A Network of Connecting Links: Transit Connections

Transit Connections - A Perspective from the Midtown Lake Street Framework Plan

Transit Connections

Transit Connections

Transit Connections include bus, LRT, trolley, and other ‘people movers,’ which serve both the local neighborhoods and also connect with regional transit systems. The Lake Street Midtown Greenway Corridor includes multiple transit components as part of a local and regional transit system. These components include:

  1. The Midtown Greenway Corridor
  2. Lake Street
  3. Hiawatha Avenue LRT Corridor
  4. I-35W Transit Station
  5. Other Transit Connections

1. The Midtown Greenway Corridor

As previously previously discussed, the old railroad right-of-way was purchased by Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority for use as a future light rail transit corridor. With prospects for rail transit within the trench still some time away, much attention has been placed on the importance of completing the bike trail and related improvements to make the corridor a safe and pleasant place for both recreational and commuter traffic. 

Phase One construction of this commuter bike trail, completed Summer 2000, provides the much-needed foundation for a series of bicycle and pedestrian connections that will link area destinations including job centers, commercial/shopping districts, restaurants, institutions, transit hubs, green space and arts/entertainment attractions. In the absence of light rail in the corridor, this critical first step serves as an important demonstration of the enormous potential to link adjacent neighborhoods to this transit corridor and to the surrounding area. Concurrent with construction of the trail, a number of options for future public transit use are being actively pursued.

The corridor is a key component of the Metropolitan Council's transportation plan (see map) and feasibility for either rail or express bus systems in the corridor is a major priority and a current study initiative supported by the County and Metropolitan Council. The express busway will link Hopkins and St. Louis Park to Downtown Minneapolis and the Hiawatha Avenue LRT Corridor.

A community-based process will integrate neighborhood input with urban planning criteria and transit design guidelines to ensure that busway improvements support and strengthen the Corridor Framework Plan Vision. Express bus options being explored include clean, quiet state-of-the-art vehicles. Detailed plans and illustrations have been completed for the Hennepin Avenue/Uptown transit station to be located at the edge of the Greenway. Opportunities for additional ramp, stair and elevator connections between street level uses and the bottom of the trench are also being studied.

2. Lake Street

Once containing an active trolley line and still home to a bus system with very high ridership, Lake Street was profoundly impacted by a series of changes that began with the dismantling of the streetcar system in the fifties and the construction of the interstate highway system a decade later. Formerly in a very successful commercial corridor, Lake Street businesses now find themselves in competition with a number of regional shopping destinations in surrounding suburbs and other parts of the metropolitan area.

As was typical in so many American cities, Lake Street fell into a period of disinvestment and decline. The departure of several anchoring stores, such as Sears, contributed to further economic downturn and the subsequent visual symptoms of poverty and blight. The history of Lake Street (through periods of activity, decline,and now regeneration) is still being written. The demand for transit improvements along Lake Street is heightened by the combination of many existing successful businesses, key redevelopment projects now underway, and the enormous potential for new investment throughout the corridor.

Much work has been done to explore this important issue and additional studies related to a comprehensive system of bus, trolley, train, and other transit options are currently being explored. The objective is to integrate and improve transit and transportation systems as a major component, development catalyst, and public service for Lake Street businesses, residents, and visitors. Improvements to curbside transit stops are being planned as part of the Lake Street repavement project. Transit hubs or stations are included as integral components of the Great Lake Center development at Chicago Avenue, the Hiawatha Avenue development strategy, the new transit station at Hennepin Avenue and the proposed redevelopment at 27th Avenue

3. Hiawatha Avenue LRT Corridor

With approval of the Hiawatha Avenue corridor as the first segment of the Twin Cities Light Rail Transit Plan, this important crossroads of Lake Street, the Midtown Greenway, and Hiawatha Avenue has added significance for the region because: 

  • It will provide a regional link between downtown and the airport. Minneapolis’ first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) will be created at this location. 
  • It will integrate light rail and other modes of transportation to support a mix of new and existing uses.
  • Transit solutions related to this important node must provide highly visible, accessible, and safe connections to transit stops/stations, green systems, new development and surrounding neighborhoods.
  • The new Hiawatha Avenue bridge presents a visual and physical challenge for east/west pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic.
  • The City and County are currently exploring options for rail alignment; grade separated crossings for rail transit and the Greenway corridor; and transit station location and design.

4. I-35W Transit Station

Metro Transit commissioned a study to evaluate and recommend options relative to ADA compliance and associated improvements to the existing transit stops located at the intersection of   I-35W and Lake Street. This study delineated several options based on the project goals and project opportunities described below. Further study including a comparative analysis of costs and programmatic components led to preliminary recommendations for station floor plans and general character.

The primary functional goal of this project is to successfully link the two levels of the Lake Street and I-35W intersection with an ADA compliant vertical circulation system integrated into the transit facility which affords maximum user convenience and safety, ease of maintenance, durability of materials, and reasonable cost.

Significant opportunities exist for Metro Transit to become the impetus for the redevelopment and revitalization of the Lake Street corridor and to provide a defining element or gateway for both local and greater metropolitan communities.

Given Metro Transit’s goal of doubling ridership within the next 20 years, (combined with the significant presence of this location), there is tremendous opportunity for Metro Transit to reinforce this goal with a defining image that takes the concept of transit well into the next century.

5. Other Transit Connections

In addition to the grid system of streets that provide multiple routes for cars, bicycles and pedestrians, a number of other transit options are being proposed. These include the extension of the Lake Harriet Trolley into Uptown and a variety of neighborhood circulators/’small bus’ routes throughout the corridor. 

While some of these systems may be years away, it is very likely that they will be integrated with new development projects connecting to and departing from area transit stations. Transit-friendly street design, with ample room for curb-side stops and inter-modal capability with bike lockers and storage facilities nearby, are important considerations. Planning and detailed design of transit systems in this corridor must: 

  • Anticipate the future of transit in the Twin Cities and the powerful impact of LRT in the Greenway by providing the space and appropriate sites for transit facilities to support the development objectives outlined in this document. 
  • Bring together neighborhood institutions and businesses to identify common goals and establish local transit systems that serve the immediate community and link to city and regional transit systems.
  •  Support the development of the proposed trolley route through Uptown, exploring opportunities to extend it further east along Lake Street and the Greenway.
  • Linkages between the popular Lakes District and the variety of commercial nodes and other amenities will strengthen the unique and attractive qualities of the west end of the corridor.