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By Kathleen Murhpy, guest blogger and TLC member
My mother lives in a senior housing development in Hopkins. She
is an independent person but macular degeneration has made her legally blind.
She depends totally on friends, family, and Metro Mobility for getting around.
Many residents in her building no longer drive. The building has van service
but it runs on a very limited schedule.
The proposed Southwest light rail line would give seniors like
my mom a way to get out and enjoy life to the fullest. Opportunity Partners,
located near the planned line, works with handicapped and disabled young
adults. Southwest light rail will help their clients, many who are getting into
the work world for the first time, have a better way of life.
The Southwest Corridor is one of the metro’s most heavily
traveled areas. The light rail line will operate every 15 minutes for most of
the day, and more frequently during rush hour. Those that drive every day on
congested highways might start to appreciate how transit options help keep our
cities cleaner and greener and our roads less congested.
We need to act now to provide better transit options to connect
more Minnesotans with jobs, schools, and community in this part of the metro.
Governor Dayton supports the Southwest light rail line, but state funding is
still not a sure thing. Let’s urge DEED to award funds toward the state share
to build it.
By Tim Lillehaugen, TLC Intern. Are top destinations making it easy for people who can’t drive, don’t own a car, or simply want to leave the car at home?
Everyone in the Twin Cities notices the effects of heavy traffic, whether during rush-hour, the post ballgame exodus from downtown, or on beautiful summer days at the parks and zoos. Recent traffic data suggests that even a small reduction in the number of people driving can lead to large reductions in traffic congestion. As the League of American Bicyclists pointed out in its blog, this means that a shift from driving to other transportation modes benefits everyone, both those making the shift and those still making the drive. Recognizing and acting on a benefit such as this for visitors and customers is an easy change that area businesses and attractions can make.
As part of my internship at Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), I checked some entertainment destinations to see what type of directions they provide. Please see the end of this blog for recommended multimodal directions for all destinations.
Existing Directions: Target Field’s directions give a great picture of what can be done to help people leave their cars at home. Their web site provides links to Metro Transit for bus, the Hiawatha Light Rail, or the Northstar Commuter Rail, as well asspecial Twins Express bus shuttles from area park-and-ride garages. For bicyclists, there’s a map showing the trails, bike lanes, bike parking, and Nice Ride kiosks in the area. For people walking, they provide a close up map of recommended sidewalks and skyways, though the skyway link to a City of Minneapolis webpage no longer works.
Suggestions: I found two things on other web sites that Target Field could provide. First, it should add a multimodal online map tool, such as Google Maps, to help visitors plan their trip beforehand. And second, it should include a list of bus routes that run nearby. While you could argue this is not necessary because of the Metro Transit link, a list of bus routes encourages visitors to use routes with which they are already familiar.
Midway Stadium (Saints Ballpark)
Existing Directions: Compared with Target Field, Midway Stadium is less comprehensive, yet it does cover the two things I targeted as lacking at Target Field: an interactive map and a link to Google Maps so visitors can get directions for driving, transit, walking, or biking. There is also a link to Metro Transit’s trip planner and a helpful list of nearby bus routes.
Suggestions: Unfortunately the Midway Stadium directions page does not mention biking or walking directly. There is no prompt to walk or bike, nor does it say whether bike parking is available. I would suggest, at the least, mentioning both of these as transportation possibilities and linking to Google Maps so that visitors can find directions. Advertising bike parking is also important (though it is not clear if they have any).
Minnesota State Fair
Existing Directions: The Minnesota State Fair is working hard to be accessible for all modes of transportation, as a way to help ease traffic during peak visiting times. The web site has three pages dedicated to bus options:
- regular routes, with a link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner; .
- special fair-only express bus service from locations throughout the metro area such as malls, with a map locations;
- free Park and Ride shuttles from nearby neighborhood parking to the fairgrounds, with a map of the parking areas.
A link for biking to the fair explains options for bike parking at the fairgrounds, including a map of bike corrals.
