Lots of Parking in Minneapolis

Why pay more to park on the road
Why pay more to park on the road

A reporter asked: How much parking is there in Minneapolis? This is not a question for which there is a well-sourced answer.

Downtown Parking: There are nearly 25,000 parking spaces in 38 parking lots and ramps throughout downtown,

In the City there are 7000 metered spaces:

Minneapolis Municipal Parking System has 17 parking ramps and 7 lots
These Ramps and Lots encompass over 20,000 parking spaces. (Subtracting this from the first estimate suggests only 5,000 parking spaces are private).

Elements of Access: Transport Planning for Engineers, Transport Engineering for Planners. By David M. Levinson, Wes Marshall, Kay Axhausen.

Outside of downtown requires estimating.

On street-unmetered parking? The City has 1100 miles of street . (I think this excludes state and county roads, I am not sure about park roads, but this is most of them). My guess is 200 spaces per mile (@ ~26 feet per car). If there were no “no parking restrictions” this gives 220,000 on-street spaces (The vast majority of which are unmetered).

Off-street private parking. There are 155,155 households. If each one has 1 off-street space (some have 2 or 3, some have 0), that would be 155,155 off-street spaces in residential areas. I would guess based on national data about twice as many in commercial areas. Roughly every car has to have a space at home, work, and shop.

In short there are lots of parking.

Does anyone have a better estimate?


Not dead but buried | streets.mn

Cross-posted from streets.mn Not dead but buried.

Not dead, but buried

About 150 years ago, London, then a metropolis of 2.8 million people, opened the Metropolitan Line, the world’s first subterranean railway. (There are many good histories.)

Why did London go underground? It didn’t want its core (The City of London) sliced up with railways going hither and yon. It was not an unconsidered decision, the whole process of first ensuring lines did not cut through the City established early on (the first Railway to London was 1838), the Report on Termini recommending the Underground in 1856, with opening in 1863. While many US cities, including St. Paul, managed to build Union Stations, London was practically circumnavigated by about 17 major surface railway stations terminating lines to the rest of England. The Metropolitan Line was built to connect the northern slew of them, from Paddington through Marylebone, Euston, St. Pancras, King’s Cross to Farringdon. It was built underground of course, so as preserve surface level connectivity, in the case of London, mostly existing local streets. They used cut-and-cover construction. It was a phenomenal success (and profitable!), and was quickly replicated throughout London. Other cities eventually caught on. Today Asian cities are outbuilding them all.

About 50 years ago, Minneapolis St. Paul, then a city of 1.6 million people, opened I-94 and I-35, freeways connecting the city to its suburbs and to other cities in the US. (There are also many good histories.)

Unfortunately, Greater MSP learned nothing from history and did not go underground in the core cities, and we see the result today, downtowns disconnected from the rest of the region by highways. People close enough to walk to the core who cannot.

The idea of underground highways is not new. In 1940, Robert Heinlein penned The Roads Must Roll. We have had tunnels underground as well as under water. Even the Twin Cities has a land tunnel under the Lowry Hill to preserve the neighborhood above.

Unfortunately the Big Dig has given such roads a bad name. Fortunately the Twin Cities does not require any more digging, we just require bridging, many miles of Twin Cities roadways are built in trenches begging to be capped. There are many examples nationally todraw from.


The experience of Air Rights in Minnesota is not vast, but it does exist. In Duluth there is a park built above a Freeway. An advantage of parks is that they do not require Benefit/Cost Analysis, unlike some other investments. In Minneapolis, we have both parking ramps and the Twins Stadium built atop I-394. Part of the University of Minnesota crosses what used to be the Washington Avenue Freeway Trench.

But we can of course do so much more. When I was teaching Networks and Places a few years ago, we often selected as group projects the design of an Air Rights/Land Bridge project across a Twin Cities freeway section. The whole exercise was written up here from a pedagogical perspective. The specific ideas generated (linked below) varied from plausible to implausible. The general concept remains valid, freeways in Greater MSP dismember the urban fabric, and we need to sew patches to restore the structural integrity of the transportation mesh.

