Nicollet-Central Streetcar

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trkaiser
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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby trkaiser » February 13th, 2013, 7:12 am

The plan for the starter corridor is Lake Street through downtown to East Hennepin. I'm not sure what you're so skeptical about. There's money out there, and if Dayton's transit tax increase goes forward this should be near the top of the list.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby TWA » February 13th, 2013, 8:04 am

I know nothing has been approved or announced, but what is everyone's best educated guess for when we may see the first streetcar rolling down a minneapolis street (or greenway)?

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby lordmoke » February 13th, 2013, 10:12 am

Something that I'm surprised has not come up yet is how this project relates to the request for funds to "rebuild Nicollet Mall." If their plan is actually to remove bus traffic and create a single-grade surface with just streetcars running down the center, it seems as though any renovation of the mall would be closely tied to this project. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that Nicollet redesign IS this project. They seem somewhat married, no?

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby PhilmerPhil » February 13th, 2013, 10:18 am

What would happen with bikes on Nicollet Mall? Nicollet Mall is my favorite place to ride in the city. It's safe, quiet, urban, and loaded with fellow citizen cyclists. There are no other N-S routes in downtown that come close to matching the bike-friendliness of Nicollet.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby trkaiser » February 13th, 2013, 11:09 am

lordmoke wrote:Something that I'm surprised has not come up yet is how this project relates to the request for funds to "rebuild Nicollet Mall." If their plan is actually to remove bus traffic and create a single-grade surface with just streetcars running down the center, it seems as though any renovation of the mall would be closely tied to this project. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that Nicollet redesign IS this project. They seem somewhat married, no?
That and the K-mart fix... I think state bonding for Nicollet Mall could be a tough sell, and this will be an easy way to wrap it up into one big-ticket project.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby Viktor Vaughn » February 13th, 2013, 11:20 am

lordmoke wrote:Something that I'm surprised has not come up yet is how this project relates to the request for funds to "rebuild Nicollet Mall." If their plan is actually to remove bus traffic and create a single-grade surface with just streetcars running down the center, it seems as though any renovation of the mall would be closely tied to this project. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that Nicollet redesign IS this project. They seem somewhat married, no?
Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I suppose it makes sense to get state bonding money to rebuild the mall and transit money to add a streetcar, but do the project all at once. The city seems to be prioritizing rebuilding the same streets that are due for transit improvements. Chicago Ave was recently rebuilt in a way that could accomodate streetcars. Lyndale & Lake street were just rebuilt and Central is being resurfaced. How much are LRT costs inflated because they rebuild the entire street and sidewalk from building to building?

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby woofner » February 13th, 2013, 2:02 pm

everyone wrote:people prefer streetcars to buses
I like streetcars too, and I even sympathize with the rail bias theory. I've never seen any evidence of it, however, so if anyone can link to any I would be both appreciative and more likely to support streetcars in this corridor. While Mulad's point about Hiawatha running through low-density neighborhoods but still posting better ridership than the 16 is somewhat convincing, it could also be an indication of how people respond to higher-frequency, all-day commuter service, especially since Fort Snelling or MOA are the most convenient park-and-rides for a good swath of northern Dakota county (and apparently are delivering 3-4,000 rides/day on LRT).
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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby twincitizen » February 13th, 2013, 7:53 pm

I really enjoyed the meeting, and there were some very thoughtful questions from the crowd. A nice old man asked "Why don't we just have the existing buses stop every block right now?" to deafening silence. The project manager, Anna Flintoft of Minneapolis Public Works, had no answer at all. I almost clapped after the old man asked the question. I wanted to be like "everyone in this room needs to be asking Metro Transit that question every single day". There were actually several questions about making incremental upgrades, rather than a 2-year construction project. The presentation also headed off most questions about bikes, by including that in the question. Philmrphil can probably tell you more about that...I was busy writing a book on my comment card.

I felt it was a really productive meeting and not that biased towards selling streetcars...but obviously still a little biased. The starter segment they're looking at is Lake to Hennepin Ave NE (didn't say where exactly, but I assume it will have to form some kind of a loop using Hennepin & 1st Ave NE). They even mentioned that the starter starter segment will likely be even shorter than that.

