Nicollet-Central Streetcar

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SamtheBusNerd
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby SamtheBusNerd » June 15th, 2018, 1:45 pm

Agreed. Having used it, I don't think the Tucson streetcar is quite as bad as some of the others. It could definitely have higher ridership and be better connected to a regional transportation system (like Portland), but it basically makes it possible to easily get from all of the older parts of the city to the university by transit and as minntransplant says, has helped encourage significant development in downtown Tucson. It also terminates in a dense-ish, walkable area under development that is completely cut off from the rest of the city by the river and a freeway. Once a lot of the development that's planned or under construction for that area gets finished, I could see it having a lot higher ridership.

While it's not open yet, I'd say Milwaukee is a perfect example of the exact opposite. The route ignores the city's already existing natural transit corridors and instead makes a zig-zaging u through downtown to connect all of the things that middle-class white folks might do for fun. They used to have a bus route that did the exact same thing that was a resolute failure. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson.

I think Minneapolis has the right idea with putting streetcars on corridors like Nicollet and Central, but this city has grown past the point where we can reliably operate transit in mixed traffic anywhere near downtown.

alexschief
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby alexschief » June 15th, 2018, 1:52 pm

Folks, if you think Tucson's ridership is bad, just know that there are three modern streetcars in the US with even worse ridership. Cincy, Atlanta, and Dallas all have streetcars which have weekday ridership below 1,000. A few other streetcars operate without fares, which gives them an advantage over Tucson. It's a total tire fire.

Just wait until Milwaukee and Oklahoma City open their streetcars though.

To the extent that there's a theory to the mysterious development potential of streetcars, it's probably that the legibility of tracks in the ground makes real the promise of transit, and that something about the quaint appearance of streetcars appeals to people. But there's no serious evidence to support that these attributes somehow contribute to development, and certainly not to the scale that justifies spending hundreds of millions when better bus service was far more cost effective. Ultimately, what is a greater amenity for area residents, an city-themed amusement park ride, or very good transit service? Streetcars are the classic example of what happens when transit is planned by people who don't ride transit and whose top priority isn't to provide good transit service. From shared right-of-way to insufficient stop spacing, modern streetcars have repeatedly made all the wrong moves with regard to providing good service.

If a streetcar appeared out of the ether in Minneapolis tomorrow, nobody would be calling for it to be removed. But in a world where opportunity costs are a real thing, MSP should forget the idea of building a streetcar anywhere and focus on the METRO light rail, aBRT, and local buses, which are the three products in their portfolio which have proven useful to the public.

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VacantLuxuries
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby VacantLuxuries » June 15th, 2018, 1:56 pm

Part of the reason the Portland ones work so well is they run in a downtown with a network of one way streets - the streetcars help calm them and they can more easily operate in mixed traffic when cars that don't want to deal with the streetcar switch lanes. Nicollet Central would not work like that at all.

I fully take back what I said about Tuscon. They're really just missing an airport connection.

SamtheBusNerd
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby SamtheBusNerd » June 15th, 2018, 2:14 pm

I think it's really frustrating that the US seems bent on creating this whole class of useless rail lines. As nordeast homer wrote a while back, the beauty of streetcar vehicles (at least ones like the Skodas Portland uses) is that they're much lighter so the track can be constructed much more cheaply. A lot of American cities could use this sort of technology for their top one-two-three transit corridors and basically have light rail-lite for less than half of what we're spending on projects like the Green Line. They just need to be in their own lanes or median r-o-w like they are in most of Europe. If we built longer lines like that in places like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Tucson, etc, we could both encourage sustainable development and make transit useable in mid-sized American cities. And if we run them through downtown, they can still be a civic pride project for these cities, which is basically what the streetcar lines we're currently building are.

Silophant
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Silophant » June 15th, 2018, 3:10 pm

As far as the Nicollet-Central Streetcar goes, I'm pretty sure it's dead, but just hasn't stopped moving yet.

grant1simons2
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby grant1simons2 » June 15th, 2018, 4:37 pm

Frey has called it dead, and yet is touting it a bit. The environmental review conducted by URS is being amended at this coming TP&W meeting.
Authorizing an amendment to Contract No. C-35625 with URS, extending the contract end date to Dec 31, 2019, to complete environmental review and pre-project development tasks for the Nicollet-Central Modern Streetcar Project, with no change to the overall contract value of $2,140,000.
So who knows? I kinda want to email my council member and ask them to deny the amended funding. We could be putting that $2 million towards a study of BRT on Nicollet. Or better yet, BRT and better transportation to Northeast, where there's literally no cohesive plan. We could end this now, and move on, realize it may have been a mistake. Or drag it out until 2025 (?) when we would finally break ground.

