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Skywalks. I think you call them that. The bridges in Minneapolis.
From a Scandinavian outlook I am curious of the current view ot that phenomena. Are skywalks good for downtown or do they emty downtown of its life?
Hmmm...I think opinion is mixed on skywalks. They're great in the winter, especially in places like Minneapolis, and Calgary (which calls them "Plus 15's").
Toronto and Montreal have gone the other way, and developed extensive networks of underground passages connecting office buildings, shopping malls, and subway/commuter rail stations. I don't know about Minneapolis or Calgary, but in Toronto and Montreal I don't think street life has suffered. In fact, in Toronto's case, if it weren't for the underground walkways, it would be very difficult to manage conflicts between pedestrians, automobiles, and surface transit - although conversely, perhaps we would be able to justify the development of pedestrian streets/malls if the underground system was not in place.
We have quite a few of them here in Milwaukee. You can go many blocks without ever hitting ground level. I rarely use them.
One argument is that they remove peds from the street, taking the lifeblood of ground-level merchants. In our case, I can't say that that has happened.
The other side of the argument is that in our erratic climate, they keep a consistent level of "shopping populations". i.e. no one would come downtown and walk on sidewalks in the sleet and snow when they can go to the mall.
Even in a harsh "winter city," if the pedestrian environment on the surface is interesting, folks will still deal with it. Chicago doesn't have skywalks, and look at State Street or Michigan Avenue -- busy. The discomfort of the cold doesn't seem to matter as much when you're distracted by passing people, decorated storefronts, and a vibrant street life.
A couple of years ago, a new shopping center opened in downtown Denver. It's an open air shopping center, and it's doing well, even on cold winter days.
I've occassionally used Minneapolis' and Milwaukee's skywalks, and Chicago's tunnels. What I have noticed is it is almost exclusively the downtown workers who are using them, and they tend to be 'destination' travelers. Those who are out shopping, tourists, and infrequent visitors, tend to walk outside. I would guess this may be because they are not familiar with them, particularly the underground connections which are not as readily visible. Just after Sept. 11th the Milwaukee skywalks were more difficult to negotiate, with the added security and related delays.
Spokane, WA is another US city that has skywalks. For a while it seemed that they were part of a real downtown renaissance, and that at least in the core of the area served people were using them. I haven't spent much time in Spokane recently, but I understand that the commercial energy has shifted back out to the edge. If you are interested enough I can give you a contact who would know more.
Last time I was in Cincinnati, I noticed that African Americans were on the street level waiting for busses and whatever, while Anglos (whites--sorry--been in the barrio too long) were on the skywalks.