Peter Wagenius from the Mayor's office gave a little spiel at the end with a great line-- "We've been ordering transit off the kids' menu for too long". Rather than get up there and share the mayor's preference for streetcars, he mostly talked about how important it is to support the Governor's budget, especially the transit sales tax increase. That may seem obvious to all of us here on this board, but you never know with a general public in which only 5% of the people use transit.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby FISHMANPET » February 13th, 2013, 10:48 pm

redisciple wrote:
everyone wrote:people prefer streetcars to buses
I like streetcars too, and I even sympathize with the rail bias theory. I've never seen any evidence of it, however, so if anyone can link to any I would be both appreciative and more likely to support streetcars in this corridor. While Mulad's point about Hiawatha running through low-density neighborhoods but still posting better ridership than the 16 is somewhat convincing, it could also be an indication of how people respond to higher-frequency, all-day commuter service, especially since Fort Snelling or MOA are the most convenient park-and-rides for a good swath of northern Dakota county (and apparently are delivering 3-4,000 rides/day on LRT).
I don't have anything I can "cite" but I took a class on Urban Transit at the U that was taught by a consultant that worked on Hiawatha, and he said the reason ridership estimates were so low for Hiawatha is because we didn't know the region's rail bias factor, so the ridership estimates were done as if the line was a bus.

Here's The Overhead Wire parroting that same point, though it's light on evidence: http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.com/200 ... -bias.html

Though the comments bring up what might be a good question. I don't know if there's any systems that have both LRT and BRT built to the same standards to do a really fair comparison.

Here's a study that was done in Europe: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2012/06/21/ex ... ver-buses/
But this is stated preference and not expressed preference, so who knows?

The Overhead Wire post cites this article: http://www.publictransit.us/ptlibrary/TRB1221.pdf
It was published in 1989 as best I can figure out, so I don't think there was any concept of high quality bus service in that point in time. I haven't read it yet so I can't speak to it other than that it exists.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby Didier » February 14th, 2013, 10:04 am

This has been a great thread to read through so far. Lots of good discussion.

MinnPost had a story on this today: http://www.minnpost.com/two-cities/2013 ... nsit-route

Personally I tend to agree with the commenter who wrote this:
Weighing the options
Submitted by Andrew Richner on February 13, 2013 - 1:45pm.
If you objectively weigh the options, the real choice is between the economical but uninspiring "enhanced bus" option versus the pricier (construction-wise at least) but far more appealing, and possibly more profitable in the long-run, streetcar option. In terms of moving people around, the bus is probably about the same as the streetcar. But I think it's a mistake to think of the line as just a transit line. It's important to remember that this goes from Lake Street, through Eat Street and downtown, past St. Anthony Main and on to Central Ave. NE. Linking these areas together by a rail line would bring these isolated commercial districts together in a dramatic way. I would think that shoppers and diners would find the idea of parking along the line and taking the streetcar to their desired destination much more appealing than doing the same with an "enhanced bus." And a physical rail line threading the different districts together would bring a far greater sense of connectivity between them than a bus line.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby Viktor Vaughn » February 14th, 2013, 12:00 pm

I've already joined a lot of other commenters by echoing Jarrett Walker's arguments on this thread. In short, enhanced bus could provide the same (or greater) mobility benefits as a streetcar for a lot less cost.

That said, I think a streetcar could offer some benefits to the East Hennepin / Franklin-Nicollet / and Eat Street business districts if the starter segment actually went that far (which I doubt). Tourists and transit-disinclined dt workers and visitors may be more likely to ride a new streetcar to these other neighborhoods to eat lunch or shop at the few boutiques. The streetcar could be a psychological bridge over the Mississippi River and 94 trench that could make those neighborhoods feel more connected to downtown.

And sorry redisciple, I don't have any empirical evidence to offer that supports the rail-bias theory. But anecdotally, I talked to a woman just this week who said she has never rode a bus and never will, but she likes riding the train to Twins games (even though she lives in the western suburbs?!). This comports with a few of my co-workers, who regular commute via train, but avoid the bus like it will give them scabies. But I can't help think that changing attitudes is better public policy than coddling ignorant prejudices. Already the twenty/thirty- something demographic doesn’t have near the anti-bus baggage of boomers. Maybe in a decade or two it will be a non-issue like gay marriage.

