University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

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Silophant
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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Silophant » October 28th, 2013, 11:00 pm

MNdible wrote:
FISHMANPET wrote:The social and political reality is that people are driving less, and want communities that enable that. It's a trend that started before the recession, and it's a trend that I believe will continue after the recession.
And we're apparently going to increase the population of our center cities by 1/3, while at the same time increasing the number of regional destinations located in the center cities. It's a little hard to guess how these trend lines will play out on particular streets.

Question: The wife and I want to go to dinner at a spot on University Avenue right on the Green Line. We live in South Minneapolis. Are we really going to spend an hour one way getting over there by transit? Or a similar amount of time on a bike and show up for dinner cashed and sweaty (assuming we want dinner in one of the pleasant summer months)?

Answer: No, we're not. And neither are very many of our neighbors. I guess you could argue that dangnabbit we shouldn't be going to St. Paul for dinner anyway, but again I don't think that's a limitation most people are ready to make.
Luckily, no one is suggesting that the Washington Ave. Transit Mall be extended all the way to the Capitol, and I can't understand why people are acting like University would be closed to cars. In your scenario, you could (and arguably should, depending on the time of day) hop in your car, jump onto the freeway (specifically and exclusively for auto traffic!) that runs through South Minneapolis, then runs parallel to University to the nearest of the conveniently spaced exits to your destination, then drive the last half mile or so to your destination on University, which is still open to car traffic! Upon arrival, you could potentially park right in front of your destination. Easy peasy.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Chef » October 29th, 2013, 12:26 am

Reducing lanes on University won't really affect people going from Minneapolis to St Paul. Most of the impact will be on local traffic within St Paul.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby mulad » October 29th, 2013, 1:05 am

I'm getting annoyed at the lack of a holistic view here -- We need to reduce fossil fuel consumption in order to hold off climate change, reduce direct harm to the landscape, reduce the chance of energy wars. We need to reduce the carnage on the roadways, partly because of the direct costs due to death and injury, but also to make places feel safer -- which feeds into my first point about fossil fuel use, because people won't want to bike or walk around places where they worry about getting run over.

I've been hearing lately that we're probably going to end up with CO2 emissions targets which will still see temperatures rise at least 4 degrees C, or over 7 degrees F above the norm. In Minnesota, we get most of our oil from Alberta, and a lot of that comes from tar sands extraction, which scars the landscape and uses huge amounts of water. We currently supplement that with 10% ethanol and 5% biodiesel, both of which also use lots of water in growing crops and the later processing. Those crops use up a lot of fertilizer which is running off into our waterways, potentially contributing to the thinning of the Mississippi Delta, which increases the impact of hurricanes and other storms in Louisiana.

Cars beget parking lots which beget more cars which beget roads which beget more parking lots which beget more roads. Things get spaced apart, making it harder to walk, bike, or take transit between places. That whole cycle needs to be reversed, because walking and biking to nearby destinations rather than driving to places further afield is the best way to your transportation-related carbon footprint (though steps also need to be taken at home and at work to reduce consumption by buildings, and probably the impact of the food we eat as well). Heck, I think we'll have to build machines to extract CO2 from the air, turn it back into an oil- or coal-like substance, put it back underground -- reversing the flow of oil that currently comes out of the ground to the tune of a couple hundred billion gallons per year -- if we're really going to stave off the worst of climate change.

But even if you don't think climate change is happening, there's still a direct human cost to cars. There were over 34,000 traffic deaths in 2012, plus many more injuries. Tailpipe emissions also contribute to tens of thousands of deaths per year. What is the economic cost of all of that? It's in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

So given the pretty massive changes that we need to make over the coming decades, I'm not too concerned about retaining the ability to get across the metro region in half an hour. Distances will have to start feeling longer again as people shift to other modes. It should still be possible to go pretty fast if you pay for it, with a taxi or car-sharing service at least, and probably still with a large fleet of private cars. If we can draw down the number of cars on important corridors, then it becomes easier to get public transit vehicles through at faster speed, and biking becomes less stressful and more likely to occur on a regular basis.