Suggestions: The way the links are set up on the Minnesota State Fair web site directs people to driving directions before it gives other options. On the dropdown menu for General Information there is a link for “directions and map” before one called “getting to the fair.” The “directions and maps” page doesn’t even have a link to the info for other modes of transportation. Since there is a link to “directions and map” from the “getting to the fair,” drop down menu, how about simply eliminating the first link? The State Fair could also do more to encourage bicycling, by including a link to Google Maps or Cyclopath.
Existing Directions: The Renaissance Festival is located in Shakopee and unfortunately it appears that there are no good means of multimodal transportation to the festival. There is no information about shuttles or buses to the festival grounds on the website. While bus service does exist from Shakopee into Minneapolis/St. Paul, it is mostly weekday? commuter service. For biking and walking, there are no nearby trails and all of the roads in the area are country roads and not considered biker friendly by Google Maps.
Suggestions: The Renaissance Festival could make an effort to improve the transportation options. The Festival does an excellent job providing extensive free parking for visitors but this still excludes those without a car from attending. Though its location makes biking, walking and bussing difficult, that alone should not exclude the possibility. It might be possible to explore something similar to the system for the State Fair.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Existing Directions: Struggling from similar issues as the Renaissance Festival, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is located on the western side of Chanhassen and far from abundant multimodal transportation options. The web site provides driving directions, tips for avoiding road construction, and link to MapQuest to find directions. Unfortunately, the only nearby Metro Transit bus is a peak-hour downtown commuter bus that would not work for day trips. The Arboretum web site also fails to mention any opportunity for visitors to bike or walk.
Suggestions: The Arboretum could take advantage of the network of trails that comes within a short distance of the entrance, such as the trails along Aster Trail and Minnetonka Parkway. Mentioning the proximity to these trails and switching to Google Maps, which provides biking and trail functions, could help to promote this option. With the possible construction of the Southwest light rail in the years to come, the Arboretum should try to open the conversation about new options for reaching the entrance.
Walker Art Center
Existing Directions: On the opposite side of the spectrum is the readily accessible Walker Art Center. Located by Loring Park, the Walker is just outside of downtown Minneapolis, and quite close to the lakes area of South Minneapolis. The Walker web site briefly mentions the availability of bike parking and provides a link to the Nice Ride bike homepage. The Walker also does well with providing a list of bus routes that stop nearby, along with a link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner.
Suggestions: While making a good effort, the Walker could promote not only the availability of bike parking and Nice Ride stations, but also nearby bike trails and bike friendly roads. A link to Google Maps or Cyclopath would be helpful with this trip planning.
Hennepin Theater Trust
Existing Directions: Four theaters make up the Hennepin Theater Trust in downtown Minneapolis: the Orpheum, State, Pantages, and New Century. While the web site focuses on driving and parking directions, public transit is also highlighted as a good option for theater goers. The website provides an interactive map with the location of the Hiawatha Light Rail and instructions about which stops to use for both the light rail and various bus routes.
Suggestions: First, while the theaters do highlight the option of public transit, I think that providing a link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner would be beneficial. Second, bicycling and walking are not mentioned at all. Visitors who use the many trails and bike friendly roads in close proximity could avoid the hassle and fees of downtown parking. The site should include a link to Google Maps or Cyclopath to help visitors plan for bicycling or walking.
Existing Directions: The Como Zoo in Saint Paul prominently displays a suggestion to “go green” and bike or use transit to visit. They include external links to the Metro Transit Trip Planner and Cyclopath to assist bus riders and bicyclists respectively. The Zoo also lets visitors know about parking restrictions in surrounding neighborhoods and the free shuttle to and from parking at the state fairgrounds.
Suggestions: The Como Zoo could explain more about the alternative transportation options. For transit especially, a list of nearby bus routes would be very helpful, as would an explanation of the many bus routes that go past the state fairgrounds, where visitors can catch the free shuttle over to the zoo. Also, for bicyclists, a list of bike parking locations and nearby bike routes would be very beneficial.
