Sunday Summary – November 6, 2016

Vote zapDid you turn your clock back?  Daylight Savings Time ended early this morning and there might be a few devices in your life which don’t automatically reset themselves. It is also time to vote: You can vote tomorrow or go to the polls on Election Day this Tuesday, but please vote! does not endorse candidates or advocate for particular ballot choices, but readers can’t help but be aware that taking action by voting and then continuing the engagement by attending meetings, contacting officials, and writing about issues on are important ways to influence change.  Here’s the week on with a couple of last-minute election podcasts, reviews of projects, and the first post in a series by Macalester College students.

Election posts

Here are two podcasts with some last-minute help for Hennepin County District 5 and Newport, MN voters. Bill Lindeke talks to Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel now running for Hennepin County Commissioner on Podcast #92 – Beyond Richfield with County Commission Candidate Debbie Goettel “about the role of Hennepin County as a regional policymaker, affordable housing in the Southern suburbs, sidewalks and street design, and a bunch more interesting topics.” Podcast #91 – Talking about Newport with Mayoral Candidate Dan Lund covers “zoning, and a debate around transit oriented development and tax-increment financing” in this small Washington County city of 3,500 people.

New feature – Macalester student perspectives

Last year, we published a series of posts from students in Margot Higgins’ class “Bicycling the Urban Landscape.” The course is offered this Fall, too, and so is again offering a wider audience to these student voices. As our editor introduced the series: “The course provides, as our editor noted, intellectual and active engagement with bicycling, including understanding transportation politics, equity, bicycle culture, local, national, and global trends in bicycling, and steps toward increased bicycle mode share locally and globally.” urges readers to help include these writers in the wider conversation about transportation and land use by providing constructive criticism and sharing expertise with them as they learn about their subjects. The first post in this series is Make Biking Great Again which riffs on Donald Trump’s campaign slogan saying, “Trump might say build a wall, but I say get on a bike. Yep, that’s right, most of the issues we face today could be reduced if we returned the streets to the people, all hopped on a bike, and made biking great again.” The post reviews some history and offers some perspective on what issues could be improved by prioritizing bikes.


Recently, Mike Hicks wrote about Minnesota’s passenger rail prospects, followed by comparing Minnesota with Norway’s passenger rail network. This week, Many Prospects for Passenger Rail in Wisconsin maps the state, its current rail network, and suggests priorities for passenger rail in the state, including links to Minnesota and to the Chicago area, saying “Wisconsin is fairly well positioned to take advantage of its rail network for passenger service, if only politics could get out of the way.”

A suggestion for a passenger rail system using mostly existing freight lines (blue), plus some restored or newly-built lines (purple)

A suggestion for a passenger rail system using mostly existing freight lines (blue), plus some restored or newly-built lines (purple)

Zoning and regulation

Why West Saint Paul Created a Permit Parking Zone for Two Homeowners recaps the Saint Paul City Council discussion and approval of an 8 month trial parking zone created in response to two property owners concerns “their” parking was being overtaken by nearby properties reports . Despite opposition from the police chief and deep skepticism by Council members, the Council bowed to citizen pressure to create the parking zone; commenters are astonished.

A Zoning Code That Matches Our Values by John Edwards continues to criticize proposals for downzoning in the Wedge neighborhood and providing some historical perspective on downzoning and affordable housing, “The kind of housing the city and activists stopped from being built decades ago–the 2½-story walk-up–is what is now referred to as naturally occurring affordable housing (built with private rather than public money). As a result of what we did way back then, we now have less affordable housing.”

Big Week at Minneapolis City Planning Commission forecasts the November 1, 2016 meeting where the Planning Commission considered (1) the creation of intentional communities by eliminating limits on the number of “unrelated persons” who can occupy a dwelling unit, (2) establishing an Uptown Pedestrian Overlay District, and (3) downzoning in Lowry Hill (written about on – see some posts here). Anton Schieffer advocates support for the first two proposals, but opposing the downzoning; commenters debate specifics of how to better increase density, walkability, and more.

1972 headline: "LHENA asks for moratorium on 2 and a half stories"

Making better places

Pedestrianizing Big Box Stores – Midway Super Target by architect  sketches “a relatively simple intervention can be made that would vastly improve the experience of places like this.  For the low, low price of one row of parking, (about 50 stalls, out of a literal sea of parking!) enough space can be bought to create a true pedestrian realm along this stretch.”

Adam Miller argues We Deserve Better in the redevelopment at 47th Street and Cedar Avenue. Rather than seize the opportunity for a more urban, walkable development, the former strip mall is proposed to be rebuilt with additional parking and a drivethrough. Commenters observe that this development pattern is allowed by right, while still lamenting the development and the traffic patterns it will likely create.

The Commons – Some Observations by Sam Newberg after visiting the new park by the Vikings stadium “making a point of counting patrons and observing how people use this new public green downtown space. After all, how people use a new park is the best indicator of success, right?” and finds there are not many people in the park to help it succeed.

Seven Ways Automobility Undermines a City’s Bottom Line, from Least to Most Direct moves from particular projects to a broader look at how focusing on moving cars costs cities money – both road costs and public health impacts. Bill Lindeke posits a “’virtuous cycle of walkability.’ It goes like this: the more that we build walkable streets and prioritize transit, the more we can increase building car-lite or car-free density. And the more we increase walkable density, the more we can prioritize safe streets and transit.” Plus some extensive and thoughtful discussion in the comments about how this list works in specific places.

The "Zygi View," Complete With Berm

The “Zygi View,” Complete With Berm

Quick looks

No maps or charts this week, but we’ve still got National Links: Scary Buildings, Sinking Buildings, and More from the Direct Transfer.

And that’s the week on As always, we encourage new writers, members and volunteers – click the links for how you can get more involved. Have a great 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