Getting to the Green Line and Beyond: Access for All

Quite a number of people commented on the article I posted last week – Getting to the Green Line: Seen through the Lens of a Wheelchair User. So I thought I would follow up with some observations, photos and questions from streets.mn readers.

“Glad to see this issue being discussed,” wrote UrbanDoofus. “What good are LRT and streetcars if people can’t access them easily?” This is exactly why the District Councils Collaborative (DCC) undertook a survey of access to the Green Line in 2012 with an evaluation of walking routes to the light rail stations. In the course of that survey, we learned of the far greater challenges that face people with disabilities.

Narrow sidewalk with tree leaves no room for wheelchair to pass

No room on the sidewalk for wheelchair to pass.  Photo by Stephen Hannon

Even sidewalk, wide boulevard, shade trees

A pleasant, even, tree-lined sidewalk with a wide boulevard, perfect for walking or rolling in a wheelchair.  Photo by Stephen Hannon

 

So in 2014, the DCC engaged a number of disability experts to help us do an assessment of the Green Line from the perspective of the disability community. The resulting report – Making Strides: 2014 Accessibility Survey — will be released this coming Wednesday, March 11th at the Rondo Library in Saint Paul, with a short presentation beginning at 6:00 pm, to be followed by discussion. We hope this will raise public awareness and serve as a beginning for a community dialogue on the importance of prioritizing mobility issues in making improvements to the pedestrian realm.

Cars parked with front bumpers over sidewalk

Parked cars intrude into the sidewalk area, making it impossible for a wheelchair to pass. (Broadway near 10th)  Photo by Stephen Hannon

Street corner with sidewalks and ADA ramps at right angle

A nicely laid out corner design with ADA ramps. (Payne and Edgerton)  Photo by Stephen Hannon

 

Monica Rasmussen began her comments by saying: “It’s great to finally highlight some of the barriers for people who are using assisted devices for mobility.” Among the issues she noted that need to be addressed was snow removal, which was also identified by a number of other readers. Monica reports that when she wrote to Metro Transit to ask them to make sure the crosswalk to the light rail station at Snelling was cleared, they replied that “they weren’t sure if it was their responsibility or the city’s or someone else, but they would “try” to take care of it.” So Monica asks: “Who is responsible for shoveling snow in the crosswalk areas of the Green Line stations?” Good question. We need to make sure someone takes responsibility, so that people with mobility devices have snow-free crosswalks to get to the light rail station.

Bus stop bench surrounded by snow

Wheelchair users and walkers need to know that snow will be removed from crosswalks and bus stops.   (Grand and Wheeler)  Photo by Anne White

 

Another concern came from Annoyed Commuter, who says he walks with a cane, and is dismayed at how often the elevators at the stations are out of service, and for how long. He notes specifically that: “The elevator at the West Bank station by the Law School has been broken for two weeks now, forcing people using walkers and wheelchairs to enter/exit the station by going three blocks out of their way to use the one on the other end of the platform.” Rick Cardenas, who uses a wheelchair, has another elevator issue. It concerns the elevator at the Central Station in downtown Saint Paul, which closes at 9:00 pm, leaving him out in the cold, unable to get up to the skyway from the station at night.

 

West Bank station on the Green Line

The West Bank Station where the elevator is often reported to be out of service.  Illustration courtesy of Metropolitan Council

 

Stephen Hannon asked if there was any interest in exploring accessibility in other parts of the city. Carol Swenson, Executive Director of the DCC, responded: “Like the DCC’s 2012 Walkability Survey, implications of the 2014 Accessibility Survey reach far beyond the Green Line light rail corridor. We are very interested in gathering information and photos from neighborhoods and communities in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis as well as the region. We’re working on our website to make it possible for people to upload and locate photos.” For additional information on the DCC’s Walkability surveys, go to http://dcc-stpaul-mpls.org/special-projects/walk. In the meantime, Stephen sent me some photos by e-mail to use with this article.

 

Pedestrian flags, but no crosswalk markings

Pedestrian flags but no crosswalk markings at Grand and Syndicate.        Photo by Stephen Hannon

Good white zebra crosswalk markings and ped ramp

Good, clear, zebra crosswalk markings and ADA ramp at Grand and Snelling.  Photo by Stephen Hannon

I would also add to Carol’s response that our Green Line Accessibility Survey should lead to better planning for light rail and bus rapid transit in the future, so that people with mobility devices won’t encounter the same sorts of barriers when the Southwest Line, the Bottineau Line and the Gateway Line open in the future.

Please come hear about the DCC Accessibility Survey and join the discussion this coming Wednesday at 6:00 pm at the Rondo Library. And if you have not yet watched the 2 ½ minute video, I highly recommend it. Here’s the link:

 

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6 Responses to Getting to the Green Line and Beyond: Access for All

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke March 9, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    To be fair to the West Bank station elevator, I think those things only have a 3-month design life.

  2. Jim March 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    Worth a shot. They do it in Mears Park.

  3. Wayne March 10, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    While I do enjoy classical music, this was one of the most vile racist things I’ve seen in quite some time. I think people forget that there are bus stops there. But sure, blare music to try to get people waiting for the bus to leave because of your racist tendencies. Minnesota is not exactly progressive with regards to race anyway.

    Hint–police doing their jobs is far more effective at deterring crime than stereotypes and music.

  4. David Markle
    David Markle March 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    For those with disabilities a very fundamental problem is the distance between stations and the lack of places to get on and off, compared to a streetcar line or the now greatly reduced-in-frequency No. 16 bus. It’s interesting that my attempted communications–included certified mail–on this subject with the state-funded Disabilities Council went unanswered.

    Incidentally an old friend just suggested that larger public works projects (LRT, Vikings Stadium, etc.) are favored over smaller (perhaps a streetcar line) because of the constituency that benefits from bond financing. Any thoughts on this?

  5. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller March 11, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    I’m not sure I’d call building a street car a small scale project, and it would likely involve bonding too, so that doesn’t sound like a terribly credible factor to me.

    Especially as the streetcar would not be a substitute for a light rail line that is meant to extend out to Eden Prairie.

  6. David Markle
    David Markle March 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    Yes, Adam, a streetcar line would probably involve bonding and wouldn’t be suitable for extension to the suburbs (although people once thought it was– and in a way still is, in the Boston area, where one of the old streetcar-like lines goes out as far as Newton, very slowly!). My “old friend” has gotten to be a very crusty, cynical conservative, but it’s a point worth considering: reminds me of the time when Minneapolis set up NRP by renewing and pooling substantial tax increment districts; the bond people literally swarmed all over the Normandy conference rooms.

    Regarding access, I’d like to take the opportunity to urge a 6 mph speed limit for everyone on sidewalks, to improve safety for the disabled and pedestrians in general. It might also help clarify liability issues for motorists at intersections when sidewalk-riding cyclists and runners dart across on the pedestrian crosswalks.

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