Saint Paul RiverCentre
Existing Directions: I chose the Saint Paul RiverCentre because its directions can serve not only for the convention center itself but also for the Xcel Energy Center, the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, the Science Museum, and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. The web page for the RiverCentre provides many good resources, including a map for navigating the area, and links to bike parking, electric car parking, and skyway walking. The webpage also has an external link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner for finding bus directions.
Suggestions: The RiverCentre basically relies on maps and does not include descriptions or written directions. More text, such as a list of nearby bus routes and information about bicycle routes (such as the Samuel Morgan Trail along the Mississippi River) would make the directions more user-friendly. The RiverCenter should add Google Maps or Cyclopath to promote the use of area biking paths and roads.
Good multimodal directions include a brief description of available options and links or maps to help visitors plan their travels. Here’s a simple template that can easily be personalized and posted for every business and location in the area.
Go green, save money, and cut down on the hassle of traffic and parking!
- Include links to Metro Transit Trip Planner, Google Maps, and Cyclopath. Include an interactive Google map if possible.
- Provide information about nearby bus routes and mention high-frequency bus routes and light rail and commuter rail options if available nearby.
- Describe options for bicycling and walking, including nearby trails, Nice Ride stations, and the location of nearby bike parking.
By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate
Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) strongly supports every effort to build with all deliberate speed a 21st-century regional transit system in the Twin Cities. We were encouraged recently to see that the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority selected a locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the proposed Bottineau light rail transit (LRT) line in the northwest metro.
Like the Green Line (combining the Central Corridor and Southwest LRT), Bottineau LRT would merge seamlessly with Hiawatha LRT to create the Blue Line with trains running from the Mall of America to Brooklyn Park. Recent new estimates of ridership for the Bottineau Corridor (26,000 to 27,000 riders per day in 2030) make it a promising corridor for eventually securing matching federal funding for construction, and for efficiently serving current and new transit riders in the Northwest metro.
The Bottineau Corridor faces a number of challenges: 1) getting support from the Golden Valley City Council for further study of multiple alignments, including one through their city, 2) crafting a viable plan to insure substantially improved transit service in North Minneapolis, and 3) securing additional transit funding. All of these can and should be addressed by forging political consensus among Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, and the City of Minneapolis and other cities along the line.
Golden Valley Support for Further Study Is Critical
On June 19th, the Golden Valley City Council voted (3-2) to withhold support for the proposed route of the Bottineau LRT line through Golden Valley and adjacent communities. While other cities (Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Brooklyn Park) support this alignment, without majority support of the Golden Valley City Council the ability of the project to move into the Preliminary Engineering phase will be stalled.
A public hearing on the Bottineau Corridor, held in Crystal, Minnesota, on May 10
City Council members raised concerns that the proposed route lies along the eastern edge of Wirth Park. Several Council members also questioned the best location for station(s) if a line is built in Golden Valley. These concerns need to be addressed and will be as part of the evaluation going forward in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
We note, however, that the light rail trains, under the proposed alignment, would travel in an existing railroad right-of-way that is currently used, albeit sparingly, by freight trains. This rail alignment would have much less impact on the park than the busy Highway 55 which cuts Wirth Park in half. LRT trains are considerably quieter than freight trains and emit much less noise and air pollution than traffic on highways (I-394 and TH55) adjacent to Wirth Park.
LRT lines in San Diego, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, as well as the Hiawatha LRT line along Minnehaha Park, all border popular parks. While light rail trains adjacent to Wirth Park could provide minor detriment to some park goers, new transit service will substantially improve access to the park for everyone whether or not they drive, and more broadly will improve quality of life in our metro region.
