Nicollet-Central Streetcar

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alexschief
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby alexschief » February 28th, 2020, 3:16 pm

I agree with Cincinnati, Dallas, Tucson, and Atlanta, but I was under the impression that the KC Streetcar was a success. Based on the wikipedia link you gave, it has a higher average daily boardings per mile than a lot of LRT systems. That being said, I am comparing them to other systems on that list, not to systems in other parts of the world.
The reason for KC's "success" is that it is free to ride. Atlanta had decent ridership for a year until they started charging fares, after which ridership was cut in half.

It's revealing that the quality of the service is generally so poor that people will refuse to pay even a small fare (Atlanta went to $1) to use it. The KC Streetcar's ridership is comparable to St. Paul's A Line rapid bus, but cost four times as much to construct, far more to maintain, and generates no revenue.
Last edited by alexschief on February 28th, 2020, 3:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Tcmetro
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Tcmetro » February 28th, 2020, 3:17 pm

I think it would be really easy to make the streetcar "LRT" style on Central, with median dedicated ROW and stops. Nicollet will be more tricky for that, but I think a good case would be made to reopen Nicollet at Lake to only streetcars.

If the streetcar proceeds, cutting the stops to every 3-4 blocks should be looked into.

Most other US streetcars suck because they implement little or no priority measures, operate in cities that have weak transit systems, and circulate low-population downtown areas. The Nicollet-Central streetcar as currently envisionsed is too short to be successful, but a longer one would take the bulk of current bus rides.

Arterial BRT is nice, but it's not revolutionary. It adds fancy bus stops and prepayment and a simpler service pattern.

If we go with streetcar, it should be a proper one. The true analysis should be between a proper streetcar and a real BRT. These would be much more transformative than either arterial BRT or a mixed-traffic streetcar.

tmart
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » February 28th, 2020, 3:49 pm

LRT/streetcar have some real benefits; the biggest one is capacity, but also public trust, navigability, lack of detours, rider comfort, effectiveness in snow, etc. Many of these benefits disappear if you ask a transit consultant to model your network with graph theory and then optimize the graph for minimal cost, but they're real, meaningful, tangible benefits that any rider will tell you about!

My instinct says that in the specific case of Nicollet, despite those benefits, it's probably not worth spending the money on rail unless we can also get dedicated ROW. But my instinct is also that Nicollet would be a great candidate for LRT in a dedicated ROW! A high-capacity fixed N-S route on the west side is a huge, glaring hole in the network, and aBRT is not an adequate substitute. (Nor is the Orange Line...) Meanwhile Nicollet is a really great candidate for a road diet: it's a key commercial artery that has a lot of car space, has a ton of destination businesses, has a ton of residents, and honestly doesn't have much value to drivers (for high-speed long-distance travel, they have 35W available just a few blocks away, and Nicollet can't be used to get Downtown anyway).

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Silophant » February 28th, 2020, 4:25 pm

The thing is about streetcars is that, at least in the studies they've done, they're looking at 70' LRVs like other modern streetcar systems use. Once you remove the cab space from each end, the capacity is barely higher than a 60' articulated bus. Ridership on the Nicollet-Central corridor is already high enough that the boost from a transit improvement to either aBRT or a streetcar will likely lead to either one being at capacity during peak hours right from day one. The difference is that, with aBRT, we'll have spent ~$100M to improve the entire corridor from MOA to Columbia Heights or Fridley or whoever far north it goes, and adding capacity can be as relatively simple as running more busses from the existing aBRT fleet, (or even normal buses, like they've been doing on the C Line), whereas with the streetcar, we'll have spent $250-300M to improve the core of the corridor, while likely making the existing service past the ends worse, since ridership will be lower, and adding capacity would require buying more vehicles unique to the line and possibly expanding the new OMF.

More long-term, I agree that Nicollet-Central is the most obvious corridor in the city for a full LRT line, including actual grade separation from at least Lake to 8th St NE, but I worry that if we actually lay tracks on the surface in that corridor, that would sap any political will from ripping them up and adding a real train line for 50 years or longer. I don't feel like a aBRT investment would have the same effect.

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Nick
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Nick » February 28th, 2020, 4:43 pm

It’s wild how much a few mid-2000s PowerPoint presentations really took hold of everyone with streetcars. We need to be planning ahead, working on compelling PowerPoint presentations now, so we can have effectively set up one side of an issue in the 2030s, even after a ton of examples of it in action fail in the 2020s. Any ideas?

