Land Use Patterns and the Southwest Transitway Alignments (mapping Part II)


In my first post on the two potential Southwest Transitway alignments, I discussed the density of population, employment and transit dependent populations along each route.  In this post, we’ll explore land use patterns and the mixing of uses along each route and near the stations.  Click through for more.

All the data I’m using here comes from the Hennepin County parcel dataset.  I’m pretty sure Minneapolis won’t supply me with their existing and future land use information as shapefiles (although I haven’t asked anyone), so I’m limited to what the assessor has to say about land use.

Just Land Use

I created a generalized land use set by combining a number of descriptions the assessor uses into the following categories: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Public/Other Tax Exempt, Railroad, Utility and Park Board-owned land.  I then mapped the land uses within 1/4 mile of each planned station. Vacant parcels within 1/4 mile show up as white.

As you see on the map, the number of different uses, the mixing of uses and the number of individual properties are greater along the 3C alignment.  The barriers to accessing the station from all these uses are also fewer along 3C.  Both the Penn and Van White stations sit next to freeway viaducts, so I wonder how much access there will be to the station from the other side.  The area around Van White station shows a dearth of any land use, save public and park board land.  No residential or commercial parcels are within 1/4 mile of this station.

A Mixed Use Ranking

Because we all like a good ranking, the second map in this series attempts to take this land use information and develop a basic measure of mixing, or a mixed use “score”.

stationmixesTo do this, I measured the total residential parcels per acre surrounding each station, then did the same for commercial and industrial.  The commercial and industrial totals were added together.  Then the residential number was multiplied by this commercial+industrial number to get a total score. I also eliminated the possibility of any stations getting a zero score when the multiplication happened (if you have zero residential parcels you would get zero, for example) by adding the two scores together in that case.

This is supposed to reward areas that had large numbers of both residential and commercial/industrial parcels.  However, an area could also score highly if it had a really large number of either residential or commercial/industrial land.  I don’t think this is a perfect system, so if you’ve got a better suggestion for a mixed use scoring system, I’d be happy to hear it (and map it).

The big winners here are the downtown stations (4th, 8th, Hennepin and 12th), but Uptown, Lyndale and the Franklin stations also score well.  The worst performers? Van White, Penn, Royalston, 8th Street and 21st Street.  Four of those belong to one alignment, I’ll let you guess which one.

I think the scores represent the truth on the ground, which is that the greater amount of fine-grained, high density mix of uses is in place along the 3C alignment.  According to those who talk about transit, these are the factors you look for when trying to support transit with development, and vice versa.

Higher density and more mixing should also theoretically encourage walking to the stations, perhaps fewer transfers, and therefore be better for building a low-carbon transportation system.

Mapping parts I and II go to 3C.

5 thoughts on “Land Use Patterns and the Southwest Transitway Alignments (mapping Part II)

  1. Between this and the last post, I’m really enjoying this hard data in support of the 3C route. I’m expecting to see the numbers in the Draft EIS coming pretty heavily in support of it, contrary to the original poorly executed study.

    As effective as this is, I think that a ranking system that incorporates density as well as the transit dependent population would probably be more useful (and show 3C as an even more clear winner). You could use your multiplication/addition model to specially reward areas that score high in both categories. The maps you posted previously showing jobs/residents per acre as well as transit dependent population would be very useful. I might fool around with this idea a bit.

  2. I enjoyed the post (and the last one). I have a couple thoughts:

    1. this considers only existing land uses – so this ranking system doesn’t value the potential for future development (very little potential at 21st & Penn stations, but the potential for redevelopment is very significant at VanWhite – especially if the station location is still flexible).

    2. This ranking awards land use patterns with small, segmented parcels, which may not be very attractive to developers. I expect some developmers would rather have fewer (i.e. larger) parcels to redevelop than the very segmented, small parcels around uptown & Nicollet.

    3. The interlining with Hiawatha and Central is potentially very significant – and while 3C preserves this option, it’s much simpler with 3A.

    4. This metric potentially demonstrates a transit-supportive land use framework, but doesn’t necessarily show that light rail is the best way to meet that demand. In my mind, the real question is whether light rail is an appropriate form of transit for Nicollet, or whether we should pursue other technologies.

    • I’ll try to post a future land use map in the future. However, I assume that a vast majority of the ridership of the line will come from what is on the ground today, and will for a long time in the future.

      Second, small parcels have not seemed to be a major barrier to redevelopment in Uptown in the last five years. There has been quite a bit of mixed-use redevelopment in large buildings recently. I don’t think federal transit funding programs grade projects on their potential to spur redevelopment, and I’m not sure we should either. In any case, I would argue that Uptown and Nicollet have much greater redevelopment opportunities available than Van White given the existing traffic, surrounding density and desirability of the neighborhoods.

      Third, linking with the Hiawatha line is very important, this is definitely an issue that needs to be resolved with the original 3C alignment (and is addressed in the sub-alts).

      Fourth and finally: agreed. However the decision about mode has already been made, so I’m assuming that as a given. If the Southwest line does not follow a 3C-like route now, it seems very unlikely that any higher capacity/higher service line will be built in the area in the near future.

  3. Volunteer…working with a group of people who have been distributing leaflets (over 5000), getting petitions signed (over 3500), all in agreement of your analysis…awesome way to come up with the ridership numbers.

    You’ll be presenting this at the September 17th meeting. Have you thought of presenting this to the PAC members who will be making their recommendation by September 30? or Met Council by the middle of October?


  4. Pingback: Net Density » Southwest Transitway Open House – Why I’m Still For 3C

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