Minneapolis Streetcar System

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
RailBaronYarr
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby RailBaronYarr » April 20th, 2015, 1:09 pm

I'm mostly in the same boat. I would answer that while I take transit far less often (% of all non-commute trips vs % of all commute trips), the non-commute trips are broken up. I walk and bike places. Sometimes I do hop the bus if it's a no-transfer trip (the 4 or 6 for me). My family still ends up driving, but mostly for accessing places in the 3+ mile range where transit would be gratingly bad. We filled up our only vehicle on March 12, and again on April 11 (during a time with multiple suburban jaunts for family bday parties, Home Depot for renovation materials, etc). I'd say if most folks in the city could do that, hell, even bump up the share of folks who do it by 15%, that would be a massive win. One streetcar line for $2-300m won't move the needle by 15%, even if you include convention guests, etc. 3-4 aBRT lines? Maybe. I'll begrudgingly admit that rails and caternary and the streetcar help convey where a line goes to novices/out of towners (at least until you have a fairly well-built system, then legibility is no different than buses), but better signage/platforms/etc for buses compared to the current system (where bus stop time schedules may not even match the exact stop you're waiting at!) should close most of that gap, right?

I guess I don't see this discussion as a 100% for/against argument on streetcars. I'm totally for putting rails in the Midtown Greenway right now. Wagenius says in the article (trying to backtrack the over-selling of streetcars-as-economic-development) “Don’t go right to economic development ... Make sure you only look at projects and only look at corridors that make sense as transportation first and then put economic development on top of that.” I mean, compare Nic-Central time savings vs the current bus (6-7 minutes for the 9.2 mile corridor, 1-2 minutes for the 3 mile starter segment) vs Midtown (streetcar saves 15 minutes from Blue Line to Uptown vs the 53, 20 minutes vs the 21, and 12 minutes vs the enhanced bus proposal). Ridership projections for just the streetcar are similar (~11,000 for the 4 mile Midtown segment vs 9,000 for a 3.2 mile Nic-Central), as is project cost ($200-220m for Midtown vs $182m for the starter line, both in $2013). The major difference seems to be economic development potential (Midtown lists midpoint of $352m vs the starter Nic-Central $2.2bn). It's fine if capturing that development potential is your goal (hey, I'm all for broadening our tax base). Just be honest about it and be willing to debate the merits of your decision(s).

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 20th, 2015, 1:25 pm

Why should speed be the only factor worth evaluating a transit line by? To be honest, travel times on the 18 are already pretty decent (unlike, say, Lake or Hennepin, which often snarl buses in traffic). Nicollet Mall Station to the Mall of America takes ~45 minutes by the posted schedule; the 18 from 5th and Nicollet to American Blvd (about the same trip) is estimated by Google Maps at 50 minutes.

MNdible
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby MNdible » April 20th, 2015, 1:35 pm

Yes, I'd definitely agree that people on this forum put too much emphasis on minor time savings, especially when looking at transit times for close in neighborhoods. How much does it really matter if your trip takes 10 minutes or 15 minutes? There are other factors (predictability, frequency, crush-load factor, quality of ride, station amenities) that I'd argue are much more important.

Once you're in your seat, I'd the actual transit time doesn't make that much difference (within reason).

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby David Greene » April 20th, 2015, 1:46 pm

I'm also in the same category as xandrex.
RailBaronYarr wrote:I'll begrudgingly admit that rails and caternary and the streetcar help convey where a line goes to novices/out of towners (at least until you have a fairly well-built system, then legibility is no different than buses)
I've wondered about this. Part of the reason buses are difficult for the casual user is that there are so damn many of them. It's counterintuitive but adding more lines makes the overall system more difficult to use. One of the attraction of rails is there is only a handful of lines people need to keep track of. I believe this is one reason people are more apt to walk longer distances using rail than bus. People could figure out which bus gets them closer than rail but it's just too hard to look at a map full of squiggly lines and plan a trip. It's easier to focus on the few big bold lines and just walk the rest of the way.

If our rail network has as many lines as our bus network, it would be equally confusing. More and more I am discounting the "physical tracks and catenary makes the route easy to understand" argument. It's the simple lack of choice that makes rail easier to understand. It's the same reason grocery stores don't carry every possible brand of a product.

Concerning non-commuting trips, I'd love to take the bus more to the downtown Target but we usually end up driving because it's really hard to handle a baby, a stroller, a huge pack of paper towels and three bags of groceries and household items. It's hard to get through the bus doors with that and it's even harder to sit down with it. Rail is marginally better due to the wider doors but in the end the problems still exist. What are some solutions to this problem*?

