A Response To The “Privilege” of The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan

This post is in conversation with Carol Becker’s post. I decided to write a post instead of a comment.

My name is Pine Salica and I ride a bike. I know that I have encountered negative consequences for saying this. I don’t ride a bike because I especially like biking. I bike because I have a choice.

The proposed Comprehensive Plan, Minneapolis 2040, supports a balanced transportation system where the needs of all travelers are considered. It talks about the need to help people move quickly and easily around the city no matter how they travel. It talks about helping people get to jobs or parents getting their kids to school.  Indeed, it improves the ability of many people to live in the city affordably and with a higher quality of life. It supports narrowing streets, reducing lanes and slowing traffic. It reduces the blight of parking lots. It allows buildings to be built without parking. It proposes allowing the market to decide the rate for parking meters.  It proposes allowing 2-, 3-, and 4-family homes to be built alongside single-family homes again, substantially increasing the viability of small neighborhood businesses. It makes it more likely you can safely ride your bike to your destination or take a bus to arrive there. It literally says the needs of drivers come last.

Who benefits from this? Me. And people like me. And future generations of our city.

I don’t have the privilege of taking a high paying job that would support the high costs of car ownership. I’m unemployed and on SNAP. I don’t have a child, because I don’t like the future world my child would grow up in. I’m not married, like many people my age. Having my access to employment limited to what’s accessible by bike and/or bus has been a hindrance to the opportunities I have pursued. I have worked 12-hour days, biking to and from my job. Thirty percent of employed Minneapolis residents are like me, relying on transit, bike, or walking to get to work. Part of the reason I moved here was that significantly high percentage (for America). Still, when the bus runs behind schedule, we get written up. Corporate doesn’t care.

I do not have a child, but I am very concerned about the future for the 20% of Minneapolis residents who are children under the age of 18, and those yet to be born.  Transportation is a large contributor to our carbon footprint. A summary from NASA’s climate change page for what our youth have to look forward to in the Midwest predicts “extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes.” Where will the people running from extreme droughts go? And we’re getting off easy here, what with all of our land still being above water. Being a person who cares about the future, I don’t have the luxury of tossing extra carbon into the atmosphere.  This plan makes it easier to be a person who cares about the future of children in our city and in other cities.

I am 32 years old.  I don’t have any mobility issues yet, but unless I die young, I’ll probably develop them. We need to continue to support people who can’t or choose not to drive in addition to those who use their cars as mobility aids. About 10% of the folks under age 65 have disabilities that affect their mobility.  And about 30% of the city is over the age of 45, that point when waking up in the morning starts to hurt. Most of these people can walk, perhaps with an assistive device, two blocks to a bus, or if unable, they can get picked up by Metro Mobility. Some people even consider bicycles assistive devices, because it allows them to bike farther than they could walk.

I dream of a future where grandparents can have continued mobility, freedom, and involvement in their neighborhoods, without driving. Per AAA research, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, even though they drive fewer miles than younger people. About 9% of population in Minneapolis is over the age of 65, and the new comp plan calls for improving their neighborhoods so they won’t need a car to live independently, by making the neighborhoods more walkable and improving transit quality.

I am a human. I am judged by many things, so I know that when I need to make a great first impression I arrive by transit, walk slowly, and discreetly change my shoes when I get near the destination. When I prepare for an interview, one of the questions I have to prepare for most is “Where did you park?” Such an innocuous question, they ask it before we’ve even sat down. The assumption is that I drove there. And now that they’ve brought it up, I can’t help but reveal myself to be a transit user – someone they profile as poor and therefore unsuited to the white-collar job I’m interviewing for. It’s accidentally screening for my income. This is because of a car-centric culture, which expects us to look and act certain ways. And these impacts are felt disproportionately by people of color.  When you don’t have sidewalks or bike infrastructure for getting around, suddenly police have “cause” to stop people of color. None of us need cars. Some of us choose to have them. Many of us are doing without.

