Minneapolis Streetcar System

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min-chi-cbus
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby min-chi-cbus » September 7th, 2012, 2:21 pm

redisciple wrote:Cleveland's Health Line really seems to stretch the meaning of the term rapid transit - 30 stations in 6.8 miles is impossible to serve rapidly. Metro Transit's arterial transitways - which they're not claiming to be rapid transit - are planned to have fewer stops per mile than that, although we'll see how many they end up with once the politicking starts. Maybe pertinent to the Central Corridor - does the Health Line get a lot of interference from left turning vehicles? I just got back from New Orleans and their streetcar lines are basically non-functional because no one has qualms about parking in the median right in front of a moving streetcar (or biking or walking in the median for that matter).

Back to the topic at hand, the city just put up a survey about Nicollet-Central:

http://www.minneapolismn.gov/news/WCMS1P-098107
Not at all. They have their own separate lanes, firstly, and at many intersections passenger vehicles cannot turn left because of the BRT ROW. And like I said previously, although they share the same intersection as vehicles, they have their own lights which are up or down arrows/triangles and are timed only for the buses. I can't remember seeing any intersections where cars could turn left and what they did, but my guess is that they couldn't turn while a bus was approaching -- the bus always has the right of way (hence, "rapid", I suppose). I just rode it a couple hours ago too!

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woofner
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby woofner » September 7th, 2012, 3:21 pm

Yeah, New Orleans' streetcars have their own lanes as well, but motorists there tend to use them as their own private slip lanes (while the pedestrians and cyclists use them as a walking or biking path). But I'm assuming Minnesotans will act more like Clevelanders than New Orleanians, so it probably won't be a big deal. I think most of the unsignalized left turns are going to be prohibited on Central Corridor, too. They could be in New Orleans, too, for all I know - ignoring signs is the rule there.

Minneapolis' streetcars, to give a nod to the actual topic, are not planned to run in a reserved right-of-way.
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Tcmetro
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » September 25th, 2012, 8:11 am

Reminder:
Home > News & Events > News Updates & Events
Attend an open house on Nicollet-Central transit study

Three open houses have been scheduled to give the public an opportunity to learn about modern streetcar and enhanced bus options being considered on a key route through Minneapolis.

The City of Minneapolis is examining options to improve transit service along the busy corridor that includes Nicollet Avenue through south Minneapolis and downtown and Central Avenue in Northeast.

The open houses will provide an overview of the Nicollet-Central Transit Alternatives Study, which is just beginning and will continue into 2013. The study will identify a preferred transit enhancement that could serve as the first phase of a long-range vision for transit service in the corridor.

The corridor extends from the I-35W & 46th Street Station and Nicollet Avenue on the south, through Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, over the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, and north along Central Avenue NE to the Columbia Heights Transit Center on Central Avenue at 41st Avenue NE.

Open house schedule:

Wednesday, Sept. 26
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall

Wednesday, Sept. 26
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
5th Precinct Police Station
3101 Nicollet Avenue S

Thursday, Sept. 27
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Eastside Food Co-op
2551 Central Avenue NE
http://metrotransit.org/TransitArticles ... cleid=1063

http://www.minneapolismn.gov/nicollet-central/index.htm

mattaudio
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby mattaudio » September 25th, 2012, 8:20 am

I vote for the cut and cover LRT idea :) especially between Lake/Nicollet and Central/Hennepin because it could interline Southwest via the Greenway continuing on to a line towards Rosedale someday.

That's under consideration, right? I've always heard the old Norwest Center was built with some sort of underground station or the ability to accommodate vertical circulation for some sort of subway like what was planned in the 80s.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby MNdible » September 25th, 2012, 8:49 am

mattaudio wrote:I vote for the cut and cover LRT idea :) especially between Lake/Nicollet and Central/Hennepin because it could interline Southwest via the Greenway continuing on to a line towards Rosedale someday.

That's under consideration, right?
In a word, no.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 14th, 2012, 6:30 am

There seems to be a significant degree of skepticism here about pursuing a streetcar network in Minneapolis; many seem to prefer the less expensive (and seemingly more politically palatable) option of improving bus service or opting for BRT (the latter alternative doesn’t make sense to me, since this is essentially an LRT-like express service, unlike the local-service streetcar). There was an interesting article on Streets.mn a few months ago arguing the counter-intuitively pro-urban, anti-streetcar position; find the article here: https://streets.mn/2012/04/23/the-magic ... -of-buses/

I thought this article was fascinating for a number of reasons. First, it seemed to be an exercise in rhetoric, not argument. This was surprising given the source. Second, there was an exchange in the comments section wherein a commentator demolished (in my, admittedly sympathetic, opinion) the myth (perpetuated by the author) that streetcars don’t work when mixed with automobile traffic.

