Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Sidewalks for Highland Village

Highland Village is the retail area that centers around the intersection of Ford Parkway and Cleveland Avenue in Saint Paul, MN. It is a fairly diverse area, with both new and older retail serving a variety of needs. Recently the area started to undergo a major reconstruction project involving the public sidewalks. As a frequent visitor of the area I thought it would be interesting to document the changes, so here are some photos:

First a couple of photos showing the original concrete and red brick sidewalks. This design was incorporated in the 1980s if I recall correctly:

Next are a couple of shots showing some of the completed and somewhat completed sidewalks so far:

Finally, one section that will be interesting to watch, the future site of the northbound/eastbound A-Line bus station/stop on Ford Parkway at Finn Street. I recall some mention of roughing in station elements with the sidewalk rebuilding, however there has also been mention of station construction occurring next year when Ford Parkway is being repaved/rebuilt. How much is being done now vs. later at this spot is unknown to me. However it is nice to see that the A-Line station is being taken into account. I'd rather see a temporary asphalt or concrete pad in place for now, rather than have a complete new sidewalk and curb ripped out next summer. Of course the best thing would be to pre-build part of the platform ahead of time so as to minimize pedestrian interference.

Looking west at the station site:

East view:

A mark on the Highland Bank plaza noting where the BRT section cutoff is:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How About a People Mover at the Mall of America?

The Mall of America (MOA) is one of the largest indoor shopping malls in the United States, and it's getting larger. Currently the MOA boasts 4.87 million square feet of building area, making it one sizable chunk of property. Access to the MOA is typically by auto, mass transit, or tour bus, although a few pedestrians and cyclists have been spotted on occasion. With more expansion comes more active groundspace, longer walking distances, and of course, parking spots. Additional transit access or coverage is not really included however, with the only future transit plans at MOA calling for an update to the current transit station and garage area.

With that in mind, it seems like our big retail friend and tourist hotspot could use something beyond simple pavement and walkways to move visitors around. Walking around the MOA as it is can be tiring, with each floor clocking in at 0.57 miles in distance. While this is fine if you're super hyped about scoring those awesome shoes or actually remembering to buy your girlfriend a nice present for her birthday, it can be kind of a drag if you are coming in to start an eight hour shift at work, or just stopping by to get a new tie. Add in the extra distance to future development, and suddenly scoring that parking space 150' feet closer to the door doesn't seem like a big difference.

Incorporating an automated people mover tram system could provide a beneficial transportation solution. My proposal is to connect the IKEA store, the new expansion area, and the MOA core with a new and improved MOA transit station at the existing 28th Avenue site. The mover would operate at frequencies of about 90 seconds to 120 seconds ideally.

Mall of America APM Concept Drawing

Stations or stops on the line would be at IKEA, the North Plaza expansion area, the north entrance, the south entrance, and 28th Avenue MOA Transit Station. Benefits to mall visitors would be quick access between IKEA, the new expansion development, and the mall core.

While the existing MOA transit station would be removed under this plan, there would still be some improvement for transit riders. Currently the Metro Transit Blue Line takes about four minutes to travel from 28th Avenue to the MOA platform. Add another two to three minutes of walking up the stairs, across the inner access road, and into the mall, and it can be six to seven minutes minimum to actually get to your destination. However if riders could instead transfer to the mover and take a one to three minute ride to their destination that would make it easier. Time savings would be even better for those who want to go to the north end or IKEA. This could also improve transit operations as well, cutting about eight to ten minutes off a roundtrip on the Blue Line, and creating a better transit station with direct access for buses currently serving the MOA. (Many of which already circle the block by 28th St. currently)

Parking for the MOA could also benefit from this line. Instead of wasting valuable nearby space on the Mall grounds for more parking spaces, that area could instead be used for additional retail space. Parking could instead be added out by the 28th Avenue site, perhaps in the form of a combined MOA and park and ride ramp to get more use out of the spaces. (Park-Ride user in the daytime, mall shopper in the evening.)

While this plan is likely to never be more than a simple Google doodle, I hope that the most notorious and largest shopping mall in the United States will incorporate other modes of transportation, and consider walkability, as it continues on with an ever widening footprint.