But, why do we want to upgrade the Central-Nicollet corridor anyway? If it’s for the thousands of people who cram onto those buses everyday, all day – then improved bus is an easy choice. If it’s an amenity to include in glossy brochures to attract conventions – then a streetcar may make sense. But maybe we should use economic development dollars, property assessments, or private donations rather than transit funds. After they build a Nicollet Mall streetcar circulator, we’re still going to have the same inferior & inadequate transit on this corridor as we do now.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby talindsay » February 14th, 2013, 1:00 pm

I'm incredibly surprised by the heavy anti-streetcar tone of this thread. I recall there were those on Minnescraper who weren't in favor of streetcar lines, and I certainly can understand hesitance or even ambivalence about streetcar, but the overall negative tone here surprises me. While I understand the economic argument in favor of buses, nobody ever grew anything by following the least-expensive option - after all, all transit is subsidized in MSP and the most economical option from a purely bottom-line accounting perspective is to shut it down altogether. If a bus is better than a streetcar simply because it costs less, a walk is better than a bus because it costs nothing.

All of us regularly choose to pay more for amenities - instead of buying the 99 cent per kilo horsemeat burgers the Europeans just learned about, we choose to eat food that tastes good; instead of keeping the old TV from 1990 with a set-top box we choose to buy a new flat screen. Of course we sometimes choose to spend less to save money, and we have to strike a balance. I can understand people believing the streetcar lines come down on the wrong side of this equation.

But this specific corridor is perhaps the premier corridor for the City of Minneapolis - it takes in almost all of the city's major attractions in one go. It will be used by convention-goers, barhoppers, museum-goers, orchestra patrons, commuters, the elderly, the young, out-of-towners, i.e., everybody. Spending extra money to make it nice - fast, even boarding; smooth ride; obvious, permanent location - is worth an awful lot even if it doesn't cut a second off the ride time.

If I were an out-of-towner visiting Minneapolis right now I'd be disappointed by the lack of good options for getting between the hotels at the north end of Downtown and the convention center and arts facilities at the south end. I'd be disappointed that the only self-evidently easy way *out* of downtown for tourists goes into a fairly featureless rail trench rather than to the vibrant activities of Nicollet South. I'd be disappointed that there's no easy way to get to St. Anthony Main from the heart of downtown except by foot.

This project can address all those issues - but anybody who claims a bus line of any sort under consideration will do so is being disingenuous. How many of you, when going to towns you don't know, take a bus anywhere? Bus systems are inherently difficult for those not already familiar with the system. Can those issues be addressed on a bus system? Sure, they *CAN*. But there's a huge amount of empirical evidence that they *won't*.

Streetcar lines are still much less expensive than full Metro-Council-style light rail. The Helsinki picture up-thread illustrates why streetcars are a great bridge option. Do we need streetcars on every corridor in the city? Probably not. But Nicollet-Central is a really big deal for the City's image of itself and for others' image of the City, and a streetcar line would provide an appropriate level of connectivity among the various urban features that define this corridor.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby Nathan » February 14th, 2013, 1:57 pm

But this specific corridor is perhaps the premier corridor for the City of Minneapolis - it takes in almost all of the city's major attractions in one go. It will be used by convention-goers, barhoppers, museum-goers, orchestra patrons, commuters, the elderly, the young, out-of-towners, i.e., everybody. Spending extra money to make it nice - fast, even boarding; smooth ride; obvious, permanent location - is worth an awful lot even if it doesn't cut a second off the ride time.
All sorts of good stuff there. I think most of that applies to the 7 preliminary lines... I kind of think these should be a no-brainer. Toronto's Streetcar System wasn't super dense but it seemed to simply connect all of the crucial parts of town. It was very effective.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 14th, 2013, 3:21 pm