Increased Transit Service in North Minneapolis
While the community is split on support for the Penn Avenue LRT alignment through North Minneapolis, there is no doubt that greater transit service is urgently needed to get people where they need to go and to spur economic opportunity. Further environmental analysis will address both the D1 (Golden Valley) and D2 (North Minneapolis) alignments as well as the A (Maple Grove) and B (Brooklyn Park) alignments. As the Bottineau Corridor continues to be planned, it is imperative that the pros and cons, and possible mitigation measures, receive more detailed study. In the discussion of the LPA decision, many policymakers cited a streetcar or improved bus service as a less intrusive option than LRT for improved transit in North Minneapolis.
Credit: Hennepin County
Today’s promise from Hennepin County, the City of Minneapolis, and Metro Transit to study a streetcar (on Broadway) and rapid bus (on Fremont and Emerson) in North Minneapolis does not bring enough certainty for those residents. Instead, a funding plan for increased transit service in North Minneapolis should be part of the final determination of the route for Bottineau LRT—whether it be streetcars, a new rapid bus line (such as along Broadway Avenue), increased frequency and extended hours or extended coverage of current bus service, or an LRT alignment.
Increased Transit Funding
Funding challenges for the Bottineau Corridor LRT line are a microcosm of larger regional transit funding issues. For the Southwest LRT line, and a number of other possible LRT, BRT, and commuter rail lines, key contributions from the federal, state, or local government are not assured. Further, while the regional sales tax for transit (administered by CTIB) can eventually be counted on to pay an important share of operating costs for Bottineau or other LRT lines, those funds are limited in nature and cannot be used to improve bus connections to LRT lines or to provide local bus service in neighborhoods and cities where LRT will not travel.
In conclusion, to serve the growing demand for transit it is imperative that planning for the Bottineau LRT corridor continue without delay. As our region builds out a 21st-century transit system, we must make sure that all communities have fair, improved access to jobs, school, and health care with travel options that can save them time and money. We also need to persuade political leaders at all levels of government to increase investment in a combination of transit service—from doorway to destination—that includes trains, buses, bike routes, and sidewalks.
By Tim Lillehaugen and Manu Moritz, TLC interns
On July 25th, more than 50 community members gathered at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, near one of the planned Southwest light rail transit stations, for an update on the status of the light rail project and information about how to effectively use social media as a tool for civic engagement. The meeting was co-hosted by Transit for Livable Communities and the Twin Cities Media Alliance.
It was great to see new faces along with folks who have been active in support of Southwest LRT for months. In many ways the group filling the room that night reflected the diversity of the community interested in this light rail line.
After a round of introductions, TLC staff and members gave an update on the current status of the project and outlined some of the benefits of this investment. The crowd then broke into small groups to express their own reasons for wanting the light rail and to talk about various community benefits with one another.
Linda R supports Southwest LRT
Manu M supports Southwest LRT
Ken R supports Southwest LRT
Thom B. supports Southwest LRT
Marcos Lopez-Carlson from Twin Cities Media Alliance then lead the audience through an overview of common social media platforms and how they can be useful in building support for important issues like Southwest LRT. Lopez-Carlson showed us how to create a Facebook interest group—a great way for people to continue networking on behalf of the Southwest light rail line. Before the night was over, Lopez-Carlson tagged Governor Dayton in a Facebook post calling for state support for Southwest LRT and including a photo of the people gathered in support.
Currently the Southwest light rail line is one of ten projects nationwide in preliminary engineering, the final state before a federal funding commitment and the start of construction. And, most of a project team has already been hired to plan the construction.
Progress on the project now hinges on the State of Minnesota’s funding component: 10% of the projected $1.25 billion cost. Should the state fail to approve its share of project funding, the federal government can’t finalize its own grant process. A portion of the state funding could come from the State Department of Employment and Economic Development; it will be announcing funding decisions at the end of August or early September. To keep the project on track, the state legislature needs to approve project funding during the next legislative session.
