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 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 11, at the Rondo Library in Saint Paul, with a short presentation beginning at 6 p.m., 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 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 p.m. at the Rondo Library. And if you have not yet watched the 2½-minute video, I highly recommend it. Here’s the link:

Anne White

About Anne White

Anne White lives in the Merriam Park neighborhood of Saint Paul. She is currently the Land Use Chair for the Union Park District Council (District 13) and serves on the Governing Council of the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (DCC). After moving to the Twin Cities in 2003, she retired from her work as a professional photographer and began working to ensure that community concerns were fully considered in planning for the Green Line LRT. Now that the line is up and running, including stations at Hamline, Victoria and Western, her main focus is on walkability, making sure that people of all ages and levels of mobility have safe, pleasant walking routes to LRT and other destinations. She was recently appointed to the St Paul Transportation Committee of the Planning Commission as the Active Living community representative.