Minneapolis Streetcar System

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
grant1simons2
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby grant1simons2 » April 20th, 2015, 4:41 pm

Wut

mamundsen
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby mamundsen » April 20th, 2015, 6:01 pm

The mall redesign and transit came up at my work lunch today. Everyone else is a non transit user and as far as I know not very linked into the development world...

The consensus was that they all want buses (and future streetcar) off Nicollet Mall.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 20th, 2015, 6:30 pm

Nick wrote:But if weeeeee of all people are not doing that, who will?
Of course, and put me on the mailing list!

Maybe I just don't understand your reasoning, but how does killing the streetcar increase the odds for a downtown transit tunnel? If we're operating in a money-constrained world, we aren't going to have the money for a tunnel either way.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby RailBaronYarr » April 20th, 2015, 9:03 pm

Both are unlikely, but if you put streetcars on the Mall (and to S Minneapolis), not only do you have an additional cost barrier to put anything underground, you've already sunk the political and monetary costs into that line. Given regional funding wars (even within Hennepin County), how likely is it to get $300m to tunnel 2 miles under Nicollet in 20-30 years when we just built a $300m streetcar?

Or, here is an actual email excerpt from a public official's aide (not named, even though they didn't ask me not to share this info) on Midtown Greenway rail challenges:
Money. Here again, this project is competing regionally, which is a challenge. The Met Council’s goal is to obtain Small Starts funds, however there’s a queue for the region already. And then the local match is needed, which causes a few new wrinkles:

a. The Met Council would likely ask CTIB for the 50% local match, and CTIB members are aware of the number of projects in the works for Hennepin, not to mention the amount of CTIB funds that go to Hennepin.
b. CTIB is unlikely to fund an arterial BRT line, so suggestions in the dual alternatives analysis (arterial BRT and rail in the trench) would likely be funded and implemented separately.
c. The local match for arterial BRT on Lake would have to be found from different sources, such as local partners or grants. This is a problem because each local partner already has a project in the works.
Nic-Central is likely up against similar hurdles (what with the whole MetCouncil kinda pushing back on streetcars in general). Maybe it's worrying over nothing, I guess. Build an aBRT for $100m or a starter streetcar for $200m. Both are big enough numbers to maybe turn away political support for decades to come. I guess I'd rather gamble at the chance and save the $100m (while serving a longer corridor in the meantime). It's okay if we disagree on that judgment call.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 20th, 2015, 9:32 pm

If the choice is between a streetcar in five years and a rapid-transit service 20-30 years from now, I'll take the streetcar. A tunnel under Nicollet Mall isn't going to happen without further revitalization downtown and a vocal (and powerful) constituency for service along that route. Maybe an enhanced bus would help that like an attractive rail line can, but I doubt it.

We aren't talking about some tourist loop that just wanders around downtown, like what so many cities have built and seen falter. This goes through some of the densest parts of the city, has a high density of destinations... and it's also a route full of completely vacant lots. Most of those lots are closer to downtown Minneapolis on the streetcar than a lot of the big Green Line (or Blue Line!) redevelopments, and unlike Hiawatha and University, Nicollet is pedestrian-friendly and full of great restaurants and cultural destinations. It needs this now, not in a couple decades.

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Nick
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Nick » April 20th, 2015, 9:40 pm

Prob would be a lot cheaper than $100 million, the A Line is budgeted at $25 million:

http://www.metrotransit.org/a-line-faqs
EOst wrote:Maybe I just don't understand your reasoning, but how does killing the streetcar increase the odds for a downtown transit tunnel? If we're operating in a money-constrained world, we aren't going to have the money for a tunnel either way.
I guess the point is that we have to stop somewhere, right? Something has to shock the system, otherwise we're going to keep up this ridiculous "well, we've put ten years into it, so we may as well put another ten years into it" stuff. We got the Blue Line, which is good, and the Green Line, which is 90% good, outside of that, what else is worth the cost? Northstar? The Red Line? The Blue and Green extensions? The Gold Line? Are we going to keep splitting babies?

