In the Twin Cities, Population Still Clustered Where the Streetcar Went

In the Twin Cities, population density still closely tracks history streetcar routes. Image: retrieved via Streets.mn
In the Twin Cities, population density still closely tracks old streetcar routes. Image: Minnesota 2020

It’s been six decades since the Twin Cities’ streetcar era. But as demonstrated by the above map, making the rounds on Twitter, population density in Minneapolis and St. Paul still reflects the region’s historic streetcar routes.

Bill Lindeke at Streets.mn considers the implications:

It’s worth remembering that historic 1950 densities in Minneapolis and Saint Paul were far higher than is reflected here. Much of the dense housing was bulldozed, and current household sizes have been shrinking for years.

The map was made by Eliot Altbaum, an intern at regional think tank Minneapolis 2020. “Sixty years after the end of the streetcar network, the housing development that mirrors that network makes clear the connection between transportation and housing development,” Altbaum says of the map.

Lindeke says:

To my mind, Eliot is onto something compelling. You cannot separate transportation from land use. You cannot pull apart roads or rail from the kind of buildings we inhabit and the patterns of everyday life that form around them.

The Twin Cities map is a nice complement to Next City’s animated GIFs showing the impact of highway building on development in cities like Atlanta.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Kevin Klinkenberg says more than a century ago, planners — not developers — had control over the way cities developed. And Systemic Failure shares new and damning research against a rule from the Federal Railroad Administration that has rail advocates worried.

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