A study was recently commissioned to consider the feasibility of operating buses in the planned Midtown Greenway. Regardless of the study’s conclusion, buses should not be incorporated into the greenway. Using the greenway for bus traffic would compromise the original intentions of the greenway and limit its usefulness. Also, the particular route the greenway would provide would be unnecessary, both currently and in the future.
The Midtown Greenway has been in the planning stages for several years. The land is a former railroad line that cuts across Minneapolis one block north of Lake Street that was purchased by the city in 1992. The original plan includes walking and recreation paths for bicycles, runners and in-line skaters. Contingency plans include the possible incorporation of a light-rail line in the distant future.
The greenway should not be used as an auxiliary street for bus traffic. Because of the land’s former design, it would now most appropriately be used as a recreation path. The path is sunken deep into the ground and is surrounded by walls of grass and flowers. It cuts through several residential neighborhoods, providing them with a link to the chain of lakes to the west and the Mississippi River to the east. By providing this link, the greenway would provide the central part of south Minneapolis with the recreation resources other parts of the city have.
Minneapolis has benefited from its geography and thoughtful planning. Early planners ensured that the city provided thorough recreation resources, even where nature did not. Southwest Minneapolis has the lakes, the south has Minnehaha Creek, the west has Wirth Park and the Mississippi River runs through the north and along the east. The central south, however, currently lacks a major natural recreational area. The greenway would provide this region with what it lacks.
Bus traffic would be inappropriate in such a setting. Buses are noisy, dirty and dangerous to those who would use the greenway for recreational purposes. Although the original plan intended that the greenway might be used for light rail in the future, the design ensured this would not interfere with recreational use. Light rail would not be noisy or as polluting, and its incorporation would not be as potentially dangerous.
The bus route being considered would create an additional east-west route but would not link any important commuter destinations. While Lake Street certainly is a busy enough street to require public transportation options, this need is already served by current bus routes. There is no existing or potential need for an express route between the river and the lakes that would justify the increased traffic along the greenway.
The Minneapolis City Council and Hennepin County should understand the drawbacks that bus traffic on the Midtown Greenway would have. Rather than attempting to create a route for which there is no need — and, by doing so, disturbing what should be a respite from city life — the greenway should be preserved as a tranquil recreational artery.