Heck, there's been some recent chatter about how there are more bikes sold each year than cars and light trucks -- a trend that has probably been around for many years. But people typically don't use them very much. That's something that could change pretty dramatically if there's a more balanced approach to transportation, or even one biased toward the least carbon-/energy-intense modes. I don't expect everyone to switch to biking year-round (I doubt I could handle it), but there needs to be a broad change in the way we think about how we get around and how easy it should be to get from point A to point B.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 29th, 2013, 7:47 am

Can I just point out the absurdity that the direction of the defenders of 2 lanes here has taken? It's turned in to a defensive 'war on cars' scenario with the accusation that people zealously don't want others to get to University Ave destinations by car and that they should take a 1 hour transit ride or a sweaty bike ride to a restaurant.

Can I point out that 38' of University Ave would still be dedicated toward moving and storing private automobiles in this scenario? That people in S Minneapolis, Nordeast, Highland Park, or even Lakeville will still be able to drive down University Ave in their privately owned auto? The only difference being that it might take an extra 2-5 minutes if you do it around peak rush hours, with all other times of the week likely seeing no increase in drive time?

As mulad points out, there are so many factors at play beyond even recognizing demographic trends away from driving, wanting to live closer in, and an increased comfort with transit/car-share/biking.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby trkaiser » October 29th, 2013, 8:08 am

Tom H. wrote:Yeah - go stand around the KSTP tower on University for a few hours someday, and tell me that it couldn't be handled by a single traffic lane. Rush hour might get tight, but (a) that's what happens in a city, and (b) I-94 is a hop, skip, and a jump to the south.
That is very true, but there are some places in the city (some parts of the newly re-striped Plymouth Avenue on the north side, for example) where taking away a lane has made for some seriously long traffic lines at rush hour. I'm worried the city may go too far with some of their re-striping efforts. I am a biker and love the bike lanes, but my preference would be to keep car capacity as it is in SOME places, and put the bikes on a parallel route that's not as hectic and/or dangerous.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby xandrex » October 29th, 2013, 9:51 am

trkaiser wrote:
Tom H. wrote:Yeah - go stand around the KSTP tower on University for a few hours someday, and tell me that it couldn't be handled by a single traffic lane. Rush hour might get tight, but (a) that's what happens in a city, and (b) I-94 is a hop, skip, and a jump to the south.
That is very true, but there are some places in the city (some parts of the newly re-striped Plymouth Avenue on the north side, for example) where taking away a lane has made for some seriously long traffic lines at rush hour. I'm worried the city may go too far with some of their re-striping efforts. I am a biker and love the bike lanes, but my preference would be to keep car capacity as it is in SOME places, and put the bikes on a parallel route that's not as hectic and/or dangerous.
I'm curious where all the traffic is backing up. I worked on Plymouth up until a few months ago (so I dealt with the construction, long period of dusty/gravely road, and single lanes) where I'd commute home to NE and never saw any major issues. The biggest "backup" was at Plymouth and Lyndale, but I think I rarely sat for more than a single red light.

The redo of Plymouth seems to be a major win overall. The road certainly isn't University-level busy and the bike lanes were pathetic, if not downright dangerous. Now there are wide, comfortable bike lanes (and what they did on the bridge is amazing)...I'm sort of jealous I no longer work in North as I would have biked occasionally had these facilities been in place.

That said, I do think some of the concern with reducing lanes on University is a more general worry that if you do it to a major street like that, sure it's an additional 2-5 minutes of drive time. But what happens when it's done to other major roads ans suddenly that 2-5 minutes added to that place you love to visit is 15-20 additional minutes? It might just make it easier to hop on the freeway and head to the burbs to go out to eat or shop (in which case, you haven't really prevented a car trip from happening). Not that I'm saying I don't support reducing the lanes (I don't have enough information to make that decision). Instead, just offering a glimpse of what I see some of those opposing this project might be thinking.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby trkaiser » October 29th, 2013, 10:05 am

I commute from NE to Plymouth and back (gross!) via 55 and Plymouth Avenue. I agree that everything from Marshall Avenue and over the bridge is great - and the changes work well for me coming back into the city. Those heading west on Plymouth in the afternoon out of the downtown area are the ones that sit in long lines that stretch toward Penn. It's not terrible and it doesn't affect me, but it's given me something to think about on my drive...

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Mdcastle » October 29th, 2013, 11:24 am

Chef wrote:Reducing lanes on University won't really affect people going from Minneapolis to St Paul. Most of the impact will be on local traffic within St Paul.
Until the people divert to I-94 and make that even worse disaster than it is now. I agree with the above post that to the degree people from the suburbs do make discretionary trips into the city to spend money, they're going to stop if driving gets to hard and go to the local Applebees instead. Of course maybe you don't want us driving in, but we're not going to ride a slow, stinky bus so it's take us and our money or reject us and our money.

And my own view is we should deal with climate change by developing ethanol and fuel cells and putting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, not perpetuating the ongoing war on cars.
Last edited by Mdcastle on October 29th, 2013, 11:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Tom H. » October 29th, 2013, 11:34 am


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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Silophant » October 29th, 2013, 11:43 am

Mdcastle wrote:
Chef wrote:Reducing lanes on University won't really affect people going from Minneapolis to St Paul. Most of the impact will be on local traffic within St Paul.
Until the people divert to I-94 and make that even worse disaster than it is now. I agree with the above post that to the degree people from the suburbs do make discretionary trips into the city to spend money, they're going to stop if driving gets to hard and go to the local Applebees instead. Of course maybe you don't want us driving in, but we're not going to ride a slow, stinky bus so it's take us and our money or reject us and our money.
Somehow, I don't believe that you actually speak for all 2.5 million suburbanites.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Viktor Vaughn » October 29th, 2013, 12:33 pm

Mulad - thanks for your excellent comment. So often minor issues get blown up and we miss the bigger picture.

Reducing our region's premier urban transit corridor to one auto travel lane in each direction is such a minor step compared to what needs to be accomplished. It doesn't bode well for us that this is so controversial.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Viktor Vaughn » October 29th, 2013, 12:38 pm

Mdcastle wrote: I agree with the above post that to the degree people from the suburbs do make discretionary trips into the city to spend money, they're going to stop if driving gets to hard and go to the local Applebees instead. Of course maybe you don't want us driving in, but we're not going to ride a slow, stinky bus so it's take us and our money or reject us and our money.
The city needs to stop competing with suburbia on suburbia's terms.

The city's answer to Southdale was City Center style developments. Minneapolis narrowed sidewalks and widened roads downwtown to compete with the wide free-flowing roads of the suburbs. Minneapolis razed its urban form and built a Kmart across its mainstreet to compete with strip malls and big-box stores in the suburbs. Minneapolis tried to be like the new, sanitized suburbs by razing architectural masterpieces in the name of urban renewal. Neighborhoods were destroyed and divided to bring a suburban/rural style interstate system to the heart of the city.

So many blunders in Minneapolis' history are due to trying to compete with suburbia on suburbia's terms. Yet, the parts of the city that draw people are uniquely urban. Suburbians are attracted to the areas freeways missed, like Uptown. They move to the formerly blighted buildings that urban renewal didn't get to, like those in the North Loop. They seek out the hole in the wall ethnic eateries of Eat Street, though a generation ago that type of urban form was shunned as messy, dangerous, and old fashioned. Nearly every single evening, even as the temp has recently dropped towards freezing, I see people doing photo shoots on the Stone Arch Bridge. They want pictures of themselves with the urban backdrop. They pose in front of the crumbling stone walls of the old mills. They're attracted to the history and authenticity of the city. After a few decades we've finally started to figure out a city is attractive due to its uniquely urban characteristics, not because of its features copied from the suburbs.

If you demand the city maintain suburban features in order for you to come and spend money here, I'd politely as possible suggest you go to your suburban Applebees instead. Many of us will take advantage of the Central Corridor to explore the independent University Avenue restaurants serving food from the many different countries and cultures along the Mekong River. Since the wind has definitively shifted, the city will do fine if it focuses on doing what cities do well. Congestion-free mainstreets aren’t one of those things.