talindsay wrote:All of us regularly choose to pay more for amenities - instead of buying the 99 cent per kilo horsemeat burgers the Europeans just learned about, we choose to eat food that tastes good; instead of keeping the old TV from 1990 with a set-top box we choose to buy a new flat screen. Of course we sometimes choose to spend less to save money, and we have to strike a balance. I can understand people believing the streetcar lines come down on the wrong side of this equation.
Beyond the environmental benefits a streetcar provides vs a bus (unless you go electric bus trolley which then limits both on-street bus mobility and increases capital costs), this is the most compelling argument, at least in my book. Just because some option is the most economical option does not make it the best. People want, yearn to buy the nicer, cooler car - even if it gets worse gas mileage and/or is technically smaller (or even costs more to operate and maintain like many luxury vehicles with worse MPG and more frequent breakdowns - looking at you Audi, BMW, etc). Perhaps it's true that coming generations of people have a lower rail bias. Even if it is, I don't know that it's enough. Our public transportation system needs to be a viable alternative for mobility. That includes a reasonable cost relative to the trip time (pay more for operating a car and parking but you get there a little quicker), but ALSO on the mental/emotional side of wanting to ride transit in the first place. If people continue to have an irrational bias against buses, no logical argument or marketing pitch will get them to ride or choose to live in a place with 1 or no cars at their disposal.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby Le Sueur » February 14th, 2013, 4:40 pm

talindsay wrote:...after all, all transit is subsidized in MSP and the most economical option from a purely bottom-line accounting perspective is to shut it down altogether. If a bus is better than a streetcar simply because it costs less, a walk is better than a bus because it costs nothing.
Lol. Immediately got a visual of empty interstates and suburbanites walking. :o

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby woofner » February 15th, 2013, 12:28 pm

FISHMANPET wrote: Here's a study that was done in Europe: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2012/06/21/ex ... ver-buses/
But this is stated preference and not expressed preference, so who knows?

The Overhead Wire post cites this article: http://www.publictransit.us/ptlibrary/TRB1221.pdf
It was published in 1989 as best I can figure out, so I don't think there was any concept of high quality bus service in that point in time. I haven't read it yet so I can't speak to it other than that it exists.
Thanks Fishmanpet for these links, which add something substantial to the conversation.

I'm not sure the same can be said for the "tourists need rail transit" argument. For one thing, there are lots of cities where tourists frequently use a bus-based transit network. Minneapolis used to be one of them, where the bus between Downtown and the Mall of America was very popular until Metro Transit killed it in favor making people spend an extra 15 minutes on LRT. Many French and Spanish cities, such as Strasbourg, Toulouse, Bilbao, and Malaga, have or until recently had bus-based transit systems. I've used buses to get around cities like Honolulu, Mazatlan, and Bergen, and also used buses extensively in cities that have rail systems like Miami and Berlin.

I agree, though, that most cities (especially large ones) with good transit systems eventually build a rail network to meet the demand for transit that a good bus system creates. But they don't build streetcars. All the French and Spanish cities that have upgraded to rail have done so with light rail or metro systems. I'm not aware of a modern streetcar system being built from scratch except for in Portland and Seattle (and Tucson I guess). My guess is that's because people who know how to build and operate successful transit systems don't see enough value in local-running rail systems for the cost. I agree that Nicollet-Central could be considered the premier corridor in Minneapolis - but if that's the case, make it light rail. There is a good chance that once this dense corridor has actual high-frequency transit, it will be overwhelmed by demand regardless of whether it's enhanced bus or streetcar.
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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby TWA » February 15th, 2013, 12:30 pm

talindsay hit the nail on the head. This line more than any other would be a symbolic line and show that the area is committed to investing in transport. That has to count for something. And the idea of a pedestrian and streetcar only nicollet mall downtown certainly brings a smile.

While we are at it, just make the floats in the holidazzle get pulled behind the streetcar :-) efficiency at it's finest.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby woofner » February 15th, 2013, 1:34 pm

OK cool, I'll move someplace where I can take transit throughout the city instead of just on a tiny symbolic tourist trolley. Have fun in your car-choked hellhole.
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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby mplser » February 15th, 2013, 1:56 pm

yikes..........

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Re: Nicollet-Central Corridor

Postby RailBaronYarr » February 15th, 2013, 2:47 pm

redisciple wrote:OK cool, I'll move someplace where I can take transit throughout the city instead of just on a tiny symbolic tourist trolley. Have fun in your car-choked hellhole.
Then why would anyone, anywhere, ever build streetcars if buses could do it just as well? Are there no redeemable qualities about streetcars compared to buses that we can assign some monetary worth to in order to justify the higher capital costs?


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