• Buses may be concentrated on just a few downtown streets. These transit malls would allow buses to pass one another, thus moving twice as many people three times faster than the single-file crawl now imposed on downtown buses. And the frequency of service might allow buses to double as shuttles within downtown, much like Denver's circulators, which operate at intervals of 55 seconds.
• Some one-way "commuter streets" may be converted to two-way "community streets" with wider sidewalks, lots of trees and fewer lanes for cars. The change would reflect downtown's transition to a mixed-use atmosphere.
• Streetcar loops, like those in Portland, San Francisco and (soon) Seattle, might also be considered as links to Uptown and other close-in districts. The Central and Southwest LRT corridors and the Northstar commuter rail line must also be factored in, although rail projects aren't expected to arrive fast enough to accommodate downtown's growth.
Indeed, the entire plan may be futile given that the state holds the purse strings on transit. The legislative trend has been to cut bus service and to reject the dedicated transit funding that other cities enjoy. The state also may be unwilling to alter its 1950s-era street standards to meet the city's needs.
Despite those difficulties, the city would be unwise to ignore the market trends that are reshaping its central districts. We offer three initial suggestions. Major destinations (museums, stadiums, theaters, etc.) should be factored in. The beauty and quality of public spaces should be emphasized. And, the advantages of walking and street-greening should be taken into account.
Altering the street standards is key, as is more two-way streets in the downtown core. Minneapolis should think about changing about half of the current one-way streets into two-way streets. Think about how much that would do to help streets like Park or Portland Avenues as they try to make their neighborhoods safe again.
Plus, downtown I'm all for making some streets bus-heavy. I rode the 6 down Hennepin the other day during rush hour, and not only was it standing-room-only, it was going the same speed as my disabled grandmother.
Even though a streetcar loop along the Midtown Greenway would be pretty darn cheap and incredibly popular, the Strib is not wrong in admitting the rail will not save us. It's not rails fault, either... it's just that it takes so long to build, and the current State gov't is really good at sitting on its hands. If Pawlenty gets reelected, kiss transit goodbye...