I watched the Hennepin South open house last night. Here's the project page
. Here are the preliminary concepts
that were presented.
Of the bunch, to me the clear winner is Option 1B:
Obviously to start, what this option has going for it is that it accommodates both bicycles and transit with first-class dedicated facilities (the planners are also considering routes for bicycles that would not be entirely on Hennepin, I hope they decide to give bicyclists the best and more direct routing for a change).
But I also like this option because I think the downsides are minor:
— Technically this option represents a loss in pedestrian space versus the existing condition, but that's a bit misleading, because most of Hennepin has wide sidewalks and a wide furnishing zone. This option would also make the pedestrian space feel wider, with the bike lane putting the curb further away, and the bus lane providing even greater distance from car traffic.
— This option represents a loss of curb parking space versus the existing condition, but that's an acceptable tradeoff. Already the city has recognized that curb parking on Hennepin is inconsistently used, which is why they were able to turn some of it into peak hour bus lanes. But if you actually look at the pattern of retail on Hennepin, you'll see that it almost never is present on both sides of the street at the same time. There is no reason to think that Hennepin needs curb parking on both sides of the street, and the redesign can carefully create parking or loading bays at the locations only where they are needed. That should help keep the small businesses from starting a rebellion, or freaking out and prematurely moving.
The only concern I have with this design is that there will be conflicts between buses and inattentive or sloppy drivers trying to park. I don't think that's fatal, but it is a concern. Signs, tactile signals on the edges of the bus lane, bright red paint, and just minimizing the parking to only the locations where it is needed are probably the best approaches.
— This option cuts general purpose lanes in half. I think this is where the rubber hits the road for the city's modal priority framework. In a constrained corridor, the goal should be to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders before cars are taken care of. On Hennepin, that should mean two lanes maximum.
Because of the geography of the lakes, Hennepin is a natural bottleneck for drivers from the southwest. But by the time that this project is completed, the SWLRT should be operational, and the E Line will also probably go live with the completion of this work. Those two projects should offer compelling, congestion-free alternatives to travelers heading into downtown Minneapolis. The city should design for the traffic it wants on Hennepin, not the traffic it has now.