When I say the article was an exercise in rhetoric, not argument, consider the four supposed benefits of streetcars that the article purportedly debunks as untrue. The author says there are four arguments for streetcars over buses: (1) they have lower operating costs, (2) they offer a smoother ride, (3) they’re more user-friendly, and (4) they promote development.

As proof that streetcars don’t offer lower operating costs, the author dismisses the fuel and labor cost savings offhand. The fact that electricity is not only less energy intensive, but also an energy source (while indeed derived often from coal power) that is cheaper and more predictable in price (fueling buses subjects Metro Transit to the vagaries of the market in a manner detrimental to accurate budgeting) are both dismissed by the author. These arguments are powerful and can’t be dismissed so readily. Further, the higher capacity of streetcars vis-à-vis buses is mentioned, but not taken seriously. No one can seriously deny, however, that streetcars can move far more people (larger, longer vehicles with far more standing room) more quickly (easier boarding/exiting, no proof of payment delays) than can buses. Higher capacity translates into lower operating costs per trip.

The, the author follows with a predictable ‘higher initial capital costs’ argument. Yes, a transit line with rails, overhead wires, stations, and vehicles costs more to build than a transit line with only vehicles. What is often missed in this discussion, however, is that the higher upfront capital costs invested in streetcars (around which it is indeed difficult to form political consensus) will over the life-span of the line generate significant cost savings through lower operating expenditure and higher use.

As to the smoother ride argument, the author doesn’t even try. Instead, we are treated to a silly quotation of an old jingle describing the rough ride on the old pre-1954 streetcars. Modern streetcars offer a very smooth ride; arguments to the contrary are disingenuous or ignorant.

Third, the author equates the user-friendliness of streetcars to their ‘navigability’ – in essence, the rails and wires just let people know where they’re going. Navigability, in the author’s opinion, can be solved with better signage. What is lost in this discussion, however, is the full panoply of amenities offered by streetcars that make them more attractive to users: physical stations with proper lighting, ticket vending machines, shelter from the elements, benches, (revenue generating) advertisements, low-floor boarding (meaning no queues behind the disabled, easy access for bikes), security cameras, posted information such as maps and schedules, announced train arrivals, etc. Admittedly, BRT has these amenities as well, but if you’re going to build such extensive stations, why not put in a wee bit more effort, build a proper streetcar system and avoid the higher maintenance, lower capacity issues that plague BRT?

Finally, (actually addressed first in the article) is the issue of whether streetcars promote development. Reducing this argument to the “permanence” of rail over bus lines, the author unhelpfully states: “The simple fact that after 1954 there were no more streetcars in the Twin Cities belies their permanence.” Thanks for the reminder; how does this contradict the argument that streetcars promote development? Is the author arguing that the first iteration of streetcars in Minneapolis did not do so? Because this is simply unture. The author then describes how buses also promote development. Cool, that’s true. Again, is this an argument against streetcars? At the end of this segment, the author returns to the stale argument that streetcars don’t get you to where you’re going faster than cars or buses. I disagree, but again, this doesn’t go to the point of development.

Many people contend that streetcars don’t work when mixed with automobile traffic. The author of this article repeats this argument in the comments segment (and it has been repeated on this forum). I profoundly disagree. So did one of the commentators, and I quote their exchange below because I think it is more elegantly stated than I could ever put it.

In a response to the author’s contention that mixed automobile-streetcar traffic slows the streetcar down, a commentator wrote:

Commentator: “I feel this argument is pretty weak — buses get slowed by traffic to roughly the same extent.

Author: Cars on tracks block the streetcar, the untracked bus can go around. This is in principle regulatory, if you keep cars off the streetcar tracks entirely, no problem. That doesn’t happen because you are using streetcars, not LRT, when you don’t have exclusive RoW.

