Some frequent transit users would not be happy if this happens
Both the Downtown Storefront Working Group, convened by the city, and the Minneapolis Foundation issued reports last year recommending buses be moved off of Nicollet Mall. Both reports say moving the buses off Nicollet Mall allows an opportunity to bring in retail, art, and green space opportunities, even in the winter, which they believe will bring in more people whether walking, biking, or using scooters.
“We need to be able to have festivals and events—the farmers market is a great example. And it’s been difficult for events and event planners, including the farmers market, to be able to use the mall in a way that brings people down,” said former city councilmember Lisa Goodman, who represented the western half of downtown Minneapolis. “Great cities have pedestrian malls.”
It might be easier said than done to move buses off of Nicollet Mall. It currently has five routes going through, with buses arriving on an average of every two minutes. Two of these routes—northbound Route 18 and southbound Route 10—have offered free rides to Mall visitors since March 2010.
Metro Transit has detoured routes off of Nicollet Mall before, onto either Hennepin Avenue or Marquette and 2nd Avenues, as people held farmers’ markets, bouquet distributions, races, and even Indian wedding rituals.
With pressure from the city and downtown boosters, Metro Transit is considering moving buses to either Hennepin Avenue, Marquette and 2nd Avenues, 3rd Avenue, or 4th and 5th Avenues. It’s unclear if northbound Route 18 and southbound Route 10 would remain free downtown if they were to move.
Goodman believes the Nicollet Mall buses should be moved to Marquette and 2nd Avenues. Those streets, which are served by regional express buses as well as the Orange Line, reportedly have enough capacity because the regional providers are operating fewer express buses compared to before the pandemic.
Some downtown residents are on board with Goodman’s idea. Telly Cadet, an East Town resident, supports moving buses off Nicollet because he believes the people who spend time on Nicollet don’t ride the bus. “I don’t think a lot of people use that area. The percentage of people that are on that street that are for transit is a lot smaller. And it seems like it’s getting smaller and smaller,” said Cadet at a meeting hosted by Move Minneapolis in November. “I think opening that up for pedestrians-only is a good idea.”
But some people who spend time on Nicollet do indeed ride the bus. Take Triesha Bowles, a Loring Park resident. Hearing about the potential changes caught her by surprise.
“I have not heard about that,” said Bowles shortly after finishing some last-minute shopping downtown. “That wouldn’t be good. That’ll cause a lot of inconvenience for those who catch buses on 9th Avenue. [The buses are] faster on Nicollet.”
Or Joann, a Cleveland, Ohio transplant to Stevens Square who declined to provide her last name. “It’s very convenient for me. Why would they want to take buses off Nicollet Mall?” Joann said as she rode the 17 shortly after shopping at the downtown Target.