I think we all acknowledge that there are political realities, but progressives are making a pragmatism into a sport and competing over who can claim to be the most realistic. Transit lines aren't something like a car where you can compromise with your partner who wants a truck when you want a sedan, so you settle on a station wagon or a crossover. If you compromise by underbuilding a promising corridor but still spending hundreds of millions of dollars that preclude further investment, or by overbuilding a corridor without much potential and spending billions of dollars, you're stuck with both.

If we want to be working for something, let's start working for a Hennepin and Ramsey sales tax now and start doing all of this correctly, so maybe we can get some shovels in the ground by 2040 just as flying cars are taking off.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » April 20th, 2015, 10:27 pm

Also, I'd say stopping this streetcar doesn't make a tunnel more likely, but building the streetcar makes a tunnel less likely.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 21st, 2015, 6:34 am

Sure, but we aren't choosing between a truck and a sedan here; we're choosing between a streetcar and, maybe, decades down the line, if we're lucky, a rapid-transit line. We can imagine the needs of the future all we want, but honestly, we can't predict the fiscal or political situation five years from now, much less twenty. Giving up on a good-but-not-perfect line is a great way to end up with no line at all.

And for what? Let's say we get our perfect world, and there's a light rail tunnel through downtown under Nicollet from Washington Ave to Grant Street. Even now, Google Maps estimates that trip (on an 11) taking about 12 minutes; the streetcar study rates it at 11. Is that slow? Definitely. But how much time are we realistically going to save in a tunnel, when at the minimum that line would need at least 4 and probably 5 downtown stops (minimum: Gateway/river, 5th for transfers, 7th/8th for the core and bus transfers, somewhere around 11th for the south mall)? If we assume 45 seconds of dwell time in the stations and only a minute for travel time between stations, we're at, what, eight minutes already? How many people would those three minutes actually sway, especially when those time savings are only over the full length of the tunnel? Who are these extremely time-sensitive people commuting from Kingfield to Logan Park, anyway?

Of course, you could chime in right now and say that, anecdotally, it often takes longer than that to traverse the Mall--and you're right. But what causes that unpredictability? Some of it's buses getting stuck at traffic lights, and we should all be pushing for signal priority wherever we can get it. Some of it is waiting for people to pay for their fares in nickels, and an aBRT line could solve that just as easily, sure. But a lot of it is the challenges of operating a non-fixed-track transit system; level boarding is hard, and eliminating the platform gap is even harder, especially when snow starts to build up (which I suspect we're going to see first-hand on Snelling this winter). A transit tunnel could solve all of these things in one go, but do we need a transit tunnel to solve them? I don't think so.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby trigonalmayhem » April 21st, 2015, 6:49 am

I think you're really underestimating the amount of time wasted waiting for every traffic light on nicollet. All of them are timed for cross traffic with no regard given to the speed of transit through downtown. A tunnel would completely avoid this issue and probably have enough room for multiple buses to stop at once instead of the stop two or three times as they get closer to the actual shelter thing they do now. Plus underground stations could have turnstiles if we wanted them or at the very least off board fare payment.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 21st, 2015, 6:59 am

I'm working off what the streetcar planning documents say buses actually take to get down the Mall, and what Google Maps says. Both factor in traffic light delay. Besides, surface stations could also have off-board payment, so I don't really know what you're getting at there.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby RailBaronYarr » April 21st, 2015, 7:49 am

Couple general thoughts/responses:

I based the $100m for a Nic-Central aBRT off the project's capital cost estimates for "enhanced bus," which is slightly different (in span and station locations) than the aBRT study which listed Nicollet ($52m) and Central ($58m) separately.

Some quick math for tunnel transit time. Using 3 mph/s acceleration/deceleration and 30mph travel speed between stations (taking 10 seconds, 215 ft on each) , 45 second dwell times (which is long for LRT, even in a CBD), 5 stops. It's just over a mile from the Gateway to Grant. From the time the train would leave Gateway to arrive at Grant would be 5 minutes. Every bus on Nicollet could presumably use the tunnel (like Seattle) and realize those savings as well.

