Now that I live in Downtown Minneapolis, I use the Skyway System considerably more than I ever did in the past. I like the Minneapolis Skyway System (MSS) though there are opportunities for improvements. Here is my personal take on the MSS. The short story is that I like it, I wish it could be better, and we should try to keep on improving it. The MSS and important infrastructure surrounding it are key to improving the livability of Downtown Minneapolis.
A useful app for finding your way around the MSS is: skywaymyway and it works both as an app on your phone and on a computer. No need to install an app as it works well just using a web browser.
There are maps located in various places around the skyway that help with navigation. Mastering the navigation of the MSS helps with the overall experience. The Skywaymyway app helps with navigation when the skyway maps cannot be found, or the route is hard to remember.
The MSS started in the early 1960s as a way to compete with suburban shopping malls. Buildings throughout Downtown Minneapolis are now connected by indoor pedestrian bridges and present a lengthy area of connected space. These areas contain many useful spaces such as: retail, office, restaurant, health, beauty, tailoring, and much more. It's like an extended strip mall but without the free parking and pretty much closed on the weekends. If you live Downtown and want something in the MSS on a weekend, you pretty much have to wait until Monday, or go someplace else. The MSS ownership is private with different buildings owning different spaces. This creates a situation where different bridges are open at different times during the week. It can be confusing as there are many bridges. With so much of the Downtown space being dedicated to 9-5 office space, there is a lack of incentive for these various private entities to attract people during the weekend.
Not everyone likes the MSS, as this article points out: Fix Downtown.
Personally, I do not agree with everything in this article in that I'm not convinced trying to move everything to street level is the ultimate improvement. Allowing better street level access seems like a good idea. Why is the street level better than the skyway level? I believe that better access to the street level is a good idea. However, forcing everyone onto the street level might just have the opposite effect of what is intended. Downtown Minneapolis could become less desirable instead of more desirable.
I like the MSS, but I agree with the article in that the MSS can be improved. Most people focus on the weather as the main reason why the MSS exists, but there are other considerations to take into account (IMHO). When you go outside in Downtown Minneapolis you notice that the streets are noisy (traffic, construction, emergency vehicles, etc.), while inside the MSS, all is much quieter. The streets are often slower when trying to get from one place to another because things get in the way: traffic lights, scooters, bicycles, light rail, and crazy automobile drivers that seem to inhabit all cities these days. The MSS is an expansive corridor dedicated to pedestrian traffic. Nothing else is competing with you and getting in your way as you traverse the MSS mazes. Also, Downtown Minneapolis streets are filled with pedestrians on a nice summer day. It's not as bad as the detractors claim. It's easy to see that the weather is definitely a factor. All things considered, the MSS experience is more pleasant. BTW, I like winter. On a cold, windy, bone chilling day you can go outside and realize, hey, I'm not that bored after all. Since it's cold outside, I think I'll go create a webpage about the Downtown Minneapolis Skyway System.
The MSS makes it easy to take a walk during the day and clear your mind or get momentarily away from stress. During lunch hours the MSS is filled with people. It's common to see a couple of people walking together and talking about what is it eating away at them today. The MSS provides them with a venue that caters to their constant need to vent. Sometime just listen to the conversations that fill the MSS during the day. It's people spilling and sharing their inner thoughts about: job satisfaction, coworkers, significant others, failing sports teams (of which we have many here in Minnesota), that other evil political party that those bad people belong to, and so many other problematic events in our day-to-day lives. Sure, they're mostly first world problems that aren't all that important on a global scale, but the need to let it all out is an important part of maintaining sanity.
A stroll through the Skyway System is therapeutic, even if you are walking alone. It can provide some 'me time' to reflect on life the universe and everything (thanks Douglas Adams). One has to get out of the work environment in order to truly vent in an open honest way, or to reflect and clear the mind.
Perhaps you work in a some business complex. I guess you have to ask your coworker to get in a car with you so you can drive around and engage in this cathartic exercise. Or, maybe find a conference room without windows, shut the door, and let it all out. However, when you leave the conference room, your coworkers are staring at you and wondering what that was all about. "Is everything all right?", they might ask. "Yeah, couldn't be better," you reply trying to show a positive expression on your face while thinking mind your own business. To me, it's not the same, and I've been there. I'm an expert *grin*.
