Central Corridor LRT

Professor David Levinson, my former academic advisor at the University of Minnesota, has posted some of his thoughts on the Central Corridor LRT project. I feel very strongly about transportation issues, especially those where the needs of pedestrians, bicycles, transit vehicles, and autos are directly competing for limited space. I feel passionately about the Central Corridor, and passionately about creating a more pedestrian friendly University of Minnesota. I found Professor Levinson’s analysis to be nearly completely in agreement with my own thoughts, but expressed much more eloquently than my words would have been. If you have time, swing over to The Transportationist and read his memo.

I hope the University of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council come to agree with his analysis. It is unfortunate that the University of Minnesota has become one of the Central Corridor’s biggest obstacles instead of one of its biggest supporters, It’s unfortunate that we would consider investing nearly $1 billion and be so short-sighted as to not fully capture the benefits the investment may bring by failing to exploit the new train and the redevelopment it will hopefully bring.

I am especially in agreement with Professor Levinson on several major points:

1. Private automobiles should be banned from using Washington Avenue.

2. The “boat” (the odd diversion from University Avenue onto 4th Avenue SE for several blocks) serves no purpose and should be eliminated.

3. The many one-way streets around campus, specifically Essex, Ontario, Delaware, and Erie are more confusing than they are helpful and should be re-examined.

I diverge from Professor Levinson’s memo in only 2 minor aspects:

1. Professor Levinson suggests that bicycle riding should be prohibited along the newly created Washington Mall. I do not believe that this is in the best interests of the University. Cycling flourishes on the University campus for two reasons. First, driving and parking are prohibitively expensive for most undergraduates, and frustrating for most. Second (and more importantly) cycling is much more convenient than driving on campus. Cycling is easy because you can ride anywhere you want on campus, and there are bicycle racks outside nearly every building. Cycling should only be prohibited along Washington Mall if it is believed to pose a significant safety hazard for pedestrians. I do not believe this will be the case. Using paint or colored pavements of some sort, a designated cycling lane could be safely created through the mall, similar to the bicycle lanes through the West Bank of campus. If cyclists are prohibited on the Washington Mall, most cyclists are far more likely to continue riding – weaving between buildings on other parts of campus – or disregard the law and ride on the mall anyway rather than walking their cycles on the Mall. I’m not sure that having cyclists weaving between buildings to avoid the Mall is more desirable for pedestrians. If the University of Minnesota hopes to increase their bicycle mode share, restricting bicycling in an area where they are currently allowed is a step in the wrong direction.

2. While Professor Levinson says that East River Road is the “least equipped” of all adjacent roadways to accommodate additional traffic, I would add that East River Road is fundamentally different from other streets in the area because of it’s ownership by the Minneapolis Park Board and its scenic vistas and thus East River Road is also the least desirable roadway to accommodate additional traffic – regardless of its ability (or inability) to absorb additional traffic. Every effort should be made to divert traffic onto roadways other than East River Road.

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