The 7th St study used peak hour vehicle approaches to determine delay in 2030 using forecasts that have yet to come to fruition (extrapolated from 2004 volumes just before peak downtown VMT). We're talking 22 seconds at the worst part of the day. I have a little sympathy for the notion that since that study we've taken away space for bikes, plan to take more, etc. But I have a hard time believing that traffic won't just figure it out. Leave earlier/later, carpool, bike/transit in (isn't that the point of speeding transit up/improving reliability), or just park further from the core. More abstractly - this is what frustrates me. Who in the public even opened that stupid document? Who knows where to find peak/daily traffic volumes to compare numbers? I'll admit it's exhausting to do it so I don't blame anyone for not. We need to rely on experts for a lot of things (ex. climate change is definitely real!!) but we also need to push back a little when they make a judgment call like "the delay would be unacceptable."

Ok, none of those things are streetcar-specific. So. I'm still trying to understand why people who like streetcars (myself included) aren't challenging the city that their priorities are misplaced in the network. Maybe long-term a streetcar on Nicollet Avenue makes a lot of sense. But one in the trench makes way, way more sense today since it provides similar balance of rich/poor people the high-amenity rail experience plus massive time savings. And if there's a chance that the city could reshuffle it's network priority ranking to actually include Midtown, work with the state to change the TIF allowance already granted to work for a different (also booming) area of town, and spend those funds there (while MT builds the aBRT line it studied on Nicollet), we could kinda have the best of all worlds. Get that Hennepin/Ramsey sales tax to build an axis of transit tunnels (among other things) 10-15 years from now and slap some rails on the surface to make Nicollet Mall ped/bike/streetcar only with buses in the tunnel.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 21st, 2015, 8:17 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:Some quick math for tunnel transit time. Using 3 mph/s acceleration/deceleration and 30mph travel speed between stations (taking 10 seconds, 215 ft on each) , 45 second dwell times (which is long for LRT, even in a CBD), 5 stops. It's just over a mile from the Gateway to Grant. From the time the train would leave Gateway to arrive at Grant would be 5 minutes. Every bus on Nicollet could presumably use the tunnel (like Seattle) and realize those savings as well.
Not to be argumentative for argument's sake, but I'm skeptical that we would actually get it down to five minutes through the area. The closest comparison I can make is Seattle's tunnel; to go from International District to Westlake (about a mile) takes seven minutes by the book, and it only has two stations in between (Pioneer Square and University Street).

edit: Another quick comparandum: a mile on the underground section of Boston's Green Line with only one intermediate stop (eg. Hynes to Arlington) takes five minutes.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby xandrex » April 21st, 2015, 8:28 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:Both are unlikely, but if you put streetcars on the Mall (and to S Minneapolis), not only do you have an additional cost barrier to put anything underground, you've already sunk the political and monetary costs into that line. Given regional funding wars (even within Hennepin County), how likely is it to get $300m to tunnel 2 miles under Nicollet in 20-30 years when we just built a $300m streetcar?
Given how often we redesign Nicollet Mall, is it really that far-fetched to believe that 30 years down the line we won't think "Minnesota's 2015 Take On NYC's High Line" is a bit silly and dated and be ready to tear it all up? Maybe that's not how it should be, but I think we have to admit that 30 years is a long time. Plenty of board members weren't but a twinkle in an eye and Reagan was president 30 years ago.

It's even pretty safe to assume that during the next 30 years, Minnesota will vote in a few anti-transit GOP (or DFL) governors and maybe even cast their electoral vote for a Republican president that will slash federal matching dollars. I don't know that I want to place my bets that skipping streetcar now will make CTIB—or whatever organization is in its place—happy 20 years from now, because they're frankly not who I'd be worried about.
Nick wrote:Transit lines aren't something like a car where you can compromise with your partner who wants a truck when you want a sedan, so you settle on a station wagon or a crossover.
I think it's proof that we're all crazy urbanists if we think people who want a truck will compromise and choose a station wagon or crossover. Them are hippie cars! :mrgreen:

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby trigonalmayhem » April 21st, 2015, 9:30 am

As someone who takes a bus through downtown every day across from northeast to south Minneapolis and it easily takes at least twenty minutes during rush hour to get across downtown. Quite often longer. Seriously take a rush hour bus from one end of downtown to the other and honestly tell me a tunnel would only marginally improve the time (and I'll then call you a liar).