Each one of us can help make this happen by contacting our state legislators, political party, and the governor to express why the light rail is important to us and our community. One way to get involved is via Facebook, where you can either tag the governor or your legislators in posts concerning Southwest LRT or use the power of Facebook groups to organize help inform others in your community and encourage them to speak out in favor of Southwest LRT as well. Community support is essential to making the Southwest light rail line a reality.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in Hopkins! In our view, it was a very successful evening. Hardly a seat was left empty and the room buzzed with the conversations of energized community members. We could always spend more time talking about this important project, but by the end of the night all of the participants seemed to leave with a better understanding of where Southwest LRT stands, what needs to happen for it to move forward, and what they can do to help get things done.
We encourage you to continue sharing your enthusiasm for Southwest LRT with your neighbors and your elected officials alike—whether that’s in casual conversation, via social media, in an editorial to your local newspaper, or with a call or email to state and local leaders. Your voice matters!
Connect with Transit for Livable Communities on Facebook
Connect with Southwest Light Rail Now on Facebook
From Barb Thoman, Executive Director
The air in Minnesota is cleaner than it was 40 years ago, when cars without catalytic converters burned leaded gasoline and industry smokestacks had fewer controls. Yet, over that same period, we’ve also found out more about how air pollution affects people’s health and the environment. In short, we’ve found that lower levels of air pollution affect our health more than we had previously thought.
Based on this new knowledge, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tightened federal air quality standards for lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, small particles, and sulfur dioxide in recent years. Even more stringent standards are now proposed for ozone and small particles.
Why are elevated levels of ozone and small particles in our air of such concern that stronger regulation is necessary? Because ozone and fine particles contribute to many health problems.
- OZONE. The health effects from elevated concentrations of ozone include “breathing problems, lung tissue damage, and premature mortality” (California Air Resources Board). Even persons who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when ozone levels increase. A recent study also shows that ozone contributes to cardiovascular events like heart attacks. (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/air/air-quality-and-pollutants/general-air-quality/be-air-aware.html)
- FINE PARTICLES. These particles enter the deep lung and are transferred into the bloodstream where they can travel to and affect other organs. Fine particles have been shown to increase heart disease, respiratory disease, lung damage, cancer, and mortality. They also make asthma worse and lead to increased hospitalizations and deaths. People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children are the groups most at risk. Fine particles are also major contributors to reduced visibility (haze). (California Air Resources Board, http://www.arb.ca.gov/adam/aqfaq/index.html#1 and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, http://www.pca.state.mn.us/gloss/glossary.cfm?term=Particulate_Matter,_Fine_(PM2.5)).
Currently in Minnesota, our air pollution levels fall within EPA standards. But if, as expected, the standards become more stringent, we’re likely to exceed the new limits and be “out of compliance” with the Clean Air Act. Non-compliance would trigger a mandatory multi-year planning process and implementation of programs and actions to reduce pollutants. Exactly what will be required depends on the specific sources of pollution. The costs of nonattainment would spread throughout the economy and could be very large.
There are many sources of harmful air pollutants, including factories, homes, and other places where fuel and wood are burned, as well as farms where crop and livestock dust are generated. Vehicle tailpipe emissions contribute significantly to the creation of ground-level ozone and diesel emissions along interstate highways contribute to elevated levels of particles adjacent to those corridors.
Our transportation system and our personal transportation choices can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Shifting trips from driving to transit, walking, or bicycling could play an important role in protecting air quality by reducing vehicle tailpipe emissions.
According to US EPA, a single passenger car emits nearly one pound of carbon dioxide per mile driven. Transit saves space on the road and emits a fraction of the pollution of driving alone.
Transit emits just a fraction of the air pollution of driving alone. More bicycling and walking also reduces emissions. We know this first hand from the combined efforts of TLC’s Bike Walk Twin Cities non-motorized transportation pilot program and the Volpe Center at the US Department of Transportation.
Since 2007, our BWTC program has been measuring the rate of bicycling and walking in the Twin Cities. Using the data from 2010, which showed bicycling up 33% since 2007 and walking up 18%, USDOT calculated the impacts on levels of driving and emissions. The results: in 2010 alone, more than 7 million miles were covered on bike or foot rather than in a car. From 2007-2010, more than 14 million miles shifted from driving to bicycling and walking.