* My preferred solution is an Uptown City Target. :)

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby xandrex » April 20th, 2015, 2:01 pm

David Greene wrote: People could figure out which bus gets them closer than rail but it's just too hard to look at a map full of squiggly lines and plan a trip. It's easier to focus on the few big bold lines and just walk the rest of the way.

If our rail network has as many lines as our bus network, it would be equally confusing. More and more I am discounting the "physical tracks and catenary makes the route easy to understand" argument. It's the simple lack of choice that makes rail easier to understand. It's the same reason grocery stores don't carry every possible brand of a product.


...


* My preferred solution is an Uptown City Target. :)
Well, there are fewer of them and there isn't a BLUE-C or GREEN-X. Unless you live a pretty short distance from the core, you have to rely on sometimes infrequent bus lines that are really just breakaway portions of larger bus line. Bus maps are REALLY bad at show these. And even for the experience, they're quite annoying - going from work in downtown to back home, I can take a 4[letter], but not a 4. A 6U, but not a 6. A 17W, but not the 17. But then there's the 61, which I can always take (but its frequency is meh).

Throw in a more comfortable ride (whether you're sitting or standing) and it pretty much seals the fate for anyone who doesn't have to use transit - skip the buses, take the trains.


And I, too, would like to see an Uptown CityTarget/Target Express. And one near Hennepin-Central, please. :)

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » April 20th, 2015, 2:07 pm

There's already confusion at downtown where people get on the wrong color train and/or the wrong direction. There were 2 or 3 groups last week who got on the Green line after the Twins game instead of the Blue Line.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby grant1simons2 » April 20th, 2015, 2:18 pm

I've had people ask how to read the schedule before. Some people just aren't very experienced in transit.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby RailBaronYarr » April 20th, 2015, 2:19 pm

Speed isn't the only thing to evaluate a transit line by. Of course, we've gone over this numerous times before here and no one is likely going to swing their whole mindset after reading a few posts. But...

First, I'd hardly call a 15 minute time saving over the limited span, limited frequency express bus (53) along Lake for a <4 mile journey a minor time savings. That's huge. Yes, you have to go down to the trench not on the commercial street where many destinations are. But given the density just north of Lake in many areas along the Greenway there's still plenty of people who would see significant savings for many daily journeys. Conversely, I've often stated that an extra couple minutes walk time from a further parking space, slowing down general traffic by converting lanes to bus/bike space, etc is no big deal. I agree that society (not just us transit squabblers) put way too much emphasis on eliminating a couple minutes (or keeping current delay from going up). In another thread, MNdible questioned whether the 7th St transit lane was worth it if it if delayed drivers by 22 seconds (not picking on you specifically, the city agreed with that perspective, as would nearly every transpo engineer). Why can't we expect people who already stand out in the cold (and often open elements), cram into crushloaded buses, etc to see 2 minute savings as a positive?

I think most of us on UrbanMSP are all pretty close on the broad spectrum of streetcar opinions (ranging from the United Streetcar CEO on one side to Joe Soucheray on the other). So, we can at least agree that frequency, reliability, and station amenities are marginally different (if at all) between an enhanced bus and streetcar? Yes, streetcars have slightly more (and more comfortable feeling) space inside, with smoother ride quality. People care about that, rail bias etc. I'm with you that speed isn't the only thing. Just that the proposals for Nic-Central had the same frequency (and presumably reliability), stations, etc for the bus and streetcar. It's worth spending $100m on that corridor just for those features (I've said so many times). We should be spending that much money system-wide. But every streetcar we build means we can't (financially or even politically) do that for 2-3 potential bus lines. There's only so much federal money, CTIB money, etc to go around, particularly when you consider how our regional sharing is set up. We're seeing aBRT lines delayed (for a variety of reasons, obviously, but including competing for funding).

I guess I'm saying: let's build streetcars (or rail in general) when it boosts both non-travel time amenities as well as travel times. If I had $300m to spend on transit in South(ish) Minneapolis, I'd built Midtown rail and enhanced bus on Nicollet (plus Central). I'm open to a discussion how that's a worse societal outcome than Nic-Central streetcar + Lake street aBRT.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby grant1simons2 » April 20th, 2015, 2:45 pm


mplsjaromir
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby mplsjaromir » April 20th, 2015, 2:53 pm

I walked that section of W. Lake literary this past friday, the new stations are nice.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby MNdible » April 20th, 2015, 3:34 pm

The comment on speed was really more of an aside to this conversation. I'd certainly agree that an exclusive ROW situation like there exists in the Greenway is a special case that is worthy of pursuing with whatever effort necessary to get things done. I don't think that exclusive ROW on Nicollet would get you nearly the same time savings.

