In the interest of furthering my life’s work making mountains out of molehills, I’m going to complain a moment about the annual Thanksgiving Switcheroo on Nicollet Mall. Every Thanksgiving from 6-10 in the evening, cars are allowed to, as the City puts it, “enjoy a drive along Nicollet Mall… For this special occasion, the speed limit is 10 miles-per-hour and drivers are not allowed to pass another vehicle or stop anywhere along the Mall. If you want to take the drive, you must enter and exit Nicollet Mall either at Washington Avenue or Grant Street.” What they don’t mention is that buses are detoured to Hennepin while cars are granted their annual pleasure.
I took a stroll down Nicollet at about 9pm and counted 47 cars a-cruising, not counting a handful of unpatronized taxis. Typically, you’d see one to three cars lined up at a red light. The cars had higher than average occupancy, so I’d guess that during my 15 minute jaunt, there were around 130 souls motoring on what was normally un-motorable. Not counting those already lined up in front of Target, I’d say about the same number were ambulating the Mall with me from 13th to Washington, although I wasn’t specifically counting pedestrians.
This might be a nice moment to rant about arbitrarily detouring transit at the pleasure and convenience of motorists. Think about how often you’ve seen a portion of a street closed for construction, and some room is found for bidirectional general traffic lanes, but the bike lane is closed. But I’ll save that rant for later.
It just doesn’t really matter that much that the buses are detoured. Traffic of all types is very low tonight – in the four hours of the Switcheroo, about 85 buses were detoured. Likely each bus had only a handful of riders. So we’re not talking about very much traffic.
But maybe it’s the very lightness of the traffic that sticks in my craw. Very few cars take their “once-a-year chance” and very few buses are detoured. So why do the buses need to be detoured at all? Why can’t cars share their special night with a few buses?
In closing, here’s a pic of two beagles in front of a tiny chapel near Blue Mound State Park, from this awesome travelblog: