Sunday Summary – April 26, 2015

Image of Sunday Summary logoThis week’s posts cover a lot of territory – some posts continue discussion on subjects which started in other local media, a few more keep expanding on-going conversations on and some new stuff. Here’s the week carefully curated for your consideration (and comments or follow-up contribution).

Hot topic: Ugly buildings and urban design

On Ugly Buildings looks at the sentiment that ugliness and beauty are purely subjective (thus no debate is possible) and moves on to ways architectural aesthetics influence us and how the political process also affects our judgment. Better Urban Design From the Ground Up redirects the conversation from whether buildings are, in fact (or in opinion) ugly and what building materials are required, to consider how the ground-level of building frontages relate to the street and surrounding land uses.  Looking back just a few months, a February column in the Star Tribune and reply on new apartment buildings and urban design could be seen as kicking off this week’s posts.

Why Not Require Every Ground Floor Unit to Have a Walk-Out Entrance?

Why Not Require Every Ground Floor Unit to Have a Walk-Out Entrance?

Hot topic 2: Stadiums, again but different

The new Vikings Stadium has been a frequent topic on, but this week the stadium in question is the one which could be built for the new Major League Soccer franchise which is coming to Minneapolis (if they have a place to play). Building A Mixed Use, Neighborhood Stadium reviews some of the stadium issues, but then moves more boldly to Oslo for inspiration. Since one of the criticisms of stadium development is use of the stadium only on game day, building a stadium which also houses other businesses which can serve the neighborhood every other day, too. Commenters briefly chat about the financial package which might be used to help pay for the stadium, but mostly about refining the location within the West Loop by suggesting the stadium sit next to the highway viaduct and moving the farmers market toward the city.  Related to another Twin Cities stadium, the CHS Field for the Saint Paul Saints, Take Me Out to the Saints Game responds to recent news coverage about stadium about parking near the stadium and encouraging transit use, but takes a more fun (and historically connected) view: “use transit because driving to ballgames robs us of the ability to daydream on a summer day. We don’t know the opportunity cost of disallowing a muse to alight upon us because we are hurriedly looking for parking.”

Ulleval (mixed use) Stadium, Oslo

Ulleval (mixed use) Stadium, Oslo

Other big posts

Let Us Build Less Parking, Please asks for changing Minneapolis’ parking requirements by reviewing parking’s impact on a city before turning to focus on the rental market and eliminating the requirement that apartments provide parking.  Commenters consider some details about the cost of parking for renters, but also illustrate parking pricing by discussing Minnesota State Fiar parking pricing (although they left out the free-market part about nearby homeowners renting their yards for parking). Comments also note that Donald Shoup, patron saint of parking pricing, is retiring.

Access is an issue this week in two very different contexts: Transit Versus the Overly-Accessible Freeway compares transit stop spacing to freeway access spacing on the Green Line/I-94 corridor and finds, as the title highlights, highway access points are closely spaced and make getting on the freeway more convenient than getting on the LRT. Part of the problem considered is whether applying standard guidelines for transit station spacing make sense, or whether a more context-sensitive solution would serve the public better. Commenters consider highway accesses which could be removed, but also what small increases in distance to transit stops mean for people with more limited mobility who depend on transit. Obstacles to Accessing Bloomington’s Trails highlights how the Normandale Avenue trailhead for the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail limits rather than encourages public access to the trail by its location in a single-family neighborhood which requires access by car for all but the nearest neighbors, prohibiting parking near the trailhead, and other ways the trailhead has privatized public resources.

Signs tell people not to stop by the Normandale trailhead for the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail.

Signs tell people not to stop by the Normandale trailhead for the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail.

Continuing the history and politics of the Saint Croix River bridge now under construction,  The Stillwater Bridge Story: Part Three looks at final refinements to design of the bridge, then expands the context to include what happens on highways connecting to the bridge, possible park/trail improvements, and a few other interesting facts. Commenters appreciate the detailed history, but respond more critically to the author’s “opinion is that any dollars spent on highway projects are good” to ask some additional questions about projected traffic volumes, whether making it more convenient for people to live farther away is a good idea, and other concerns about costs.

Safety Means More Than Crime Rates started with a blog post about “Family Friendly” cities and what criteria people use when choosing where to live, but zooms in to crunch some numbers on the risk of driving compared to risks of crime to try to answer: “Does living in a city and driving much less (or not at all), with all the crime that may come with it, outweigh the safety benefits of avoiding crime?” There is not (yet) a clear answer, but commenters provide some additional context about living car-free, how they choose where to live, and refining the question somewhat.


Audiovisual department

The video offering of the week is Volvo LifePaint (video) it the primary source detailing Volvo’s new reflective paint for cyclists or other non-drivers to use at night which kicked off much debate in the media about safety, safety gimmicks, and whether putting the responsibility for safety on the most vulnerable street users is appropriate.

Two text + picture personal journeysSome Personal Observations About Getting Around the Twin Cities highlights a few places and their challenges or triumphs. On the edge of Downtown is another lovely summer ride around Saint Paul by/through the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood, West End, and Downtown (other rides on the streets of Saint Paul are here).

Charts ‘n’ Map: Two charts this week with Highway 5 Bridge Traffic Flows using cellphone data to map traffic flow in Saint Paul and (related to the longer post summarized aboveSaint Croix River Bridge Dimensions.  The Map of the Day: 1957 I-94 proposal for Lowry Hill looks back in time to earlier planning in the the Hennepin/Lyndale commons area now planned for reconstruction.

Graphic novel continuesBicyclopolis: Episode Eight, The Gates of Bicyclopolis is the latest installment.  As new episodes usually go up on Sunday, you can probably get Episode Nine today, too.

The I-94 proposal for the Lowry Hill area from 1957.  Image from the study "Freeways in Minneapolis".

The I-94 proposal for the Lowry Hill area from 1957. Image from the study “Freeways in Minneapolis”.

Next week, it’ll be May!  Spring flowers, springs in steps, and lovely thoughts springing to mind; yes, we welcome Spring in Minnesota. Get outside and enjoy the streets in Spring this week!

Betsey Buckheit

About Betsey Buckheit

Betsey rides her pretty blue city bike, walks her energetic black dogs, and agitates for more thoughtful, long-range decision-making in Northfield, MN. You can follow her blog at