trigonalmayhem

Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby trigonalmayhem » April 21st, 2015, 9:37 am

xandrex wrote: It's even pretty safe to assume that during the next 30 years, Minnesota will vote in a few anti-transit GOP (or DFL) governors and maybe even cast their electoral vote for a Republican president that will slash federal matching dollars. I don't know that I want to place my bets that skipping streetcar now will make CTIB—or whatever organization is in its place—happy 20 years from now, because they're frankly not who I'd be worried about.
Honestly if we keep skimping on transit it will be a self fulfilling prophecy as young liberals who crave urbanity leave in droves for more progressive places and hollow out the state into a crazy conservative wasteland. This is pretty much what happened to Wisconsin ... Look at how many of their young people end up in Minneapolis or Chicago.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 21st, 2015, 9:58 am

trigonalmayhem wrote:As someone who takes a bus through downtown every day across from northeast to south Minneapolis and it easily takes at least twenty minutes during rush hour to get across downtown. Quite often longer. Seriously take a rush hour bus from one end of downtown to the other and honestly tell me a tunnel would only marginally improve the time (and I'll then call you a liar).
I take that same ride every day, twice a day (the 11, 17, or 18 to transfer to the 6U or the 3). When the bus ends up taking a long time--and it sometimes does--it is very rarely because of rush hour traffic. Instead, it's because boarding takes so damn long that buses miss their green lights. That doesn't need a tunnel to fix; it needs level boarding, off-board ticketing, all-door boarding, and maybe some signal priority. Don't get me wrong; a tunnel would be great, and would help to solve all of these things too! But I really doubt the added time savings of a tunnel vs. those improvements above-ground would be significant enough to warrant the cost when Nicollet is already an exclusive busway.

grant1simons2
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby grant1simons2 » April 21st, 2015, 10:04 am

If buses got signal priority downtown there would be gridlock traffic. I'm sorry but it's true. Especially during rush hour. Rush hour on Nicollet ave outside of downtown can also be awful. So yes, that is a factor of longer trips

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby mattaudio » April 21st, 2015, 10:15 am

The one area where a tunnel would outshine any of those improvements would be for capacity. We're already going to have our at-grade east-west spine at capacity in a decade with four lines operating as two services. Yet there are still ample east-west connection opportunities at the north and south of the core (3rd/4th, 8th/9th streets). But because of the river on one end and the skew of the grid on the other, north-south connectivity has less options. We have Hennepin, Nicollet, and Marq2. 4th/5th Aves could provide relief, but the core isn't reaching east *that* much. A north-south transit spine would lay the groundwork for additional services with significantly larger capacities.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 21st, 2015, 10:18 am

grant1simons2 wrote:If buses got signal priority downtown there would be gridlock traffic. I'm sorry but it's true.
If Nicollet buses got to turn 7th green from red, sure. If they extend the yellow sequence for three seconds, maybe not. Certainly there are some great candidates already for greater priority (Alice Rainville Pl springs to mind)
Especially during rush hour. Rush hour on Nicollet ave outside of downtown can also be awful. So yes, that is a factor of longer trips
On a bus? Again, I ride this route every single day, and I've never perceived traffic to be a problem compared to the length of boarding.

But ultimately we can throw around anecdata all we want. The fact remains that a streetcar in five years is better than a tunnel ~~someday~~.
Last edited by EOst on April 21st, 2015, 10:22 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby EOst » April 21st, 2015, 10:21 am

mattaudio wrote:The one area where a tunnel would outshine any of those improvements would be for capacity. We're already going to have our at-grade east-west spine at capacity in a decade with four lines operating as two services. Yet there are still ample east-west connection opportunities at the north and south of the core (3rd/4th, 8th/9th streets). But because of the river on one end and the skew of the grid on the other, north-south connectivity has less options. We have Hennepin, Nicollet, and Marq2. 4th/5th Aves could provide relief, but the core isn't reaching east *that* much. A north-south transit spine would lay the groundwork for additional services with significantly larger capacities.
No disagreement here. I suspect that in the short-to-medium term however, any capacity crush could be alleviated by purchasing longer buses (and high-capacity streetcars).


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