A Green Line report card

With less than a month before the official opening of the Green Line, street.mn’s David Levinson takes a look today at one particular stretch of the route: Washington Ave SE.

Many of the problems he highlights, he notes, will be solved in time. The signals will be timed better and maybe pedestrians will start paying attention to them. The number of traffic violators, which he says currently could probably make up for the line’s operating deficit, will drop.

But he says an idea he first proposed two years ago — creating a bike/pedestrian/transit mall on the road and getting rid of cars — makes even more sense now.

It will signal a change as one enters the University region from a typical auto-oriented streetscape to one more conducive to a place where the population is non-motorized and the trips are short. This transformation is one mostly of perspective. We don’t allow cars lots of places: inside buildings, shopping malls, parks, campuses, and so on. By converting to Washington Avenue into car-free mall, we will be declaring that space within rather than outside the campus. It will make distances feel shorter, removing one more barrier between places north and south of Washington Avenue.

Elimination of auto traffic on Washington Avenue will also improve driving conditions for motorists at University Avenue and those moving north-south at Huron, Ontario, Oak, and Walnut Streets, and improve conditions for buses and LRT on Washington Avenue itself.

The neighborhood has changed over the last two years. “It’s almost all six story walk-ups now, with nary a driveway needing to be accessed from Washington (and one assumes those will disappear shortly).”

The noise, bells, whistles, honking and pedestrian warnings have changed the ambiance of the area around the University of Minnesota campus. He argues that the signals should default to pedestrians.

  • jon

    cause it works so well on nicollet mall…

    • Yes, yes it does, unless you were trying to be snarky in which case you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • MrE85

    That’s also one of the places where the tracks are not behind some sort of physical barrier. Similar to that crazy 5th Street situation in Minneapolis. If you can keep the traffic apart from the trains with a wall, a curb, please!

  • DavidG

    Odd, last time I was on campus a couple of weeks ago, I don’t recall seeing any cars on Washington Ave. At least, not the stretch between Coffman and Oak St. But I did see All the buses driving on the tracks.

    • Matty Lang

      David’s original piece on this subject was written before the decision was made to prohibit auto traffic between the river and Oak St. The piece he wrote today argues that the auto prohibition ought to be extended all the way to University Avenue.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I drove through campus a few months ago. All I could think was who came up with this plan???

  • John O.

    The lack of warning signals that at least one train is approaching a given street crossing in downtown St. Paul should make things interesting.

    • Don’t all of the intersections have the little picture of the train?

      • John O.

        If you are referencing that light that appears to the right of the stoplight, no. I would invite you to wander over between Union Depot and Minnesota Street on the final eastbound leg. I have not checked each one, but I take Jackson towards Shepard Road daily, and there aren’t any warning signs there at present.