Sunday Summary – April 23, 2017

streets.mn has been named Best Website by City Pages for 2017 with the review, “At its best, Streets.MN is a data-driven but engaging conversation about what kind of cities Minneapolis and St. Paul might become. These writers want a Twin Cities that’s friendlier to bicycles, pedestrians, and mass transit. Whether they win that fight remains to be seen, but they sure are easy to root for.” Thanks City Pages! streets.mn is all those things, but streets.mn also includes many more perspectives – some data-driven, some highly personal, some geeky, some from Greater Minnesota, and some fun (and we’d love yours – write for us).

Big discussions

St. Paul’s Universe of Alternative Facts when it comes to bike planning is detailed by Heidi Schallberg saying “With last week’s City Council 4-2 vote to remove two traffic circles from the planned Idaho bicycle boulevard, most (Bostrom, Prince, Thao, Tolbert) of the elected officials of the City of Saint Paul have dragged the city into Trump territory, relying on alternative facts to support their decision. Except where Trump’s spokesperson used “alternative facts” to greatly exaggerate inauguration attendance, St. Paul used them to make identical intersections seem incompatibly different. Thanks to Council President Stark and Council Member Brendmoen for supporting the actual facts and staff recommendations.” The post reviews what the City’s own planning documents state and the less than accurate statements by Council members to the contrary plus commenters also note this decision was not made through the usual decision-making process, but at an assessment hearing.

Tom Basgen asks Are District Councils Really Just Homeowner’s Associations? and answers “yes.”  District Councils are at least not representative of the districts they serve, but the post is optimistic: “I’m not saying we should dismantle these organizations. Everyone’s voice is important. But so is perspective. Let’s rename them to “Homeowner’s Associations”, or reorganize them to put in place mandatory democratic structures, so that they reflect their community demographics.  A fine way to bring them back to reality would be to deny them official city recognition until they bend to accurately reflect the neighborhoods they bear in their name.”  Read on to the comments for some discussion of problems of process for including other voices, the history of exclusion in the Twin Cities, and some encouragement to get involved.

What the Heck is CLIC? is a handy explainer from Alex Tsatsoulis of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition: “CLIC stands for Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee. CLIC is made up of 33 resident representatives appointed by City Council Members (two per ward) and the Mayor (seven at-large members). The job of CLIC is to review projects brought to us by City of Minneapolis departments as part of the City’s five-year capital budget, and to then make recommendations for funding to the City Council and the Mayor based on a number of criteria.” The post details the process of how that works and how members can influence city budgeting and city streets.

Neighborhood street with arrows and bike symbol on the street and a traffic circle to slow car drivers.

Griggs & Portland traffic circle

Take a walk

Cedar-Riverside 1: Bohemian Flats, Seven Corners, Cedar East, and Riverside Plaza is Max Hailperin’s latest alphabetical walk through the University of Minnesota West Bank area, Riverside Plaza housing, and along the river.

Spring Migration at Lake Calhoun from Aaron Isaacs shows us the variety (the large variety) of waterfowl on Lake Calhoun encouraging at least one reader to go take a walk.

Coot

Trains and transit

The Resurgence of Trains from Stephanie Rouse (crossposted from her blog theplanninglady.com) highlights an article about planning around train lines and the economic importance of rail through cities then provides a catalog of ideas for making trains through urban areas work well: “Despite your love or hate of trains for their disruptive tendencies, they provide a necessary function in our economy. They can also be a solution to environmental concerns and increase safety in the supply chain. I support their resurgence and hope to see cities embrace them and plan for their continued use.”

Transit Cuts – How Bad Could It Be? asks retired transit planner and birdwatcher Aaron Isaacs. The post details the proposed legislation, Metro Transit’s likely choices to make ends meet if funding is cut, and other considerations in regional transit saying “Last year the American Public Transit Association declared Metro Transit to be the Transit System of the Year. That accolade is well deserved. It took many years and a lot of hard work to achieve that level of excellence, and now the legislature is proposing to throw it away with the largest budget cut in history. Go figure.”

Look and listen

Listen: Podcast #100 – Skyways and Streetlife with Eric Dayton: Bill Lindeke talks to Eric Dayton, founder of the Minneapolis Skyway Avoidance Society as well as owner of the Bachelor Farmer restaurant and Askov-Finlayson, a clothing retailer (and, of course, son of Minnesota governor Mark Dayton).

Chart of the Day: U.S. Energy Consumption from Adam Miller who says “The main thing I wanted to highlight is the big chunk of “rejected energy” in the upper right. That’s waste — energy that’s generated but not actually used for anything productive — and it’s more two thirds of our total energy generation. Presumably it’s what’s lost in electricity transmission, unused heat or idling cars and stuff.”

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses

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One Response to Sunday Summary – April 23, 2017

  1. Julie Hellwich April 23, 2017 at 10:45 am #

    Re: “The Resurgence of Trains”.
    On trains in urban areas. Please revisit with a larger lens.

    In response to trains as an agent of safety and mediator of environmental concerns.

    “They (trains) can also be a solution to environmental concerns and increase safety in the supply chain. I support their resurgence and hope to see cities embrace them and plan for their continued use”.

    I suggest not. As do many fellow citizens, urban planners, city councils, governors, state governments, first responders in Minnesota and across the country.

    Please restate your case for trains and include oil trains in the urban area. I want to read that piece. Forget the danger of the ‘tot lot’ next to trains and focus on the 1 to 2 mile evacuation area necessary for oil car derailment or puncture.