These inferior substitutes just don't let you get things off your chest in the same way as when you're walking around in a comfortable space, without any coworkers around. You're out in the expansive MSS escaping the watchful eyes of those that silently evaluate you. After your stress relief walk through the MSS is over, you are now able to return to work and dive back into whatever is there awaiting you. The MSS is, in so many ways, a life saver.
However, don't forget that the MSS is expansive and there are places to explore. Although the act of visiting these places does not merit an entry in the self-evaluation you dutifully fill out at work twice a year, and there is no need to mention these places in that silly one-on-one semiweekly meeting with your supervisor. However, there are interesting places and things out there that offer you your own personal gain. Be adventurous and enjoy it! Lets take a quick tour.
There are some interesting places to explore like this building that was my bank when I was a kid, but is now a restaurant. Anyone for a power lunch? Let's plan a big layoff and make the shareholders happy while having lunch in this quaint, old and well preserved location.
Now this is where I want to stop off after work to have a few drinks, and complain about the boss before making that long drive back home.
This guy is someone you get inspiration from just by looking at him. Makes you realize you haven't reached your full potential yet. You can be so much more.
There's a nice ceiling above him too that is quite mesmerizing.
Looking down at him from above also provides a nice perspective. Make sure to visit Mississippi FatherOf Waters next time your in the MSS. It's one of those experiences that lets you momentarily escape the time space continuum, and it's free.
Remember, at every instance in time, there are three dimensions. Use all of them.
There is a set of standards for the MSS: Minneapolis Skyway Standards. This document is dated Jan 22, 2018. These standards establish a bare minimum specification, are really boring to read, and seem more like suggestions than requirements. This document says there are 19 members of the Minneapolis Skyway Advisory Committee (a committee started in 1980). This document (dated Feb 15, 2017): Downtown Skyway Advisory Committee says there are 17 members. Perhaps they added two members in the last year.
There's no indication about the identity of these committee members. There do not appear to be any agendas or meeting minutes. Do they ever meet? Is their work so sensitive that they must remain anonymous for their own protection? Who watches over them?
There's a document from 2007: Downtown Action Plan that is a 10 year transportation action plan. Their 10 years are up at this point. The Pedestrian part of the transportation plan calls for improved street access to and from the skyway system (page 12).
There is also a document from 2009: Minneapolis Pedestrian Plan that reiterates information from the 2007 document (page 29).Part of these plans call for: "construct skyway stair towers at the edges of the Skyway System to facilitate interface with the sidewalk system and proposed green spaces." Other parts state: "Work with individual property owners to improve vertical access between the existing skyway and sidewalk systems at key transit nodes downtown through signage, operating procedures, street level uses, etc. It is especially important to ensure that there is convenient access from major transit stops into the skyway system."
I'm not seeing better access to the street level. I'm thinking that as a community we can do more.
I'm thinking maybe we can't rely on the secretive Skyway Advisory Committee to address issues like improved access to the street level. After roaming around the MSS on and off for a year or so now, it's clear to me that it really is too hard to get outside when you want to. The MSS seems to be oriented around driving into a parking ramp (an endpoint), walking through the MSS to work, finding a spot in the MSS to eat at lunch time, walking back to the parking ramp after work, and then driving home in rush hour traffic with the radio blasting the Johnny Paycheck song "Take This Job And Shove It." After all, why would you ever bother going outside? This aspect of the skyway (and overall commuting to downtown) plan works well enough. No need for many improvements in this area. But, why should everything be oriented around what happens 9 - 5 during the week? What about the weekends and evenings? Other aspects related to downtown living should be examined too.
I should also mention that there are apartment buildings attached to the MSS. The vast majority of MSS endpoints are either a place to live, or more likely a place to park a car.
Once inside the MSS there are maps to help navigate the maze.
The easternmost endpoint is not the most interesting place to enter the MSS and start a skyway journey. However, I enter here often during the winter and it feels good to get out of the freezing cold.
Above is the northernmost endpoint - "Where The River Meets the Skyway," or at least that's the claim. The Mississippi River is actually a couple of blocks farther north, and walking there is an even longer distance (but worth the journey). Oh well, it's a catchy phrase and good marketing. There is an attached apartment building, and if you live here, and work in Downtown Minneapolis, then your skyway commute is pretty stress free.