Commentator: Well, there are two main types of blockages in my mind: Immobile vehicles and obstacles (parked cars, broken cars, random large objects that have fallen off a truck, etc.), and traffic congestion.
I doubt that immobile vehicles/objects pop up nearly as often as critics suggest. It’s illegal to park on or otherwise obstruct tracks. Plus, while liability issues would generally prevent it these days, the car owner still runs the risk of picking a fight with a vehicle that is many times heavier than the car.
Then there’s traffic. Center-running streetcars have to deal with left-turning traffic, but standard buses have to wait for an opening in traffic as they pull away from stops. Both streetcars and buses would probably work best these days with bulb-out platforms along the right side of the street.
Buses don’t pass other vehicles all that often either, though that’s partly due to stopping patterns. It doesn’t do much good to pass someone if the next stop is in less than 600 feet anyway.”

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, to sum up: I think streetcars are cool and that they make sense and aren’t just toys but a sensible and serious transportation option that Minneapolis should pursue.

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Nathan
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Nathan » October 14th, 2012, 8:15 am

Thanks for that! I had read that article a while back with some dismay, and am glad you posted some contrary argument. I am very excited for mpls to have some streetcars again. I'm hoping the new LRT and Street Car will create some exponential growth.

I also think the article fails to mention how the busses were new and seemingly so much better at moving people. So, trendy, and at a time when people were fleeing the urban environment. It seems somewhat strange that streetcars would be back at all if buses were so superior.

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woofner
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby woofner » October 14th, 2012, 12:47 pm

While I enjoy the enhanced bus vs. streetcar debate, I don't think it's a very useful one in practical terms. Even if it were possible to say that one is definitely better than the other, you couldn't necessarily apply that decision to every corridor in every environment, there are too many local variations.

For me it comes down to the reality of extremely constrained transit capital funding situation. Capital costs for streetcars in Minneapolis ranged from $13m-$18m per mile in the 2007 study, whereas rapid bus capital costs were $2m-$6m per mile in the study completed this year. I just have a hard time believing that they will be able to finance a useable streetcar line, something they more or less acknowledge in the Nicollet-Central study. In the meantime, Metro Transit seems as though they'll be able to finance the Snelling rapid bus line out of their normal capital funding pot.

When you consider the capital costs, the advantages of streetcar that you listed fade away. Even if you believe that rail attracts more passengers and private investment than bus - which I do, somewhat, although I also don't think there's conclusive evidence - does it really attract 2-9 times as much of that stuff? Because you can build 2-9 miles of rapid bus for every mile of streetcar. That matters to people riding the bus right now, as well as the absolute number of potential riders you can attract.

Finally, I'll throw out a reference to Jarrett Walker's treatment of the issue, which is the best I've seen. Here's the basic post, from which you can probably click through to the sequels:

http://www.humantransit.org/2011/02/sor ... ences.html
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby MSPtoMKE » October 14th, 2012, 2:55 pm

My main problem with Bus Rapid Transit or Rapid Bus projects are that it seems like usually, too many compromises are made. It is very easy to whittle down the amenities here and there because buses really are more flexible than streetcars. No need for curb extensions at all the stops, or off board payment everywhere, just have it operate like a regular bus in some areas to save some money. Rapid Ride in Seattle is an example where they have skimped on these amenities. I think the the Metro Transit Rapid Bus project is great, and for most of the corridors it will mean a significant improvement of service, but I would like to keep the option of a streetcar open on a few busy corridors. If it is possible to build rapid bus stops with curb extensions that can be easily upgraded to a streetcar stop in the future, that would be ideal.
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 15th, 2012, 9:57 am

I was gonna come and link another Jarret Walker post:
http://www.humantransit.org/2009/07/str ... truth.html

But yours is better.

Most of the benefits Helsinki attaches to streetcar can be had with buses as well. Off vehicle fare collection doesn't have anything to do rail, it has to do with collecting the fare off of the vehicle (like Select Bus service in NYC). Same with amenities in waiting areas. If you build them, they'll be there. It's also pretty terrible rhetoric to refute a point by conceding it but saying that other points are more important.

Read that link reddisciple posted, and if you want to dive into a more stream of consciousness post, read the one I posted.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby mplsjaromir » October 15th, 2012, 10:24 am

I think if we look at streetcars vs. buses, and compare their ability to transport people its pretty close to a wash. If we look at the ability to attract development then we can see that streetcars are clearly better.