And what’s the impact of less driving on air quality. Here is the chart from Volpe, showing that every day in the Minneapolis area, more bike/walk trips and less driving meant less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and hydrocarbons.
USDOT Volpe Center CONVERSIONS for Minneapolis-area pilot.
Based on 7,260,877 averted vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in 2010
and 14,521,754 averted VMT for 2007-2010.
Other transportation options that can protect air quality by reducing tailpipe emissions include increasing use of car and bicycle sharing, telework and telecommuting programs, van pooling and carpooling.
So, what’s next with air quality issues in the Twin Cities? The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency manages compliance with the federal Clean Air Act in Minnesota. Currently, the MPCA is collaborating with the Minnesota Environmental Initiative, a nonprofit organization, to oversee an 18-month study process, called the Clean Air Dialogue, to identify options to reduce air emissions and reduce the risk of falling out of compliance with new air standards.
Transit for Livable Communities is one of the invited participants in the Clean Air Dialogue. If our region commits to building out our transit system (bus and rail) and keeps working to make bicycling and walking safe and convenient options across the metro, we can show how emissions from transportation can be reduced – contributing to cleaner air and better health.
For more information on:
The Clean Air Dialogue process
Bike Walk Twin Cities Count report
Non-Motorized Pilot Program report to Congress
By Kathleen Murphy, guest blogger and TLC member
Kathleen Murphy, TLC member, transit rider
As a long-time active member with Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), I am very passionate in my fight for better options for transit riders. I believe that communities need the support of their legislators to come together for a better transit future for Minnesota.
Being disabled and dependent on public transit for getting around on a daily basis, I feel that the needs of transit riders, disabled people, and seniors are not being fully met. We lack transit options. As a region, our transit planning takes way too many years before it ever gets to the building stage. On a daily basis, for people like me, it is very challenging to get around, especially in the summer months when road construction causes bus stops to be temporarily moved. It has been said, “If you want to get more exercise in your day, take the bus!” We transit riders do a lot of walking in the summer just to get to the bus stop.
I live in Richfield. It can be very hard to get around in areas of the metro where bus service is limited—especially when you cannot drive or when you don’t drive because you do not have a car. In my volunteer work with TLC, I often need to attend workshops or member meetings at the TLC office in Saint Paul or go to the state Capitol for hearings or to talk with legislators. Getting to Saint Paul at times can take up to 2 hours, with transfers from bus to light rail or to another bus. I have to hope that I will get there on time and not be late for a meeting or miss an event at the Capitol completely because my connections were not good.
Public transit is essential for many transit riders, including people with disabilities.
I do talk with many disabled transit riders like myself who have limited mobility, people using wheel chairs and dependent totally on transit for getting around. Winters can be tough and construction areas along transit routes are even tougher!
I feel there is a great need to make riding the bus and light rail a lot better. We need, as transit riders, to step up to the plate and demand better options for all! There are so many new roads and bridges being built, it is time to make it happen for public transportation. Let’s keep transit moving forward as we did in the beginning with the Hiawatha light rail line that opened back in 2004. Now the Central Corridor light rail line is under construction and opening in 2014. It will connect communities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
The Hiawatha light rail line opened in 2004. The next light rail line under construction, the Central Corridor line, will open in 2014.
I am so excited that the Central Corridor line is close to being completed—I will finally get to those Capitol happenings on time and not be late for my important meetings with TLC! There will be less congestion on the highways and more people deciding to take public transit to get around. Light rail lines are more reliable than sitting in a lane on those congested highways and not moving. I see a future of less congested highways when more people give up driving their car and use the light rail and buses for a better way of getting moving.
The Southwest LRT, the next light rail line in the plan for the region’s transit system, will bring better access to jobs for people fighting to get back in the work force, and better options for those who are limited in getting around because they have no car. We all need to keep up the pressure so that the Southwest light rail can begin construction in 2014.