Pedestrian study paints complex picture of skyway foot traffic

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February 14, 2011 // UPDATED 4:07 pm - February 22, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
SKYWAYS — Though foot traffic is down overall in the skyway system, certain corridors are more packed than ever, according to a Feb. 22 report by a Minneapolis-based consulting firm specializing in pedestrian analyses.

For the 20th year in a row, Pedestrian Studies’ Peter Bruce spent last October tabulating the bodies flowing through Downtown’s skyway system for his Annual Minneapolis Pedestrian Count study.

(You can view our summation of last year’s results here.)

The big news this year? Skyway volumes overall are down 12 percent. But at four specific locations, foot traffic is well above the historical average, and in 2010 one outdoor block on Nicollet Mall matched the highest pedestrians-per-day count in the last decade.

Let’s start with the skyways.

The 9th Street corridor, connecting the Target store to the Downtown office core, was once again the busiest, clocking 16,200 walkers per day, an 11 percent increase over the historical average.

The City Center/Gaviidae Common connector came in second this year, with 14,915 pedestrians per day. Where this connector meets the other City Center skyway, the Macy’s south corridor, it forms 2010’s busiest Downtown intersection, which accommodated over 28,000 people per day. This number was a 7 percent increase over the intersection’s historical average.

The fourth skyway to improve upon its historical average was the Fifty South Sixth Street corridor.

But the big winner was outside on Nicollet Mall. Between 8th and 9th Streets — right outside Target, IDS Center and Macy’s — the sidewalk accommodated 25,000 pedestrians per day last year. That matches the highest volume measured over the last decade

As for the 12 percent overall drop, though, Bruce points to a number of factors. The unusually warm fall weather drove people outside, dropping skyway traffic 10 percent from its historical average. And the recently completed Marquette/2nd Ave renovation — which added new commuter bus routes and streetscape amenities — also returned walkers to the streets. (The pre-renovation construction work in 2008 and 2009, Bruce says, may have kept more people inside than usual during the previous year, throwing off the recent comparison.)

All in all, charting the ebbs and flow of skyway traffic is tricky business, says Bruce.

“Changes in bus routes along Nicollet Mall have had also some impact on the traffic volumes over the last few years,” he wrote in the report. “But the details are not yet fully understood due to lack of research.”