When you get tired of Applebees, come join us in exploring University Avenue's Little Mekong, you'll be welcomed, just on the city's terms.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Silophant » October 29th, 2013, 12:56 pm

Great post, Viktor.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Mdcastle » October 29th, 2013, 1:35 pm

Silophant wrote:
Mdcastle wrote:
Chef wrote:Reducing lanes on University won't really affect people going from Minneapolis to St Paul. Most of the impact will be on local traffic within St Paul.
Until the people divert to I-94 and make that even worse disaster than it is now. I agree with the above post that to the degree people from the suburbs do make discretionary trips into the city to spend money, they're going to stop if driving gets to hard and go to the local Applebees instead. Of course maybe you don't want us driving in, but we're not going to ride a slow, stinky bus so it's take us and our money or reject us and our money.
Somehow, I don't believe that you actually speak for all 2.5 million suburbanites.
Maybe you don't speak for everyone in the city either. I imagine there's a lot of people in the city that drive and don't like being stuck in traffic jams.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby FISHMANPET » October 29th, 2013, 1:48 pm

They're free to bike, walk, take transit, or move if they don't like the city.

I don't like being stuck in traffic jams so I don't drive when traffic is heavy, works out pretty well for me.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 29th, 2013, 5:42 pm

Mdcastle wrote:And my own view is we should deal with climate change by developing ethanol and fuel cells and putting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, not perpetuating the ongoing war on cars.
I also prefer to rely on someone else to solve the problems I induce with my lifestyle choices that may (probably likely) have extreme unintended or unforeseen consequences, not to mention require intense subsidies.

I'll pose a simple series of questions. Why do suburbanites choosing to come to University Ave destinations cry foul for the last 1-2 miles of their journey adding 3-5 minutes extra when they already chose to live in a place that's 15-30 minutes away from said destination? If they prioritize or value that 3-5 minutes so much, why not live a little closer to the action in the first place? For the people that do live in the core of the cities or along the University Ave corridor, how is adding transportation options a bad thing? Lastly, can you explain how replacing 1 lane of moving cars with 1 lane of parked cars and a bike lane is a war on cars?

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby MNdible » October 29th, 2013, 9:31 pm

This thread has certainly progressed nicely and predictably.
Viktor Vaughn wrote:So many blunders in Minneapolis' history are due to trying to compete with suburbia on suburbia's terms...
Man, it's really easy to judge the decisions of 40 years ago based on today's realities. It's so sad that Minneapolis didn't realize that people would be itching to move into the Gateway district 60 years after they demolished it. Or any number of other urban tropes we could fall back on.

People in the suburbs are so dumb and they love Applebees.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 29th, 2013, 10:19 pm

It's one thing to claim the ignorance of people with good intentions 40-60 years ago. It's another to defend the results in the here and now.

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby Viktor Vaughn » October 29th, 2013, 11:13 pm

MNdible wrote:This thread has certainly progressed nicely and predictably.
Your response was predictable as well. It just surprised me it took so long; you must have been busy today.
MNdible wrote:
Viktor Vaughn wrote:So many blunders in Minneapolis' history are due to trying to compete with suburbia on suburbia's terms...
Man, it's really easy to judge the decisions of 40 years ago based on today's realities. It's so sad that Minneapolis didn't realize that people would be itching to move into the Gateway district 60 years after they demolished it. Or any number of other urban tropes we could fall back on.
It seems you misunderstood the thrust of my comment. My point was cities' suburban adaptions from past decades are widely derided and the quintessential urban features of the city are highly valued.

Rather than critiquing planners from decades past, my purpose was to show how those past decisions and their ultimate results should inform the current debate about University Avenue.

Rather than obfuscate as you did above, please argue against the actual point I made.

"The city needs to stop competing with suburbia on suburbia's terms."

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Re: University Avenue Traffic Lane Modification Study

Postby MNdible » October 30th, 2013, 9:27 am

Well, this got personal in a hurry. Thanks.

I'm not sure exactly what about my response was so predictable -- that I'm not a big fan of pre-judging the results of a study? That I get tired of the same pro-car / anti-car polemics that doesn't ever get into the interesting grey area in between the two where most people actually live because everybody's so sure that they're right?

There's nothing suburban about University Avenue as it was rebuilt. It is the main street between the two downtown cores, and is a major business corridor that's only going to become more intensely used -- is it really that shocking that this street might have two lanes of auto traffic in each direction? It's a significant reduction in auto capacity from it's previous iteration, which is appropriate given the increase in mobility that LRT represents. It may well be that there is still excess capacity in certain locations or at certain times, but besides some anecdotes, we don't have any evidence of that yet.


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