Korh
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Korh » June 15th, 2018, 9:45 pm

Honestly if there going for streetcars on Nicollet I say see if they can't borrow some of the old heritage cars from MSM once in a while or better yet recreate some of the old TCRT fleet but upgrade them with modern equipment.

helsinki
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby helsinki » June 16th, 2018, 5:17 am

I probably should have used the Atlanta streetcar as a better example.
The Atlanta streetcar is an excellent example of how poorly conceived some of these projects are. It looks great and seems to connect viable transit nodes, but because it is not truly intended as a means of transportation the trains are so infrequent as to be effectively useless. Visiting Atlanta last year, I waited for half an hour on the platform - walking would have been much faster (less pleasant, of course, in the brutal heat of the South).

None of which is to say that a streetcar project with a mandate to serve as public transport (ie high frequencies) couldn't work out very well. The 'it-won't-work-if-a-car-blocks-the-tracks' argument has always struck me as silly; I've ridden on too many of these mixed-traffic systems to buy the 'but-a-bus-could-go-around' argument. Improperly parked vehicles are swiftly towed; if an accident is so bad a trolley can't get through, a bus probably couldn't get through either. A great system I just used is Philly's green line trolley - multiple surface lines converge on a downtown subway. Philadelphia drivers are absolutely not better than Minneapolis drivers, so the notion that motorist's driving skills are in some way related to streetcar system viability is obviously bogus.

Nicollet-Central could be a great line if it runs frequent service and can manage to get through downtown at a reasonable clip.

DanPatchToget
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby DanPatchToget » June 16th, 2018, 7:58 am

I probably should have used the Atlanta streetcar as a better example.
The Atlanta streetcar is an excellent example of how poorly conceived some of these projects are. It looks great and seems to connect viable transit nodes, but because it is not truly intended as a means of transportation the trains are so infrequent as to be effectively useless. Visiting Atlanta last year, I waited for half an hour on the platform - walking would have been much faster (less pleasant, of course, in the brutal heat of the South).

None of which is to say that a streetcar project with a mandate to serve as public transport (ie high frequencies) couldn't work out very well. The 'it-won't-work-if-a-car-blocks-the-tracks' argument has always struck me as silly; I've ridden on too many of these mixed-traffic systems to buy the 'but-a-bus-could-go-around' argument. Improperly parked vehicles are swiftly towed; if an accident is so bad a trolley can't get through, a bus probably couldn't get through either. A great system I just used is Philly's green line trolley - multiple surface lines converge on a downtown subway. Philadelphia drivers are absolutely not better than Minneapolis drivers, so the notion that motorist's driving skills are in some way related to streetcar system viability is obviously bogus.

Nicollet-Central could be a great line if it runs frequent service and can manage to get through downtown at a reasonable clip.
Define "swiftly towed"? Whenever a car has been stuck on the LRT tracks it can take up to half an hour to clear it, and then its difficult to get back on schedule. Twin Cities motorists haven't had to share the road with streetcars in over 60 years, and it would be a challenge for them to adjust (just look at how long its taken for motorists to understand that bikers can use the road, and to yield to bikers and pedestrians). Assuming Riverview is built first, it'll be interesting to see how motorists do sharing the road with streetcars for the short segment of shared right-of-way.

In the case of Central Avenue, the streetcar line isn't possible until if/when the crossing with Canadian Pacific is grade separated. So are there plans to grade separate this crossing whether or not a streetcar line is built?

Silophant
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Silophant » June 16th, 2018, 8:30 am

Frey has called it dead, and yet is touting it a bit. The environmental review conducted by URS is being amended at this coming TP&W meeting.
So we know that the Nicollet Hotel block was bought with federal transit money, and one of the requirements is that the block is used for a transit purpose, and they've swung it such that the streetcar passing through will count for that. They're able to sell off the property to private ownership as long as they retain an easement for said transit use, even if the project is stalled.

So my theory is that they can't officially cancel the project before the land sale is closed, because then there's no transit use and the sale can't go through. But once the deal is closed, they can't reverse the sale if the project falls through... So I'm expecting that the streetcar will stay in stasis until the Gateway tower breaks ground, and then it'll get cancelled.

Anondson
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Anondson » June 16th, 2018, 10:17 am

And then the feds come clawing back their money?

helsinki
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby helsinki » June 16th, 2018, 12:04 pm

Define "swiftly towed"? Whenever a car has been stuck on the LRT tracks it can take up to half an hour to clear it, and then its difficult to get back on schedule. Twin Cities motorists haven't had to share the road with streetcars in over 60 years, and it would be a challenge for them to adjust (just look at how long its taken for motorists to understand that bikers can use the road, and to yield to bikers and pedestrians). Assuming Riverview is built first, it'll be interesting to see how motorists do sharing the road with streetcars for the short segment of shared right-of-way.
There's a fair bit of evidence that crashes are less frequent on narrower, more complex streets because motorists perceive greater danger and slow down as a consequence. The distinction probably applies to Nicollet vs. University as well - University Ave is big and wide, with some long stretches uninterrupted road, and the train is separated from auto traffic. The perception of driver safety (and ability to speed) is going to be higher than Nicollet, even as Nicollet stands today without the streetcar. With a streetcar Nicollet will likely be slower, but also less prone to serious car crashes.