Think about I-94 between St. Paul and Minneapolis. Most of it is entrenched. Much of it could be bridged creating viable land uses. This is not cheap, and surface parking indicates land is not yet sufficiently scarce we need to create more of it, but it is about more than just creating developable properties or parking ramps, it is also about accessibility, walkability, and a city worth living in.

We could think about the best sites to do this on. I would start with roads crossing the freeways without exits to the freeways. The reason is the simplification of traffic movements, and reduced costs, as well as more success as sidewalk facing land use.

We could also think about which land uses to enable. Parks are always popular. Retail in retail districts is as well. Parking ramps over freeway Bus Rapid Transit (the Orange and Red lines) may be appropriate. If buildings they may simply front on streets, or they might cover entire blocks, especially if parks. There are costs the larger they are, with ventilation and other mechanical systems to be considered, as well as structural systems and construction complications.

The most obvious are the following (from West to East):

I-94 in Minneapolis

    • Groveland Ave
    • Lasalle Ave
    • Nicollet Ave
    • 1st Ave


  • Park Ave
  • Chicago Ave

    I-94 in St. Paul

  • Cleveland Ave
  • Prior Ave

  • Pascal St
  • Hamline Ave

    • Lexington Parkway
    • Victoria St.
    • Dale St.
    • Western Ave
    • Marion St.
    • Wabasha St.
    • Cedar St.
    • Minnesota St.
    • Robert St.
    • Jackson St.
    • E 7th St.

    Mn 280

    • Larpenteur Ave
    • Territorial Road
    • University Ave
    • Franklin Ave

    I-35W in Minneapolis (from North to South)

    I-35E in St. Paul (from North to South)


    • Grand Ave
    • St. Clair Ave
    • Randolph Ave
    • Fort Road / 7th Street W

    italics indicates freeway conflict

    Of the identified sites, I would vote for Nicollet 1st and Chicago 2nd, Hamline 3rd, Cedar 4th, Franklin (I-35W) 5th based on market potential and ability to better connect communities.

    Did I miss any? What others should there be?

    Your job: make the case for the best potential Minnesota freeway cap, what it should be, and why in the comments.

    Toronto v. Minneapolis

    Now at streets.mn: Toronto v. Minneapolis.

    Toronto v. Minneapolis

    I first went to Toronto when I was 12. I had been following the city for a few years, having written to the city’s economic development / tourism office asking for reading materials as a young wannabe planner the summer before (along with about 50 other North American cities, whose addresses I obtained from the World Almanac). I was born before the Internet made this information trivial to obtain, so I carefully hoarded and filed information about cities. To be clear, I am not so obsessive that I still have it … at some point space constraints dictated recycling … , the only files I retain from my youth are really “rare” new town planning documents from the 1970s and 1980s. At any rate, based on the idea of Toronto, it was the city I most wanted to visit.






    My father took me to Toronto with one of his friends who was a general aviation pilot, and so I went in a Piper and landed at City Airport. The primary purpose of the trip from my perspective was to visit theCanadian National Exhibition (the Ex), a cross between a State Fair and World’s Fair (closer to a State Fair). The Ex, the adjacent Ontario Place, and the rest of the city was modern and seemed like the future. The underground city (PATH) connecting the retail buildings makes the city like a single super-structure, an arcology. The City Hall was a classic of modernist architecture, taking the glass box and shape-shifting into something not boxy. The Hilton, with its rotating restaurant and best breakfast buffet ever gives a magnificent view of the city.

    Ontario Place, the World’s Fair-like part, (which was part of the Ex when I attended, but is now being redeveloped) with its pre-Epcot, post-Expo ’67 geodesic dome and skybridges connected to the waterfront. But oddly wedged between the Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard (rather than the Lake), the CNE fairgrounds layout, the State Fair-like part, without Ontario Place would make a modern urbanist cringe. Looking at the maps (linked at the bottom of this page) the worst bit is putting parking on the waterfront, which at least during Fair Season, should be a major attraction. (Some may argue the freeway cutting the city off from the waterfront is the worst part, which is hard to dispute.)

    Many years later, after a conference in Ottawa, I took ViaRail to Toronto. While staying at a Howard Johnson’s during its last week of operation (really never stay in a hotel that is about to close, staff does not care), I walked from downtown and revisited the CNE and Ontario Place grounds (well I looked at them through a fence) (not during Fair season), and like any set of unused buildings, it seems more like a Hollywood set of what the 1970s thought the future would be like.

