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Downtown Minneapolis to designate pickup zones for Uber, Lyft at bar close

November 24, 2018

Minneapolis wants to designate a zone for Uber and Lyft drivers to pick up downtown nightclubbers and bar patrons at the end of the night, according to the city.

The ride-share zone, which hasn’t been identified but could debut as early as next month, is part of a larger effort by the city to control the chaos of cars, public transportation and pedestrians that is unleashed in downtown’s warehouse district at bar close at 2 a.m., officials said.

“It’s part of this idea to make it a little more orderly, a little easier for people to get in and out of the Warehouse District at bar-close time, without this sense that, gosh, the world is coming to an end,” said Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

The pickup zone would likely affect ride-share customers around Hennepin and 2nd avenues from east to west and 4th to 6th streets from north to south, according to Josh Johnson, the city’s advanced mobility manager. This section — which includes bars, clubs, restaurants and a light-rail stop — is the “nexus” of nocturnal activity downtown, he said.

If a person requests a ride from Uber or Lyft using their phone in the area, the app would instruct them to walk over to the pickup zone, Johnson said.

Although the city has yet to decide where that zone would be, Johnson said it would likely be off the street. It would be easily accessible, he said, with added lighting and security.

“There’s an element of trying to mitigate congestion associated with Uber and Lyft in the area,” said Johnson, noting the high number of requests for the service in the area at night. “But our primary focus of this pilot is really to enhance the safety of the riders.”

Johnson said the city has been in talks with Uber and Lyft for the last six months to learn how often their drivers are called to the Warehouse District.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman from Uber said the company has spoken with the city about the designated pickup zone and that final plans are still in the works.

Uber, Lyft and other ride-share services have had to accommodate designated zones across the country, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Johnson said the downtown pickup zone would look similar to what Washington, D.C., has tested in Dupont Circle and other popular areas. The experiment would run long enough for the city to gather data and learn where else they may want to try it, he said.

Cramer said downtown has long struggled with traffic control at bar-closing time.

“It’s almost like all hell is breaking loose,” he said. Drivers from Lyft and Uber were contributing to that, he said, by stopping and waiting for customers in inconvenient places, including on the light-rail tracks.

“We’re trying … to make it a friendlier, more conducive environment for people to get out of the Warehouse District,” he said. “Having a better, more orderly way to get Uber and Lyft in and out was part of that.”

Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753

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