That stress free commute involves walking across this long unheated bridge. If does offer nice views of the area.
Above is the view of 2nd St. on your stress free walk to work.
The Minnesota Twins play at Target Field which is located near the westernmost endpoint in the MSS. It's off-season right now and improvements are underway. Just no improvements that make it easier to use the street level. There are plenty of parking ramps though where lots of cars can park. There's even an exit from a freeway that is an entrance to these ramps. After a Saturday afternoon game, just drive back home as there's nothing open on the weekend.
Oh yeah that's the way you do it. You play your guitar on the MTV. Oh no, that ain't working, you drive your auto into ramps A or B (my apologies to Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits).
The Minneapolis Convention Center is located near the southernmost endpoint. The Auto Show is held here every year right around the beginning of spring. If you happen to experience negative body image thoughts every time you look in the mirror, then go to the Auto Show. After mingling with the other attendees there, your entire self image will improve greatly.
A navigation tip is that there are signs in the MSS that point you in the direction of the Twins Target Field Stadium (West), the Vikings US Bank Stadium (East) and the Convention Center (South). That is, there are no directions that say go east or south like driving directions often do. Instead the directions say to go toward a destination like the Convention Center or some other building. There are no signs that direct you to where the skyway meets the river though. For that you're on your own. There's a more general location called the Riverfront, which basically means you're headed north.
Some endpoints are not the farthest N, S, E, or W, but you still have to turn around and return the way you came (or leave the MSS and make your way to street level).
The MSS keeps growing and the 365 Building endpoint above is new. It's so new that it's not on any of the skyway maps (yet). It does end at an apartment building and a parking ramp.
Here's a bridge that's not part of the MSS. You can only use it if you work there. Now that's exclusive!
Endpoints provide access to the outside world. It's not impossible to get outside from locations that are not endpoints yet part of the MSS, but there are too many places where it's not very easy. Similarly, if you are outside, you can often look up and see the pedestrian bridges, but then finding an entrance that lets you access the MSS at this point can be a tad frustrating. There really should be more pathways to and from the outside like the 2007 and 2009 plans call for. Currently access to the outside is not a high enough priority.
Another thing, too many places in the MSS are just plain boring.
Many stretches of the MSS have a drab, dreary feel that haunt you as you walk through them and hear little voices in your head screaming, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" This part (above) needs a little color or greenery or art or something to alleviate the depressing feeling one endures while walking through.
The tunnel system is the worst. The word boring does not sufficiently describe the feeling.
This tunnel feels creepy, like an army of zombies will, all of a sudden, come charging at you and all you can do is scream because there's no escape. There is nothing inviting here at all. Could someone at least paint the walls an interesting color? Get some graffiti artists in here.
The above ground pedestrian bridges allow in some light, and that helps. Still, this part could also use a bit of sprucing up though.
Here the light helps a lot - much better than the tunnels. However, if you look out the window, you can see something is under construction. I think it's another parking ramp. Will most of the light disappear in the not too distant future? This part could become far more drab and dreary.
At Christmas time some greenery is added. It makes a difference. More of this kind of decoration is needed, especially when it's not the holiday season.
Fortunately, there are many places that work because they are interesting.
I think the IDS Crystal Court is my favorite location within the MSS. There is light, greenery, a public space feeling (though it's private), and a busy area with lots of people flowing through, resting, eating, and shopping.
All the light comes from the skylight ceiling overhead. It's inviting and offers a sense of community. Remember to look up sometimes.
It has the feeling of being alive. It's so alive that this one spot has five banks: TCF, Bremer, US Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank Of America. I guess that's one way of measuring success. If a lot of banks gather around a space, it's successful.
In another location an entire two story wall is animated, and the animation changes with the season. It catches your attention and stimulates the mind. It's fun.
It's currently autumn and this wall shows the fall colors.
In this same location there's a place where you can sit, look out the window, gather your thoughts, and hide from the view of others. The perfect place to figure out why you're broke, how to get your kids to move out of the house, or plot how you are going to rise up and take over an entire department at work. The MSS needs more places like this one. We have a lot of thinking we need to do. HINT: leave your phone in your pocket every now and then.