Regarding 7th Street, I'll admit to not having read the report or understanding the methodology. For shame. If it truly is only a 22 second delay, then by all means, make it so. I must admit to questioning that result. Presumably it's an average, and many drivers at off peak times will see no delay whatsoever.

[In general, we're taking a lot of capacity out of our downtown street networks, and if each one is studied in isolation, it may not seem to be a big deal, but at a certain point, it adds up. I know LOS for intersections is a running gag on the forum, but in a tight network like the downtown grid, where one failing intersection quickly can ripple through the whole grid, things can get FUBAR'ed in a hurry.]

Regarding our finite funds, remember how the success of the Hiawatha Line paved the way for the creation of the CTIB? Don't underestimate how powerful broadening the constituency of transit can be in creating political will and funding.

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Nick
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Nick » April 20th, 2015, 3:37 pm

Would agree with RBY that we're all within inches of agreeing with each other, but in this particular case the inches happen to include $200+ million dollars in capital investment.

Rail bias is a thing, clearly. Should we spend $200 million dollars on rail bias? Thinking about it, is there a clearer equity-based argument anywhere? One streetcar to convince a couple thousand middle class people to take transit or should we build 10 aBRT routes that will benefit tens of thousands?

(Written on about ten blocks of an 18's route)

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby MNdible » April 20th, 2015, 3:44 pm

Also, re: funding.

Remember that we can't just take the $200m and transfer it to a number of aBRT projects, because $60m of it is city money that is legislatively dedicated to building the starter streetcar, and a good chunk of the remainder is presumably federal Small Starts funding that aBRT wouldn't be eligible to receive.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby grant1simons2 » April 20th, 2015, 3:51 pm

Legit question: What would be the difference between a regular bus and an aBRT line along Nic? Besides improved stations and a lowered bus to make it easier to get on and off. I can still think of a lot of problems with traffic and such. Many of the same arguments being made against streetcars could be made against aBrt

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » April 20th, 2015, 4:12 pm

Abrt will have some signal priority. Also, there will be fewer stops and (hopefully) ticket vending machines, so there will be less dwell time.

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Nick
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Nick » April 20th, 2015, 4:17 pm

MNdible wrote:Also, re: funding.

Remember that we can't just take the $200m and transfer it to a number of aBRT projects, because $60m of it is city money that is legislatively dedicated to building the starter streetcar, and a good chunk of the remainder is presumably federal Small Starts funding that aBRT wouldn't be eligible to receive.
Very good point, but I think you could also consider the mental number as withdrawing from some mental appetite for transit, right? There's a finite amount of money that's going to be spent on capital improvements...maybe this is a bad argument.
grant1simons2 wrote:Legit question: What would be the difference between a regular bus and an aBRT line along Nic? Besides improved stations and a lowered bus to make it easier to get on and off. I can still think of a lot of problems with traffic and such. Many of the same arguments being made against streetcars could be made against aBrt
Also true, but the benefit would be commensurate with the cost.

It's hard to make any sort of "think bigger" argument without immediately delving into "hey look at my eight line fantasy subway map," but, man, if there's any place in the entire metro area to be thinking of thinking bigger with transit, it's under Nicollet Mall. Maybe this isn't a real argument but I will continue to hold that if we put a streetcar on Nicollet and LRT through Kenilworth, that's effectively the whole ballgame for expensive transit improvements in South Minneapolis for the next thirty years. I'm personally not opposed to the idea of streetcar if we had infinite money, and specifically I think it would be fine on Central and fine on Nicollet Avenue if we had infinite money, but putting it at grade on Nicollet Mall in any situation is a bad idea.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 20th, 2015, 4:29 pm

I certainly agree that Nicollet Mall should have a transit tunnel... but given that no-one outside fantasy maps is really talking about it, I'd rather we focus on improving things that have at least some political support than trying to conjure support for something that would cost some amount that none of us are qualified to guestimate.

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Nick
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Nick » April 20th, 2015, 4:32 pm

But if weeeeee of all people are not doing that, who will?

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby grant1simons2 » April 20th, 2015, 4:36 pm

Exactly, thank you Nick. If there's no one advocating or pushing for that why would that make us stop? Why wouldn't that want to make us organize?

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Nick
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Nick » April 20th, 2015, 4:40 pm

What we've gotta do is see if we can get into the secret, bi-decennial meeting that the Twin Cities Shadow Government has to decide all the things that are actually going to happen in the following 20 years, and just let that inertia ball roll.


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