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Anondson
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Anondson » February 28th, 2020, 6:46 pm

A PowerPoint consultant feasibility slide deck showing an underground LRT tunnel from West End to Franklin and Lyndale, to Downtown, to Central and Hennepin, to Rosedale.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby DanPatchToget » February 28th, 2020, 7:42 pm

If we really want rail along Nicollet there's a good spot just a few blocks away; I-35W. If you've seen the construction going on you'll notice the west side of the freeway trench has been dug up and it kind of looks like light rail construction (and I wish it was).

Korh
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Korh » February 28th, 2020, 10:59 pm

Two quick things scrolling through the last few pages
Wasn't the whole talk of the Nicollet streetcar halted in the first place over the potential backlash over having to reconstruct the mall again so soon after it just reopened? You can argue that the reconstruction should of included the streetcar in the first place but what's done is done.
How hard would it be to eventually upgrade a aBRT line into a streetcar one? Might run into some issues but in theory you could pitch it as the next step up just like how the aBRTs are pitched as the next step up from the local routes

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Anondson
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Anondson » March 5th, 2020, 1:16 pm

I hear there may be more updates about this project within the next couple months, but I don't know the nature of the updates. Anyone else hearing new things about this streetcar plan?
So... how about the Kmart news?

amiller92
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby amiller92 » March 5th, 2020, 2:28 pm

What are the chance that he re-opened street can be restricted to transit and non-car traffic? Extended all the way from the existing Mall? There's housing in a few places (including some brand new housing). Feasible to allow only resident cars?

I suspect the driving public will be quite eager to add car capacity (given the complaining about the Blaisdell bike lanes), but the city really shouldn't be doing that if it's at all series about climate collapse.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » March 5th, 2020, 3:52 pm

I'm pessimistic, but open to being proven wrong, about the reopening. I think an extended Mall from the River to Lake St. would be an enormous asset to the city and a concrete commitment to their goals around Complete Streets and VMT reduction goals. But I also think that, if they had any appetite to move in that direction, the Kmart wouldn't have stopped them from getting started. A ped mall to Franklin or 28th or something could still be a huge success even without reconnecting the grid here. Conversely, the Kmart effectively functions today as a knip; reopening it has the potential to create a disproportionate amount of throughput for drivers and the city will face enormous pressure to do so.

But, hey, now is the time to put out those ideas for how this should look and shape the conversation about what the city could build.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Silophant » March 5th, 2020, 5:42 pm

I am not optimistic about the city's seriousness about the climate emergency.

tmart
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby tmart » March 5th, 2020, 6:28 pm

I am not optimistic about the city's seriousness about the climate emergency.
Well, unlike so many of the city's problems on this front (interstates, county/state roads, etc.) they really have nothing holding them back this time. They own the land and have no obligation to preserve anything on the parcel or maintain any existing level of throughput. Great chance for them to show they're serious about the nice-sounding policy frameworks they've adopted--and absolutely zero excuses if they make a counterproductive choice.

BoredAgain
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby BoredAgain » March 6th, 2020, 10:26 am

If we do want to advocate, is there anyone aside from our city councilperson that we should contact? This is all very new, and I doubt they have a designated contact for any potential project, but I could be wrong.

amiller92
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby amiller92 » March 6th, 2020, 10:54 am

I am not optimistic about the city's seriousness about the climate emergency.
Don't know what "removing the bike lane" even means for that block (3000 block of Hennepin), but as annoying as stopped vehicles in the lane are, that block is vastly better than it was and better than it will be if more space is handed back to cars.

Multimodal
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Multimodal » April 20th, 2020, 1:53 pm

I am not optimistic about the city's seriousness about the climate emergency.
Don't know what "removing the bike lane" even means for that block (3000 block of Hennepin), but as annoying as stopped vehicles in the lane are, that block is vastly better than it was and better than it will be if more space is handed back to cars.
The other option was “more protection”. She’s just saying what the options are that are being presented.

I think the only viable option is more protection. This project, as done, was a huge mistake and needs to be fixed. The city needs to learn from this mistake.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Multimodal » April 20th, 2020, 2:01 pm

Most other US streetcars suck because they implement little or no priority measures, operate in cities that have weak transit systems, and circulate low-population downtown areas. The Nicollet-Central streetcar as currently envisionsed is too short to be successful, but a longer one would take the bulk of current bus rides.

Arterial BRT is nice, but it's not revolutionary. It adds fancy bus stops and prepayment and a simpler service pattern.