Turning to streetcars to improve transit in Uptown is silly. If we can dedicate space for better stations and give priority at signals for street cars we can do the same for buses. Streetcars would still be a better use of funds than routing SWLRT down Nicollet for an extra $600 million.

On the other hand, areas that are not as successful as Uptown could use the boost that streetcars have shown. I do think that a Chicago/Central Ave streetcar would bring in interest in redevelopment along those corridors.

I heard Jarrett Walker use "redevelopment tool" as a pejorative for streetcars. I think it should be used as a compliment.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby UptownSport » October 15th, 2012, 10:28 am

Streetcars worked in Europe, and they obviously had buses (some electrified) to choose from- Someone decided there was a place for them amidst all the other choices.
They were a novelty for Midwestern me, especially one that had BEER:
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woofner
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby woofner » October 15th, 2012, 11:21 am

UptownSport wrote:They were a novelty for Midwestern me, especially one that had BEER:
Kind of puts pedal pub to shame huh.
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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 16th, 2012, 7:48 am

For a man who is, like, totally down with streetcars, Mr. Walker puts a lot of effort into casting doubts as to their viability.

I don't think the issue is so convoluted: in the long run, streetcars can carry far more people, using less (and cleaner) energy. The cost of fuel argument is important: gas, despite the headlines to the contrary, is currently incredibly cheap - probably one of the cheapest fluids we purchase. Imagine if you could buy a gallon of coffee at Dunn Bros. for $4. Indeed, in many parts of the US, bottled water is more expensive than gas. It won't always be this way, there haven't been major deposit discoveries since the North Sea in the 1970s and fracking isn't going to solve the problem. This is a long way of saying that we should stop nit-picking and get serious about investing in a mode of transportation that is protected against the market price of petroleum.

As for capacity - Check out this article (google translate): http://www.zeit.de/2007/06/Die_Tram_kommt. I think the quote from Prof. Hecht says it all; essentially, the average bus can carry barely half as many passengers as the average tram, while the tram requires, per passneger, one quarter of the energy required by a bus. Indeed, the new Siemens Avenio tram can max out at over 700 people (see here: http://www.railforthevalley.com/wp-cont ... o_flex.jpg - the 72 m one achieves this, according to the Avenio website).

I think the noise differential also speaks directly to development promotion. Having lived in a second floor apartment facing a street with a bus line, I was startled by how loud an accelerating bus can be - even in a relatively well insulated building. Buses, with their internal combustion engines, suffer from the drawbacks of cars: they're loud, they smell, and their emissions are not only bad for the environment but also bad for your health. People don't like living on busy streets for these reasons. This is why I don't think buses will promote dense development as effectively as streetcars.

As for development, in Minneapolis, we currently have high capacity bus routes along streets that are woefully underdeveloped (Chicago, Nicollet). Take the intersection of Chicago and Franklin - two major Minneapolis streets meet and . . . there's a strip mall. It may not be the wealthiest neighborhood, but it's safe and has immense potential (and never underestimate the ability of developers to utterly change a neighborhood in 2 years - See the U St neighborhood in Washington DC for an especially shocking transformation from destitute ghetto to urban professional playground). With a streetcar running down Chicago, it is not difficult to imagine that developers (riding an unbelievably tight rental market) would swiftly train their sights on a corridor that offers speedy access to downtown.

Dense development will bring far more riders than commuter lines like SW or Northstar ever will. To my mind, this makes streetcars a sensible and pragmatic investment.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » October 16th, 2012, 8:11 am

There are actually few differences between buses and streetcars. The Toronto, San Francisco, and Philadelphia lines all are low-amenity. There are few waiting shelters, and you have to walk in the traffic lanes to reach the doors. Platforms and ticketing machines are not excluded to rail transit only, and in fact all the competent bus services in Europe feature these. As for capacity, streetcars *can* have a higher capacity (such as the two-car trains in SF, or the longer vehicles used in Europe); however, American streetcars have a similar capacity to that of an articulated bus.

