When You Plan, You Begin With A B C | streets.mn

Andrew has a nice, long-awaited post unlocking the Twin Cities street alphabets @ streets.mn: When You Plan, You Begin With A B C :

“I was driving through Uptown with a friend in 2004 when it hit me: these streets are in alphabetical order! As a visitor I was impressed by such orderliness; a month later I moved to Minneapolis (not because of the street names—or at least, not entirely because of them). I learned about the second alphabet while visiting friends in Linden Hills, but it wasn’t until several years later than some random Google Maps browsing revealed not two but eight (okay, maybe just 7 and 1/13th) sequences of alphabetically-ordered street names extending west from Aldrich. By this time I also knew of the presidential sequence in northeast Minneapolis, and more map browsing revealed some others.”

Tunnel Collapses Outside Tokyo Kills Nine – NYTimes.com

NY Times: Tunnel Collapses Outside Tokyo Kills Nine :

“The police said they were investigating the cause of the collapse on Sunday at the Sasago Tunnel — a three-mile passage near the city of Otsuki and about 50 miles west of Tokyo — and for evidence of negligence by the company that operates the highway.
News reports said investigators believed that supports in the ceiling of the 35-year-old tunnel might have grown brittle, allowing hundreds of the slabs to fall onto passing vehicles. Each slab weighed 1.2 tons, officials said.”

The Genius of Dirt Roads

In City Journal, Brandon Fuller writes: The Genius of Dirt Roads :

“Angel writes that governments in the developing world, whose financial capacity is often limited, should focus on what may sound unglamorous: establishing an arterial grid of dirt roads throughout each city’s future territory, much as the commissioners did in Manhattan. The grid should connect to the city’s existing network of roads, of course, and it should cover an area that the city expects its future population growth to require. These arteries will one day carry public transportation and private traffic, and such infrastructure as water mains, sewers, storm drains, and telecommunications networks will follow their routes.”

The grid has advantages and drawbacks. In Planning for Place and Plexus we write:

The morphology and queuing properties of the plexus (its supply and demand) ultimately determine both the efficiency of the network in moving people and the efficiency of the land use. Radial (hub-and-spoke) networks allow easy access to the center but create inconvenient sharply angled parcels. In contrast, 90-degree grids maximize travel times (for anyone traveling in a diagonal direction) but create efficient parcels. A major issue with network topology is the interconnectedness of the network. Interconnected networks, be they grid or radial in nature, enable and even encourage through traffic, while a tree-like network discourages that problem. The topology of the network, grid, radial, organic (curvilinear) or otherwise, affects its performance.
The regular grid (with occasional interruptions) is arguably the most common topology for cities. It has been employed in cities for millennia. In the United States, the most influential legislation affecting the morphology of roads was the Land Ordinance of 1785. In many respects, it laid the foundation for future land use-transportation policy by adopting the Public Land Survey System, creating townships and subdividing them into 36 sections of one square mile (259 hectares) and 144 quarter-sections of 0.25 square mile (65 hectares) each. Roads delineating each of the sections were referred to as “section roads.” Subsequently, many urbanizing areas continued to use the centerlines of those roads as the location of present day arterials; the arterial networks are often further broken down into a finer grid of blocks.
A key point that has not been generally considered is the flexibility that the uniform and undifferentiated mesh networks (termed “grids” here) provide to changes in land use. A uniform grid allows alternative spacing between activities, spacing that can change with economies of scale. For instance, consider retailing. As described in Chapter 9, many stores—especially grocery stores—have been getting larger, while their numbers have dropped. Many New Urbanists, who advocate small-scale neighborhood retail, bemoan this phenomenon. Suppose that economies of scale indicate that it is efficient for the average retail store of a certain kind to increase in size from 1,000 to 2,000 ft2 (93 to 186 m2). Previously there may have been one such store every 10 blocks (one for every 100 square blocks); now there can be one every 14 blocks (one for every 200 square blocks). A grid allows the flexibility for re- spacing while keeping nearly optimal size stores. …
A tree network, in contrast, fails to provide such flexibility; a store can locate either at the neighborhood center, at the community center, or at the regional center; it can serve perhaps 5,000 people, 15,000 people, or 60,000 people. A store optimally sized to serve 10,000 people cannot be located at a consistent node level—or, if it is, it cannot be efficient. A firm may need to locate stores in some neighborhood centers and not others, causing people to go into other neighborhoods in some places.
Recognizing that grid-based road networks might not lend themselves to locations that were not situated on flat, featureless plains, designers introduced several variations. To conform to the contours of the land, Frederick Law Olmstead employed curving streets in many of his designs (e.g. Roland Park, Maryland). Permutations continued to evolve over the years, and the “loop” and “lollipop” designs became the standard in suburban settings

I think the idea of a particular network topology (grid vs. tree) depends a lot on the topography. Getting this right is important. The idea of laying something out in advance (Angel’s main point), so that property rights and development can occur on that lattice, seems a very good one.

The Next Big OS War Is In Your Dashboard

Wired Autopia: The Next Big OS War Is In Your Dashboard :

“‘The theme I hear time and time again from every single one of our customers is you’ve got to help us move at the pace of consumer electronics,’ Derek Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing for QNX Software Systems, told Wired. ‘It’s no longer acceptable to innovate at the pace of automotive.’”

