Walking on Huron Boulevard in Stadium Village reminds me of my middle school days, when I use to foolishly traverse suburban highways by foot. There is no parking lane that insulates you from traffic like many other Minneapolis streets, so cars zoom by an arm from the edge of the sidewalk. The empty grass field with the University of Minnesota sign sits inconspicuously empty, leaving you unsure if it’s supposed to be a park or just something the University hasn’t got around to yet. The sidewalk next to the field gets funny, too. There are awkward driveway aprons in the sidewalk, as if a car will turn onto the field from the road and take you with it.
You can see what I mean if you hop onto Google Street View at 506 Huron Boulevard. The Google camera car captures someone riding their moped on this very sidewalk, keeping pace with the car, and eventually merging into traffic through the awkward apron in the sidewalk.
Overall, Huron makes a terrible pedestrian environment in an area where walking is the primary mode of transportation. It can sometimes be hard to feel bad for people living up in the Luxury-Haus boxes, but they deserve to safely walk to class, too.
Even the University has realized the need for a better pedestrian environment in the Huron Boulevard area. The University Capital Planning & Project Management's Minneapolis Campus Development Framework lists “Improve the Pedestrian Experience” as its second goal in the Stadium Village zone. The University can make its streets more walkable, as it proved that it could make Washington Avenue a road accommodating for all modes of transport — foot, bike, public transportation and car.
Huron’s frequent congestion has caused some administrators to consider expanding the road. A director from the CPPM recently told the Minnesota Daily that there is a possibility of Huron being widened. However, doing so would critically hamper the University’s goal of making Huron a safe pedestrian environment equitable for all forms of transit. As Wired has explained, expanding road capacity actually induces demand. Economists have found that there is nearly a one-to-one relationship between increased road capacity and amount of driving done in cities, in the short and long term. Widening Huron would encourage more driving on larger road, in effect, negating the University’s goals of traffic decongestion and walkability.
Redeveloping Huron to be more human-friendly without adding more lanes is becoming increasingly possible and needed as the University continues to expand. A recent Daily piece reported that the southeast edge of campus is most likely to experience the highest University growth over the next 10-15 years.
The University has strategically purchased a lot of land on Huron that it can use to keep its balance of traffic control and walkability. It owns the previously mentioned field, Dinnaken Office Building, and recently purchased the knockoff frat house across from the University Commons Apartments with the intent to tear it down.
With so much opportunity for growth, Huron can be an access point to the University for humans and machines. There is a lot of potential for changing Huron through conscious urban planning. The student body must be a weight on the University, pushing it to accommodate the pedestrian.
Crossing Huron does not need to feel like playing a game of Frogger. The roads in an urban environment like our campus don’t need to solely belong to one form of transit. The University can make Huron Boulevard a better experience for pedestrians. We just need to make sure that administrators don’t forget that.