Dismantling Downtown Freeways

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mulad
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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mulad » July 15th, 2013, 12:29 pm

Alright, admittedly I was working elsewhere at the time, so I didn't see peak-time traffic. I don't recall seeing any traffic cops on evenings or weekends, and aside from the need to wait through 2 or 3 cycles of the traffic light at the ramp from SB I-35W to 4th Street SE, I don't recall significant backups. I remember more traffic, but not enough to really slow things down once I was off the highway.

I'm still curious about where people were trying to go from or get to. Looking at the map, it would seem that the biggest travel time differences would be for people who lived near The Quarry. I-94 is pretty close to the western part of Northeast, though there have certainly been bridge problems there too with the closure of the Plymouth and Lowry bridges later on.



Reality is somewhere in between the ideas of traffic as a gas vs. as a liquid. The loss of a lesser-used roadway can tend to go by unnoticed, but I-35W with 140,000 cars per day is definitely going to leave a mark. Traffic on a new/expanded roadway can grow pretty rapidly, but it doesn't shrink quite as fast when capacity is taken away.

People knew that the loss of the bridge was temporary, and were therefore less likely to make permanent changes to their routines. Other local roads/bridges could have been built if I-35W wasn't replaced, such as redisciple's idea of a bridge from 11th Ave S to 6th Ave SE -- that connection would probably create a need for another link into the Beltrami neighborhood.

But even with all of our highway network up and running, there are cases where it doesn't help all that much. As you move further and further from the main routes, the advantage of using them tends to dissipate. Today I live near Como Park, and for a while I was volunteering at a group over by Powderhorn Park. Google Maps estimates taking the highway is 20 minutes (10.6 miles) while taking surface streets is 23 minutes (7.7 miles).

It can certainly feel a lot slower by going on surface streets, and average speed is certainly less, but often the time delta isn't all that great. The advantage of surface streets is often that you have many more opportunities to take different routes, and they can be shorter and more direct. Making the decision to take the highway dramatically limits the number of routes that can be taken, and often requires drivers to overshoot their destinations. Of course, sometimes highways have been built right in the spot where a local road would have made sense, or the displaced one that used to exist. I-35W royally messed up Johnson Street, among others.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby Viktor Vaughn » July 15th, 2013, 12:46 pm

Mdcastle wrote:San Francisco has basically declared war on cars- they thought dismantling part of the Central Freeway would force people out of their cars and into transit. Big Surprise. The traffic didn't disappear and has gotten worse in the area (and I get to drive through it in two months).
"War on cars" is a bit overdramatic don't you think? Cities have been wholesale retrofitted to move as many vehicles as fast as possible. As a result cities have become hostile and dangerous places to move around without a car. When an effort is made to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, or transit riders on auto-dominated streets, the "war on cars" hyperbole inevitably comes oozing out. However, it's not based on fact. Making things a bit more multi-modal expands choices, so a car isn't the only option for all trips, but go look out your window -- wherever you are, cars dominate the right-of-way. Even if you're in Midtown Manhattan or downtown San Francisco with their high transit modeshare, auto traffic still bogaards the streets and create a literally life-threatening danger for anyone else. Please take the war-on-cars-Cato-Institute-bullshit somewhere else.
mulad wrote:Can someone give an example of a specific trip that was strongly impacted by the bridge collapse (like, by more than 5 minutes)?
I just remember trying to get out of town on many Friday afternoons to go backpacking on the Northshore. It could take two hours to drive from South Minneapolis to Forest Lake. Now, I don't think we should build enough roads so traffic flows freely on Friday afternoon rush hour for a trip north out of town, but the 35W Bridge was a key piece of auto infrastructure that left no good alternatives and increased gridlock far and wide.

I believe in induced demand, but to claim everything went fine without this bridge is stretching this valid theory beyond credibility.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mulad » July 15th, 2013, 1:02 pm

How were you trying to get from Minneapolis to Forest Lake? Snaking through the UMN/Marcy-Holmes area to reach I-35W? Going via MN-280? Via Cleveland? Via Snelling?
Last edited by mulad on July 15th, 2013, 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 15th, 2013, 1:02 pm

Mdcastle wrote:San Francisco has basically declared war on cars- they thought dismantling part of the Central Freeway would force people out of their cars and into transit. Big Surprise. The traffic didn't disappear and has gotten worse in the area (and I get to drive through it in two months).
Didn't it, though??? http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/PAGE ... 966258.php

http://www.uctc.net/papers/836.pdf

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby Viktor Vaughn » July 15th, 2013, 1:20 pm

mulad wrote:How were you trying to get from Minneapolis to Forest Lake? Snaking through the UMN/Marcy-Holmes area to reach I-35W? Going via MN-280? Via Cleveland? Via Snelling?
I tried a bunch of different ways, 280 was a parking lot, I tried 94 to 694 east, and various surface streets. I think the main problem was just getting across the river. The bridge was out when I moved back to town, and since I hadn't previously lived in Minneapolis as an adult, I probably didn't know the shortcuts and through-streets as well as I now do almost 6 years later.

And, that reminds me how many people I knew in Duluth who were very nervous about making their usual DT Mpls / Airport / MOA / etc. trips to "the cities" without access to 35W. Probably for many "oustate" Minnesotans navigating around the fallen bridge was more of a stressor than the extra conjestion (for whatever that's worth).

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mplsjaromir » July 15th, 2013, 1:53 pm

I made the trip from South Minneapolis to the North Metro via 94W to 252 to US HWY 10 E and never ran into much trouble. 252 could be bad from time to time, but I never spent two hours to get to Forest Lake.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mulad » July 15th, 2013, 2:12 pm

For Duluth to MSP, it's more direct to take I-35E anyway. Were they confused about the whole I-35W/I-35E thing? (I can't blame anyone for being baffled by that...)

