Minneapolis Buses

NIMBY: Park and Ride? But Think of the Children!

Park & Ride SignNow, sure. In general, parking lots are an urban blight. Streetsblog is doing a March Madness bracket of parking craters. Streets.mn has repeatedly covered the issues of subsidizing parking over investing in responsible alternatives.

Meanwhile, in the suburbs? We learn that Park-and-Ride lots make intersections less safe, and apparently invite predators to watch baseball practice. Who knew? Well, it’s happening in Blaine. (Of course it is, you say.)

In general, Park And Ride lots are an overlay solution to deal with the impact of poor planning and sprawl. MN65, from Northeast Minneapolis and northward, is a fine example of a road that is a freakshow of poor planning, wretched light timing, and strange use. Businesses along much of the corridor once you cross into Anoka County are only accessible from side roads, which can be baffling to the outsider to access. MN65 through Anoka County has a notable accident rate.

The proposed site of this Park-and-Ride is at Paul Parkway and Ulysses Street, which functions as a sort of frontage to MN65 in sections of Blaine, with some sections close in to MN65, and others where it curves away and functions more as an independent through street. (Paul Parkway is also known as 121st, for those of you who like to get your bearings numerically.)

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Several neighbors of the lot complained that Blaine was to take on the “burden” of increased traffic on its local streets to improve traffic on major highways. From this new lot, buses are expected to go south on MN65, west on US10, west on MN610, south on MN252 and east on I94 into Minneapolis. Residents complained that it would benefit the no-goodniks of East Bethel and Ham Lake (a town, for the record, that does not feature a large body of water with buoyant pork product).

However, given that the parcel is (and has always been) zoned commercial, neighbors may actually benefit from the more targeted use as a Park-and-Ride lot, rather than as a Taco Bell or similar. The baseball complex can use it as overflow parking on weekends, keeping cars OUT of the nearby neighborhood.

At least one of the four community dissenters was concerned about the children biking to the baseball complex. While it’s a little early in the season to evaluate via observation, it’s my highly educated guess that this number is really low and the “children biking” is a total red herring. Most of the baseball games at the complex are not played by kids from the nearby neighborhoods. A lot of the games are for traveling team baseball — kids who live insufficiently close to ride bikes to games. And relative to the kids of Blaine who may have this as a “home” field and/or practice site, the complex is most accessible to those kids who live in west Blaine and need not cross MN65. Crossing MN65 via any means (including in a tank) is of dubious safety. Crossing as a pedestrian or cyclist is positively horrifying, even as a full-gown adult. Creating a Park-and-Ride cannot make the intersection less safe, because “less safe” suggests any degree of safety exists. It does not.

In the end, all but one of the Blaine Council voted in favor of the lot. But, I leave you with this comment from Concerned Citizen Agnes:

My major concern is the kids at the Blaine Baseball Complex. [snip] Not to mention more “strangers” in the neighborhood. Are the children that play in their yards gong to be kept safe from these extra people driving through their neighborhoods?

The Ham Lakers aren’t going to be driving through the neighborhoods, based on placement. Most of the Blaine-iacs won’t be either. Core access is likely to be via MN65 and Paul Parkway. Are creepers really going to be leaning out their car to snatch the delicate children because there is now a Park-and-Ride? What prevents them from doing so now in the absence of a Park-and-Ride? Why would one want to park in a well-lit lot near a baseball complex with a snatched child when you can get on MN65 and flee to Ham Lake instead?

There are legitimate reasons to object to Park-and-Ride lots. They encourage car use and abstract transit, although it has also been found that they can serve a stated use of reducing arterial traffic when applied properly. They can end up as semi-abandoned asphalt if transit funding is cut. They don’t contribute as much to a local economy as an actual commercial use of similar land.

However, it seems that in Blaine, the reason to object, for some, comes down to STRANGER DANGER. It seems that the attraction for creepers isn’t the nearby Baseball Complex, with its abundant adult supervision and dedicated parking, but it’s going to be a Metro Transit lot. Creepers on buses! Insert your standard-issue paranoia about the sorts of people who use public transit here, apparently.

Welcome to suburbia! Sigh.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!