    Please use the Hamline Midway area as your geographic area. The Snelling train yards for example. If possible, include a photo from the Snelling bridge looking east to Great River School, on Energy Park Drive. Several times a day 100+ car oil trains chug past the school and the children’s play area. Oil trains to the south and oil trains to the north. The school is an island in urban oil train land. What would the 1-2 mile evacuation plan look like?
    Please note the increase in oil by train historically.

    The resurgence in rail transport is due in no small part to transporting crude oil and it’s accessory chemicals across the country. With ‘preventing derailments and accidents’ as the best measure for safety, let’s consider what happens when prevention fails. If prevention were a reliable predictor of outcome the field of public health would be considerably diminished; and it’s not.

    We can start with Minnesota:

    https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/hsem/planning-preparedness/Pages/minnesota-rail-safety-regulations.aspx

    From the first page of the above website:

    Governor Dayton Appoints New Rail Director

    With more than 4,400 miles of railways in Minnesota, Governor Dayton has appointed Alene Tchourumoff to serve as the state’s first rail director. Ms. Tchourumoff will lead efforts to enhance railway safety and pursue needed infrastructure improvements.

    Many Bakken oil trains travel within a half-mile of Minnesota’s most populated areas on a daily basis. Governor Mark Dayton created the position to:
    • Pursue railroad infrastructure improvements.
    • Increase response in the event of a derailment or explosion.
    • Monitor rail traffic.
    • Work with communities and railroad companies to ensure safety.

    Rail Safety Latest Developments
    Investing in Railway Safety
    Accidents in nearby states involving trains carrying crude oil have raised concerns over the safety of Minnesota’s railways and the people living near them.

    Legislation signed in July 2014 by Governor Mark Dayton requires the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to provide oil transportation awareness trainings to local jurisdictions across the state.
    • As of February 1, 2017: 6,079 first responders from 204 departments and agencies have been trained to better understand the hazards posed by the transportation of oil and other hazardous substances and how to best protect the public’s safety.
    o 292 classroom sessions have been held.
    o Additional sessions are currently scheduled.
    • Three table top exercises related to oil transportation have been completed.
    • Participants are provided a map of their jurisdiction describing the important community assets within a half mile of the rail line.
    • All state Chemical Assessment and Emergency Response Teams have received advanced training in response to crude oil.
    • Five approved training providers are currently teaching the next level (operations) of training.
    o 61 sessions have been conducted as of February 1, 2017.
    o 1,267 first responders from 44 departments and agencies have completed this course.
    • The oil training advisory group was formed with state agency participation from: Department of Public Safety, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education.

    In other areas:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/26/pick-your-poison-for-crude-pipeline-rail-truck-or-boat/#40fd63ae17ac

    http://www.aogr.com/web-exclusives/exclusive-story/rail-gives-oil-shippers-new-capacity-flexibility

    http://saferails.org/

    http://www.thehorinkogroup.org/featured_column/2014/06/17/crude-oil-transportation-and-federal-regulation/

    http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/transporting-crude-oil-by-rail-state-and-federal-action.aspx

    http://www.dot.state.mn.us/ofrw/crude-by-rail/

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/energy/2015/05/150506-crude-oil-train-accidents-over-time/

    https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2016-07-27/cities-turn-to-local-action-to-block-oil-trains

    https://www.seattle.gov/council/issues/past-issues/oil-train-safety

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/jun/06/spokane-council-will-consider-resolution-requestin/

    http://columbiariverkeeper.org/our-work/oil-by-rail/

    http://www.denverpost.com/2014/04/19/st-paul-pigs-eye-lake-freight-trains-could-be-longer-than-ever/

    http://www.twincities.com/2014/09/19/st-paul-wont-fight-rail-yard-expansion-near-pigs-eye-lake/

    https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/06/27/minnesota-oil-train-derailment-first-responder-training

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-big-cities-scramble-to-be-prepared-for-an-oil-2015sep02-story.html

    http://explosive-crude-by-rail.org/ca/

    http://business.financialpost.com/news/transportation/trains-hauling-crude-must-slow-down-in-urban-areas-under-new-emergency-directive

    http://www.monitorsaintpaul.com/como-rail-crossing-considered-one-of-most-dangerous-in-state/

    http://www.startribune.com/n-d-oil-trains-shift-route-back-to-northeast-mpls-tracks-bnsf-reports/364712251/

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/disaster-plans-for-oil-trains-1428969241

    http://www.hoodrivernews.com/news/2017/feb/15/city-adds-boom-oil-train-stance/

    http://archive.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/safety-concerns-grow-along-paths-of-oil-tanker-train-traffic-b99461212z1-296352121.html

    From one urban planner (and mayor) on trains in urban areas (above article):

    Since 2008, the Mississippi River corridor has emerged as a major pathway for shipping crude oil to refineries from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Montana.
    In Wisconsin, La Crosse has become ground zero for those worried about the shipments.

    Mayor Tim Kabat lives about a block from the tracks.
    “La Crosse is a railroad town,” said Kabat, who was elected in 2013 after a career in urban planning.
    “We have Burlington Northern and Canadian Pacific, and I think that people are generally accepting of trains. The change has been the Bakken crude.”
    While the chance of an accident is small, “it’s an issue that keeps me up a lot,” Kabat said.

    Thank you!

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