truly an unfortunate situation considering how many people rely on the 18.

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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby alexschief » June 15th, 2018, 9:37 am

Streetcars *can* run as fast as a bus, but they can't drive around something that's blocking their way. That's one reason why rail that doesn't have it's own dedicated right of way is significantly less reliable than a bus. They're also substantially more expensive. Spending nine figures on a streetcar makes no sense when you could instead spend the same amount on multiple aBRT corridors.

The only consistent and honest justification that gets used for streetcars is that they are supposed to catalyze development in a way that bus enhancements don't, supposedly because of their legibility and people's preference for their appearance. There's not a lot of hard evidence that supports this view.

MSP should forget about streetcars, period. If, for political reasons, serious transit corridors like Riverview need to have a small portion of the route on a shared ROW, that's regrettable, but maybe a sacrifice we should be willing to accept. But spending serious time, money, and political attention on a 2-4 mile streetcar is something that every urbanist should push back hard against.

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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby mattaudio » June 15th, 2018, 9:49 am

Agreed, with the possible exception of Midtown Corridor. But with dedicated ROW and likely built to accommodate larger LRVs, Midtown Corridor would functionally be more LRT than streetcar. So the point stands!

BoredAgain
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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby BoredAgain » June 15th, 2018, 10:06 am

alexschief wrote:
June 15th, 2018, 9:37 am
Streetcars *can* run as fast as a bus, but they can't drive around something that's blocking their way.
I firmly believe that any streetcar vehicles should have reinforced front ends, the modern equivalent of a cow catcher, and a clear legal right to ram or push any vehicle blocking it's path, preferably at a low speed to avoid serious injury.

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Re: Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridors

Postby Qhaberl » June 15th, 2018, 11:03 am

I was the one to start the talk about street cars. If any mods want to move post post 234 to 243 to a different topic, totally understand.


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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Qhaberl » June 15th, 2018, 11:06 am

This topic came up over on the arterial bus rapid transit thread. Hoping one of the module move it to this thread.

Someone on the other thread mentioned that the city wants to invest in the street car for development potential. Does anybody know the history of development around modern street cars?

I don’t quite understand why a streetcar would bring more development than Bus rapid transit. It makes sense why a streetcar would bring more development than a regular bus line would, but bus rapid transit is definitely more of a permanent fixture. It’s not something that’s likely to be moved or changed.




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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby VacantLuxuries » June 15th, 2018, 11:33 am

Modern streetcars are a case of someone doing something well and others replicating it without understanding why it worked.

Portland built streetcars and they were successful. So a ton of other cities thought the secret to revitalizing downtowns was building a streetcar. This was ignorant of the fact that the streetcar was a downtown focused compliment to the already well used MAX light rail system, and that a trendy and unique place like Portland was always going to have a developmental leg up on, say, Omaha or Milwaukee. So a bunch of poorly thought out streetcar projects started tapping into federal money, and in many cases, they have lower ridership than Northstar because they were designed to bring development, not to actually connect places like the Portland streetcar.

I liked the Nicollet Central streetcar because it actually filled a need in our rail transit system that wasn't being met by the Met Council and the METRO lines in their quest for regional connectivity - it would bring rail transit to the densest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. However, the streetcar serving a transit role wasn't the reason Minneapolis politicians wanted it. Which is why now that Nicollet and Central are developing naturally, people who saw this as a development meal ticket are losing interest and instead want to build the Broadway line for the same wrong reasons.

It's sort of the Dumbo magic feather thing. The streetcar didn't bring development to Portland, it was the fact that people wanted to live in Portland already, and now they could take a streetcar to Downtown from more places. Whereas the Tuscon Sunlink is in Tuscon, so naturally it has abysmal ridership. The elephant could always fly.

minntransplant
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby minntransplant » June 15th, 2018, 1:14 pm

Just adding some thoughts on the Tucson experience. While ridership is pathetic (it always was going to be), I think it is a solid test case for streetcars being a catalyst for development. There has been a considerable level of development along the Sunlink (especially for Tucson standards). This is in an area that hadn't seen any new development in decades (and millions of dollars spent on other "revitalization" efforts).

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby VacantLuxuries » June 15th, 2018, 1:35 pm

Looking back, I probably should have used the Atlanta streetcar as a better example. I've never been to Tuscon but looking at the map, connecting a university, downtown, convention center, and tailing off on the opposite side of a city dividing freeway is pretty good as far as streetcars go.

SamtheBusNerd
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby SamtheBusNerd » June 15th, 2018, 1:45 pm

Agreed. Having used it, I don't think the Tucson streetcar is quite as bad as some of the others. It could definitely have higher ridership and be better connected to a regional transportation system (like Portland), but it basically makes it possible to easily get from all of the older parts of the city to the university by transit and as minntransplant says, has helped encourage significant development in downtown Tucson. It also terminates in a dense-ish, walkable area under development that is completely cut off from the rest of the city by the river and a freeway. Once a lot of the development that's planned or under construction for that area gets finished, I could see it having a lot higher ridership.

While it's not open yet, I'd say Milwaukee is a perfect example of the exact opposite. The route ignores the city's already existing natural transit corridors and instead makes a zig-zaging u through downtown to connect all of the things that middle-class white folks might do for fun. They used to have a bus route that did the exact same thing that was a resolute failure. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson.

I think Minneapolis has the right idea with putting streetcars on corridors like Nicollet and Central, but this city has grown past the point where we can reliably operate transit in mixed traffic anywhere near downtown.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby alexschief » June 15th, 2018, 1:52 pm

Folks, if you think Tucson's ridership is bad, just know that there are three modern streetcars in the US with even worse ridership. Cincy, Atlanta, and Dallas all have streetcars which have weekday ridership below 1,000. A few other streetcars operate without fares, which gives them an advantage over Tucson. It's a total tire fire.

Just wait until Milwaukee and Oklahoma City open their streetcars though.

To the extent that there's a theory to the mysterious development potential of streetcars, it's probably that the legibility of tracks in the ground makes real the promise of transit, and that something about the quaint appearance of streetcars appeals to people. But there's no serious evidence to support that these attributes somehow contribute to development, and certainly not to the scale that justifies spending hundreds of millions when better bus service was far more cost effective. Ultimately, what is a greater amenity for area residents, an city-themed amusement park ride, or very good transit service? Streetcars are the classic example of what happens when transit is planned by people who don't ride transit and whose top priority isn't to provide good transit service. From shared right-of-way to insufficient stop spacing, modern streetcars have repeatedly made all the wrong moves with regard to providing good service.

If a streetcar appeared out of the ether in Minneapolis tomorrow, nobody would be calling for it to be removed. But in a world where opportunity costs are a real thing, MSP should forget the idea of building a streetcar anywhere and focus on the METRO light rail, aBRT, and local buses, which are the three products in their portfolio which have proven useful to the public.


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