If we go with streetcar, it should be a proper one. The true analysis should be between a proper streetcar and a real BRT. These would be much more transformative than either arterial BRT or a mixed-traffic streetcar.
I agree with Tcmetro and Tmart that we need a proper streetcar, one that is protected from cars.

Minneapolis has been an innovator compared to most American cities, and now has (time-limited) dedicated bus lanes on Hennepin. What’s to say they won’t do something similar for this streetcar? Or better?

I thought BRT was suddenly big not because it’s intrinsically great, but because (outstate) conservatives used the idea to kill what we really wanted, which was LRT?

Now, perhaps, we’re a little more sophisticated and can see some uses for BRT, but dense areas like this that literally used to be streetcars deserve to have rail here. A streetcar with at least rush-hour lane protection, if not outright separation, would be much better than BRT. A bus/BRT can be removed or changed at any time, depending on political whims. Rail is forever, and will both help more residents & induce more businesses, as it’s guaranteed customers.

Why have we given up so easily on rail? We need to push harder, not kowtow (or worse, actually believe) the whims of people in the pocket of big oil who are trying to destroy transit.

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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby BoredAgain » April 20th, 2020, 3:05 pm

... but dense areas like this that literally used to be streetcars deserve to have rail here.
Rail is forever...
I know what you were trying to get at, but I just loved the juxtaposition of these two statements within the same paragraph.

alexschief
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby alexschief » April 21st, 2020, 7:21 am

Most other US streetcars suck because they implement little or no priority measures, operate in cities that have weak transit systems, and circulate low-population downtown areas. The Nicollet-Central streetcar as currently envisionsed is too short to be successful, but a longer one would take the bulk of current bus rides.

Arterial BRT is nice, but it's not revolutionary. It adds fancy bus stops and prepayment and a simpler service pattern.

If we go with streetcar, it should be a proper one. The true analysis should be between a proper streetcar and a real BRT. These would be much more transformative than either arterial BRT or a mixed-traffic streetcar.
I agree with Tcmetro and Tmart that we need a proper streetcar, one that is protected from cars.
Let's try to be clear about terms. If it runs entirely in an exclusive right-of-way, it's light rail, not a streetcar.
Why have we given up so easily on rail? We need to push harder, not kowtow (or worse, actually believe) the whims of people in the pocket of big oil who are trying to destroy transit.
Nobody has given up on rail. But that's not the same as pushing for rail when it doesn't make sense to do so. In an ideal world, the Nicollet-Central corridor would be served by subway. But nobody is pushing for this, because it is obvious that the monetary and political costs are prohibitive.

Does it then follow that a streetcar is the best option? Not necessarily. Because again, we need to talk about costs and benefits. What are the benefits to a streetcar and how do they compare to the benefits of aBRT? What are the costs of a streetcar and how do they compare to aBRT?

I've ridden streetcars in six US cities. I'd rank the experience as basically identical to the A or the C Lines. But if for some reason, you really enjoy a streetcar, what kind of premium would you put on the experience? Is it twice as nice as aBRT? Is it three times as nice? Because even if you come to that conclusion, you need to reconcile it with the fact that aBRT's costs are, (just taking a quick look at figures from Google) about ten to twenty times lower per route mile than a streetcar.

Streetcars are bad not because they are awful products on their own, they are bad because the are terrible value. You could build ten to twenty times as much high frequency transit (with the added bonus of being more resilient to changes like road closures, accidents and blockages), if you spent your money on aBRT.

Multimodal
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Multimodal » April 21st, 2020, 9:57 am

I see your point, Alex, but it’s not always just about logic and money.

I was just watching the movie “Why We Cycle”, and a really funny thing stuck out. A city put in all these nice, logical, wide, comfortable bikeways, but they found people still rode their bikes through the city on more dangerous congested streets. Why? Because we’re human. We want connection, to see activity, to do errands or meet friends by chance on the way to something else.

Yes, BRT is efficient & cheap. But people ride rail and businesses pop up along rail, more than along busways.

To me, BRT is like painted bike lanes: a way to test out a transitway, or extend an existing railway if there’s less density/ridership. Maybe the BRT will induce more development along the less dense areas. Then the rail could potentially be extended.

But here, on Nicollet-Central, we clearly have the density and former rail (streetcar) line. To me, it doesn’t make sense to start with BRT. The E Line makes sense as BRT (certainly south & west of Uptown*).

*Edit: changed “Linden Hills” to “Uptown” upon further reflection.
Last edited by Multimodal on April 21st, 2020, 10:02 am, edited 2 times in total.


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