This post is authored by various streets.mn writers. Please donate to streets.mn for the “streets to the max” day! Thank you for your support.
Cities are subject to the observer effect, the observer cannot observe the city without changing it.
So, as we approach our 4th Birthday, what have posts on streets.mn done to change the landscape in the Twin Cities?
Success has a thousand fathers, but authors will claim victory for the following, which took place after streets.mn poking and prodding. We can never know what would have happened in the alternative mirror-world universe where streets.mn only advocates for freeway expansions, but we believe our work might have made the crucial difference, serving as a critical link in the great causal chain we call reality.
- The new Mn United Stadium proposed in Put the MLS Stadium on the Snelling-University Bus Barn Site
- Metro Transit’s new Bus Stop Signs advocated in Towards a First-Class Bus System
- Faster times on the Green Line, proposed multiple times, notably in Speeding up the Green Line, Green Line Signal Priority Q&A (certainly Metro Transit wanted this as well, but public pressure, from streets.mn to local newspapers and TV stations, probably accelerated the work of City Public Works departments to get the signal timings in place to avoid further public scrutiny)
- Real-time information at LRT stations, griped about in Three More Green Line Station Gripes, (although admittedly this change was planned, “Please Check Schedules” would have hung around longer in the absence of complaint)
- An exempt sign on Franklin Avenue identified in Buses and railroad crossings
- Saint Paul parking policy presaged in How Much is Saint Paul Leaving on the Table with its Backward Downtown Parking Policy?
- Vikings share in funding after The Met Council is Spending $6,000,000 on this Unnecessary Pedestrian Bridge? (though not nearly enough)
- Washington Avenue through downtown will have a cycletrack and one fewer lanes after it’s rebuilt in 2016. streets.mn played a pivotal role in offering analysis of the traffic prediction reports for the project. Those were foundational for a Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blog post that had sway with elected officials and project staff.
- The Hennepin-Lyndale Bottleneck is also slated for reconstruction in 2016. Initially planned as simple curb-to-curb rebuilding of the stretch as is, lots of visioning and writing on streets.mn (plus even-longer-term community organizing around it by the surrounding neighborhoods) has resulted in a significant change of plans. From the streets.mn side, it was a group effort with a slew of posts. The most effective posts were the ones that highlighted the need for public engagement to force more than redoing the current design by highlighting the meeting dates and times, plus offering specific comments people could make to shift the conversation at them. A multitude of inspiring visions added momentum.
- On a neighborhood scale, there are the new protected bikeways and pedestrian medians on 26th and 28th. streets.mn provided some good ideas and a call to action (meeting 1 and 2), and a design for the stretch
- streets.mn has expanded and enhanced the conversation around land use helping new voices engage in the planning process. The example of 2320 Colfax, is important not so much because of the specific project, but because it helped people who want increased density know about the proposed project and how to engage — if readers wanted to. Stepping back, at the time Minneapolis was at a tipping point between more urban vs. status quo decisions. If this project could happen without political catastrophe, it showed other elected officials that they could risk it, too. See post 1, post 2 (with info on engaging), post 3
- Saving Dinkytown from surface parking lots [With lots of activity on the Forums]
- Posts about quarter-mile bus stop spacing have seemingly influenced some of MetroTransit’s decision-making and consideration of route planning
- Changes to the ITDP BRT Scorecard as recommended by a Critique posted on the site. Including
1 – Bus only shoulders (in the form of queue jumps) receive one point on the BRT Basics section of dedicated right-of-way as they accomplish the goal of reducing traffic delay in most situations.2 – Frequencies were removed from the scoring section of the scorecard and added to deductions.3 – Clarified where sliding doors had to be placed in stations4 – Removal of some BRT only sections such that the entire transit system can work together (Branding not only other BRT routes)5 – Removal of specific times for rush hour
- The streets.mn series (by Anne White) (1) (2) about access to the Green Line. There was quite a bit of discussion generated in the comment section with those posts, discussions generated at streets.mn did inform the discussion at those meetings.
Anne White writes:The reason I write for streets.mn is because I hope to contribute to the discussion in a way that helps lead to change. Usually my articles are inspired by work that is already being done to try to improve walkability and pedestrian safety. In the case of the articles cited by Monica on access to the Green Line, I wanted to call attention to the report and video produced by the District Councils Collaborative, to introduce people to the MN Olmstead Plan and to invite participation in a meeting that was scheduled to discuss access issues. I don’t know if I succeeded in getting more streets.mn readers to attend the meeting or to follow the progress of the MN Olmstead Plan that was recently accepted by Judge Donovan Frank, after having been sent back several times to be strengthened.The one result I am aware of came about because I shared these articles with my son, Chris White, who lives in New York, and is the Executive Producer of POV, the documentary division of PBS. I thought he would be interested in the short video produced by the DCC. It turned out that he was very interested, because of his enthusiasm for a film that was featured as the opening film of the 2014 POV season. When I Walk documents the filmmaker’s life after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and introduces an access mapping app he developed to allow people to rank the accessibility of stores and restaurants in his Brooklyn neighborhood. My son shared the DCC film with Jason DaSilva, the filmmaker, and introduced us by e-mail.After corresponding with Jason by e-mail and viewing his film, I recommended it to some key people in Saint Paul, including staff at the DCC and the Olmstead Project office. I also told them about the AXS Map system and suggested we might want to begin using it here in Saint Paul as a way to measure and set goals for improving access to shops and services. Then when I was back in New York a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet Jason and his wife Alice Cook (their love story is one of the themes of his film) the day after When I Walk was awarded an Emmy. Of course, Jason and Alice were excited about winning the Emmy, but they were not just resting on their laurels. Instead, they hoped to use the publicity to build awareness of their AXS Map system. Now they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the expansion of AXS with Map-a-thons in towns and cities throughout the world. Here is the link to the Kickstarter e-mail that includes a trailer for When I Walk and a description of the AXS Map system.
If we missed any, please post them in the comments, and we can update the list.
Of course that leaves well over a thousand ideas that have yet to be implemented, and on which the long struggle continues.
We are also familiar with the Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc fallacy (and we at streets.mn also believe our readers read Latin). However we also understand Granger causality, and we think there is a causal mechanism (people read the blog). So we have no reluctance in claiming streets.mn gets results, and our posts have some predictive causality in changing the subsequent decisions in the real world.
Thanks especially to Janne, Chris, Anne, Bill, Joseph, and Monica for their input on this post, and all the streets.mn writers for writing posts that continue to make Minnesota, and the world, better.