I live in a building from 1916, back before cars dominated our transportation. I love my mid-sized apartment complex. The brick arches on the windows are fantastic, and there’s just the right number of nails in the walls to hang stuff on. There’s no parking available, “street parking only” as my landlords were quick to inform me. This place continues to be affordable in part because I don’t have to pay to maintain a parking space I wouldn’t use. My immediate neighbors clearly view it the same way, many of them walking to workplaces nearby. I love my building, and we need more of them everywhere in the city. I, like the Minneapolis residents whose voices were heard in the comp plan draft, want more in the way of jobs or businesses within a walkable or winter bikeable distance. The comp plan is how we make that happen.

Don’t we need to do something about climate change?  We need to convert our city’s fleet to electric vehicles, which is covered in the comp plan. Calling what’s in the comp plan “war on driving” is far short of the truth – no one is taking away your 2,000 pound metal box or your ability to drive it at lethal speeds on city streets. What it is supporting is the modes of transit I and many other people use on a day-to-day basis, allowing more people to make sustainable transportation choices while expanding their access to jobs.

We need to stop pretending that everyone is privileged enough to spend hundreds of dollars every month driving. We need to stop pretending that we’re somehow “doing enough” to mitigate climate change with status quo policies. We need to stop pretending that shaving a few seconds or even minutes off a commute is worth lives. We need to ensure that people can get to and from their homes, errands, and workplaces safely. We need policies that make people’s lives easier, not harder. We need a balanced transportation system that works for everyone. We need to follow through on the priorities outlined in Minneapolis 2040.

Pine Salica

About Pine Salica

Pine lives in Minneapolis and works in Saint Paul. Pine hasn't owned a car for over a dozen years, and can count on one hand the number of times they've operated one in the last 12 months. Housing is a human right, car storage is not. Member of the Climate Committee.

33 thoughts on “A Response To The “Privilege” of The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan

  1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Ah, the “Where did you park” question. I hear that a ton and it is always irritating. Thanks for writing this passionate and well-reasoned retort.

        1. Ward Rubrecht

          I think there’s a way to say “I didn’t” that’s smug, but I also think there’s a way to say it that reminds people calmly not to make assumptions about people’s life choices based on their skin color, gender presentation, and obvious class indicators.

      1. GlowBoy

        Good point, Adam. I should do that more.

        Not smugly, just matter-of-factly: “I didn’t. I biked here” or “I didn’t. I ran here” or “I didn’t. I rode the bus here.” The latter might be a major act of political activism given how much the bus seemes to be viewed by most people here as only for poor people (a viewpoint I’m still getting used to, having moved from Portland where lots of professional people ride the bus).

    1. Carol Becker

      Bill – why is it irritating asking where you will park. Try lugging a 6 year old, multiple bags of food, your kid’s backpack, food for the dog, all at once. Parking is how you get stuff home.

      1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

        As a basic human greeting? Parking should be at the very background of our social lives, not a primary topic of conversation. It also makes the default assumption that everyone is parking all the time.

        Starting a conversation by asking about parking is like asking a stranger, “so what brand dishwasher do you have?” and I’m like “I don’t have a dishwasher” and then I’m like “even if I did have a dishwasher, why are we talking about this anyway?”

        (And then your response would like “but dishwashers are useful ways to clean dishes and save time in the kitchen” and I am like “ok.” But I’m already walking away at this point but also thinking “um they are also expensive and take up space and also waste water I am pretty sure… but again this is an irrelevant conversation”)

        so that’s the dishwasher metaphor, make of it what you will

  2. Eric Ecklund

    Even in Minneapolis I get the “Where did you park?” question. They may know I’m from Bloomington so assume I drove, which is typically yes and no. Drove to a park & ride and took a bus or train the rest of the way.

  3. Max HailperinMax Hailperin

    Wondering about that photo of the two four-plexes that shows up with this post’s listing? Pine Salica asked my permission to use it and they uploaded it to Streets.mn along with information about its source. Through what I’m sure is just some inadvertent slip-up, that information got severed from the published form of the article, leaving behind the unexplained photo. It’s taken from one of my “All of Minneapolis” posts that hasn’t yet cross-posted to Streets.mn but is available here: https://allofminneapolis.com/south-east-ern-hawthorne-4ff057a91a71

    1. Pine SalicaPine Salica Post author

      Oh no! I’ll ask that that gets corrected. I tried to include the information but must not have done it right. (This is my first streets.mn post.) Thank you again for the great photo!