Two not unrelated reports

Friday saw two reports drop:
Minnesota Transportation Finance Advisory Committee
Summary Report and Recommendations

In short, what transportation will cost

The Itasca Project’s Regional Transit System: Return on Investment Assessment (Executive Summary)

What spending money on new transit infrastructure in the Metro area will get us.
[I was on the Technical Advisory Committee of the latter report, which constitutes neither endorsement nor lack thereof. The final technical report has not dropped as far as I can tell.]

Won’t you take me to … Dinkytown | streets.mn

Cross-posted from streets.mn: Won’t you take me to … Dinkytown

Won’t you take me to … Dinkytown


Well, I talk about it, talk about it.

Dinkytown, immortalized in the eponymous 1980 Lipps Inc. hit song, is the neighborhood just north of the University of Minnesota.

Why is it called Dinkytown? Obviously, because it is so small, its most famous residents are small, even the restaurants are small. Truer stories about the origin name of this place are described in the wikipedia article.

Dinkytown is buffered by the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood to the west (where I spent some time), railroad tracks (and the Como neighborhood) to the north, and the University to the south and east. It serves the University breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bar crowd, and provides some unusual shopping services. The residents of Dinkytown (and Marcy-Holmes, and Como) are dominated by University students and affiliates, so the shopping experience is a bit lower rent than say 50th and France, and it also seems to hold some gaping holes, like full service grocery store (the House of Hanson acts as a convenience store, and would have been standard size in the Heyday of A&P, but is now on the tiny side).

To that end, a developer is proposing to put a grocery store into a development replacing the 90-year old Marshall High School, now the University Technology Enterprise Center, an incubator for startups (where my wife once worked for MetaFarms, leading us to no longer eat factory farm meat if we can avoid it). My personal view is that is architecturally a disappointing replacement for what looks like on the outside a decent salvageable building. See the discussion at UrbanMSP.

Generally, though this is part of a trend of replacement of 1 and 2 story buildings in the area with six and seven story buildings, mostly for student housing. Since the University generally only has on-campus housing for fresh-persons, there are lots of others who need housing, and the existing neighborhood housing stock is not getting any younger or any more capital investments. Still, conversion of one-story taxpayers to 6 story stick-frame apartments is a trend that my structural engineering colleagues are none too happy about.

The Urban Gopher has an excellent post about Improving north-south connectivity around Campus. This would create some bypasses around Dinkytown’s biggest bottleneck, 15th Avenue SE. The street grid is Southeast Minneapolis is askew (it aligns with the river rather than the North Pole). While both streets and avenues are numbered, remember, Numbered Streets are NW-SE, Numbered Avenues are NE-SW. This is the kind of thing for which words and names were invented. The Twin Cities has many alphabet series roads. It would be great to put one here, I suggest using chemical elements, which I believe are underutilized for street names: Aluminum Avenue, Barium Avenue, Cadmium Avenue … (admittedly J is a problem, we can use Jodium (the old name for Iodine), and Q gives us QuickSilver (Hg) and W gives us Wolfram (Tc)). Or even better, put them in order of atomic weight, to help Introductory Chemistry students memorize the periodic table, though that might confuse travelers.

The Dinkytown Trench has long been proposed as a bike route, as a location for Granary Road, and as the location of the University’s alternative Northern Alignment for the Central Corridor. Kimley Horn prepared an August 2012 Cost/Benefit Analysis for the City of Minneapolis on Granary Road. This has been discussed since the dawn of man, and should have been done before Washington Avenue was closed. Maybe soon.

Now the City of Minneapolis has Streetcar proposals for 4th and University (Corridor E on this map). If you want to build a fixed rail transit line, why not take advantage of the grade separated right-of-way to reduce conflicts, increase speed, create a better, safer transit experience, and connect Stadium Village Station on the Green Line, with Dinkytown, St. Anthony Main, and Central or Hennepin Avenue to Downtown?

One of the main issues in Dinkytown is the current state of street directionality. 4th Street and University Avenue act as a one-way pair through the heart of Dinkytown (all the way to East Hennepin Ave). This of course improves motor vehicle traffic flow, and eases the evacuation of the University every evening and after sporting events. On the other hand, many contend one-way streets are detrimental to the pedestrian environment. As a pedestrian, I think a one-way street simplifies street crossings and increases the number of gaps between cars, so I can cross quicker. Of course local businesses might not want traffic to go faster. I personally think the reversion of one-way to two-way streets (as discussed here) is just faddishness, like the abandonment of pedestrian malls in a number of cities. This isn’t going to make or break your business district, its a rationale, not a reason.

Easy parking on the other hand, is a reason that business districts with insufficient customer base in walking distance make or break. Fortunately, Dinkytown has relatively easy on street and surface parking, as urban business districts go. This might begin to disappear as the one story shops are replaced with multi-story apartments, but on the other hand, the drive-to market would get replaced with a newly expanded walk-to customer base, so it is probably a net win for local business.

Just remember, “Dinkytown is the new Uptown.”