    Ontario Place is where they would have set Star Trek: The Original Series for an episode describing a slightly more advanced planet, where everyone was civilized and there was universal health care, but there was some twist, like once a week, all the men get on the ice and whack each other with sticks, which the peaceable crew of the Enterprise abhors. And then they force Kirk, Spock, and McCoy into hockey uniforms, and make them play against professionals. (This is not all that different from Minnesota, but is unlike the rest of the US, where men get on ice-free gridirons and run into each other) [200 Quatloonies on the newcomers].

    Still Toronto is one of my favorite cities.

    To help administer a PhD exam at the University of Toronto, I went back to the city and spent time in and around the University district. This year, with my wife I went for theIATBR and we walked the central city on foot, visiting different parts than previous.

    Toronto was founded before Minneapolis, and has always been larger. It now has a population of 2.6 million people in the City, and 5.5 in the Metro, vs. 0.4 million in the City of Minneapolis and 3.6 in the CMSA. Today Toronto has a population density 4,149/km^2 vs. 2,710 for the City of Minneapolis. So we expect Toronto to differ. But it differs more than we expect. It is not just the same city larger, rather it is a city in a different phase of matter.

    Both cities are on a grid, yet Toronto is continuously walkable, and has more walk accessibility. The block sizes are smaller in central Toronto than Minneapolis (i.e. each Minneapolis squarish block is bisected in Toronto to be more rectangular, though the long side of the rectangle in a Toronto block is a bit longer than the long side of the Minneapolis block). (This of course is an approximation, as the grids in both cities vary.) The houses are less likely to have a side yard in Toronto. So in a single family neighborhood near the City Center, Toronto has 22 houses per blockface, Minneapolis about 11. And since the densities are higher, there is more to walk to. Sections of Minneapolis are walkable, but it is hard to find a decent path connecting it all, Uptown to the University, e.g.

    Minneapolis has a skyway, Toronto the underground PATH, I call that a wash, both are cool, and logical responses to Winter.

    The tallest buildings in Minneapolis (IDS Tower and Wells Fargo) are 57 stories. The CN tower is 147 stories equivalent, but it isn’t really a building. There are taller buildings in Toronto, First Canadian Place is 72 stories, which is higher, and what we expect for a somewhat larger city. So we can’t say Toronto is more walkable because it is flatter (i.e. because it spreads its people out over more surface area) due to height restrictions.

    Subways have organized mobility in Toronto since 1954, which has the third highest transit ridership in North America. The Subways are arranged in a tight U pattern, so it is easy to walk from the Spadina/University branch to the Yonge Street branch. But there is a crossing line on Bloor Street, providing great accessibility at the interchanges. The key is that it is not a simple radial system. Further there are still streetcars, which were not removed as they were elsewhere. The best analogy for Bloor Street is Lake Street in Minneapolis, in that it bypasses downtown (about 1 mile N) and has lots of activity. Bloor is much ritzier than Lake though.

    The subway in Toronto is unusual in that one can walk between the cars, as they have accordion-like articulations. But since they are much longer than the single (or double) articulated bus, looking down the train from one end to the other as it rounds a curve is dizzying.

    Toronto is on a lake, so like Chicago, to enable just as many people to have equal access to the “center”, you have to have higher densities than a city on a plane (like Minneapolis). I discuss this a bit in a previous post on The Theory of Constraints.

    Toronto serves a different role than Minneapolis, it is a financial capital, having locked in its position when Montreal decided to be Francophone first.

    Airport connections via Transit are much easier in Minneapolis. In Toronto, they are clearly and deservedly ashamed of their airport transit links. Unless you are already a local and have a transit pass or tickets, it is difficult to find them at the airport (it is at the Currency Exchange if you are looking), and that puts you on a broken-down bus that connects to the edge of the Rapid Transit rail system. The airport bus stops do not have shelter, or real-time information. The tickets are old-timey paper passes, which have probably been in use since buses were motorized.

    So what can Minneapolis learn from Toronto?