In any event, I assume most people are worried about improperly parked cars of some sort, not seriously crashed cars (which are thankfully far less frequent, particularly those so severely damaged that they cannot move out of the ROW). The fear seems misplaced, since parking enforcement is pretty vigilant and most people aren't that dumb anyway that they would park on train tracks. High cost, low speed, and mode-fetishization are real potential problems for the streetcar; physical obstruction seems far less of an issue.

alexschief
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby alexschief » June 16th, 2018, 3:35 pm

I probably should have used the Atlanta streetcar as a better example.
None of which is to say that a streetcar project with a mandate to serve as public transport (ie high frequencies) couldn't work out very well. The 'it-won't-work-if-a-car-blocks-the-tracks' argument has always struck me as silly; I've ridden on too many of these mixed-traffic systems to buy the 'but-a-bus-could-go-around' argument. Improperly parked vehicles are swiftly towed; if an accident is so bad a trolley can't get through, a bus probably couldn't get through either. A great system I just used is Philly's green line trolley - multiple surface lines converge on a downtown subway. Philadelphia drivers are absolutely not better than Minneapolis drivers, so the notion that motorist's driving skills are in some way related to streetcar system viability is obviously bogus.
I live in West Philadelphia, and you're lucky you didn't get on a trolley on trash day, when they sit behind a trash truck making stops at every house. Or lucky that someone wasn't getting picked up by a rideshare, or making a delivery, or loading their car with a mattress or something, blocking the road. The trolleys get stuck behind something dumb every day, which is one of the main reasons I bicycle unless the weather prohibits it. The streetcars are not reliable, the only thing that redeems them is the transit tunnel in downtown, which is not anywhere near happening in Minneapolis.

The example of a good streetcar you were looking for was Toronto, who have significantly improved the operation of their streetcar by prohibiting cars from using King Street for more than a block. The result has been a big increase in ridership and time savings. But that's the exception that proves the rule, because success has involved getting cars out of the way.

DanPatchToget
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby DanPatchToget » June 16th, 2018, 6:38 pm

Being in Oslo for four months and taking the tram on a frequent basis, there was never a time when a vehicle was blocking the tracks for a long period (more than a minute). Perhaps I was lucky, or maybe the streetcar has been part of daily Oslo life for so long that motorists respect its existence, and/or most if not all of the track is dedicated ROW or in the middle of the street rather than the right side so there's less risk of getting stuck behind a car.

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Bob Stinson's Ghost
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Bob Stinson's Ghost » June 16th, 2018, 11:22 pm

According to Wikipedia Vienna's trams carried 293.6 million passengers in 2013:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trams_in_Vienna

dmankman
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby dmankman » June 17th, 2018, 10:00 pm

I got back from my study abroad in Vienna and used their public transport all the time. Streetcars were my last resort because they were the slowest and least comfortable. Still useful and plenty used but the U-Bahn and busses were better in my opinion.

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Bob Stinson's Ghost
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Bob Stinson's Ghost » June 18th, 2018, 8:09 am

I found the newer low floor trams to be quite comfortable, the old high floor trams not so much. The low floor trams look similar to what they have in Oslo. I've only experienced Vienna as a tourist and the trams were really useful for seeing and exploring the city.

HiawathaGuy
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby HiawathaGuy » June 18th, 2018, 2:59 pm

So we know that the Nicollet Hotel block was bought with federal transit money, and one of the requirements is that the block is used for a transit purpose, and they've swung it such that the streetcar passing through will count for that. They're able to sell off the property to private ownership as long as they retain an easement for said transit use, even if the project is stalled.

So my theory is that they can't officially cancel the project before the land sale is closed, because then there's no transit use and the sale can't go through. But once the deal is closed, they can't reverse the sale if the project falls through... So I'm expecting that the streetcar will stay in stasis until the Gateway tower breaks ground, and then it'll get cancelled.
I believe the federal transit portion of the agreement moved off this block - when they shifted the bus layover requirements that had been a part of this to the garage a few blocks east.

From an Oct. 15, 2014 Star Tribune article: "Past efforts at redevelopment of the Nicollet Hotel site have been stymied by an obligation to incorporate an integrated transit terminal on the site, since the city bought the land with federal transit funds. The city managed to have these requirements removed."

Tcmetro
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby Tcmetro » June 18th, 2018, 3:14 pm

I believe that there was some sort of purchase agreement for the first floor in the Gateway Ramp, which already functions as a bus layover.

The hotel site was at one time programmed for an underground bus terminal a la Leamington Ramp. Express routes would terminate at the underground terminals and a free shuttle would operate between the two along Nicollet Mall. Denver has a similar operation on 16th St, which has fairly mixed results.

mattaudio
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Re: Nicollet-Central Streetcar

Postby mattaudio » June 19th, 2018, 7:11 am

Sort of ironic that the Leamington hotel was demolished for a never-used-as-intended bus layover facility, no?
http://www.startribune.com/ghost-of-a-g ... 284161551/


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