Minneapolis: Unlocking Downtown with Transit Malls

Are the streets of your downtown all too similar to each other, all full of lots of cars and maybe a few trucks and buses?  Do the differences between parallel streets, in commercial character and pedestrian life, seem feeble compared to the mass of identical traffic lanes that dominate the visual impression?   Often, the most efficient downtown network designs, and the best urban design outcomes, result from making parallel streets more different from each other, more specialized around different functions.  Streetcars (trams) used to drive such specialization, and sometimes still do, but elsewhere cities need to find their way back to that logic, with or without streetcars.  One of the first big American successes in this direction was the Portland transit mall, which opened in 1977.  There, two of the most central streets in downtown were given over primarily to transit, while parallel streets one block over were devoted mainly to cars. Continue Reading →