We’re back after the holiday lull with some big comment generators, some Charts of the Day, and more good stuff. If you’re still thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, you might commit to writing for us (one time, intermittently, regularly), or becoming a member, or just finding out more in the deeper discussions on our Forum.
Big Conversations this week
Two posts this week started some big conversations. First, Minneapolis Property Taxes are High. Why? asks both why Minneapolis taxes are higher than neighboring municipalities and why total city spending is higher in Minneapolis. Alex Cecchini starts with the urbanist dogma “that more compact development patterns reduce public expenditures per resident” but shows us “In the real world, it’s harder to prove this out. Minneapolis and St Paul–the most urban, walkable, dense cities in the metro–spend a good deal more per resident than basically any of our suburbs, with higher property tax rates to boot.” The post and the 50+ comments pick apart some of the numbers (taxes, user fees, and more), land use/transportation issues (what’s the impact of freeways), infrastructure age, services provided…there’s much to continue talking about.
Janne Flisrand exhorts Let’s Make Hennepin Lovable in her report on a Minneapolis Bike Coalition visioning session (which follows Hennepin Theater Trust conversations and anticipates city-driven planning) for the once-in-a-generation chance to change Hennepin Avenue during its scheduled reconstruction in 2020: “Let’s make Hennepin Avenue sticky. Let’s make it a place full of people, because theater-goers want to stay after their show ends, workers want to linger before busing home, or families want to sit outside to read their new library books. Let’s make Hennepin Avenue a place to be seen, a place where waiting and people watching is pleasant. Let’s get a street we love.” And, a lovable street, would reallocate some of the space dedicated to vehicle traffic back to people – on foot, transit, bicycle. The comment section contains recommendations (and possible objections) for transit, bike lanes and more, plus some hopes for ensuring more voices are heard in the planning and the resulting street is lovable for all.
Retired Metro Transit planner Aaron Isaacs alerts us to the Suburb-to-Suburb Express Bus Experiment beginning January 19 when the “new Route 494 run by the Suburban Transit Association will link Maple Grove, Plymouth, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Shakopee with rush hour express buses” and makes some candid observations on the challenges for success for this line including “competition with free parking, infrequent service, and few jobs within a convenient walk of the stops.”
The Maroon Line is David Levinson’s proposed improvement linking the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis and Saint Paul campuses by light rail: “The distance is about 2.2. miles. The land is already graded and ready for installation. This should be less expensive on a per mile basis than new Rights-of-Way to the far-flung suburbs through swamps, so I will go with the order of $20 million.” Plus, there’s some consideration of the benefits from increased ridership to development around the new stations.
Proposing and following changes
Saint Paul’s New Meter Hours is a quick little post celebrating Saint Paul’s extended hours of enforcement on downtown parking meters and the increased availability of parking close to downtown destinations like the Ordway Theater. Since most parking changes seem to elicit angry and/or vicious responses, having some positive feedback supporting the outcome the change in parking pricing was intended to accomplish is most welcome. Perhaps Grand Avenue parking conversations can be informed by this, too.
Two posts look at possible improvements to particular landscapes. Bloomington’s Oxboro Neighborhood, a Vision for the Future is Monte Castleman’s the second post on his Oxboro neighborhood (here’s the first part on Oxboro’s past and present) dreaming about changes to important roadways, streetscape improvements and the sort of development which could be encouraged. David Levinson has some ideas for Fixing the 280 – MN HIghway 280 – “an important route, providing access from I-94 west-bound to I-35W northbound, a link that is otherwise missing from the network” but one which has difficult access issues.
Charts of the Day: The “Walkability Premium” illustrates the bump in housing prices in areas with high WalkScores; WalkScore walkability matters more in places other than Minneapolis and Community Solar Applications in 2015.
Map: Map Monday: US Road Fatalities, 2004 – 2013 maps every traffic fatality with “over 370,000 data points, one for each fatality. Wow” (this map follows in the footsteps of other “wow” Big Data mapping projects like jobs and race).