    2. Tom BasgenTom Basgen

      Hi Max! Sorry about that. I tried to put your info in a link subcaption for the photo but I forgot that I am bad at WordPress and I did show up. We’ll get that fixed.

      1. Max HailperinMax Hailperin

        Also, now that the photo with its caption is included in the article, I’d be fine with a moderator deleting my comment. No one browsing the comment section has any reason to care about this any more.

        1. Julie Kosbab

          It was because it was the Feature Slider image, and not in the article. All the metadata was there. I just inserted it, because providing attribution to others is in line with our Creative Commons requests for our own work.

          Not a big deal to fix.

    3. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      As a streets.writer, I figure that all of the photos in the media bin are fair game for reuse. Maybe that should be clarified.

  4. Jack

    I lived, car-less, in pre-War apartment buildings through my 20’s, and loved it. I would take an older building with hardwood floors, clawfoot tubs and gorgeous woodwork over anything being built today. I agree that we need more apartments that are affordable, but everything they build now is for the high-end, luxury apartment.

    Even the vintage apartments i used to rent for well under $400 a month are now 2-3 times that price. I don’t know how people do it!

  5. Justin H

    How about adding some hyperlinks to this piece? Like Carol’s, it lacks links, citations, and indeed does not even link to the 2040 Comp Plan in any fashion.

    The graf in the middle of this piece that discusses NASA’s climate change page? That could be a hyperlink and would allow readers to read the referenced discussion, deciding for themselves if the way the author is referring to it is sensible.

    1. Pine SalicaPine Salica Post author

      I invite you to write a post on this topic (or any, really) with links and citations!!
      I can tell you that I did not falsify any of the information, but I can see your point that putting it in context with links would be good for some readers. You should do that!

    2. Carol Becker

      Justin – what from my piece did you feel needed citations? Let me know and I would be happy to provide them.

  6. Mark Snyder

    I appreciate this post because of how it forward-looking it is. One of the problems I had with the post it responds to is how it seemed to assume that the changes proposed in the Comprehensive Plan would happen overnight rather than over two decades.

    When considering this plan and how it affects us, we should be thinking about what will our lives be like 10 to 20 years from now more than what they are like today. In my case, I just hit 20 years of service at my place of employment. If all goes well, 20 years from now, I will be retiring and won’t need to worry about a daily work commute. I hope the same for the author of the “The Privilege of the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan” post.

    Many of us who are concerned about where we will live or how we will get around in 20 years should ask if it’s really a good idea for us to be driving at the age we would be at that point? Knowing how slowly change takes place when it comes to things like transportation, which was another issue I took with Becker’s post given her first-hand experience with this, only reinforces why we need to be planning out what our city should look like 20 years from now rather than making every excuse we can think of as to why we shouldn’t change anything at all.

  7. Reality

    A “balanced transportation plan” is not going to change people’s inability to pursue jobs that pay a living wage. It’s shocking to me how many people are saying they can’t get an okay paying job in this current environment. Many $20+/hour jobs are not getting filled. Railroads and trucking companies can not find enough people. They don’t even need people with skills. The real privilege is that people in this country that don’t want to do a job they love, can just sit out and get unemployment checks. God forbid somebody takes a job they don’t love!

    1. Pine SalicaPine Salica Post author

      I am not on unemployment, just food stamps.
      Trucking companies require additional driver’s licenses (CDL, I think), and will not train you to get them. Also, the hours and benefits are terrible, and they often require you to pay into the equipment they’re “letting” you use.
      God forbid I take a few months to find the right job for me.

    2. GlowBoy

      You’d be amazed at how many companies are unwilling to pay even a modest amount to train up potentially qualified workers. Often it would be a few days of training, but many employers would rather complain about their inability to find workers than give people a hand up.

  8. Monte Castleman

    Aren’t all those magical $20 an hour jobs that you can get without going to college and getting $50,000 in student debt in China and Mexico now? If someone offers that and there’s no takers, I’m convinced there’s something else going on. I’m friends with a truck driver (independent owner-operator) In their case they have to front a lot of their own money for training and often equipment, then to actually make that it takes them a while to learn how to work the system and oftentimes cheat on the log book. Meanwhile they get treated like garbage by management and customers and put up with constant road rage by people irritated by their 0-60 times after a stoplight.

Comments are closed.