Honestly, if we can get a high quality Arterial BRT line at half the cost of a streetcar line, we can have a bigger network. No one has been serious about funding this streetcar network, and only recently has Metro Transit considered the idea of spending capital money to improve the high-ridership lines with Arterial BRT amenities.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 16th, 2012, 8:34 am

Tcmetro wrote: Honestly, if we can get a high quality Arterial BRT line at half the cost of a streetcar line, we can have a bigger network. No one has been serious about funding this streetcar network, and only recently has Metro Transit considered the idea of spending capital money to improve the high-ridership lines with Arterial BRT amenities.
Maybe. But I don't view mere unit-shifting as the goal; this cedes the argument to sprawl. High ridership for its own sake isn't the important thing. Maybe a parking ramp in the woods of Prior Lake next to a BRT stop is a more effective use of taxpayer funds and so on and so forth. This perpetuates an urban form that, I think, is destructive (environmentally, yes, but also socially - in the vein of Robert Putnam's 'Bowling Alone'; or, for that matter, economically - see the Economist's citation of Edward Glaeser's Triumph of the City: http://www.economist.com/node/21564536 [modern knowledge economy requires density for the 'spillover' of ideas]).

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby Tcmetro » October 16th, 2012, 9:23 am

Well, what's the point of building a streetcar line (that has no funding sources) that will do the exact same thing as a bus (which can be built cheaper, and is more politically palatable?)

Arterial BRT /= parking ramp in Prior Lake

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 16th, 2012, 9:45 am

Tcmetro wrote:Well, what's the point of building a streetcar line (that has no funding sources) that will do the exact same thing as a bus (which can be built cheaper, and is more politically palatable?)
If a funding source did exist (for example, FTA new starts has funded streetcar lines in recent years, the Counties Transit Improvement Board controls approximately $100 million in annual transit funding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counties_T ... ment_Board) then the point is to build a line that fosters a truly urban space.

We don't have a truly urban space in MSP now. If we want to live in a built environment consisting of (1) cheaply constructed 2500 square foot timber-frame, plastic sided, asphalt shingled houses with paper-thin drywall interior walls (all of which will need replacement in one generation), (2) drive-thru restaurants and big box stores fronting multi-lane highways, (3) anonymous office buildings surrounded by free parking, suffering from low vacancy, then, yeah, streetcars aren't for us. Arguably this describes much of MSP today. I tend to think it is a recipe for failure.

Apologies for the hystrionics, but I do think that constructing a multi-modal public transportation system with streetcars as an essential element of that system is critical to moving away from the unsustainable model described above (that, incidentally, will collapse when the mortgage-interest deduction is removed [as it will be - it is the single biggest 'loophole' whose closure will solve the national budget woes], new highway funding dries up [that gas tax is not indexed to inflation], and commuting 40 miles a day becomes economically impossible for most families already spending 1/3 of their money on transportation with ridiculously cheap gas [hydrogen cars aren't coming anytime soon]).

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby FISHMANPET » October 16th, 2012, 10:12 am

Helsinki, now you're going on about electric vs internal combustion, which again, isn't a streetcar thing, it's a propulsion thing. There are electric trolley buses and diesel rail vehicles (though I doubt anyone is going to bother to lay rail but not catenary, so a dmu streetcar is just a theoretical possiblity). Did you actually read the Walker articles? They're refuting everything you're saying. You keep talking about the misidentified differences, and none of the intrinsic differences.

And if we want to talk about capacity, the capacity of a Portland streetcar (around 66 feet) is 113-127, depending on the model. The capacity of the New Flyer articulated buses Metro Transit uses (60 feet) is 116, so streetcars don't have a huge advantage there.

I'd love to see some improved bus service along Hennepin Ave, with dedicated lanes or at least signal priority, so that a bus could theoretically beat traffic.

And your "hystrironics" are insane, we're not choosing between a local streetcar system and BRT in the exurbs, we're talking about running better buses in the exact same places as the streetcar is proposed. I have no idea where you're getting your ideas.

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Re: Minneapolis Streetcar System

Postby helsinki » October 16th, 2012, 10:20 am

I know; I got a bit carried away - the hyperbole reflects that.

Still, I don't buy Walker's propulsion argument. Yes, you can have electric buses with catenary wires, sure. But nobody is talking about that option in Minneapolis. It's a red herring.

I completely agree about the improved bus service on Hennepin. I don't know anything about signal priority being granted to buses, but hopefully the recalibration of the citywide trafficlight system currently underway will significantly improve bus performance.

As for having insane ideas - I disagree. Unrealistic, perhaps. Just trying to avoid the small-bore thinking that keeps our otherwise outstanding city running in place when it comes to public transportation.


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