Finding your way down to the ground floor of older buildings often exposes an interesting space.
The building is kind of drab but it has a nice entrance.
Here's another old building with a beautiful historic lobby.
Where is this? Why is it by a dentist office?
Can you find my faint reflection in this picture?
Would anyone ever sit here and be on display as hundreds of people march by?
There are several of these wall sized pictures of Minneapolis in this area that show the progress of the city from 1885 to 2013. Check it out.
Powers closed for good in 1985.
A nice sculpture in downtown that can be seen from the MSS.
This nice photographic display makes this area so much more interesting.
Can you find this creative display? It's located in a place where some pizzazz is needed, and this fills the need. One creative guy makes a difference.
I'm standing in a short pedestrian bridge and looking out the window at another short bridge.
Now I'm on the bridge that I was previously looking at, and now looking back at where I was.
When you're having a bad day, go visit Fallen Man and he will let you know that it could be worse.
Thank you Viola for making me realize I live in a first world country and have nothing the complain about (though I still do).
Here's a cool old safe in the basement of an old building connected to the MSS. And, there are several of these old safes. Can you find it? What do they keep in these old safes? Inquiring minds want to know.
A few areas in the MSS have these "No Trespassing" signs. This is confusing as there are hundreds of people passing by daily. Can they all be imprisoned for 365 days and fined $3000? I believe that I can be put away for life with the number of times I violated this NO TRESPASSING sign.
Here's a hidden bridge but it's up on the fourth floor. I don't think it's technically part of the MSS.
So, I made my way up there, and took this picture. It's not worth going up there though as the view is disappointing. Now I know.
Look how much more pleasant a tunnel can be if there's an interesting mural to see.
This tunnel has that graffiti look to it.
This appears to depict neon pathways overlaying a downtown background. As Dave Clark once said, "I like it like that." Dave Clark also said, "if you remember the 60s, then you weren't really there." This art conjures up memories of the 60s that I don't remember anymore.
Actually, no one really knows who first said this quote (how appropriate). Here's the first reference (Los Angeles Times in 1982) that I found: Comedian Charlie Fleischer observes: "If you remember the 60s, you really weren't there."
There are three museums in the MSS: the Good, the Different, and the Totally Weird. All of them are free.
The "Wells Fargo Museum" above is quite nice. There is a lot of history here, you can walk through it and experience the museum pieces up close and personal. I found it quite interesting. The picture doesn't do it justice. You have to go see it for yourself. It's the best of all the museums (IMHO).
This nice sculpture is exhibited at the Wells Fargo Museum. Make sure to search it out while you are there.
The "Louvre It Or Leave It Museum" above has some interesting pieces of art but you're not allowed to enter the space. Everything is behind glass and sometimes at a distance. This denies the viewer a chance to really see the art as intended. Seems a shame.
I like this museum though. I just wish it could be better. And this one part of the museum here:
leaves me wondering if it's art.
Although only one gallery level is shown here, there is a second gallery up one level. Check it out.
Is this really a museum (as it claims)? As near as I can tell, none of the information presented in this so-called museum is true, even if it claims to be "mostly true." This is totally weird. What's the point? Why bother? I just don't get it. Fake museum? If you never see this museum, you haven't missed much. Still, see if you can find it. It's in a bit of an out of the way place.
So, there's a lot to like about the Minneapolis Skyway System. Many parts need improving but I don't want to see it go away. I know it's not going to disappear in my lifetime as it would be way too difficult and expensive to remove. Tourists that visit Minneapolis love the MSS. They write glowing reviews about it.
Somebody wanted to change the name to "Skywalk" a few years ago.Skywalk
Doesn't feel like it went anywhere. Is this a Star Wars reference?
Let's focus on making it better though. Besides creating better access to the outside, the MSS should be more open on the weekends, be more inviting and attract more people downtown. Do people avoid downtown on the weekends because nothing is open? Or, is nothing open because people don't come downtown on the weekends? I think it's some of both. Some brainstorming is needed, and I don't think it will come from the Downtown Skyway Advisory Committee. It doesn't feel like they have the right motivation. Who are they anyway? Join the movement, explore the MSS, and always strive for improvement. Life is an adventure. Hope to see you someday in the Crystal Court.
You can reach me here: firstname.lastname@example.org