Living in downtown Minneapolis carfree – five year report

I am so shamefully overdue for an update on my carfree downtown living experiences that there’s really no excuse for it. I’ve thought about writing this post about once a month for the past two years, but eh.

For a little preview and perspective, you may want to read my 2007 and 2008 reports. Otherwise, here’s my quick back-story:

After living and traveling abroad for 4.5 years, I came home in 2007 determined to live a European lifestyle, meaning a small, reasonable living space and no car. Though I’d long loathed downtown for the noise and air pollution, I knew living downtown was the only choice, mainly for the advantage of being smack in the center of the city’s public transport hub and having virtually anything I might desire within walking distance.

Well, my reservations about living downtown were totally unfounded. I took to it immediately. It is simply the pinnacle of convenience and options in Minneapolis. Coffee, sandwiches, groceries, booze, banks, stores, restaurants, bars, and every conceivable service are all less than 20 minutes away by foot. Any need, any spontaneous craving, any entertainment wish can be attended to pretty much instantaneously. Yes, the noise is still irritating sometimes and the air pollution, while not spring fresh, is much improved since the snapshot my brain took in the mid-90s.

And there’s the not so small, priceless perk of being Skyway-connected.

Here’s a few updates.


This was and still is one of the primary selling points for living downtown when one has decided to shun car ownership for the rest of eternity. Buses continue to be amazingly timely, relatively clean and quick. The Light Rail line through South Minneapolis is an oft used treasure. That it connects downtown with the airport in only 21-23 minutes and costs a mere $1.75 ($2.25 peak) is still one of the best airport-city transfer arrangements in just about any major city in the U.S. And the Central Corridor line, connecting downtown Minneapolis to downtown St Paul in 36 minutes will start passenger service in 2014. (Though if your goal is to get between the two downtowns as fast as possible, taking the 94 Bus will still your best option.)


After five years, the downtown Target location is still struggling with the challenge of keeping their food section stocked. No other Target I’ve visited has as much trouble keeping simple, everyday items on the shelves as the downtown location. It’s confounding and results in nearly weekly bouts of cursing and last second menu adjustments.

However, an encouraging development has occurred. The brand new Lunds on 12th street and Hennepin has FINALLY opened after years of delays. For my purposes, it’s a little too spendy for regular shopping and about as far away as it could possibly be from my building and still be downtown, but it’s there nonetheless for emergencies and special food needs.

The other back-up option is still taking LTR four stops and shopping at the Rainbow or Cub Foods just east of the Lake Street station.


There’s been a tragic blow to my entertainment options. The Block E AMC movie theater did not get its lease renewed and will shut down on September 23rd. I’m heartbroken. Sure, the staff were a little rough and the Commodore 64 computer that ran all the theater systems frequently failed at little things like turning off the lights when the movie started and focusing the projector, but the theaters were large, convenient and Skyway-connected. Now the nearest movie theater to downtown is the moribund St Anthony Main Theater across the river.

Otherwise, little has changed, apart from the belated discovery of the 8th Street Grill happy hour (3pm-7pm weekdays and all day Saturday) where one can buy the cheapest cider on tap in all of downtown. The appetizers are discounted too, though apart from the chicken quesadilla, I haven’t been too fond of the app selection.


Another heartening improvement to the downtown eating scene is the proliferation of food trucks in the past two years. Marquette Ave has developed into food truck central, with anywhere from six to nine or more trucks parked between 6th Street and 9th Street on weekdays serving lobster rolls, tacos, sushi, arepas, sandwiches, vegetarian and more. A smattering of food trucks are scattered in other random downtown spots as well.

Gettin’ stuff done:

Same ease and convenience as always. Pretty much everything I need is within walking distance. I occasionally run specialty errands to Uptown and other non-downtown destinations, but 98% of my simple needs are met by downtown establishments. One or two annual outings notwithstanding, all friends, social engagements and places of importance are still a single, hassle-free bus ride from home. Only during rush hour on the busiest streets am I ever sitting on a bus for more than 30 minutes to get anywhere. Moreover, with public transport information folded into the Google map directions tool on my Android, I can dog leg errands and improvise on the go with only a few moments of research.


This has become slightly less advantageous in 2012. The housing lull is lifting in downtown and condos and apartments are once again in high demand. Though all I really know about this is what I read in the paper, so perhaps people who have actually purchased/rented in recent months can speak with more authority. Still, if my property tax statements are even slightly accurate, condo prices are still languishing near the bottom of the curve, so while availability might be dicey, prices are still decent.

Future unpleasantness:

Alas, the forever needy and bleating Minnesota Vikings were successful in pick pocketing Minneapolis for $700-something million for a new stadium that will both result in a new sales tax for purchases made downtown and a couple years with of construction headaches and debris floating through the air that will probably give all downtown workers and residents respiratory ailments. But the good news is that a billionaire in New Jersey will get richer and a losing, felonious team of overgrown babies and ingrates will stop threatening to move to L.A. for a few more years and that’s what really counts.

That theft and injustice aside, in the grand scheme, I’m still a huge proponent of downtown and carfree living. The uncomplicated, streamlined lifestyle has resulted in more free time than I’ve ever had, lower stress and unequalled contentment.

Anyone with other observations or anything to add are very welcome to leave a comment.

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Car-free lifestyle, Downtown | 18.09.2012 15:39 | 2 Comments

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