    1. Real urban density can work in a midwestern city without significant adverse consequences.

    2. Not all the action is downtown. Where the radials connect is a point of high accessibility.

    3. Annexation and consolidation are a feasible form of governance. The “city” of Toronto has 7 times the population of Minneapolis.

    4. Cities must be opportunistic and welcome immigrants, be they disaffected Quebec bankers or oppressed minorities.

    5. How to serve better food. The bagels and the sushi are much better in Toronto.

    What can Toronto learn from Minneapolis?

    1. How to connect an airport to the city.

    2. How to tie a city to its waterfront.

    What if we closed Hennepin?

    Cross-posted from streets.mn : What if we closed Hennepin?

    What if we closed Hennepin?

    What if we closed Hennepin Avenue S. to through cars? It is illustrated in the adjoining map.

    The Design

    Suppose you created a Hennepin Transit Mall, similar to Nicollet Avenue in downtown or Washington Avenue at the University of Minnesota, with room for bikes, pedestrians, and a high-quality fixed-route transit service connecting Uptown with Downtown (with a flyover/short tunnel somewhere to cross I-94).

    Hennepin would be closed at I-94 on-ramps, at 22nd, 24th, 25th, and 26th. The closure in my plan would be half-block (or less), enabling the road to still be used for local access traffic, but not through traffic. The space devoted to car movement could probably be reduced to one-lane in each direction from 26th street to Franklin Avenue, with the rest of the space for streetcar/bus lanes and on-street parking, bike lanes, and sidewalks. Where the road was physically closed, there would be a small pedestrian/transit plaza.

    Why would we do this?

    (1) There are plans to run a Streetcar down Hennepin (forecast to carry 11,000 – 13,000 riders) plus there are existing buses. If the streetcars and buses had a more exclusive right-of-way, they could provide better service and carry more riders. The road is not able to accommodate the streetcar (at current standards of design and levels of service) and all the existing traffic. If the community truly wants transit to be the primary mode from Uptown to Downtown, the Right-of-Way needs to be turned over to transit.

    Streetcars will make left and right turns awkward at best, especially with high traffic counts. Current vehicle traffic counts on Hennepin (2011) are 25,927 two-way at Hennepin just north of 25th street. Lyndale currently carries 14,680 two-way just north of 26th street (though the counts on Lyndale are highly variable, and just a few blocks north it supposedly carries 24,000).[I don’t believe that if we closed Hennepin, all of that traffic would switch to Lyndale, though certainly some would].

    (2) Hennepin creates a large number of awkward intersections even in the absence of a streetcar. It violates the existing street grid. It is congested. There is a case in the transportation literature called the Braess’s Paradox which says under certain circumstances, removing a link can save overall travel time. I do not know if Hennepin is such a case (and even if it were, it might only be under certain traffic conditions), but the congestion creates spillovers. There are other paradoxes in transportation about traffic signals, and so on, but the main point I think is that this added capacity is less valuable than elsewhere because of the awkwardness of the network. Roads and cars have problems when intersections are not at 90 degrees and have more than 4 legs. To fix that, traffic engineers at some time in the past further bent the street grid.

    New York had this problem with Broadway, which cuts a diagonal through the regular street grid. Its solution was to close it to through traffic i.e. to disconnect it in many places.

    (3) More capacity leads to more traffic, less capacity leads to less traffic. This is the phenomenon of induced demand, and is well established, the best local example for which we have evidence is the case of the I-35W Bridge after its collapse.

    (4) Closing Nicollet to private vehicle traffic downtown has not seemed to hurt economic activity there.

    Why would we not do this?

    (1) Lethargy.

    (2) Businesses on Hennepin will complain. Neighbors on Lyndale will complain. [Businesses on Lyndale might quietly rejoice with the additional traffic though]. Change is hard.

    (3) Removing the link will increase distances for drivers who continue to use their cars to travel between I-94 and Uptown. My estimate is total distance per trip will increase by less than 800m (0.5 miles) for cars, as the hypotenuse does not save more distance than that, depending on where you are going.

    (4) Hennepin is the next major arterial at the approximately 1 mile grid spacing, removing it would maim the arterial system. [Comment, since Lyndale and Hennepin come together at I-94, the arterial system is largely ineffective anyway.]

    What would happen?

