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.