Saturday, January 27, 2007

future downtown

i am a member of a committee that is reviewing the city's ten year transportation plan. it is an education to see the process and an honor to be involved and to give input, but it is also disappointing to me, as a resident of minneapolis, to see where it is going, or see where it is not going. thirty-five years ago, minneapolis was a world leader in developing new ways to think about transportation in a U.S. city, but it is not that way any more.

One of the goals of this planning process it to make transit the transportation mode of choice in the city. The plan will do many good things for transit, will allow double lane bus lanes on two downtown streets, and combine bus service on just a few streets. but nicollet mall, which was once a revolution in city transportation planning, is old transit mall technology, and getting down it on a bus takes forever, and that will not change for people like me who take local buses down it. We will also have to cope with frequent service disruptions due to events on the mall. and what the plan will not do is make walking, biking and transit more appealing than driving. cars are still king in this plan.

it is a great kansas city or fargo downtown plan, but it is not the plan of a city that aspires to be a world-class city. what world class cities are doing all over the world is limiting car transportation in their cores. they are widening sidewalks until there are no car lanes left on many of their downtown streets. this turns their downtowns into places where people want to be, where they do want to walk and stay and hang out. residents don't have to worry about car or bus fumes in these pedestrian only areas, they don't have to worry about getting hit by a car, they don't have to deal with the levels of crimes that comes in places where cars are king, and they can get to their city hearts by transit or by walking.

a downtown plan with a schedule for converting several streets into pedestrian and bike only spaces would be a truly visionary transportation plan for a world class city. this plan is blinded by dependence on cars, and is far behind the curve.

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