    Based on evidence about induced demand, some traffic would disappear and some traffic would reroute to alternatives. Substitute routes should see an increase in total traffic. My guess is the most affected route would be Lyndale. If my posited design were implemented, short sections of 22nd, 24th, 25th, and 26th Streets would also see more traffic as travelers from the North peel off from Lyndale to reach places on Hennepin that would have been accessed differently.

    There would be fewer traffic conflicts at the remaining Hennepin Avenue intersections, though it wouldn’t go to zero, as sections of the route would still be open.

    It gives us an opportunity to straighten the grid. Colfax, Dupont, and Emerson can be reconnected as through routes. We can also remove or modify a number of the traffic calming measures in the neighborhoods abutting Hennepin, as the spillovers would be of a different nature.



    Arbor Lakes – A pedestrian explores the suburbs — streets.mn

    Cross-posted from streets.mn:  Arbor Lakes – A pedestrian explores the suburbs

    Arbor Lakes – A pedestrian explores the suburbs.

    On a date night with my wife, we recently visited Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove (Map below). Maple Grove is a suburban area northeast of the interchange of I-94/I-694 and I-494. The areas abutting the freeway are devoted to retail. Beyond that is housing. Much of the area used to be quarry, some of it still is. This leaves lots of holes in the ground, which fill with water, which we call lakes, and Minnesotans like lakes, so these are considered a feature.Much of the shopping district is auto-oriented, a simple look at the aerial photos indicates a large share of this territory is parking lots and big boxes. There are however three pedestrian-friendly regions of this shopping complex. (Ignoring the insides of buildings, which are of course pedestrian-only zones).The first is Main Street. Main Street is abutted by 2-story buildings with shops and restaurants, and short blocks. There is some parallel parking on street, and the buildings back to more parking. The pedestrian oriented part of Main Street is just north of Elm Creek Boulevard and proceeds for five blocks. Some of the side streets even connect not-so-terribly to nearby big box centers (e.g. The Toys ‘R’ Us block) or local medium density housing. According to wikipedia, this was built from 1997-2001.

    Main Street crosses Arbor Lakes Parkway near its North End and on one side of the street is even more retail, followed by a park. The other side is a modern, but awfully situated government building. The building is set back from the Street, has one entrance (on the far side of all the pedestrian traffic), and is otherwise unwelcoming to walk-up traffic. It needsdoors (Just north of the government center is a nice park area as well). I am sure there are historical reasons for the building giving its back to the street, (like lack of foresight by the designers, and post 9/11 security paranoia), but it results in an abrupt end to what could be a more lively street-face. Arbor Lakes Parkway is four lanes (flaring to five at the intersection), and is reasonably acceptable to cross on foot, though the crosswalks don’t land on the median (i.e. the median dies before the crosswalk), which is odd, though surely for the convenience of drivers making faster turns.

    On the southern edge of this pedestrian area, Main Street tries to cross Elm Creek Boulevard. At the intersection, Elm Creek Boulevard flares to seven lanes. At this pedestrian actuated signal, the pedestrian light turns to red just as we completed crossing. On the one hand, this is maximally efficient timing. On the other hand, if I were just a bit slower, I would be stranded in the middle of the intersection. There is a pedestrian landing at the median here, but it is at the end of the second lane, so I don’t quite yet realize that I am going to be stuck with a red light in front of me as cars trying to cross have a green light. Nervous pedestrians might be tempted to run by the almost instantaneous switch to a flashing Don’t Walk (which really just means Don’t Start Walking).

    Main Street does cross though, and I see two restaurants on the south side of this intersection, but they are oriented to their respective parking lots, not the sidewalk. And their parking lots are giants. Which is too bad, because I can see in the walkable distance (about 500m) another place I might want to walk. There is a movie theatre anchoring the west end of a pedestrian oriented shopping street, a lifestyle center in the jargon, an outdoor mall. So we walked there, past the parked cars.


    And we reached a less interesting, but still viable center going by the name of The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes (opened 2003), which is like a smaller version of any of the Dales without a roof and without a “Dayton’s” Department Store. It also has the Maple Grove Transit Center (a Park and Ride ramp). It has seen recent change (its east anchor, Borders Books, recently went out of business). You are not however expected to continue going forever. Unlike the grid of the city which offers continuing potential of surprise, that something might happen if I walk to the end of the block and turn the corner, the East Anchor stops the center. You can drive down part of the middle of this outdoor Mall, but a pedestrian-only block (Arbor Park) prohibits through traffic. The middle of the mall is street like, but seems nameless. I will call it Fountains Way because that is the street that aligns with it on the East. This would annoy the developer however, as that is the name of the next shopping center.That the center stops is good, because on the other side of the building is a parking lot connected to a freeway entrance ramp via Hemlock Lane, and who wants to see that. It is bad, because on the other side of Hemlock (about 300m to the east of The Shoppes edge) is Fountains Drive, connected via Fountains Way, another shopping district, which is in fact walkable. But that section is only 2 blocks long. And behind it are large big box stores. The Fountains (c. 2007) is considered a hybrid-power center.

    The Arbor Lakes Business Association identifies these three districts: Main Street, The Shoppes (by Cousins), and the Fountains, as three separate areas, and clearly we are the only people in the history of Arbor Lakes to have walked between the first two, much less the third.

    The business association is correct, “Arbor Lakes has it all”. Unfortunately, it is all scattered about.

    The lessons:

    1. Developers are capable of creating pleasant walkable places with fine grained streets.
    2. Contiguity is an important consideration. If everyone is driving everywhere, leapfrog development is not such a problem, there is a small fixed cost of getting in the car and a variable cost of driving. If you want people to walk, it is a problem, since the variable cost increases significantly with distance. How you accomplish this in a decentralized piecemeal development process (so it doesn’t take 30 years to complete) is not obvious, but is important. This is where some kind of planning is important, either on the part of the master developers who control everything, or the government, or a negotiated compact between the individual property owners. Suppose the individual developers pooled their land and the profits in a joint venture, would the planning outcome have been better?
    3. Suburban shopping centers are a place that most people will drive to, in order to walk around. Yet the developers seem to be selfishly irrational trying to keep their own center as a walled garden, rather than tying into adjacent centers. That is, it would have been just as easy for the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes to build its walkable center abutting Main Street on the West, so that people could and would have walked there from Main Street, as surrounding it on all sides with parking. Similarly, The Fountains could have put the Pedestrian Zone on Fountains Drive, tying it to the adjacent Shoppes better, so some customers of the Shoppes would walk to the Fountains (and vice versa). The Shoppes could also have been designed to connect to the Fountains. [Admittedly the Shoppes would need to be twice the size to reach both the Fountains and Main Street, so initially only one would be possible with the finite number of small stores. If the Big Box stores were also reoriented, something more could be done.]. Yes you might lose some business as people comparison shop in the next center over, but you also gain from the adjacent center, I am sure the net loss/gain is small. More importantly, there is a positive externality of creating a walking district where people come from other market-sheds to visit.
    4. The interface between pedestrian realms and automobile realms is generally ugly, and here it is really ugly because you have pedestrian only areas near auto only areas (freeways). I firmly believe in grade separations as a tool that should be considered where appropriate. Here the elevations don’t make it very easy or convenient. Pedestrians should not be forced to climb stairs or steep ramps for such crossings, while moving cars up or down is pricey. Yet pedestrians crossing Hemlock Lane or Elm Creek Boulevard in large numbers at grade is apparently seen as not practical by the authorities that be, hence the division into three zones in the first place. Transforming Hemlock Lane or Elm Creek Boulevard into pedestrian-friendly streets is Quixotic at best, and a drain of resources better applied elsewhere at worst.
    5. There is also the question of how much retail Maple Grove, or anywhere, could possibly need. I suspect we are at or near Peak Retail, so in 10 or 20 years time, much of this will be abandoned (some already is, witness Borders among others), and retrenchment and consolidation would be in order.
    6. Important parking lot rows really ought to be named streets. (Even if they legally are not dedicated). I can’t describe them adequately without resorting to a map, and the map doesn’t have names. This really hurts wayfinding.

    [We went because my wife got a coupon to the restaurant Zushiya, which was cromulent, but not of itself worth the drive. I think my wife thought it was in Maplewood, which is closer to her work than Maple Grove]