Downtown Duluth transit hub should include car, bus, bike and foot
The Duluth Transit Authority is leading the effort to build an off-street new multimodal transportation center in Downtown Duluth. This center would not only replace the existing transit hub in front of the Holiday Center on Superior Street but w...
The Duluth Transit Authority is leading the effort to build an off-street new multimodal transportation center in Downtown Duluth. This center would not only replace the existing transit hub in front of the Holiday Center on Superior Street but would even more accommodate all users, as well as mode, with a keen eye to the future. This place will accommodate buses, cars, taxis, trolleys, bicycles and pedestrians, as well as intercity buses Jefferson and Indian Trails, LCS coaches and Arrowhead Transit, and have a direct link with the future Northern Lights Express passenger rail service terminal at the Duluth Depot.
With funding in place, construction is set to begin the spring of 2013. Designing the facility, which includes rebuilding the existing parking ramp behind the Wells Fargo building and the Northwest Passage, is well underway. The Northwest Passage is the pedestrian (Skywalk) link over I-35 connecting downtown Duluth and the DECC. The key now is making sure connections to this facility work well for all users, and as best as possible set things up for future improvements to further enhance the facility as a multimodal transportation center.
What are some of these possibilities? One is the idea of incorporating a bicycle station into the new transportation facility. Currently, secured bicycle parking is planned. However, with more time and funding, including possibly a public/private partnership with local bicycle shops, a full-service bike station could develop, including secured bicycle parking, showers, changing areas, bike rental and repair, retail, and a café. Therefore, design of the facility with a full-blown bicycle station in mind is important.
Another component of the multimodal transportation center project is the reconstruction of the Northwest Passage. There has been quite a bit of discussion about how to appropriately accommodate other users, particularly bicyclists, in the Northwest Passage. Discussion has taken place at the regular DTA and City of Duluth stakeholder meetings, at the Duluth Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, at Healthy Duluth's active living committee as well as conversations with the Minnesota Bike Alliance. Initial options for the rebuilt Northwest Passage ranged from expanding the passage way to include a wider indoor walking route as well as an outdoor multi-use path, to a fully enclosed indoor walking path with a separate bicycle way.
The issue of allowing bicycles in the Skywalk is not a simple one. Bicycles already show up inside, but are currently prohibited from being inside the Skywalk, including the Northwest Passage. Discussions are taking place on allowing bicyclists to walk their bikes in the Northwest Passage, and on how to prevent them from continuing on with appropriate design, signage and enforcement. Design to encourage bicyclists to exit the Skywalk at the appropriate place is key. So is seamless access to the Skywalk from the street level on both sides of I-35.
The reason for all of this discussion is the anticipated change this center will bring to the transportation system. The Northwest Passage will be connecting the new multimodal transportation center, which will serve the downtown business and office core, to the new Cross City Trail (bicycle and pedestrian super-highway) connecting the Lakewalk to the Munger Trail and, of course, the DECC, which is also looking to improve bicycle parking options at their facilities.
With all of this hanging in the balance, now is the time to help. The overall vision is to create a seamless flow of traffic for all modes of transportation, regardless of whether one is traveling by car, bus, bike or on foot.
Gittemeier is a senior planner with the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council. He manages the annually updated Transportation Improvement Program, leads the MIC's bike planning efforts, and works on various corridor and transportation studies.