It’s been a hot week in Minnesota and I am grateful for street trees and their shade. While keeping cool, streets.mn writers also kept busy and here’s the week:
At Metropolitan State University Parking Defeats Education showcases a letter to streets.mn about a 2013 post by David Levinson which called out Metro State’s proposed (now enacted) mandatory parking fee where all Metro State employees and students pay a parking fee whether they use campus parking facilities or not. Susan Klingenberg, mother of a Metro State student, wrote to complain about both the $183 fee ($12 per credit) which her daughter must pay for parking she does not use (requiring her to drop a class because she could not afford both), as well as the University’s lack of responsiveness. Commenters include the Metro State student senate leader who provides more detail on the policy along with substantial criticism of that policy.
Time for Downtown Minneapolis to Turn Over a New Leaf comments on a Star Tribune editorial – “Growing a Greener Downtown Minneapolis” which praised the new Pathways to Places initiative to “green” the city. It’s a great idea, says Sam Newberg, but Minneapolis commitment to change is less certain given the lack of interest in reallocating resources to pay for more street trees coupled with recent wave of building more parking ramps and skyways.
Fixing High-Renter, Low-Equity Neighborhood Orgs uses the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization’s concerns about new housing along with its strategic plan which seeks to limit affordable housing, to highlight how the organization fails to represent the interests of its largely rental neighborhood. This is John Edwards’ second post aiming at this problem; the first about restrictive election procedures for the Whittier Alliance is here. The comment section includes some discussion of housing policy, but also quite a bit of information about Minneapolis’ 311 system, bus service to/from Whittier (and other places), plus some consideration of renters’ status and housing policy.
Walking and biking
Were They Wearing a Helmet? criticizes the tweeted response by State Representative Phyllis Kahn to a Minneapolis Bike Coalition tweet following the death of a cyclist after being hit by a car (and here’s the whole conversation) which demands to know whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet. While the post points to Rep. Kahn for blaming the victim, the comments are more nuanced (yes, streets.mn IS raising the tone of on-line commentary) and see Rep. Kahn as part of the larger cultural context where cyclist behavior is criticized and helmets have great significance (and fault) rather than looking at the larger picture of design plus behavior.
Is Ramsey County Stopping the Bike Plan Before it Starts? asks about the county commitment to implementing Saint Paul’s new bike plan following decisions to retain parking rather than add bike lanes to Cleveland Avenue and poor public process regarding bike lanes on Front Avenue. The debate in the comments hones in on the inter-jurisdictional problem of county control and funding over city streets and difficulties of regional planning. For anyone interested in advocacy generally or Saint Paul improvements in particular, this post and the links in it to additional conversation should be high priority reading.
Maps and charts are usually sent to the audiovisual department because they are quick looks at small pieces of the overall picture, but sometimes the visual aid sparks some interesting discussion worth noting in greater detail. Map Monday: Saint Paul Pedestrian Crashes maps pedestrian crashes (which, we should be clear, are incidents where vehicles crash into pedestrians rather more evenly matched collisions of two or more pedestrians, or perhaps pedestrians walking into lightposts) between 2005 and 2014. The comments, however, hone in on the economics of reform and unpacking the statement “Engineering is a balancing act between efficiency and safety” with some debate about shifting the balance toward greater safety. Worth more discussion and probably a post or two.
Then we have a handful of posts which talk about the infrastructure design and regulation piece. New Oak Street Protected Bike…What is That? shows us the new bikeway markings on Oak Street which do not provide intuitive direction for people on bikes. Comments on this post, as well as posts over on try to make the point that this is imperfect, but still progress. Persistence Paid Off For Shoreview Bikeways or, don’t expect instant change but sustained political engagement can get results. This post chronicles Shoreview advocates’ work over decades starting from the simple wish to bike to school safely to Shoreview’s network of bikeways.
Finally, Let’s Legalize Slow Streets looks to Wisconsin for some inspiration for slower speed limits in cities. In particular, small changes could expand slower streets from those with bike lanes (where the default 30 mph limit can be lowered to 25) to any street with bike facilities (like bike boulevards with shared lanes). Comments generally endorse slower speeds, but also advocate for local control rather than state law dictates for speed limits as well as identifying particular places where slower would be better.
Other good ideas
The Five Stages of Roadspace Repurposing riffs on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief to create a taxonomy of where various cities fall in their rethinking of roadspace for more than cars. Most, sadly, are still in denial.
Specialized posts for the experts and enthusiasts include the Quarterly Transit Report–August 2015 is the latest installment from retired transit planner Aaron Isaacs (here’s the February report); this quarter was relatively uneventful, but the former Metro Transit bus garage site at Snelling and I-94 has been the subject of discussion as a location for the new soccer stadium. Now Exempt is David Levinson’s follow up to his post Buses and Railroad Crossings from August 2014; the lightly used railroad crossing on Franklin Avenue SE did not seem to have enough trains to require buses to stop before crossing and now the crossing is posted as exempt from the requirement. Are Minnesota’s Construction Defect Laws Causing a Condo Shortage? is a little law review sort of post disputing whether state law contributes to the apartment surge, but condo shortfall.
Charts: Two charts this week with Minneapolis Jobs by Planning [Geographic] Sector 2000-2014 and Downtown Minneapolis Employment – August 13, 2015 – 5 comments
Maps: Two Map Mondays last week with Map Monday: Saint Paul Pedestrian Crashes (see above for additional detail) and Map Monday: Upward Mobility for Children in Poor Families
Comic: The story continues with Roadkill Bill: Vincent Van Gogh Paints The American Landscape and it is not a pretty picture.
August is whipping by, so it’s time to take those last few minutes to enjoy slower summer days. Take some notes while you’re out on your summer walk/bike/drive/bus ride and write about it for us. Streets.mn is dedicated to expanding the conversation, so if you don’t see ideas or places represented, help us cover them by suggesting a story, adding comments (in our thoughtful, troll-free comment zone) or just writing it yourself. Have a great week!