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby Viktor Vaughn » July 15th, 2013, 2:21 pm

Fair enough. Getting out of town on a Friday afternoon in the summer can be slow & frustrating under the best of circumstances, I recall it taking that long, but with my memory being what it is, who the hell knows. I just remember being really frustrated with the congested detour options, and relieved when the new bridge opened.

Also, I remember sitting through many stoplight cycles at the confluence of Hennepin / Central / University without moving at all.

Yes, people got by without the bridge, but the traffic didn't disappear "like a gas filling a different sized conduit."

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mattaudio » July 15th, 2013, 2:25 pm

^that's because it was temporary so it was easier for people to wait out the replacement bridge than adjust their travel habits in a meaningful way

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby Viktor Vaughn » July 15th, 2013, 2:37 pm

Wait, there's a 35E? But seriously, you have to imagine the trepidation some people have to drive in the cities. I would bet prevalent gps has changed this somewhat in the last few years, but it does seem like people would only take the route they know, and if they're thrown off by a detour or just a lane splitting off, panick ensues. I even have inlaws who refuse to drive in Sioux Falls or Omaha. For them, the idea of driving on Minneapolis freeways is frightening.

Not that this has any bearing on how we should design roads or whatnot, so I probably shouldn't of even mentioned it. I was just reminded of the extra stress the fallen bridge caused many outstaters on their trips to the cities.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby MNdible » July 15th, 2013, 2:39 pm

mattaudio wrote:^that's because it was temporary so it was easier for people to wait out the replacement bridge than adjust their travel habits in a meaningful way
In fact, no. People did adjust their traffic patterns in meaningful ways, and it was still a major upheaval. You're talking about 140,000 trips. Even if half the people figured out alternate routes or alternate times, or postponed trips, or stopped shopping at particular businesses, you're still talking about 70,000 trips.

Fortunately, people didn't permanently reconfigure their travel patterns by, for example, moving their corporate offices from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby PhilmerPhil » July 15th, 2013, 2:44 pm

If there is a 'war on cars' and we're going by the death toll, I'd say the cars are winning by far...

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby ECtransplant » July 15th, 2013, 2:49 pm

They could have also stopped living in the sticks and moved to Minneapolis. Let's not act like driving to work is the only option

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 15th, 2013, 3:07 pm

MNdible wrote:
mattaudio wrote:^that's because it was temporary so it was easier for people to wait out the replacement bridge than adjust their travel habits in a meaningful way
In fact, no. People did adjust their traffic patterns in meaningful ways, and it was still a major upheaval. You're talking about 140,000 trips. Even if half the people figured out alternate routes or alternate times, or postponed trips, or stopped shopping at particular businesses, you're still talking about 70,000 trips.

Fortunately, people didn't permanently reconfigure their travel patterns by, for example, moving their corporate offices from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
Depends what you mean by meaningful. You say they did, yet I don't recall hearing of any companies moving from a downtown location to the suburbs as a direct result (did any at all?). The shift in population growth of our core cities during that time (and since) hasn't been any higher than other metros (in fact I just saw a study that showed Minneapolis and St Paul lagged other major cities in terms of core:suburb growth disparity). Had there not been an immediate, panicked rush to replace the bridge, and instead that money was invested in aBRT lines all within Minneapolis (which could have been completed in the same time frame), signaling a change in transportation policy moving forward, there truly would have been a meaningful shift in transportation/living arrangements.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby Viktor Vaughn » July 15th, 2013, 3:10 pm

mattaudio wrote:^that's because it was temporary so it was easier for people to wait out the replacement bridge than adjust their travel habits in a meaningful way
I'm sure the temporaryness was a factor, but it's also a key through-link near the densest part of the metro. Which is different from induced demand on a greenfield corridor, or a connection on a grid with lots of alternative routes.

I'm all for removing the elevated waterfront freeway stubs like in other cities, but it's not like they just shut down I-5.

This just seems like a case of trying to bend facts to fit a neat theory. Reality is more complicated.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby MNdible » July 15th, 2013, 3:20 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:Depends what you mean by meaningful. You say they did, yet I don't recall hearing of any companies moving from a downtown location to the suburbs as a direct result (did any at all?).
I'm not sure what you're getting at there, but I very explicitly said that companies didn't move, and I implied that the reason that they didn't move is because the disruption was understood to be temporary.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mattaudio » July 15th, 2013, 3:21 pm

So some people don't think urban freeways induced demand? I bet VMT per capita increased significantly as we've spent money on urban freeways.

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby Viktor Vaughn » July 15th, 2013, 3:33 pm

mattaudio wrote:So some people don't think urban freeways induced demand? I bet VMT per capita increased significantly as we've spent money on urban freeways.
Who said that?

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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby woofner » July 15th, 2013, 3:36 pm

MNdible wrote:You're talking about 140,000 trips. Even if half the people figured out alternate routes or alternate times, or postponed trips, or stopped shopping at particular businesses, you're still talking about 70,000 trips.
Way back on page 2 I linked to some actual facts. The researchers found that only about 14,000 daily trips were disrupted. I believe that means 90% of the traffic was either discretionary or exceptional and therefore easily (if fearfully) adjusted. That's not to say there weren't consequences to the collapse, but especially considering our relatively high freeway lane miles per capita, it's reasonable to consider whether it was worthwhile to replace.
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Re: Dismantling Downtown Freeways

Postby mattaudio » July 15th, 2013, 3:46 pm

If the bridge didn't exist until 1967 and was carrying 140,000 VPD 40 years later, I can't imagine it actually improved interstate mobility but instead just subsidized a land use that relied on longer trips.


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